Keeping your bike safe

Bike thieves suck. After a long conversation with a Madisonian who’d had her bicycle stolen recently, I thought that we should review tips / suggestions on keeping your bike (Stray Cat or otherwise) safe, or at the least how to mitigate the loss if it *is* stolen.

1. My mother always used to say “Locks only keep honest people honest,” and it’s as true for bicycle theft as it is for just about anything else. There is nothing that is 100% successful, including the famed Kryptonite NY Fahgettaboutit lock that weighs 8+ pounds and is one of the most secure bike locks that you can buy. There are things that you can do to reduce your exposure to bike thieves, but if you’re going to lock a bike outside, make sure it’s a lower-priced bike that you can replace if necessary.

2. Make your bike harder to steal than others on the rack. Unless the thieves are tossing bikes into a dump truck, chances are they’re going to ride it away, meaning they can realistically only steal one at a time. If you have a nice bike and it’s the least secure on the rack, chances are the thief is going to go for yours. If you have a cheaper bike, and you have it better secured than others, he’s probably going to go for someone else’s.

3. Diversify. Different locks take different tools for a thief to break. Cutting implements are usually used for getting through cable locks, and pry- and crowbars are used for getting through U-locks. If yours has both, not only will yours be (probably) more secure than other bikes on the rack, it would take a thief with both sets of tools in order to get it. It’s possible he might have both, but again, you’re trying to make it difficult enough to cause a thief to pass over your bike and go on to someone else’s. The most common locking setup involves a U-lock through the frame/rear wheel and around the bike rack, with a cable lock securing both wheels (and the bike rack).

4. U-locks > cable locks. While not impervious to bike thieves, in general U-locks provide more protection than a simple cable lock.

5. Thickness = strength. The thicker that cable or U-lock is, the harder it is to get through. Don’t use an 8mm thick cable if you can get a 12mm thick one. Don’t use a 13mm U-lock if you can get a 16mm+ one. Kryptonite has sizing on their site, along with a “security rating” that goes from 1-12 that gives you an idea of the protection that it offers.

6. When locking your bike, try to reduce any slack (cable) or dead space (U-lock). The less space there is for a thief to work, the harder it is for him to steal the bike. If there’s no space for him to get a pry-bar in, it’s impossible for him to use it to steal your bike.

7. Well-lit, well-traveled areas are good places to lock your bike, but it’s still not a guarantee that your bike won’t get stolen. Bike thieves act quickly, and passersby might mistake a bike thief for someone just trying to get their own lock off.

8. Lastly, LOCK IT TO SOMETHING STURDY!! You could have the strongest lock in the world made out of depleted uranium and virgin’s tears, and if you lock your bike to something fragile (small tree, rickety fence, etc), the thief can just cut through whatever you’ve locked it to.

So please, be safe, take caution when locking your bike up outside, and remember that a bicycle rider on an insurance policy (home or renters) might be able to save you some hassle down the road.

Here’s more information from Kryptonite about how to secure your bike.

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4 Responses to Keeping your bike safe

  1. Jess says:

    Virgin’s tears? Ha! That’s hilarious.

    Hey there – fellow Madison rider here – got to your site from a post card handed out at the farmer’s market yesterday morning. Looks like you are doing great things! Would there ever be a time that I could come and watch a bike get assembled? I’d love to learn a bit.

    Also wanted to mention that I swear by the Pinhead locking system for anti-theft protection. I have the front/rear wheel locks on my beloved Surly, and have total confidence locking up just the frame with my Kryptonite U-lock. You can check out their website here:

    Happy riding,

  2. Pingback: What we’re riding (with): Kryptonite Evolution Mini-5 U-lock | Stray Cat Bicycles

  3. Pingback: What we're riding (with): Kryptonite Evolution Mini-5 U-lock | Stray … | locks

  4. I think the sentence that your mother siad is really true and smart.
    From my experience ,today you can find very safe locks in a price about 60$.
    Of course there is nothing compared to the old chains lock, I think they are the best.

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