HEY, DON’T STEAL MY BIKE! (UPDATED!) September 29 2014
How to keep your beloved bike from being stolen in the bike-thief-infested Bay Area:
1) GET A LOCK THAT WORKS!
This means a high-security bike lock – either a U-lock, chain, or folding lock. There are big differences in quality and security among available locks, so make sure you are choosing a high-security model from a well-respected company. Cables are ok for locking your components (see below), but absolutely not good enough for your frame.
U-locks: The most popular choice. U-locks work well in combination with cables, are easy to use & easy to carry. They work with most bike parking racks, parking meters, & signposts.
Chains: Heavy-duty bike chains from Kryptonite have the advantage of being flexible, have a tough nylon cover to protect your bike’s finish, & come in several lengths & security levels. They are heavier than U-locks & folding locks.
Folding Locks: The Abus Bordo series of folding locks offer flexibility in locking. They are easier to get around fat tires or large diameter bike frames (like on some folding bikes) than a U-lock. They are also easy to carry with the included bracket, & weigh less than a comparable U-lock or chain.
2) USE YOUR LOCKS CORRECTLY
Take accessories like lights with you, and don’t forget to also lock your wheels, saddle, & seatpost! Stolen wheels, saddles, & seatposts are extremely common, & these items are expensive to replace. It takes about 6 seconds to remove a quick-release front or rear wheel. Bolt-on wheels take only slightly longer with a tool that fits in your pocket. We recommend that you use one of the following methods to lock your wheels, saddle, & seatpost.
WHEEL LOCKING METHODS
U-lock + cable: Probably the most popular method. Put one U-lock around the bike parking rack & the rear wheel (inside the rear triangle of the frame), & run a cable from the U-lock around the front wheel. Although cables are easily cut, we find that thieves in our area typically won’t bother just to get a front wheel. Pros: less costly than some other options, relatively easy to use. Cons: less secure than a U-lock or locking wheel skewers, some people find it inconvenient.
Two U-locks: Put one U-lock around the bike parking rack & the rear wheel (through the frame), & a second U-lock around the frame & front wheel. Pros: very secure. Cons: heavy to carry, you have to buy 2 locks, requires 2 keys.
Pinhead or Pitlock wheel locks: Replace your wheels’ quick-release skewers with a skewer which requires a key to open, so they are locked on to your frame. Pinhead also makes a lock for bolt-on wheels. Pros: very secure, very convenient when locking up your bike, lightweight & nothing additional to carry around (except the key). Cons: higher cost than some other options, you must have the key with you if you want to remove your wheel or bring your bike to a shop for maintenance.
SADDLE/SEATPOST LOCKING OPTIONS
Seat leash cable: This is a thin cable which goes around your frame & under the saddle clamp, tethering the saddle & seatpost to the frame. Extra cable length is taken up by coiling it around the seatpost. A determined thief could disassemble the saddle clamp & remove the cable, but we very rarely see that happen.
Seat leash chain: This is a short chain with a built-in combination lock which goes around the rails of the saddle & your frame.
DIY seat leash: Some people use a length of old bicycle chain inside a section of an old inner tube (to protect your frame), & fasten it around the saddle rails & the frame with the help of a chain tool.
Pinhead or Pitlock locking seatpost binder bolt: These replace your existing quick-release or allen key binder bolt (which holds the seatpost to the frame) with one that requires a key to open, & come in kits that include wheel locks using the same key. Not compatible with all types of seatpost collars – sometimes you can replace the seatpost collar with a compatible style.
Anti-theft binder bolts/seatpost bolts: These bolts use a customized hex head with a pin in the center & include the specialized tool to fit it. They are available in various lengths & sizes to attach your seatpost to the frame & the saddle to the seatpost.
HEADSET LOCKING OPTIONS
In rare cases, a thief may steal the stem & handlebar from the bike, along with everything that is attached to the handlebar such as the shifters & brake levers. This is mostly a concern when bikes are left parked outdoors overnight, or when you have very valuable components. Here are some methods for securing those components.
Pinhead headset lock: Pinhead’s 4-pack of locking skewers includes locks for the front & rear wheels, seatpost, & headset. The headset lock replaces the top cap & adjusting bolt on a threadless headset, thereby locking the stem onto the bike. A determined thief could still remove the handlebar from the stem.
Anti-theft bolts: The customized hex head with pin bolts we have for locking the seatpost, may also work for the headset in some cases. As above, a thief could still remove the handlebar from the stem.
DIY candle wax method: Some riders will drip candle wax into the heads of the bolts for the components they want to secure. The wax will have to be carefully picked out before a tool can be used on the bolt, & this is too time-consuming for most thieves. Don’t use this method for anything you need to adjust regularly.
3) BE SMART & MINIMIZE RISK!
Always lock your bike. Lock it when you run into the store “just for a second.” Lock it when it is inside your house, office, garage, workplace, dorm room, or car.
Lock it if it’s in your yard – even if there’s a fence. Lock it inside of bike parking rooms, corrals, & cages. Basically, lock your bike any time you take your eyes off it.
Never leave it in a car, it's just not safe. It's terrible enough to get your bike stolen. It's even worse to have to replace a car window on top of it. Thieves breaking a car window to grab a bike is more common than you may think.
If you have access to (more) secure parking, use it. Locking your bike inside a bike room at your workplace, gym, or apartment building, or in an attended parking garage, is better than locking it on the street or in your backyard. Consider taking advantage of Bikestations and/or bike lockers at BART.
Don’t leave your bike locked outside overnight, or lock it for hours every day at the same time in the same location. Don’t lock your bike to an object that is not solidly attached to the ground – a “sucker pole” is a pole that a thief can lift up to slide your lock off & take your bike. Don’t lock your bike to an object that will allow the lock to be lifted off the top, either – for example, a pole without a sign bolted to the top of it. It doesn’t matter how tall it is. Thieves will stand on a buddy’s shoulders or on top of a vehicle & take your bike. Don’t lock your bike to an object that is easily cut – such as a chain link fence, wooden fence posts or signs, trees, thin metal railings,etc. Think a thief wouldn’t cut down a tree to take your bike? Think again.
AND of course, be prepared just in case your bike does get stolen after all: take photos, record the serial number, & register your bike.
More resources & info we like on bike theft prevention & stolen bike recovery: