How to lock your bike properly

With bike theft still a major issue in London, Tom Bogdanowicz and John Kitchiner explain the best way to secure your bike using two decent locks. You'll also find out why marking your bike is so important!

Use two good locks, preferably Sold Secure gold-rated locks of different types - such as a D-lock and chain/padlock - or one gold and one silver-rated lock. Secure the rear wheel and frame to the stand with one lock AND the front wheel and frame/fork to the stand with the other. Different stands or railings mean you’ll sometimes have to vary the exact positioning (lower or higher on the frame) but it’s critical that you get this right.

  • Keep locks and padlocks facing downwards to make insertion of tools more difficult
  • Keep all locks and chains off the ground to prevent smashing attempts
  • Minimise the space within the ‘D’ of the D-lock to prevent insertion of tools
  • Place the derailleur side of the bike towards the stand to make component theft more difficult
  • Remove all parts that are easy to take (lights, panniers, quick-release saddles)

Lock your bike whenever it is out of your sight and in a location that will deter thieves: in a locked compound (see urbancycleparking.org.uk); under CCTV cameras; or in a well-lit public area.

As a rough guide, aim to spend 10-20% of your bike’s value on good locks. And forget cheap cable locks - they can be cut in seconds.

DOs...

  • DO ensure that your lock secures both the rear wheel AND frame to the stand. In the main image (above), the chain is looped through the wheel’s spokes, around the stand, wheel rim and seatstays. Sometimes you may need to run the lock around other parts of the frame (seat-tube or chainstays) but always secure one part of the frame AND wheel to the stand  
  • If you only have one decent lock - and it’s long enough - DO remove the front wheel, tuck it between rear wheel and stand, then secure the whole lot together. Again, ensure that the lock secures both wheels AND the frame, with no one part left vulnerable
  • DO use security skewers and bolts for the wheels, headset, seatpin and saddle if possible. Component theft is on the rise and these simple items are a good deterrent. As a cheaper alternative, you can fill exposed bolt heads with Sugru, or superglue ball bearings into the space; both deter allen keys/tools from being used

...and DON'Ts

 

DON’T just lock the top-tube (crossbar) to a stand; both the wheels could be removed. You’ll often see more bikes secured this way than any other at big parking stations - pass on the safer technique to fellow cyclists.

DON’T just lock the rear wheel to a stand - always ensure part of the frame is locked with the wheel to a stand. By the same token, we often see rear wheel and frame locked together, but not to a stand, with only a flimsy cable lock at the front end. One quick snip and a thief will be able to carry your bike away.

DON’T forget to lock wheels around the rim (the part the tyre sits on). A thief could cut the spokes and take your wheel - increasingly common on expensive wheelsets.

DON’T just lock the front wheel to a stand. It’s the biggest locking mistake of all! A thief can walk off with the rest of your bike in seconds simply by undoing the wheel skewer. Locking a bike like this also means it could fall over. And fallen bikes get vandalised.

Other DON'Ts

  • DON’T use an unrated lock. A thin cable lock is not merely easy to cut, 'Scouts' will report such locks as easy targets to fellow thieves
  • DON’T leave a chain/lock on the ground - it makes it easier to smash
  • DON’T place the lock facing upwards - it makes it easier for thieves to break it
  • DON’T lock your bike to any post it can be lifted over (DON'T get caught out like David Cameron did)
  • DON’T lock your bike to someone else’s. And be wary if someone does it to you - it can be a thieves’ ploy
  • DON’T let your bike obstruct the pavement - the police could remove it without warning
  • DON’T leave your bike in the Westminster security zone (the area between Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square) where it will be removed by the police

Bike Marking

  • Recording the frame number and/or marking your bike gives you a higher chance of recovering it, should it be stolen. It also means you can prove the bike is your property. Cycle theft would be much more difficult if all bikes were marked and all buyers of used bikes were to ask for the registration to be transferred to them
  • Keep a photo of your bike in a safe place (Bike Register allows you to post an image) and on your smartphone. Registering your bike on Bike Register and Immobilise is free. Bike Register is the scheme preferred by the Met
  • Keep a photo of your bike’s frame number in a safe place and on your smartphone (Bike Register allows you to record the frame number)
  • Frame numbers are usually on the bottom bracket shell or the chainstays (ask a bike shop if you need help)
  • Get your bike marked. Police (and some councils) carry out laser marking sessions in most boroughs. The numbers are recorded on the Bike Register website and you get an email with the registration details. You can also buy marking kits for home use 
  • There are also various GPS-based tracker devices available. They are relatively expensive, but worth considering if you can afford them

 Photos: Tom Bogdanowicz 

 

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