Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
You’re reading this so I think it’s a safe bet that you’re a lot like me when it comes to bikes and cycling. Which makes me curious to find out if we have the same bicycle nightmare.
Mine goes like this. In the dream I’m riding or just somewhere with my bike and I stop and leave it behind, parked somewhere. It’s outside and unlocked. Later in the dream I realize my baby’s gone and I panic. I can remember where I left it but I can’t return to get it.
As the dream goes on it becomes a repeating loop of knowing my bike is at risk of getting stolen, wanting desperately to get back there and save it, but not being able to do that. What ends the dream and wakes me up is realizing that I know exactly where my bike is in my house and it’s safe.
I’ve had this nightmare many times. I’d be interested if you have too, how yours goes.
Tips for Keeping Your Bike Yours
Here are a few basic tips to protect your bike. Please comment with your favorite bike-saving tips.
- The best way not to get your bike stolen is not to leave it anywhere. That’s easier said than done. But if you always have your bike with you, it’s unlikely anyone will try to take it from you. (Having said that, there have been reports of bike-jackings to solo riders in remote areas – believe it or not.)
- If you have to leave your bike somewhere, lock it in a safe location and use the best quality locks available. Small diameter chains and cables are easy to cut with simple hand tools. They’re only useful to stop the snatch and grab thief so only use them if you’re keeping an eye on your bike.
- For maximum protection it’s best to use two different types of locks. For example, a U-lock for the frame and rear wheel to the immovable object plus a chain link lock for the wheels. With two different locks to get through most thieves will look for an easier mark. Two locks like this are heavy to carry but if they save your bike it’s worth the effort.
- Some riders put together the ugliest, most undesirable looking bike possible as their transportation bike in the hopes that no one will want to steal it.
- Another strategy is to use a folding bicycle for transportation. Some of these such as Bromptons, collapse in about 10 seconds and are so small they’ll fit in a shopping cart. I have taken mine into movies and put it in an empty seat next to me. It’s tiny when folded and it rides great.
- Always lock to an immovable object and always lock the frame and the wheels so they can’t steal the wheels. The immovable object needs to be unbreakable and tall enough that they can’t lift the bike up and over to get away with it. Also, the immovable object has to be secure – not easy to break or cut through.
- A new type of lock to consider for the highest security is one that’s resistant to angle grinders, the tool of choice these days for many bike thieves. Hiplok makes one, their D-1000 (photo above). Here’s more on that – be sure to watch the video showing how it defeats angle grinders: Hiplok’s Bicycle Security Breakthrough. Keep in mind that the lock is only as safe as what you’re locking the bike to. If it’s easy to cut through that, they won’t try to cut off the lock until they steal your bike.
- Look into registering your bike with a bike registration company, such as Bike Registry. This may or may not keep it from getting stolen but it can help you get it back. You can also usually register your bike in your city to get a bicycle license, which can help protect it.
- If you have to leave a bike locked on a daily basis try to find a secure bike locker to store it in. These are available in some cities and it’s usually inexpensive to rent one. You can’t tell from the outside that a bike is inside.
- Similarly, if you are forced to leave your bike outside at a place of work or at a gym you frequent etc., try to convince them to provide a safe room inside for leaving your bike (which others will want to use too).
- Keep in mind if you lock in a storage room like this that your bike could still get stolen. So it’s best to keep it locked even in there unless you’re certain there’s no risk. My daughter’s bike was stolen from a storage room like this in college and hers was even locked. She moved to an apartment she could keep her bike in.
- Lots of bikes get stolen from yards and out of open garages. Always beware the opportunity thieves that cruise neighborhoods looking for easy bikes to steal. Keep your bicycles out of sight and keep your garage door closed if they’re inside. Also, if you store your bike where it’s visible like in a backyard, or on a low balcony people can climb up to, be sure to lock it securely.
- Another place bikes get stolen is off of car racks. All these same rules apply for locking your bike on racks too. But be sure the rack is locked to the car or else they can take the rack and bikes.
- You might think that bike locks with alarms will add protection but as far as I’ve been able to determine thieves aren’t scared off by alarms.
- Lastly, for getting a stolen bike back, I haven’t tried them but I’ve heard that Apple AirTag GPS tracking chips have helped people and police find and recover bikes.
This isn’t a complete list of ways to keep your bicycle from getting stolen but it’s a start. Please add any I’ve missed or that you’ve found worthwhile and together we’ll hopefully help cut down a little on bike thefts.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. A pro mechanic & cycling writer for more than 40 years, he’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Tune in to Jim’s popular YouTube channel for wheel building & bike repair how-to’s. Jim’s also known for his cycling streak that ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.