Love your bike. Lock it right.
Hi everyone, I’m sorry to hear about all the recent bike theft stories. Getting your bike stolen is heartbreaking. We want to reduce thefts as much as possible so we came up with a “Do’s and Don’ts” of locking your bike. I’m sorry it won’t do much good for you folks who’ve already had to deal with getting a bike stolen, but in going forward, they’re some good rules to live by.
Good luck to all of you in getting your bikes back. We’ll keep our eyes peeled.
How to Lock Your Bike
Bike Pittsburgh has received a number of emails lately from people who have had their bikes stolen. Getting your bike stolen causes severe sadness, stress, and irritability. Avoid these symptoms by following these do’s and don’ts:
- Do use a U-lock, or NY-strength chain lock, or better yet, two types of locks
- If you keep your bike in your garage, do make sure it’s locked to something big and heavy, or attached to the inside of the garage itself. A lot of bikes are taken right out of people’s garages.
- Do lock to something secure, not something that can easily be taken apart, or kicked off like a wooden railing.
- Do secure your seatpost and remove any lights and pump/bags from your bike.
- Don’t lock your bike using only a cable lock unless you have one thick cable lock.
- Don’t lock to a chain link fence. The links can easily be cut.
- Don’t lock only your wheel, unless that’s the only part of your bike you want to keep.
- Don’t leave your bike unlocked on your porch. This is the number one “stolen-bike scenario” we hear.
- Don’t lock to a sign post or a parking meter without a sign or a parking meter head.
- Don’t leave your bike locked in one spot for a long period of time.
- Don’t lend your bike to a stranger even if he says he’ll bring it right back. This scenario played itself out right here in Pittsburgh recently.
- Don’t leave your bike unlocked “for only a minute” while you run into a store etc. It takes less than a minute to steal a bike.
- Try your best not to lock your bike to a tree, it can harm them. We know there are often times no other place to lock to in certain parts of town, but if you have to lock a block or two away it could save a tree. City of Pittsburgh, if you’re listening, please at least provide racks in these parts of town where there aren’t even meters to lock to.
Some other good tips:
how bout we top this for all the unlocked bikes that are being stolen lately…
That’s a great way to have your day ruined… Never was a fan of those kind of racks.
what do we think of this sheldon brown advice… i think it’s one of the only things he’s advised that kind of suprise me:
Sheldon used to advise that the weight of the bike and lock together should total 55 lbs. In other words, if you expect to keep a 10 lb carbon-fiber racer, you need a monstrous lock, but if your bike alone weighs 55 pounds you don’t even need to lock it up. I can attest to that, having “locked” my bike up downtown before with a piece of string, and having been using a $1.99 bargain lock for years with no problem. My bike doesn’t weigh 55 pounds, even, but it looks totally uncool. I mean, not even cool in the sense that “my bike is so ugly it’s cool”. My bike is like an old Porsche with wood-panelling and turn signals fastened to the fenders with sheet-metal screws. ‘Course, I don’t leave it in Oakland ever…
I also think that it was Sheldon that advised using protective camouflage: always park your bike next to one that’s more desireable.
I was wondering (’cause every bike I owned since ’97 ultimately was stolen) what bike theives in Pgh are looking for? Are they a)bicyclists who don’t want to pay for a bike b)unsophisticated riders looking for a “bling” ride c)chop-shoppers?
It’d make a difference, ’cause a POS Wally World FS might be hot stuff to a b) theif, but not a) or c). Also, do clipless pedals make a bike more or less desirable?
Finally, would rattle-can black and a neon green plastic chain guard on a $1,500 bike fool ANYONE?
One piece of advice I got was to secure the quick-releases to the frame with a metal “radiator” hose clamp.
Frankenbike, how were those bikes locked when stolen? In all my time following the stolen bike bulletin on these forums, I’ve never heard a report of a U-lock defeated; cable locks, on the other hand, get cut. I’ve even had a friend in the same building have her cheap rigid mountain bike with a basket ripped off from our back yard with its cable lock cut.
The impression I’ve gotten is that essentially any bike part of a bike locked with a U-lock to a sturdy, immovable object (many Pittsburgh signs and parking meters are held down by nuts that anyone with a pair of wrenches can undo; check that) should be pretty much safe. Some folks have had problems with unlocked parts being stolen, but not that many. Not having a quick-release seat seems like enough defense from that.
Has anyone tried the locking skewers for quick release wheels, like the onguard ones?
Also, since my apartment has a nice entryway, I was considering getting a floor to ceiling stand that would hold two bikes. One of the ones that is compression fitted so I dont need to put holes in the floor or anything and lock our bikes to that while in the apt. Has anyone had any experience with those or have a brand/model recomendation?
just make sure you can lock your bikes in. an easy way to do that would be to bolt a cable lock (the kind with loops on the end) to the wall. then just use your daily bike lock (hopefully a ulock) to lock to the cable
i use locking skewers on one of my bikes. i like them, but am always afraid i’ll lose or be without the key
netviln, I’ve got a set of allen bolt skewers for my wheels & seatpost. I also use two types of locks, an OnGuard Mastiff chain/padlock combo & a light cable for the front wheel. They’ve been good to me, but then again, I try to be careful where I lock up, how long, who I lock up next to (preferably a nicer ride), etc.
Yeah, I currently use a mini ulock(onguard pitbull mini tc)with a cable for the wheels. the quickrelease skewers are nice since i have had to replace tubes 3 times in the last week that why I thought the locking skewers looked neat.
Well.. got a pinch flat.. tried to patch but patch didn’t hold.. so new tube.. the valve assembly failed catastrophically.. took the tube back and REI gave me two to replace the failed one. Been good since.
