Guide to locking your bike
Imagine riding to town, parking and locking your bike, and wandering off to enjoy some shopping or a spot of lunch with friends. When you return, your bike is gone. Cue every cyclist’s nightmare.
Not every bike theft incident is reported to or recorded by the police, and the saddest part about bike theft is that stolen cycles are hardly ever recovered.
Bike theft does happen, but it’s not inevitable. We’re here to help you keep your precious steed as safe as possible.
First things first
To avoid a long walk home and an empty pocket:
- Insure your bike. Our member benefit partner Yellow Jersey and Pedal Cover donate 10% of the insurance premium to Cycling UK to help fight local and national issues. Some household policies include cycle insurance, but check the small print for information on values, and whether the policy covers your property outside of the home. Once you have insurance, make sure you write down lots of details about your bike including the make and model, and record the frame number (usually located under the bottom bracket where the two pedal cranks meet). Take a photo of how it is normally locked up in your shed or garage. If you have it, keep the receipt for the purchase of your bike along with any new parts.
- Identify and register your bike with a scheme such as Bike Register (Cycling UK members get 15% off security marking kits).
- Buy two locks.
Let’s start with the locks
Bike locks are there to foil the opportunist thief, and slow down the professional. Nothing can offer 100% protection, but if a bike thief scans the stands and sees that it will take more than a minute to breach your locks, they will be deterred and look for an easier target.
I use a hip lock – which is easy to transport – and a D-lock (or U-lock), which is attached to my bike frame when I’m on the move.
You want to look for ‘Sold Secure’ locks. Ideally with the highest rating you can afford:
- Gold – the highest level of security. Suitable for big town, city or university campus. Buy Gold if your bike attracts second looks, and is locked for more than an hour at a time.
- Silver – a compromise between security and cost. Suitable for small towns or villages. Buy Silver if your bike doesn’t draw attention and is locked for less than an hour.
- Bronze – offers defence against the opportunist thief. I personally wouldn’t recommend a Bronze-rated lock, because I don’t think they offer enough security.
Even without power tools, a thief with big bolt croppers or a stubby bottle jack can break open Gold-rated locks in less than a minute. That doesn’t mean locks are useless.
Some locks come with a several-hundred-pound guarantee should your bike be stolen. Check the small print – the requirement may be that you have to send the broken lock in, and thieves seldom leave broken locks behind.
Don’t leave your lock attached to an object overnight. It may be removed by the town council/police, or could be tampered with.
What to lock your bike to
Firstly, look for something that is purpose built, or something your bike can’t be lifted over. Make sure the object is solid, immovable and can’t be cut into easily; for example, choose a metal object over, say, a wooden bench or similar.
The best Sheffield stands are those in an ‘M’ shape, not a ‘U’, but ‘U’ shapes tend to be more common in towns and cities.
Where to lock your bike
Make sure the location in which you’re locking your bike is secure. By this, I mean a busy, well-lit location covered by CCTV, with lots of footfall.
Try to find a purpose-built bike stand like the examples above, and the one used in the following images.
How to lock your bike
Whatever you do, lock your bike. I cannot emphasise this enough. Lots of cyclists just ‘nip’ into a shop only to find their bike gone on coming out. Without a lock, anyone can steal your bike. If it’s locked, only lock-breakers can attempt it.
Lock your bike according to value. This means, lock your frame first, then your back wheel, then your front wheel.
Lock at the lowest point of the ‘M’ or ‘U’ on the Sheffield stand.
If you’re using a D-lock, it’s better to lock the bike low down, around the bottom bracket or seatpost rather than over the top tube, where the thief can get at it easily. Fill the shackle of the lock with as much bike and street furniture as will fit, leaving as little daylight in the lock as possible. A shorter, narrower lock is harder to attack than a big one, though it is more awkward to attach in some situations.
If you’re using a flexible lock such as a cable or a chain, wrap it in such a way to keep it fairly taut. Again, this makes it harder for the thief to attack it with cable cutters or bolt croppers.
The first option would be to secure your first lock through the frame of the bike, to the object you’re locking it to, and back through your back wheel. I would do this as a minimum. This secures your frame and your back wheel.
The second, preferable option would be to secure your first lock through the frame of the bike, to the object you’re locking it to, and back through your back wheel. Then attach a second lock through the front wheel, frame, and round the object you’re locking it to.
Try to make sure you leave as little wiggle room as possible between the object, lock and bike – this makes it more difficult for thieves to slip tools in between to create leverage.
Position your lock off the ground, with the keyhole facing down.
Don’t lock your bike only through the frame to the object – this leaves your front and back wheels at risk, particularly if they are quick-release wheels.
I don't recommend that you lock your bike through the front wheel, frame and object only. If your bike has quick-release wheels, the thief can remove the wheel as if you were removing it to repair a puncture, slide the lock over the frame and take the rest of the bike with them (remember, your front wheel is the least expensive component out of the frame, front and back wheels) and you could come back to a very lonely wheel.
- More than half of all bike thefts are from the owners’ property. At home, if you have space in your house, keep your bikes locked inside. If you use a shed or a garage, consider using a floor or wall-mounted anchor lock for extra security. A battery-operated alarm for your shed is also a good idea to deter thieves. Buy a decent lock for your shed, one that can’t just be unscrewed with a screwdriver.
- You’ll need to oil the lock occasionally to prevent it seizing. Squirt a bit of oil into any holes and work it in by repeatedly opening and closing the lock. If your lock freezes solid in winter, pour hot water over it and oil it afterwards.
- Consider etching your postcode onto your bike frame.
- If you can, remove the saddle and take it with you, as these also appear fair game – with leather Brooks saddles proving very popular with thieves. If you’re not keen on looping an extra cable through the stays every time you lock your wheels, then a tactic employed by some is to create a permanent anchor from saddle to frame with an old bike chain fed through an inner tube.
- Take photographs of the bike, including any distinctive marks or features on it.