Why do we have to protect our two-wheeler?
Are bikes really stolen? Unfortunately, yes. Nowadays, a good lock is a minimum to protect our bikes from thieves, and even that may not be enough in some cases.
Police in some countries don’t keep accurate statistics about this issue, but every year we count the number of stolen bicycles at least in the thousands. It’s impossible to specify the preferred spots for these criminals. Bicycles are disappearing everywhere, from basements and garages, from streets, stairwells, and sometimes even from balconies.
One thing is certain. Opportunity makes the thief, and the most common objects for stealing are bikes that are secured with locks of dubious quality, or not secured at all. Unfortunately, our bikes are easy to sell, and after snipping the lock, this person can actually ride off on our property, from right under our noses.
So what do we do to protect ourselves from losing our favorite ride? What steps should we take after it has been stolen, and what are the chances of finding the perfect form of protection that will give us peace of mind for once and for all?
Securing your bicycle against theft - basic tips
What can we do to feel confident that our bike is completely safe? Unfortunately, the chance of losing our property is always there, but we can keep the risk of theft to a minimum by following some really simple rules.
Crowds are your friend
Few are brave enough to cut a U-lock in the middle of a public place. The more people around, the less likely someone will decide to steal your bike. If this happens, it's more likely that a passer-by will react to such a situation.
Do you have the option between a busy sidewalk and an empty backyard? Secure your ride in that first place. But, then again, that's only fine if you have a decent lock. Anyone can cut a cheap thin cable lock in a split second, and a crowded place may even work against us - more potential criminals.
Don't leave your bike overnight in public places
This is linked back to the rule in the previous section. Fewer people at night = more chance of someone stealing your property. Darkness is an additional issue. A thief who steals something from a place where there isn't a single streetlamp is less likely to get caught in the act, and the more time they have, the greater the chance your bike's protection will eventually give in.
Keep your bike at home, not in the basement
Basements and stairwells are easy to get into, and if a criminal already has access to the building, they can practically work on your bike lock all night. A much safer approach is keeping your bike in your apartment.
Secure your bike using your head!
Secure your bike using your head! Badly secured bikes are a plague. On internet forums, you can find entire threads on how we shouldn’t secure our two wheels.
Firstly, after fastening the lock, let's double-check that our bicycle is actually fixed to the pole or rack.
Secondly, let's make sure it's definitely our own bike that we just locked. We know from personal experience when our friends had to wait hours to free their bikes because somebody had clipped onto their two wheels instead of the actual rack.
Additionally, it’s always worth securing the bike by its frame, especially if we have wheels with quick release systems. Otherwise, we’re likely just to come back to a single wheel, secured to the bike rack. It’s also a good idea to have additional cable locks solely for the wheels, so we can secure them too. This way, we’re not left in the opposite situation - a bike thief leaving us with only a frame and no wheels.
Quick release skewers
If you are leaving your bike outside for the whole day, replace the skewers with regular bolts. Quick release systems are great and they speed up the removal of wheels and other components. Unfortunately, a thief can easily take advantage of this and take your parts away. Securing your bike with additional cable locks, fastened to the wheels, the saddle, etc. is a better solution regardless of how your ride is assembled.
For the city, choose a bike you can afford
For city riding, let's use the machine that we didn't spend ages saving up for. If it's a bike that we are going to lock in the street most of the time, a blinging road bike, with parts in the region of €1,000 or more, simply isn't going to be a good idea.
Besides, if the bike is so expensive that we lack peace of mind while riding it, and constantly worry that something’s going to happen to it, then where's the enjoyment in that?
Bicycle security - the perfect bike lock, is there such a thing?
When choosing a bike lock, we'll probably have to make a compromise. The magical, unbreakable material hasn't been invented yet, and unfortunately, the thicker and heavier the protection, the longer the thief will simply work on it.
It's also worth noting that even the best U-lock won't give us 100% protection. If someone has the right tools, theft will be inevitable and no form of bike protection is going to prevent that. An angle grinder, some liquid nitrogen, that’s all it takes, let’s go! There are, of course, just a handful of such thieves, and virtually no one will be cutting metal in broad daylight on a busy street.
So what kind of lock for your bike, then? Let's look at the most popular solutions.
Undeniably, the best way to secure your bike. What is it? It's simply a big two-piece padlock made of thick, cut-resistant steel.
The neat U-lock won't be beaten by a regular bolt cutter, and thus they will need heavier artillery to cut through it. So this will scare off most thieves.
What to look for when choosing a U-lock?
Size - let's think about our needs, try it on the bike and see what size will be the best solution. For 90% of cyclists a mini U-lock will be enough. We've never had a problem with fastening such locks to our own bikes, and they'll be the lightest and most portable.
Additional services - Large companies often throw in free bike insurance when purchasing their locks. That’s also worth considering.
Technical parameters - the best choice will be one with a thickness of at least 13 mm. The bigger, the more secure the U-lock usually is. A shackle that locks into both sides of the crossbar will also help improve the security. That way, after cutting the steel on one side, the thief will have to cut the other. This will make it more difficult for them to steal your ride.
What can be wrong with a U-lock, then?
Firstly - a good U-lock weighs 1 - 2 kg. This isn't a very appealing weight to carry.
