How to Lock Your Bike: A Guide to Basic Bike Lock Safety

If you think locking a bike is as simple as chaining it to a post, it’s high time you change your view on bike security. Bike theft is extremely common and without proper knowledge, you can easily be a victim.

Whether you’re a new bike owner or you’re just looking for more ways to secure your ride, below is a handy 8-step guide on how to lock a bike:

Table of Contents

How to Lock A Bike

Select the best area to secure your bike in

While it’s tempting to lock your bike in an area that’s closest to your destination, it’s not the best when it comes to bike security.

As much as possible, lock your bike in an area with constant foot traffic. You need to pick a spot that’s always busy.

Bike thieves don’t like being seen while they’re trying to steal someone else’s bike. They prefer to do their crime in an area that’s quiet and with fewer people.

If you are going downtown, choose an area where there’s a lot of CCTV cameras around. Thieves avoid such areas in fear of being seen.

Find an immovable object you can lock your bike to

Here’s a good rule to keep in mind: Your bicycle will only be as secure as the object you lock it to.

With this in mind, try to avoid locking your bike to anything that’s made of wood like a wooden fence or a small tree. They are easy to snap, leaving your bike vulnerable to thieves.

Plus, trees aren’t really that great for your bike. They can scratch and leave dents on your ride. Getting such damages repaired can be costly.

One of your best options when securing your bike in public is to find bike parks and spaces that are dedicated to bike storage. Most likely, you’ll find bike racks there.

A good bike rail should be secured into the ground. That way, thieves will have a hard time destroying it. Apart from that, you should also check for cuts and dents to identify weak areas.

Understand your surroundings

In case you’re in an unfamiliar place, consider traveling somewhere you know your bike will be safe.

This will require you to do a bit of research before your actual trip. Try to be more familiar with your surroundings so you can understand the most dangerous areas to leave your bike in.

Invest in a good bike lock

You don’t always have to buy the most expensive locks to keep your bike safe.  The most reliable ones are usually reasonably priced and offer a high level of security.

There are several types of bike locks and if it’s your first time buying one, you might find the options overwhelming.

Here’s an overview of the most common types:

Chain lock- This is a good option if you often leave your bike in a high-crime area. Chain locks are particularly designed to resist chisels and hacksaws which make them hard to cut through. Take note that chain locks tend to be heavy. This is why they’re the most ideal type for stationary uses.

U-lock- This works as an excellent deterrent. U-locks are designed to resist chisels, hammers, and like with its bulky locking mechanism. Its shape limits leveraging, reducing the space thieves can insert a tool to pop it apart.

Cable lock- This is more versatile than U-locks. It’s usually a good choice when you’re storing your bike in low-crime areas. However, cable locks are not the best when it comes to deterring bike theft. To make them more effective, you can use them in combination with a U-lock.

Folding lock- This is easy to transport because it’s light. Folding locks work similarly to chains. Compared with other types, they are usually more expensive which makes them a less popular choice.

Lock Your Bike By Cost of Parts

In general, the most expensive part of your bike is the frame. This means that you should prioritize securing it over other parts.

After you’ve secured the frame, your next priority should be your wheels. This is usually the next most costly part.

In case you have a customized bike and you’ve added an expensive wheelset, then prioritize that part.

By using this locking method, you’ll minimize the chances of your ride being stolen. It’ll give potential thieves the idea that you know how to secure your bike.

Don’t Neglect Your Bike’s Accessories

Thieves will happily take any piece they can from your bike, particularly if they see how vulnerable your ride is.

Remember, a high-quality set of bike lights isn’t cheap. Don’t leave them attached to your bike while it’s locked into another object. Anyone can remove them and the process won’t require a lot of time.

The same goes for bulkier accessories. Just because they are heavier and bigger than other parts doesn’t mean that no one will attempt to remove them.

Cover Your Bike

If thieves can’t see your bike, they won’t be able to target it. Plus, with a cover, thieves will probably leave your ride alone. They won’t risk being seen rummaging around with it as that will only attract unwanted attention.

Using a bike cover is ideal when you’re storing your ride in a communal area with other bikes. It’s also good if you want to keep your bike clean and dry.

Secure the Front Wheel

Most new bicycle units feature quick-release wheels. While it’s a convenient feature for you to have, thieves will be happy to know about it, too. It makes the wheels easy to release and take out.

For this, you can secure your front wheel with a cable extension.

How to Lock Your Bike At Home

Even if your bike is inside your home, it doesn’t mean that it’s perfectly safe from thieves. Believe it or not, more than 50% of stolen bicycles are reported to be taken from the owner’s home.

So how do you keep your bike safe and secured?

Inside Your House

The safest place to keep your bike is inside your living space. However, since they can get wet and dirty, it’s not always ideal to keep your bike inside your house or apartment. Space can also be an issue on why you can’t store your bike at home.

If this is the case, then you’ll need a rack. It can help keep your bike out of the way.

You can also consider locking your bike to something immovable like a concrete wall or your floor. Just make sure to find an area where it won’t be visible from the outside.

In case there’s no immovable object in your apartment, consider locking your bike to anything too cumbersome or large to move. Alternatively, you can also lock your bike’s wheels to the frame. This way, it won’t be rolled or moved.

In Communal Spaces

If you live in a shared space, don’t just leave your bike in the hallway or the front door. Although it sounds practical and convenient, it’s the safest thing to do.