I’ve watched someone try and open a U-lock with a jack. U-locks are great, but make sure you have that U-lock full of bike/post/whatever, so there is no room to shove a jack in between the bars too.
I have some pretty fat tires on the back, so I usually have the lock around both the rear wheel and seat tube (and a big fat parking meter post). It is so tight it will only fit around there in one direction. You flip the U-lock around 180 degrees and it is about an inch shy from being able to lock.
My paranoia level went sky high when I watched a locksmith use a cordless angle grinder to cut off a U-lock in about a minute and a half.
ive cut some u locks with angle grinders. bikes have come into free ride with locks still attached and no key. one thing that i’ve noticed is that with locks like many kryptonite ones with the little bend on one side of the U and the locking mechanism on the other, you need one cut to get the lock off. the on guard ones, the U part has the locking mechanism on both sides, so you need two cuts to get them open.
I have also heard to lock your u-lock up high on the bike so a thief can’t use the ground as leverage.
All of the OnGuard locks are 2 or 4 bolt, that is why you need to cut both sides.
I picked up a OnGuard Pitbull Mini U, and I absolutely love it. It is built very well, even the key hole cover collar is metal. My only complaint it the key–the handle part is wide and very hard. I just cut it down to make it thinner like the Kryptonite keys.
Also, I used Sheldon’s lock technique (around rim and tire, inside rear triangle). Some people have criticized me for it, but I think it makes a lot of sense.
I think lock size is very important. Big U-locks are much easier to break with all of the extra room inside of them.
In the end I think it is just like cars. If your bike is more secure the the one next to it, you’ll be fine–unless it is a target.
I lock my back wheel to the frame with a small U-lock, and then wrap a thick cable either thru the bike seat or around the bike frame to a larger U-lock on the front wheel. The front wheel’s lock is the one that actually holds the bike to the rack/item being locked to.
Do you guys lock expensive bikes outdoors too? I only have one bike, but its a fancy carbon road bike. Would you feel safe leaving it for an hour with a u-lock or do think its wise to invest in a less expensive commuter for when i’d need to stop and lock?
Dryrunholiday: No, but I see people doing it. It’s probably somewhat a matter of risk tolerance, inasmuch as if you can afford an expensive bicycle to ride around town you can afford to replace one every once in a while if it were to be stolen. Pittsburgh bike thieves also seem to be the opportunistic sort with maybe a pair of bolt cutters rather than the methodological kind that have a crew, a van, and an angle grinder.
That said, it makes sense to get another bike for riding around town just because most carbon road bikes aren’t particularly well suited for anything but fast road riding, and don’t have room for fenders and racks and fatter tires to handle Pittsburgh potholes hidden in puddles or snow.
I would see no problem in it depending on where you were going. Example, if you were riding the trails and locked up in front of REI or something like that. Commuting on it to downtown or some places in the east end I dont think would be a good idea.
yeah, i’d say the chances that within an hour, someone coming by that has the capability to cut a ulock is pretty slim, next to none. your wheels on the other hand…at least lock them with a cable
The other night I cut a lock for someone who lost the key and was moving. It took under 10 sec. (probably 5-6 sec) to wiz through it with a cut off wheel on a angle grinder. It was a Kryptonite U-lock.
I live in NYC and have had 3 bikes stolen, one just days after completing a ride from Boston to NYC. After that I got 3 locks as they steal everything here including Bungey Cords! I use the NYC Krip. chain, a Krip. U-lock and a Krip. cable with another cable locking the seat to the frame. It’s been 13 years now since my last stolen bike. The other thing I did was to park the bike in different locations near the office I would be working at, as the bike theft rings look for bikes parked in the same location. The other thing that this craft assholes do is plant fake bus stop post that lift up and out of the sidewalk. Now, if they would only apply their ingenuity to better things…
a friend of mine in nyc had his bike stolen some weeks past. he had left it securely locked to a pole at a transit stop. he came back to find the pole had been cut down, and his bike removed. i hope pittsburgh never gets like that.
Katlin: have you looked into parking your bike inside now that Intro. 870 is passed in NYC?
Topping this thread yet agian. I’ve been seeing a lot of expensive bikes locked up with cheap cable locks lately – especially on the Pitt campus. I’ve been leaving notes to get a u-lock on some of them.
I wonder if we could get a local shop or two to print up and honor some “10% off any U-lock” hang tag coupons for such purposes.
Heck, I’d pay a couple bucks personally to have a wad of those (and coupons for frickin’ lights, for all the ninjas out there) tucked in my bag.
I recently left a note for someone at my regular bike rack with a super nice city bike to read this thread. They repeatedly just throws their U-Lock over their front wheel. Hasn’t worked, saw it again this morning
@dmtroyer They repeatedly just throws their U-Lock over their front wheel.
Mean, but effective: Take their bike off and leave it next to their locked wheel.
Is the Kryptonite NYC lock over kill? Is it really the best U Lock?
I saw a bike locked up across from Dave and Andy’s yesterday that had a u-lock on the milkcrate trailer but a 1/4 inch cable locking the top tube to a street sign…
The Krypto NYC lock is overkill in Pittsburgh. Great for high theft places like NYC, Philly etc.
There are so many people in Pittsburgh (and in most places really) leaving their bikes unlocked or using $5 chains and cables that a normal steel shackled ulock is just fine.
In the past I have used a 1/2″ thick coated steel cable and a keyed U-Haul lock (no room to shim it open) and no issues. I would thread the cable through all kinds of shit.
One thing that I think people also overlook is the ability to steal a bike from on top of a car.
All of these stories here though make me happy that I can use our shop here at work for bike storage.
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