Secondly - how do we attach it to ourselves or our bike? We rather want to avoid carrying extra kilos in our backpack. Special systems for mounting a U-lock to your bike frame do exist, but they usually aren't very sturdy and they don't look that great.
The best solution is a belt or a hip pouch with a special holder for a U-Lock. That way, you’ll always have it at hand and hardly feel it against your body. However, not everyone likes this solution.
The last thing is the price. Unfortunately, U-locks aren’t among the cheapest, and a good lock will set you back at least 30€.
A solution that lacks less in finesse than the last one. A chain made of hardened steel will provide good protection for your bike. Its greatest advantage, compared to a U-lock, is its reach. We'll be able to secure a few bikes with one or even secure ours to a tree without any problems.
Unfortunately, to quote Uncle Spiderman - with great versatility comes great weight. Good bike locks of this kind can weigh as much as 5 kg. For many people a lock like this will be unthinkable.
Carrying a chain is easy, we can easily wear it as a bag or belt, or wrap it around the frame.Unfortunately, the prices are not the lowest and a decent lock of this kind will set you back a bit.
Folding bike locks
They are made of flat pieces of steel joined together by special rivets and fold just like a carpenter's rule. Thanks to this interesting solution, we can, as in the case of a chain, easily secure more than one bike at a time, without losing out on compactness, and without tiring ourselves out carrying a lot of weight.
A very decent bike lock like this will weigh well under 2 kg. A good choice is the Trelock folding bike lock that’s available on our website. The disadvantages? High price and it’s not as tough as U-locks, but saying that, it’s still a very secure solution. For the typical stop or a bicycle trip e.g. for several bikes, it's ideal.
Cable bike locks
Cable locks can be described in one sentence: they’re incredibly simple to cut, but at the same time, very cheap, light, and easy to transport and use. You can’t treat this type of lock as serious bike security. But, it’s obvious that thieves are less likely to steal a bike locked with a cable lock, than one not locked at all.
So are they suitable for anything, then? Absolutely! Due to the advantages that we mentioned above, they’re a great solution for a quick stop at the store on the outskirts of town or a layover in the countryside. They’ll also be a good choice for a bike trip when you’ll have your bike in view all the time, or for that trip to a restaurant when it is next to our table in the garden.
Okay, so we can secure the frame for sure. But what about the rest of our bike? We're not going to wear a separate lock for every component. What do we do to avoid being left without a saddle or a wheel at the end of the day?
Secure the front wheel with the main safety device.
With most U-locks and practically every chain, or folding lock, we can easily clamp the front wheel together with the frame. That way, we have one thing less on our minds. Another idea is using an additional lightweight cable lock to secure this part.
Protect your bolts
Most of the things on a bicycle are very easy to unscrew. All you need is a hex key, sometimes a wrench. Fortunately, manufacturers have come up with some innovative solutions.
Unique wrenches - it can be enough just to replace the nuts on the hub axles or the bolts in a seatpost clamp with ones that require a special key that's supplied only by the manufacturer. No thief is likely to have one of these.
Hexlox - the ideal way to secure all the hex bolts on our bike. You can insert a small metal "plug", so-called hexlock, into the bolt head, which effectively prevents someone from unscrewing it. The hexlox can be removed only with a special, coded key.
Kryptonite WheelNutz/Boltz - another clever solution for securing wheels. After we replace the nuts or quick release skewers with WheelNutz/WheelBoltz, we’ll only be able to loosen and remove the wheels when the bike is upside down. A special gravity mechanism prevents a thief from stealing the wheels from a bike that's locked upright.
Other ways to secure your bike
Co zrobić poza bezpośrednim przypięciem roweru lub zabezpieczeniem części i co, gdy kradzież niestety nastąpiła? Czy istnieje ubezpieczenie roweru? Na te pytania przemysł rowerowy również znalazł wiele odpowiedzi.
Unique kit is difficult to sell and easy to find. Therefore, if our two-wheeler is custom-made, permanently signed with our name, or has distinctive paintwork or a design that we can’t find on any other frame, it’ll be much harder to sell and much easier to identify at a market or when someone is attempting to sell it on the internet.
It’s also important to have pictures of our loss, so that we’ll have something to show to the police and, for example, use in an announcement on Facebook.
Register it with the police
Registering your bike is an important activity. Most frames have stamped numbers underneath the bottom bracket shell. In most European countries, police keep a bike register, and if our two-wheeler is on it, it'll be much easier for us to identify it after a theft, and when somebody reports such a crime, the police can notify its owner immediately.
How do we hold onto our bike for as long as possible
To be honest, it’s best not to let it out of our sight! But this is in quite a utopian setting, and, realistically, we’ll have to leave it behind more than once. So what kind of lock, then?
A good U-lock is ideal when it comes to protection. But if for some reason it just isn’t practical for us, a chain or a folding lock will work well too. Let's keep cable locks for those extra short stops and situations where we can still keep an eye on our ride. Also, we can secure the rest of parts and, as we mentioned, insure the bike and register it with the police.
The most important thing, however, is simply not to leave it unattended for too long. Opportunity makes the thief and no protection will help if we abandon our bike for a few nights. So let's keep it as close to ourselves as possible.