I really enjoy riding my bike but I wouldn't be able to enjoy any of my errands, commutes or meals if I had to worry about whether my bike would get stolen while I was popping into a bakery or supermarket. The Police statistics are that 85% of all bikes stolen were left unlocked so I long ago decided to lock my bike when leaving it. I have never had a bicycle stolen from me--not in my whole life, not as a kid, not in 22 years of riding fancy racing bikes, never. I have learned to love my locks and I am going to give you tips that will help you.
Locks should be thought of as another component and they are
going to add weight to your bike. Get used to this concept and you'll
ride longer and farther than your friends who lose their bikes.
A lightweight cable or simple chain will make theft too difficult for a casual thief. This may be all you need if you're going into a coffee shop or bookstore in a civilised area. If you live in San Francisco or Berkeley or leave your bike on a college campus you are going to need some serious help to make sure your beautiful bike is waiting for you when you get back. I don't think that uglifying your bike will be a theft deterrent. A friend of mine recently lost the worst, ugliest piece of junk I have ever seen, and it was locked.
In putting together this article I consulted with David Takemoto-Weerts, the Bicycle Program Director at UC Davis. He recommends locking strategies to students, he chooses well-designed bicycle parking racks for the campus and he has cut through every lock known to man. He wants you to know that when a thief sees a well-locked bike, he usually moves on to look for an easier bike to steal.
The main strategy to deter theft is this:
- Park in a conspicuous place, no dark alleys.
- Don't overnight parking outside.
- Always lock the wheels too. In light security situations like going in to a store, I usually just lock the front wheel and frame to something handy. In a tougher situation I will lock the rear wheel too.
- If you're using a U-Lock make sure there is no space in the loop for anyone to put in a car-jack.
- Use two locks. Different kinds of locks need different tools and take longer to get through so your bike becomes a big problem to steal.
- Punch your driver's license # on your bottom bracket.
- Use strong locks made of hardened steel alloys.
No lock is impregnable so if you are worried about leaving your bike
someplace, don't leave it there. Find somewhere else to put it.
If you regularly park your bike in the same spot leave an extra heavy-duty
lock at the location and use that in addition to the lock you carry.
Put the lock on high enough that the thief cannot leverage his bolt
cutters against the ground.
If you're worried about losing components you can fill in the allen head bolts with plumber's putty or silicone sealer. This is appropriate for grimy parts of big cities and college campuses. This works for the gooseneck, seatpost, rear derailleur and brakes. This is messy but effective.
Register your bike, know your serial number and report a theft. If a thief is caught with a stolen bike the police will be able to confirm that it is not his and will know how to contact you.
Any un-armored cable can be defeated in a minute or two with simple side
cutters, so don't buy these.
The Specialized Hard Rapper is a thick shielded steel cable covered with Kevlar and has a built-in cylindrical lock. It looks strong and convenient. It weighs a little over one and a half pounds and costs around $40.00
Most people I know use a U-Lock and are happy with it. They are easy to carry with available brackets and are good protection against theft. If they are made of a high-strength steel alloy and don't have a protuding cross-bar they will resist bolt cutters and prying. Models where the locking cross-bar protrudes beyond the shackle are vulnerable because the long end can be pounded with a hammer or pried off with a long pipe. Kryptonite has a heavy duty model, the Evolution 2000, that weighs 2 1/4 lbs., and a lighter version called the EvoLite which weighs 1 3/4 lbs. Both have 1/2" thick steel-alloy shackles and strong, extra-thick crossbars with an inboard lock. These are very great protection, lightweight (compared to the chains) and convenient enough that you will use them. MSRP EV-2000 $49.95, EvoLite $39.95. If you must have the strongest U-Lock on the planet it is the New York lock which weighs in at 3 1/4 lbs and retails for $69.95. You can order all your Kryptonite locks to have the same key.
A really heavy duty chain is going to be absolutely the strongest thing
you can hang your bike on. Bolt and chain cutters were designed to go
through round sections of steel. Making the steel from strong alloys,
hardening them and making the links square all contribute to making a
chain too tough to cut.
Quadrachain makes a heavy duty Nickel-Chrome-Moybdenum alloy steel chain with square links and a lock that is a large brick of hardened, forged alloy steel. The lock completely shields the shackle. It is heavy, strong and expensive; you can't cut it; your bike will be there when you get back. It weighs 4 3/4 pounds for the 2 foot length with lock and 6 1/2 pounds for the the 3 foot version. MSRP $112.46. I totally fell in love with this one, the lock feels extremely precise and looks impervious to everything.
Kryptonite makes one that has squared links and a 1 pound 2 oz. U-Lock to tie everything together. The chain is a 3 foot long piece of four-sided "triple-heat-treated, boron manganese steel". The lock is miniature U-lock made for motorcycle security. Its shackle is 5/8" thick. It even has a warning notice on it that reads, "WARNING Remove lock before operating vehicle." MSRP $104.00 for the chain and lock. This lock is a pleasure to touch and to hold and actually looks cute with the little yellow U-lock on the end.
A HOME-MADE LOCK
Here's the recipe for my home-made case hardened chain with shielded pad-lock:
- Find a good hardware store or metal yard and ask for some Cambell
Security Chain. This stuff is 3/8" thick made from Boron-alloyed steel
and is Case-Hardened. It is almost impossible to cut--it destroys the
jaws of bolt-cutters. You can get through it with a torch or diamond
grinder but it takes a while. Ask the hardware store clerks if they can cut it a
little shorter for you--if they say YES, then this is not the right
chain. You want them to say "NO, we just sell it in pre-cut lengths." It
sells for $5.00 to $7.50 a foot, depending on whether you buy it from a
steel yard or a hardware store.
You will want two to three feet. Two feet is a snug fit through the frame and wheels around a parking meter. This is the same size as a medium-sized U-Lock. Two and a half feet is perfect. Three feet leaves you a little room to manoeuvre with so you can lock to big light poles or lock-up a friend's bike with yours when you're out on a date--this is a very gallant touch.
- Slip your chain into something to protect the finish of your frame. I stretched one chain into a snug innertube. While it was a lot of work it did only take 15 minutes and I had plenty of useless innertubes around. It would have taken longer to pedal to a hardware store to get something else to put it in. Heat-shrink tubing also works great to house the chain. You could sew a cover from some tough cloth you have around or wrap the chain in duct tape. Whatever you do will work.
- Now get a lock. There are a lot to choose from. I suggest a lock with a case-hardened and shielded hasp. Abus, American and Master make these and they are all excellent locks. The ABUS DISCUS 40 sells for around $17.00. The AMERICAN 5300 is the toughest and heaviest and sells for around $30.00. I chose the MASTER LOCK 37-D because it is used by the military for high-security applications. It costs less than $11.99 and it looks mean and ugly.
Any of these chains will make a bike-thief turn away and look for something easier to steal. These chains are heavy but when I lock my bike up with one of them, I know it will be there when I get back. That is a great feeling.
Remember: Most bikes were stolen when they were unlocked. Get a great lock and use it. I want you to hold on to your bike and keep cycling. And whatever you do, don't lose your keys.
The Weber Group, Inc.
101 Main Street Cambridge, Mass 02142
St. Pierre Manufacturing (makes the Quadra Chain)
317 East Mountain Street Worcester, Mass. 01506