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September is Bike Commute Challenge month, and that means it’s time for a refresher course on how to lock your bike so it doesn’t get stolen. Anyone who’s had a bike stolen knows that sinking feeling when you see a big empty space where your bike used to be. Don’t let it happen to you.
Here are five things you can do to keep your bike safe and secure and not miss a chance to log those bike trips.
1. DO always lock your bike.
I know this sounds simple, but even in places where it seems like it would be okay to keep it unlocked — like in your backyard, the hallway of your apartment building, or your porch — there’s a chance of getting your unlocked bike stolen.
When you stop in somewhere, and you can’t take your bike inside, always lock it up. Even if you are going to be in for a minute. If you don’t have anywhere to lock it up, you can lock the front wheel to the frame to keep someone from running off with it. In the worst case scenario, if you are forgetful like I am, and don’t have a lock, but you have to be gone for just a second, put your bike upside down, or take off a wheel if you have a quick release.
Bottom line: get into the habit of locking your bike, you will begin to do it automatically without even thinking about it.
If you have a really nice bike, even the strongest lock might not deter a thief from stealing it. If you have to park your bike outside for long period of time during work or school, consider investing in a cheaper bicycle to ride on those days. It’s not a good idea to spray paint your fancy bike to make it look less valuable. A thief with a good eye will still be able to recognize it.
2. DO lock it to something solid.
Always lock to the most sturdy object that you can find. Small trees that a bike lock can fit around can be cut down. If you lock up to a signpost, it is possible for a tall thief to take the top of the sign off and pull your bike over the top. (It has happened before.) Ideally, you would lock to a bike rack, but in our less than perfect world, you have to make do.
When your are scouting out a location to lock your bike, consider locking your bike in a well lit, high traffic area. If you can, lock up where there are a lot of other bikes.
3. DON’T use cable locks.
Cable locks are flexible and can make it easier to lock your bike in awkward situations, but they can be cut quickly with bolt cutters or a hacksaw. They may keep honest people honest, but are little deterrence for someone intent on stealing your bike.
Get a U-lock or a hefty bike chain. With the U-lock, lock it with the keyhole facing down as it will make it more difficult for someone to break the lock.
4. DON’T assume your bike accessories and quick release wheels are safe just because your frame is locked up.
Take your easily removable items with you like lights-which disappear quickly when left in a high traffic area, pumps, quick release wheels, seats, and cyclecomputers.
You want to lock your wheels if they are quick release. Quick releases, which are those little levers that make it easy to remove wheels and seatposts are great if you remove these when you leave your bike. If you don’t, they make it really easy to steal your gear. Consider replacing the quick release on your seatpost with a bolt. Also, think about replacing your quick releases on your wheels with security skewers. These have a unique shape that requires a special key to loosten. This makes it very difficult for a thief to steal them unless they have the key that comes with the set.
Wheels with 15mm bolts are less likely be stolen on cheaper bikes, but if someone wants to take your wheels, all they need is a wrench, which is pretty easy to come by. If you have expensive wheels that are attached with a bolt, you should lock them up.
What if you can only lock up one wheel? Some people say that you should lock up the front wheel because it is easier to steal, but others say that the back wheel is more expensive, harder to replace, and just as easy to steal, so you should lock up the back one instead. You can lock up the rear wheel easily with a small u-lock.
With this larger U-lock, you can lock up your rear wheel within the frame triangle and have room to lock up your front wheel with it too. Although your frame is not locked up, it would be very difficult for a thief to get it, because they have to cut your wheel and spokes to get to it.
A friend of mine who is an avid bicycle rider doesn’t like the idea taking your front wheel off to lock to the back. He says that it causes a “broken window effect” because your bike looks all sad with the front wheel taken off, and it will cause it to be more of a target. If you want to lock up both wheels but don’t want to be taking off the wheel all the time, you can get a cable lock to lock up your wheels. Most bike shops will sell cables with looped ends for this purpose. Although thieves can cut cables, when they see two locks, they will usually look for something easier to steal.
5. DO write down the serial number for your bike.
Write it down, put it somewhere you won’t lose it, and email it to yourself. It can usually be found on the bottom of the bottom bracket. Also, you can put a piece of paper with your information inside of the handlebar grips, in case you come across it someday on the street. Also, consider taking photos of your bike so that you can post it on the internet so that others can help you get your bike back if it gets stolen.
The City of Portland also provides this form that you can fill out. This information is important because it may help you get your bike back more easily.
If your workplace lacks secure bike parking, why not try to rally your co-workers together to ask for an area where you can keep your bike secure?
Thanks for Carl for providing inspiration for this post. Here are some more tips on your bike secure.