Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Everything You Need To Know About Locking Up Your Bike

A great way to learn something is by trial and error but in the case of learning good bike locking technique, a bit of research and learning from other people's errors is the prudent and cost-effective strategy. Fortunately, KarlOnSea has collected a bunch of bad examples and load of good tips into a wonderfully compelling blog called Lock Your Bike.

The most important thing about locking your bike is to actually do it every time it is out of your sight. All the time. Even if you are just running into a store for a minute. I know this from bitter personal experience because I had a bike stolen in under a minute and the worst part was that it wasn't even mine! Back when I was the shop manager at Bike Works, I had just tuned a customer's bike and took it for a quick spin to check the shifting. I had worked through lunch, so I stopped at the corner market and dashed in to grab a bag of Cheetos (I am not a nutritional role model). The bike was stolen in the minute it was out of my sight. The good news was that the customer was semi-understanding of the fact that I was an idiot and said customer didn't have a strong emotional attachment to this particular bike. It was also fortunate that this wasn't a particularly expensive bike. I was able to give the customer a slightly better replacement bike from the stock in Bike Works vast warehouse of used bikes. And, as they say, I learned a valuable lesson.


Despite Karl's wonderful cartoon below (click to embiggen it), do not count on higher powers to keep your bike safe.

As many sad photos on Karl's blog illustrate, do not trust your bike to a cheap cable lock. A U-lock plus a cable provide pretty good security if you use the Sheldon Brown Locking Method. BTW, from reading Karl's blog I found out that what we colonials call a U-lock, the Brits call a D-lock. Karl also documents the importance of locking all of your bike.

Karl's site is just packed with gems. He recounts the story I often tell in describing the virtue of making sure your bike looks worse and is better locked than some other nearby bike.

I had a lot of fun and learned some good techniques by reading Karl's blog. More great examples of what to do and not do can be found in this video where Hal Ruzal grades the various locking jobs of bikes in NYC.

Hal Grades Your Bike Locking from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

When you're on your bike, keep it rolling. When you're off your bike, keep it locked up.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA


Marcy said...

Good post. Along those lines... I just purchased and installed some Delta Hublox security skewers on my LHT. They're similar to Pitlock skewers, but considerably less costly. Anybody have any feedback on these? The only concern I have at this point is if I lose the ONE wrench provided to remove them.

Anonymous said...

Hey Kent,

Love the blog, this post begs the question: what type of lock did you/would you take on the Tour Divide? Could you recommend something lightweight for touring?



Kent Peterson said...

Hey Dave,

I took one of those not-really too safe cable locks (a pretty large diameter Specialized with a braided housing) on the TDR. The braided housing is actually kind of a pain to cut through. But I'd really have felt safer with a U-lock.

Most racers go with no lock at all but since I always carry something. I think it was 2006 when Dave Nice had his bike stolen on the TDR and this year Matthew Lee had his bike ripped off. Matthew recovered his bike via quick thinking and his Spot Tracker.

The small OnGuard or Kryptonite U-locks or are good but they are heavy little suckers. I'm surprised nobody makes a tough, light lock out of titanium but I suppose it'd cost a fortune.

Karl McCracken (twitter: @karlonsea) said...

Wow Kent! Thanks for the mega extensive plug! ;-)

One of the disadvantages of all these locks is the weight they add to a bike. I have a U-lock, a cable, and an extra padlock for that comes to somewhere around 5lbs!

segway for sale said...

I use my bike to go to work so instead on having to carry all the various U locks back and fourth I leave the locks secured to the bike rack at work and that way I only need to carry the key.

best bike trainer said...

This is definitely useful, most especially to me since I go to work using my bike. I will have to spend 8 hours of work in our office without seeing my bike. So basically, I would have to lock it up for me to assure that it is safe and won't be taken by other people.

Ben said...

Great post and video....the bike lock grades conveyed with so much enthusiasm! And I actually did NOT lock up behind my office this morning having had need to address an urgent matter! Thankfully I suffered no losses!

John Romeo Alpha said...

Kent, there is one titanium lock out there, the TiGr lock, which is lightweight, and as expensive as you would expect it to be. And I actually tested the Sheldon lock method myself, and found it to be easily defeated in exactly the way he said it would not be, in roughly the same amount of time it takes to cut through any cable lock, so I don't use either one any more. Even with the best U-lock, we're only talking about the difference between delaying a thief a few seconds (cable) to a few minutes (u-lock), but that may make enough of a difference in practice, particularly if the bike rack presents a Darwinian range of good to bad locking techniques.