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How to Lock Your Bike—From a Locksmith's Point of View

Tom has 17 years of experience as a commercial locksmith and over 20 years in door hardware distribution.

Many people say that the purpose of locks is to keep honest people honest, but I say that the purpose of a lock is to give a would-be thief enough trouble to make them give up their attempted theft of your property, in this case, your bike.

Correct Bike Locking

If you don't lock your bike correctly, a thief will be able to steal part or all of it. First, choose the most immovable object available to which you may lock your bike, and then lock it in such a way as to make it as difficult as possible to steal. If you lock your bike to a parking meter with a cable lock, for example, the thief may be able to lift your bike over the head of the meter. If you lock your bike to the same parking meter using a U-lock, however, theft in that manner would not be possible.

Thieves don't just steal bikes; they steal bicycle components, particularly wheels. For this reason it is important that you secure not only your frame to the immovable object, but also both wheels. Quick-release hubs and seatpost clamps make wheel and saddle theft easier. If you have quick release hubs and don't lock both wheels, you make your wheels a prime target. If you have a quick-release seatpost clamp you need to lock your seat as well.

In the illustration below I attempt to show basic correct bike locking technique. There are many variations. but the idea is that the frame of the bike is securely locked to as immovable an object as is available and that the other steal-able parts of the bike are also secured—in the case of the bike in the illustration, the wheels, which are secured with a cable.

One Correct Way to Lock a Bike

One correct way to lock a bike.

One correct way to lock a bike.

Types of Bike Locks

All locks can be defeated. As a professional locksmith, I was able to defeat any bike lock in less than twenty minutes, but I was in no rush and I could use any tool I wanted. Bike thieves have to work fast and are usually, but not always, limited to hand tools.

The locks I prefer to lock up my own bikes with are Kryptonite bike locks. They have pick-resistant cylinders and are made of hardened steel that is hard to cut. Pick resistance and difficulty in cutting are the most important features to look for in a bike lock.

There are many good brands of bike locks. To get the best kind of bike lock for your needs, consult with your locksmith or security professional.

Pictured below are a couple of bike locks, a cable, and a chain. I will discuss the relative merits of each.


Kryptonite U-Lock

Kryptonite U-Lock

The "U" Lock

The U-type lock revolutionized bicycle locking when it was introduced decades ago and is still a good choice today.

Steel Cable

Kryptonite Vinyl Coated Braided Steel Cable

Kryptonite Vinyl Coated Braided Steel Cable

Steel Cable

The vinyl coated, braided steel cable (pictured above) is effective when used with the U-Lock for two reasons. First, because it gives you a way to lock both wheels (see Correct Bike Locking section and illustration above). Second, because cutting the cable would require a different tool than cutting the lock would. However, to take advantage of this attribute of braided steel cable you would want to lock it with an independent lock, such as an American A700 padlock.

Since the vast majority of bikes are locked with only one lock, locking your bike with two locks makes yours one of the most secure on the street.

New York Noose

Kryptonite "New York Noose" Chain

Kryptonite "New York Noose" Chain

New York Noose

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So named because so many cyclists carry this jacketed, heavy, hardened chain around their necks. This chain is a good choice because it is almost impossible to defeat without power tools. Add a high security padlock (and an immovable object) and you can consider your bike secure. Make sure, as always, to lock everything steal-able on the bike, not just the frame.

Small U-Lock or Disc Lock

Kryptonite Disc Lock

Kryptonite Disc Lock

Small U-Lock

The Kryptonite Disc Lock adds a new dimension of security with its size, shape, and key system. One of its chief advantages is that it does not offer the opportunities for attack that the conventional U-lock offers. Since the conventional U-lock has been around so long, thieves have devised some effective ways of defeating it. Redesign has alleviated much of this problem; many thieves might have trouble finding a point of attack on this smaller U-lock. I recommend using it with the New York Noose or steel cable and a conventional U-lock for the best you can do in bike security on the street.


Tom rubenoff (author) from United States on March 09, 2015:

Thanks, John. As locks get better, ways to defeat them get better, too.

John Albu from Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87102 on March 09, 2015:

The best solution is to avoid leaving your bike in a public place, indeed! These locks look nice, but many of them are too easy to break in 2015.

James Beveridge from Western Australia on January 05, 2015:

Good piece of advice. Thank you so much for this.. :)

Zollstock from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW on July 14, 2009:

Thanks - will put that on the shopping list!

Tom rubenoff (author) from United States on July 14, 2009:

Thank you, Zollstock. A stroller has the advantage that its parts and components are not universally applicable to other strollers and so not generally worth stealing except out of general meanness. A simple, all-in-one cable lock should suffice. The Master lock company makes good quality ones that are pretty reasonable in price, available probably at Home Depot and Target.

Zollstock from Germany originally, now loving the Pacific NW on July 13, 2009:

That's great information from a sort-of insider! Bike theft seems to be pervasive (I really wonder why?), and although I'd love to believe in the goodness of the people around us, my family's track record for stolen bikes has made me cautious. Now, what safety devices would you recommend for strollers?

brad4l from USA on July 13, 2009:

"They are only locks and useless without common sense."

Ain't that the truth :)

Tom rubenoff (author) from United States on July 13, 2009:

I don't doubt it, Brad. That is why I like the Kryptonite locks - highly bolt cutter resistant, except for the braided cable, although it is a pain the but to cut with a bolt cutter! Still I can get through any of them given time and the right tools. They are only locks and uselss without common sense.

brad4l from USA on July 13, 2009:

I think you are right that the best protection is really never to leave you bike unattended. There have been some neat 'Studies,' well really I think they were just some videos this guy made, where people have walked up to a bike with bolt cutters and 'stole' it on a busy street without anyone doing anything. I think in one of the videos the passerbys actually helped him steal the bike...

Tom rubenoff (author) from United States on July 12, 2009:

I neglected to add the best protection is to NEVER LEAVE YOUR BIKE IN A PUBLIC PLACE. I lock my bike up where I can see it or where it is inside some other locked room.

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on July 12, 2009:

Great hub Tom! Thieves can tear a bike apart in minutes, break spokes messing with chains, etc. Sometimes riding a beater bike is the safest! HA!

Tom rubenoff (author) from United States on July 12, 2009:

Thanks so much, Gypsy. Since I really like my bike I lock it up real tight.

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on July 12, 2009:

Excellent advice, having your bike stolen is a very personal attack and can leave you stranded. Thanks for the sound expert advice, Tom.

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