Even when using a cheap lock, keeping these suggestions in mind should help you thwart some would-be bike thieves. By Neil Bezdek
A highlight for me a couple years ago was a trip to Paris. Thanks to my generous local host, I explored the streets on a borrowed, vintage three-speeder. For city touring, there was nothing to dislike about the bike: It offered a comfy upright riding position, forgiving thick tyres, fenders, chainguard, and a stylish, urban look.
What did leave something to be desired, though, was the cheap U-lock the bike came with—with my bare hands I was able to pull it apart. But three days and countless tourist attractions later, I returned the bike and its flimsy lock safe and sound.
Maybe I just got lucky, but I’d like to think that being strategic about parking and other factors helped me prevent the bike from riding off on its own. Here are seven tips for locking up your bike:
Park in a highly visible place.
Avoid locking up in front of movie theaters, museums, schools, train stations, or any other place that requires a lengthy visit. I aim for a spot in front of a coffee shop or restaurant filled with customers sitting behind windows looking out onto the street.
Find a secure anchor.
It should go without saying, but sometimes even the most obvious anchors turn out to be duds. One time I absentmindedly locked my bike to a topless parking meter. In my previous hometown, I discovered that most city signposts could be lifted out of the ground.
Avoid crowded bike racks.
Jam-packed racks are not just stages for lots of tangling and scratching—to a thief they also provide good cover. It’s far riskier to steal a lone bike than it is pinching one from a bunch.
Rotate parking spots.
If you lock up in the same place all the time, change locations to prevent nefarious observes from catching on to your routine. Better yet, become a regular at a local business and ask the workers there to keep a casual eye on your bike whenever it’s locked out front.
Keep some distance from the curb.
Even wonder how those abandoned bikes on the sidewalk get all mangled? Protect your bike from street cleaners, buses, and careless drivers by storing it a few feet away from the curb. Position the bike on the sidewalk side of signposts with the wheels parallel to the gutter.
Be clever about attaching the lock.
My go-to configuration is to hook a U-lock around the rear wheel only, right where it passes through the frame’s rear triangle. In this configuration, both the frame and wheel can’t go anywhere. Conveniently, the lock keeps the wheel from rolling, which prevents the bike from sliding down the pole and tipping over. Plus, if the anchor is tall enough, the edge of your saddle leans against the pole instead of your frame. You can further increase stability by orienting the bike downhill so that the front wheel doesn’t flop sideways.
Consider the message your parking job sends.
I carry only one lock, a mid-weight U-lock. I don’t bother with a second cable or something to secure the wheels; I believe using multiple locks only signals that you won’t return for a while. Instead, I use aftermarket skewers that require a special wrench to remove.
Remember that no lock is a silver bullet against theft. Where and how you lock up is as important as the lock itself.