A while ago, our own staff writer Elizabeth shared this video on Facebook. It’s a good primer for learning how to lock your bike up, and Hal has a great personality. He’s really looking for just a few things: Your wheels and saddle should be well-secured, and the frame itself should be securely held to a large stationary object with a heavy-duty U-lock or chain. He has some other tips, too. Watch this:
I do risk analysis and other security-type stuff for a living. In the suburbs, some of this stuff can be a bit overkill. San Francisco, LA, Detroit, Chicago and NYC have some pretty mean streets where the traditional axiom is that it’s not a question of if you will have a bike or parts stolen, it’s when it’ll happen. Bicycles are a commodity on the street. Pretty much any working bike can be traded for $25-$50 worth of… *ahem* “goods” and “services” on the black market. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bike-shaped-object from the department store or a high-quality cyclocross bike with fenders, racks and lights. That being said, knowledgeable thieves are willing to put a lot more effort, risk and planning into really nice bicycles that can be parted out or sold to a fence for a bigger payday.
Hal’s comment on quiet streets generally holds merit. Thieves prefer to hide in plain sight, and chaos is king. They can thrive on predictable activity as well if they’re sure they have plenty of time to work on your bike without being noticed. Make sure your parking spot isn’t too far out of the way.
Cable locks are okay for holding your wheels or saddle together, or for quick in-and-out errands, but totally useless if you will be leaving your bike unattended for more than a few minutes at a time. Hal said that you can’t steal a bike when the owner’s right there watching it, so being able to wheel your bike right into your office is the best policy, but a lot of us don’t have that luxury. I bought a length of heavy-duty towing chain that required a 36″ bolt cutter at the hardware store to chop it from the spool, then passed it through an old mountain bike inner tube so it doesn’t scratch up my frame. It’s probably 10 pounds worth of chain, so I leave it at work, and I lock it with a quality lock that has a shrouded, shim-proof hasp. It’s long enough to pass through both wheels, the frame, and a bike rack.
Security is hard, though, and thieves’ motives are hard to predict. It’s true that security devices only buy you time. I’ve experimented with almost every kind of bicycle lock imaginable, and all of them can be broken in just a few minutes by someone who has been casing your bike. Usually, thieves are looking for something easy to steal so they can sell it or trade it quickly to get what they really want. If your bike is more secure than the bikes around it, you’re probably safe. If someone really wants your bike specifically, it’s pretty hard to keep it safe. Maybe it’s the only bike around. Maybe it’s the nicest one on the block. Maybe they want the challenge, or maybe they’re your evil twin whose mission in life is to foil your bicycle commuting adventures.
Regardless, if you ever thought that no one would want your bicycle, or that you could leave it unlocked and unattended for just a bit, you’re probably wrong.
Editor’s note: we have a couple of other security strategy articles that may be of interest to you. The first covers lock considerations — the real gold is in the comments area. Take a look at it by clicking here. Also, thanks go out to dedicated reader/curmudgeon Raiyn for reminding me of this article in the comments area below.
The other article covers wheel security and retention strategies…wheels can be incredibly easy to steal and the loss of just one wheel will, of course, leave you stranded. Check out that article here.