How to Lock a Bike With Quick-Release Wheels

Don’t let your quick-release wheels disappear! Check out our guide to locking your bike wheels up tight.

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If you need to remove your bike’s wheels, nothing is more convenient than quick-release wheels. Just open the lever, unscrew the nut, and then unmount the wheel.

Quick releases are so convenient that cyclists who change wheelsets frequently because they ride on both paved and gravel roads love them. And so do the thieves who target their bikes.

The best way to lock a bicycle with quick release wheels is to lock the wheels to the frame, either separately or together. Alternatively, get a set of bicycle locking skewers.

Read on for some ideas on how to keep the convenience of a quick-release wheels while also protecting those wheels against theft.

Lock Each Wheel to the Frame, With Separate Locks

In areas with high bike theft, many cyclists have started to carry two locks. Two locks will allow you to secure both wheels to the frame. If possible, try to make it even harder for a thief to steal your bike by securing both wheels to the frame and the rack. 

For instance, you could use a small U-lock on the front wheel and frame, and a chain lock around the rear wheel, frame, and rack (or whatever sturdy object you are locking your bike to). Two different types of locks offer more security than just one type, as thieves will require different tools for each. 

Carrying two bike locks with you everywhere is heavy, though. So if you’re not keen on logging the extra weight, this might not be the best option for you.

Secure the Front Wheel With a Cable

Fair warning, cables don’t provide all that much security for your bike. They are easily and swiftly cut with wire cutters—which is why you shouldn’t rely solely on them.

That said, some cyclists feel comfortable using a cable to secure the front wheel, provided the bike and the rear wheel are secured in place with a stronger lock (like a U-lock or chain lock).

In this case, you would use the heavier lock to secure the rear wheel and frame to the rack, and then thread the cable through the front wheel and secure it to the rear lock (or, better yet, to the rack).

Cable locks are lighter to carry than two individual U-locks, so this is a good option if you want less weight in your backpack or basket. Some cyclists think this is too much of a hassle, however, considering the security it provides is kind of poor.

Remove the Front Wheel and Lock It With the Rear Wheel

Since your front quick-release wheel is so easy to remove, another solution is to just take it off and secure it in the back along with the rest of the bike. 

You will need a hefty lock that can accommodate both the front and rear wheels, the frame, and the rack.

This might limit the number of possible places you can park your bike, however. If no rack is available and the only option is a thick lamppost, you may not be able to fit all of that through the lock. 

Keep in mind, too, that you want as little wiggle room as possible inside your U-lock, so that tools won’t fit inside and allow a thief to pry open your lock. If you are carrying a giant U-lock around, getting a tight fit might be hard if you aren’t always locking your front wheel too. 

You will also have to find a location where there is enough room for the tires to be stored alongside each other. If you’ve cramped bike parking in your area, this might be difficult to do.

Last but not least, this method is sometimes cumbersome to do. You may want to try it out and see if it works for you.

Invest in Locking Skewers

If you don’t want to carry extra locks with you—and, let’s be honest here, who does?—skewers will lock down the parts of your bike that can be removed. This includes quick-release wheels, along with seatpost and handlebar stem. 

With keyed skewers, the basic idea is that skewers (nuts) can be unlocked by whomever has the key. However, it will be very difficult for thieves to remove or break them.

Pinhead Bicycle Locking Skewer Set, 4 Piece

Pinhead Locking Skewers

A set of front and rear bicycle locking skewers, each lock with its own unique combination key. Secures your wheels at a fraction of their cost.

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Obviously, this will require that you remember to bring your key with you if you want to remove the wheel while you are riding (if you have a flat tire, for example). 

Depending on the brand, you may get a key that is unique to your lock, or you may get a generic key that works with all the skewers but that can only be purchased with the skewers themselves. Make sure you make a note about what key number you have, and maybe take a picture in case you lose your key. 

Non-keyed, or gravity, skewers use a nifty pin mechanism that drops and locks the wheels. When you turn your bike upside-down, the keys unlock. These locks will not require a key, but you will need to make sure your bike is locked so the pins are down (and you will have to turn your bike over). 

Some riders have complained that these devices are finicky. Do your due diligence before you buy so that you don’t end up with a bike that’s secured so well, even its owner can’t unlock it.

Conclusion

If you don’t think you need quick-release wheels, a bicycle shop can change them out for fixed nuts, which will provide a little more protection against losing a tire to thieves. 

If you want to keep your quick-release wheels, try out these solutions and figure out what works for you. 

By Dim Nikov

City dweller. Recreational cyclist with a knack for writing. Always trying to find the right balance between life and bike.