Bike Security: How To Lock A Bike Up Properly

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Your bike is a considerable investment, but if someone steals it, the value of the bike is just the start of your problems.

You also have to put up with the disappointment of not being able to ride or exercise. But if you use your bike for commuting, you’ll experience an incredible amount of inconvenience.

Therefore, you need to protect your bike from opportunist thieves and know how to lock a bike properly.

There are various ways you can lock your bike, and there are some excellent products on the market – while others are less effective. So, what should you do to protect your bike from thieves?

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • How To Lock A Bike Properly
  • The Different Types Of Bike Locks Available
  • Combination Locks Vs. Locks With A Key

Let’s look at how to lock a bike so you can keep riding!

How To Lock A Bike: Title Image

How To Lock A Bike Properly

#1. Buy A Quality Bike Lock

How you lock your bike depends on the type of lock you buy. But the first thing you should know about bike locks is that you get what you pay for.

Some people have incredibly expensive bikes but buy the cheapest lock they can find to secure them. Bike thieves can easily defeat cheap bike locks, as they are weak and made from low-quality materials.

A bike thief will use a bolt cutter, screwdriver, or some kind of saw to get through a bike lock in just a few seconds. They can get through some bike locks so quickly that passers-by don’t even notice that they are stealing a bike.

Higher-quality bike locks are much tougher than cheap ones, so the bike thief may not be able to get through or break them. At the very least, a good bike lock will slow them down and draw attention to what they’re doing.

#2. Lock Your Bike To Something

The next thing to remember is that you need to lock your bike to an immovable object. There is not much point in just locking the wheel to the frame. Therefore, make sure you pass the lock through or around something like a lamppost, bike rack, or fence to prevent someone from riding off your bike.

If you don’t, a bike thief will be able to run off with it over their shoulder and remove the lock at home.

#3. Lock A Wheel

Many bikes come with quick-release wheel axles, making them quick and easy to remove. By locking a wheel to the frame, a thief won’t be able to take it.

Some people will lock both wheels to the frame or just the rear and take the front wheel with them. In addition to this, you may want to take your quick-release seat post with you, too, as they’re another part of your bike that’s easy to steal.

Combination lock wrapped around a blue city bike.

4 Different Types Of Bike Locks Available

#1. D-Lock

D-locks are often called U-locks due to their shape and are one of the most popular types of bike locks. When you look for effective methods of how to lock a bike, you will discover that D-locks are a great deterrent over other products.

D-locks are tough and can take lots of punishment from chisels, hammers, and saws. In addition to this, their shape reduces the amount of leverage, making them hard to break. But you need to get the right size.

If you opt for a D-lock, you need to make sure you don’t get one that’s too big. Large gaps between the bike frame and the lock leave lots of space for bike thieves to use crowbars to prise them off or break them.

Small D-locks can go around your wheel and frame, but larger ones will also fit around a bike rack or post.

The advantage of a smaller D-lock is that they are better for commuting, as you can easily fit one in a backpack.

#2. Cable Locks

Cable locks are easy to use, as you can twist them around the frame, a wheel, and an immovable object. However, they’re not as secure as other bike locks on the market.

These locks are vulnerable to bolt cutters, which will quickly and easily snip through them. These are usually secured with a small key or combination lock. They’re good visual deterrents and are compact and lightweight for carrying in your backpack or wrapped around your bike’s frame.

It’s probably not a good idea to solely rely on a cable lock, but using one to secure your wheels while using a D-lock around the frame and a lamp post is a good combo.

Cable locks are very cheap, so using one to secure a bike that’s worth a small fortune isn’t the best thing to do.

#3. Chain Locks

Chain locks work similarly to cable locks, as you can fit them around the frame, wheels, and a post without much effort. Chain locks are heavy-duty and consist of chunky chain links and a padlock.

The high tensile metals used in chain locks make them resistant to hacksaws and chisels. However, you need to ensure that you use a quality padlock with a chain lock. This is because the padlock is often the weakest part.

Most bike chain locks have some kind of covering to protect your bike’s paintwork. But you still need to take care when putting one on or removing it, as they can be pretty heavy and damage your paint when they whack into your frame.

The weight of a chin lock can be a bit annoying for commuters, so chain locks are usually used for securing your bike in a garage or shed. However, if you can put up with the weight, you’ll be able to keep your bike much safer.

#4. Anchor Locks

All too often, bike thieves break into garages to run off with people’s pride and joy. Therefore, you can use an anchor lock to protect your bike at home.

An anchor lock is an excellent way to make life difficult for bike thieves, as you fix them permanently to your garage wall or floor. Once you have fitted an anchor lock, it’s pretty much impossible to remove. If anyone tries to remove it, they will be trying for a long time!

To fit an anchor lock, you need to drill a hole in your floor or wall. They are secured by special bolts that expand in the concrete, preventing them from coming out.

If you opt for an anchor lock, make sure you have no plans for re-organizing your garage, as it will become a permanent feature.

These locks either have a hoop or eyelet, which you would lock your bike to with a chain lock or a high-tensile cable.

Black bike with a heavy-duty padlock wrapped around it.

Combination Locks Vs. Locks With A Key

The lock is often the weakest part of a bike lock, so it’s worth paying attention to what the manufacturer has fitted it with.

Bike locks that use keys usually use cylindrical or flat keys. Locks that use cylindrical keys are less secure, as they are very easy to pick. Some are so poor that you can pick them open with a ballpoint pen!

However, there are some excellent modern locks with cylindrical keys. But make sure you get one of the more expensive ones to ensure you get a quality one.

Typically, you get a couple of keys when you buy one of these locks, so you have a spare. Good bike lock manufacturers have a key replacement service, so as long as your bike is unlocked when you lose the key, you shouldn’t have a problem replacing it. 

Bike locks that use combinations are more convenient than locks with keys. You don’t have to remember your key or worry about losing it. But, you do need to remember your code!

Red vintage road bike with a black lock coiled around its seat tube and back wheel.

Now You Know How To Lock A Bike Properly

Knowing how to lock a bike is essential for keeping it secure. There is nothing worse than returning to your bike and realizing it has been taken.

A good bike lock isn’t a 100% guarantee that a thief won’t take your bike, but it may put them off or slow them down. Most bike thieves are looking for a quick getaway and don’t want to spend lots of time in the open air trying to work out how to remove a bike lock, attracting attention.

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Tom is an experienced freelance cycling journalist and mountain biking expert who competed nationally in the junior ranks. Now based in the world-famous mountain biking destination of Morzine in the French Alps, Tom spends his summers shredding off-road trails by bike and his winters on the same mountains on a snowboard.

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