If this is the case, there’s a DIY solution you can do. It involves filling a large bucket with cement and sticking a ground anchor while it’s still wet. After it has fully set, you’ll have a nice and heavy anchor you can secure your bike to.

In case you find it too intrusive, one thing you can do is decorate it with plastic flowers

Take note that this tip won’t fully stop someone from taking your bike. It’s meant to slow down thieves.

In Your Garage

Next to keeping your bike inside your home, your garage is your next safest option.

Garages are usually designed with brick walls and concrete floors, giving you lots of easy and effective options when it comes to bike storage.

You can just install a ground anchor and use a heavy chain to keep your bike secure. Take note that since you won’t be required to carry the chains around, getting the thickest chain you can buy is highly recommended. Just make sure that it can still fit through the shackle of your anchor.

While you’re securing your bike, it’s a good idea to reinforce the security of your garage door. It’s usually a garage’s weakest point.

Now, how do you do that?

You can install more heavyweight locks.  If your budget isn’t too tight, you can invest in security cameras and alarms. These devices can put off potential thieves from getting into your garage and stealing your bike.

In Your Yard

Not everyone is lucky enough to have a garage or shed on their property. If this is exactly your case, your next best option is to get a bike storage unit.

Take note that there are tons of options in the market these days and choosing the best one can be overwhelming. There are general-use outdoor storage boxes and purpose-built products you can look into.

Keep in mind that dedicated external cycle storage units won’t instantly make your bike secure. Just because they can keep your unit out of sight doesn’t mean that they can prevent people from stealing it.

How to Lock Your Bike At Work

Most workplaces have private spaces where employees can leave their bikes. Obviously, these places are the best areas to leave your ride in if you’re at work.

But here’s the thing:

If other people have access to these places, don’t feel too relaxed. When you store your bike in shared spaces, lock your ride as if you’re locking it in a public place.

It doesn’t matter if your office is big or if it features good surveillance systems. If other employees have access to the area where you lock your bike in, there’s a good chance that its security will be compromised in one way or another.

How to Lock A Bike Without A Rack

Just because you can’t find bike racks around doesn’t mean that there’s no way for you to keep your bike safe.

A good rule to remember is to lock your bicycle to something that’s hard to move. This way, thieves won’t be able to just pick it up and take it away.

If there’s no rack, the easiest way to secure your bike is to immobilize its wheels. If they won’t rotate and the bike gets stuck, thieves will probably just leave it before anyone sees them stealing it.

For this, you need to get your lock and make sure to run it through your bike’s frame. Try to get it through both of your tires if possible.

Now, if you find yourself needing to park your bike but you don’t have your lock with you, there are a couple of things you can do:

Get your front wheel out of its quick-release: This will leave your bike unrideable. However, if a potential thief still tries to ride it, your bike might end up with some damages.

Remove the chain off the rear gears: This will leave your bike very difficult to ride. And as it gets harder to use, the thief will just probably leave your bike in a hurry.

Set your bike in the highest gear: This will make it easy for you to catch thieves red-handed. Before they can run away, you’ll be able to hop on your ride and catch them.

Common Mistakes When Locking Bikes

Knowing how to lock a bike isn’t enough to keep your ride safe. To maximize its security and safety, you also need to be familiar with the most common mistakes when locking bikes.

Below are some of them:

Using a cable lock alone

If you live in an area where bike thievery is common, you should avoid using cable locks. No matter how secure they look, they can easily be cut through using basic tools like bolt cutters. Thieves won’t even need to spend a long time breaking them.

If you have no other lock to secure your bike with, then make sure that you leave very little space as possible. This way, thieves will have a hard time inserting tools and cutting through your lock.

Cable locks should be used with another lock to make them more effective. They should also be used in low-crime areas only. They won’t keep your bike safe if you use them in areas with high crime rates.

Using small padlocks on your chain lock

In general, chain locks are considered one of the best bike locks around. They are versatile in securing bikes. Plus, most of them are made to resist tools like chisels and hacksaws.

Unfortunately, if you use a small and cheap padlock with chain locks, they become less effective. They become vulnerable targets for thieves.

Using large U-locks

The larger space big U-locks offer makes them easy and convenient to use in securing bikes to different types of poles and racks. Unfortunately, the larger the U-lock, the less security you get.

U-locks are designed with a horseshoe shape to eliminate leverage space. Using a small u-lock minimizes the chances of thieves using a crowbar to pop it apart.

Basic Bike Lock Safety

Safety shouldn’t be your only concern when locking your bike. If you are keeping your ride in a public spot, you should also know the basic bike lock etiquette.

Make sure to lock your bike parallel to the street

If the rack is full, you shouldn’t consider it as an excuse to lock your bike perpendicular to the street. It’s annoying and unsafe for other people.

The only time you can park perpendicular to a street is when the bike racks’ installation requires you to do so.

Don’t hog bike racks

Not all cities have plenty of bike racks. If you notice that there’s not a lot of them in your area, don’t hog them.

There are other bikers on the street who need spaces, too. Learn to share.

Avoid locking your bike to another bike.

There are tons of ways to keep your bike secure when in public. The list doesn’t include locking your bike to another bike. It’s just plain rude.

On the same note, you should also be careful when locking your bike to a pole or rack. Make sure that your chains don’t go through other bike’s wheels, frames, or chains.

Know what’s legal and what’s not

In some cities, it’s illegal to lock your bike to street light posts, parking meter posts, trees, and hand railings. To avoid penalties and causing other people trouble, it’s a good idea to know the laws for parking bicycles in your area.