No matter where you live, bike theft is a real issue.
Even if you store your bike in the garage or apartment building, you still need to park it outside whenever you’re at school, work, or running errands around town.
Bicycle insurance can put your mind at ease, but it can’t prevent your bike from getting stolen. The only way to minimize the risk is to lock up your bike… and do it right.
Ideally, you should lock both the front and rear tires of your bike. If, for one reason or another, this isn’t possible, lock the rear tire and the triangle of the frame. The front wheel will be left unprotected, but at least the rear wheel and the body will be secured.
Locking the front and rear tires of your bike, along with the frame, is the best protection.
Apart from standing next to your bike, this is the only way to fully secure both the wheels and the body, even from skilled thieves.
The this is that, most of the time, it’s also impractical. Maybe you feel differently than I do, but I’m not a fan of lugging around two bike locks wherever I go.
Between locking up your bike in such a way that not a single part of it can get stolen—and being able to get around with it without hassle—is a compromise. And it comes down to this: If your bike becomes the target of thieves, how much of it would you like to keep?
How to Lock Up Your Bike Securely
Pick the right spot. When locking up your bike, the first thing to do is make sure you have a ground anchor to lock it to.
This can be a bike rack, a sign post, or a metal railing. The key is that potential thieves shouldn’t be able to lift the bike along with the lock above the anchor point.
Buy a good lock. When it comes to your bike, there are things you want to save on and things you want to splurge on. No prize for guessing where bike locks belong!
If you try to save money by going cheap on a bike lock, you’ll make it too easy for thieves to pick (or break) the lock and steal your bike. In other words, being cheap can wind up costing you more money in the long run.
In fact, buy two locks. “What is this guy talking about,” your probably thinking. “Why would I buy two locks? If my bike gets stolen, I’ve no use for a spare!”
As I already touched on, locking the front and the rear tires of your bike is the only way to avoid having to walk home if it becomes the target of thieves. As long as you don’t mind carrying the two locks with you (I do), you will have more peace of mind.
Make sure the two locks are different. A bicycle lock is like a riddle. And once you’ve solved a riddle, that riddle becomes much easier to solve the second time.
Especially if your bike, or certain parts on it, is particularly high-end and sought after, you should make it as difficult as possible for thieves to steal it. The stronger lock should go on the rear wheel and the frame.
The locks shouldn’t touch the ground. Arrange the locks so that they don’t touch the ground.
If they touch the ground, it’s easier for a thief to break the lock with a hammer or sledgehammer. It is also easier for them if they can use the floor as a lever to break the lock with bolt cutters.
Wrap the locks tightly around the frame. Another thing you should do is to wrap the locks around the frame and wheels as tightly as you possibly can.
If you give the lock too much wiggle room, a thief can more easily push the bike around until he has the leverage he needs to break the lock open. Once again, it’s as much about protecting the bike as it is about making life harder on the person who’s trying to steal it.
How Not to Lock Your Bike
There are some things that you should definitely avoid doing when you lock your bike up.
Perhaps the biggest mistake that cyclists make is to lock only the front wheel of the bike. If you do this, you make it easy for a thief to just take it off and disappear with the rest of the bike (usually, to a nearby van).
If’ve have ever walked around a bad neighborhood in a Dutch city, you have probably seen abandoned front tires sitting by themselves, all locked up to the bike rack. It’s a humiliating way to lose your bike.
It’s also not a good idea to lock the bike to another bike. This makes it easier for a thief to get leverage when breaking the locks, but there is also nothing stopping them from just stealing both bikes.
Remember: Don’t make it easy for the thieves!
Some people lock just the frame to the bike rack, or to another anchor point, because they somehow think that this makes the bike more secure.
In fact, it makes the bike significantly more vulnerable because there’s so much wiggle room within the lock… A thief can jolt the bike around until they manage to break the lock. Also, with this way of locking up your bike, nothing is stopping the thief from stealing your wheels and leaving the frame behind.
As a precaution, always double check that you have secured your bike properly before you leave the spot. It’s easy to accidentally overlook a step or two—or forget to close the lock(s) all the way.
If you are wondering which bike tire to lock, the short answer is both. If you only lock one of the wheels on your bike, there is a good chance that some or all of your bike will get stolen. If you only lock the back tire, you might get the front tire stolen. If you only lock the front tire, you might get the back tire stolen.
This is why you need to lock both tires up, as well as the bike frame itself.
Related: How to Lock Your Bike Without a Rack