How to lock a bike securely: eight tips for worry-free urban cycling
If you’re using your bike to commute to work or to nip to the shops, you’ll want to make sure it’s still there when you return
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Cycling to work means that you’re going to be leaving your bike somewhere away from home for the entire day. In the winter, the tail end of the day may be dark and there may be fewer people around - ideal conditions for a thief to strike.
But there’s a lot that you can do to keep your bike more secure, so you can be more sure that it - and components and accessories attached to the bike - are still there at the end of the day.
We have a dedicated reviews guide to the best bike locks, but read on if you're keen to find out more about how to keep your bike secure while commuting or nipping to the shop.
Our top tips on how to lock a bike securely
1. Store your bike somewhere secure
If you're cycle commuting to work and locking up your bike at your workplace, if your employer has bike storage facilities on site, your bike is likely to be a lot safer behind a security guard in a bike shed or bike room that may be under surveillance from CCTV. Even then, a thief might gain access or someone may take accessories left on the bike, so it’s a good idea to follow the advice lower down and lock your bike effectively.
Some councils also have secure lockers or storage areas that you can rent a space in. They’re still quite rare, but it means that there’s an extra level of security for your bike, although again you should ensure that you’ve locked it effectively yourself.
Perhaps the most likely loss is from petty pilfering, so don’t leave your lights, computer or other easily removable parts on your bike, take them with you.
2. Find a high traffic area to lock your bike
If you don’t have access to a secure bike parking area, you’ll need to find somewhere else to lock your bike.
Don’t keep it in a dark alley where there are few pedestrians. If a thief does take a fancy to your bike, it’s going to be a lot easier for them to work on breaking your locks if it’s somewhere quiet where they’re not likely to be observed. If there are lots of people around and a location is overlooked by shops and offices, this may deter a thief.
CCTV is also a deterrent; banks and ATMs are likely to have good coverage, but most shopping streets will probably have CCTV cameras. Don’t assume you’ll be able to secure this if your bike is stolen though, as a business may not be prepared to share its footage.
It’s also worth looking for somewhere where there are lots of bikes locked - there’s safety in numbers and if your bike is locked effectively, it’s less likely that yours will be a target.
3. Find a secure anchor to lock your bike to
Next up, regardless of where you’re locking your bike, find something secure to lock it to. Most designated cycle parking has U-shaped anchor points, so your bike can’t just be lifted off the anchor, but if you’re locking it somewhere else make sure that it’s not possible to do this and that the anchor can’t just be sawed through. Ideally, lock your bike to two separate anchor points. There have been cases of thieves sawing through U-shaped anchors in advance, so that they can just remove any bike using them.
Watch out for railings or posts that can be sawed through easily or uprooted. And some building owners have specific prohibitions posted and may remove a bike secured to their property, so make sure it’s somewhere where you’re allowed to lock it.
4. Use quality locks to lock your bike
Next up, use a high quality lock. Fortunately in the UK, there’s an independent testing body, Sold Secure, which has tested and rated the majority of locks on sale. Look out for a Sold Secure Gold or Diamond rated lock - we’ve got a selection in our piece on the best bike locks, ordered by their rating. It’s even better to use two locks, so there’s more to break to get at your bike.
D-locks tend to be the most secure, although some chain locks are highly rated too. Cable locks can often be cut more easily.
An alarmed lock is also a good choice. Battery powered, it will beep if someone just knocks against it, but a loud siren will be activated if it continues to be disturbed. Some will even alert you via a phone app that they’ve been activated.
Position your locks so that they’re tight against the frame, particularly if you’re using a chain lock. The less leverage a thief can get on the lock, the harder it will be to break it. The lock barrel is usually the weakest point in a lock, so try to position it so that it’s facing towards the rear and so harder to reach.
5. Lock your bike through the frame and wheels
You should use one lock through the frame and the spokes of your rear wheel and secured to an anchor. Add a second lock through the front wheel, the frame and, if possible, a separate anchor. It’s very easy to remove most bike wheels, particularly if you have quick release hubs and you don’t want to find that someone has stolen your wheels while you were at work.
You can increase the security of your wheels by using lockable hub skewers, like those from Pinhead. Pinhead’s sets also include a locking saddle clamp nut; saddles and seatposts are a favourite, easily nickable component for thieves, so you’ll increase security by replacing a quick release or bolted clamp with a locking bolt or tamper-proof bolt - or by just removing the saddle and seatpost and taking them with you if you have a quick release saddle clamp bolt.
Even handlebars can fall prey to thieves. They’re comparatively easy to remove from your bike and gear shifters are pricey and easily sold.
It’s not just the bike and its components that you need to keep safe. Remove accessories like lights, pumps, saddlebags and computers and take them with you too.
6. Get it registered
Another deterrent to thieves is to get your bike registered. In the UK, you can use Bike Register to register details of your bike and there are equivalent services in other countries too. For a one-time fee, you can record details of your bike like frame number with Bike Register. It will send you a set of indelible stickers to mark up your bike, making it harder to sell it on, as potential purchasers can check if it’s been recorded as stolen.
More advanced kits allow you to mark your wheels and other components, not just the frame. Police forces will sometimes mount free bike registration drives, so check if there’s one planned where you live.
As a matter of course, you should keep a record of your bike’s frame number, which is usually stamped or fixed under the bottom bracket. Take photos of your bike and any distinctive or non-standard components that are fitted to it.
7. Insure your bike
It’s a good idea to have separate bicycle insurance for your commuter bike and accessories. You may find that if you’re relying on home insurance, it may not cover you if your bike is locked up away from home, there may be an excess and the value of cover may not fully pay for a replacement bike. Cycle insurance often covers legal expenses and third party liability too.
8. Lock it at home
It’s not just at the work end of your commute that you need to be careful to keep your bike secure. You should keep it locked up at home too. The same considerations apply concerning potential theft, particularly if your bike is kept in a shed or quiet corner.
We have a dedicated reviews guide to the best bike locks and you might even find some among Black Friday bike deals but if you're keen to find out more about their potential benefits to your cold-weather riding then read on.
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Paul started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2015, covering cycling tech, new bikes and product testing. Since then, he’s reviewed hundreds of bikes and thousands of other pieces of cycling equipment for the magazine and the Cycling Weekly website.
He’s been cycling for a lot longer than that though and his travels by bike have taken him all around Europe and to California. He’s been riding gravel since before gravel bikes existed too, riding a cyclocross bike through the Chilterns and along the South Downs.
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