I was slightly concerned writing last week’s Tech Talk on preventing bicycle thefts from garages. I didn’t know exactly how worldwide a problem it was, or if it was happening in only a few areas. But, I’ve had bicycles stolen and know how awful it is. Plus, it’s known to hurt the growth of cycling because new cyclists whose bikes are stolen often quit because they feel violated and decide the sport’s not worth the risk. For these reasons I decided to go ahead and put the warning out and provide some suggestions.
Apparently, the article struck a nerve, because we received great feedback with many additional tips on safeguarding bicycles at home. Thanks! This week, let’s look at your helpful and clever suggestions for keeping bikes safe. I’ve added a few thoughts, too.
Deadbolts and garage door opener tips
Let’s start with Phil, who asked, “What am I missing? The deadbolt for the garage door and the extension cord to the motor are good ideas if you are going to be away for several days, but if you are worried EVERY day when you go to work, seems like the deadbolt and power cord would defeat the convenience of a garage door opener.”
Sorry, Phil, and anyone else who has this question; I should have explained better. You are correct. If you use my #3 safeguard and install a deadbolt in your garage door track, you won’t be able to use your garage door opener until you go inside the house, go into your garage and remove the deadbolt and turn back on the door opener motor. It’s a pain, but if it keeps bikes from getting stolen, it’s worth the extra effort in my opinion.
Gary explained, “Some inside garage door opener controls have a button that turns off the ability to open from a car remote. My 20 year-old Craftsman (I believe made by Liftmaster at the time) has it. It disables the compatible Craftsman car remotes, as well as the internal factory Homelink control on my Acura, but still allows the keypad on the side of the house to work. It should also work to block the scanners thieves use. I use it only when on long vacations, but it would be easy enough to use on a daily basis.”
David Stihler, said, “Modern garage door openers use a battery when the power is out rather than the pull pin.”
Michael added, “Change the garage door keypad passcode often. Criminals dust keypads so they can see which buttons are pressed the most.”
And Bob wrote, “I keep my good bikes in the basement. We always deadbolt all of our walk-in doors on the house and garage. Our outside doors and house door in the garage are steel. I unplug the overhead door opener and use a welder’s Vise-Grip pliers to lock the overhead door down when on trips. It requires no door modification.
Using Vise-Grip locking pliers to lock a garage door is a cool tip, Bob. Thanks. By clamping them to the track, the door can’t go up and down because the rollers in the track bump into the Vise-Grip and stop the door from moving. And there’s no need to make a special deadbolt.
Remote garage door opener tips
Bryan H wrote, “Crackheads will break into your car, find your garage door opener and find your insurance papers, then go to your residence and use the opener to get in. Best to remove any address info from your car and have a nice quiet very large mean dog kept in the garage!”
Wayne agrees, “Lock your car so that your garage door remote opener is not easy to access.”
Most of the reported car break-ins reported on the social media I follow happened because people forgot to lock their cars. So, Wayne is correct, the most important first step is making sure you keep cars locked at all times.
Side door break-in prevention and safeguards
Before getting into the prevention tips, RBR reader Winnie offered an important safety tip: “About garage side door padlocks: don’t forget that there are times when getting out of the house is far more important even than protecting our bikes! If your garage side door provides a possible exit should you have a fire or other urgent emergency, think hard before making it any more difficult to open the door and flee the danger. Keeping people out is certainly a reasonable goal, but be careful not to let it get in the way of your ability to leave quickly should you need to.”
For locking bicycles that are inside the garage, Paul Ahart advised, “Purchase a heavy-duty woven steel cable w/plastic coating to thread through the frame and wheels, and then through something immobile, secured with a discus-type padlock, as is used on vending machines at car wash facilities. I know of one company, Kabletek, based in Arizona, that makes 3/8″ x 4′ and 7′ cables, as well as 20′ long cables at least in 5/16″ size. Maybe 3/8″ also in longer lengths.”
Merlin said he uses Paul’s cable security system. Plus, his “detached workshop is on his alarm system, too. If anyone breaks in and trips the alarm, they can’t just grab a bike and ride away. Hopefully they will leave before deciding how to free the bikes from their lockup. And I have insurance just in case!!!”
Regarding cables for securing bikes, Steve Fenn wrote, “I’ve heard cables can be cut with side cutters and wire cutters. Takes time but might be possible. Once thieves are in the garage, they may have all the time needed. At least with the following types of items, it might take longer or require power tools that may be noticed by neighbors.
Anything that keeps thieves from simply grabbing the bikes and taking off will help stop them, Steve. But, you are correct that it’s easier to cut most cables than security chains. But thieves wouldn’t use side cutters except on small-diameter cables, because there are power tools that can sever any cable in less than a minute. Hardened square-link chains are much harder to get through.
And Richard Wilson added, “My house was broken into as you described, by kicking in the side door. The police suggested (and I followed through) using a hammer drill and drilling a 1-inch hole in the concrete. Then sliding an I-bolt with several nuts spaced on the threads along with cement into the hole. Leave only the top circle of the I-bolt above the floor. Secure your bike with a heavy hardened chain through the bike and lock it to the I-bolt. Thieves want to get in and out quickly, so the longer you can stall them, the better.”
RBR contributing writer Sheri Rosenbaum offered another great tip. “If you have clear windows in your garage, at any hardware store you can buy a plastic film that goes on with just water. Cut to size, wet and install. It comes off easily, lets light in but you can’t see what’s in the garage.”
Finally, Doug Ford, said: “Reinforce your side door by replacing the original hinge and strike plate (where the lock’s bolt enters the door frame) screws with longer screws. I use 2-1/2″ screws. Replace the thin strike plate with a heavier one that is also much longer. This may require a slight amount of chiseling of the wood frame to make the plate fit flush.
Also, buy an adjustable security bar to lessen the likelihood of the door being kicked in.
Idea: locking bike parking device
Dave Minden threw out a clever idea for a new product. “Seems like we’d have some product that, like rentable city bikes, is mounted on the wall and locks when you back your rear wheel into it. Somebody invent it, please!”
I love this idea and it might already exist. If you’ve seen one, please share it in comments. I do know of a wall bike hanger that locks. But you have to lift and hang your bike to use it. It’s Hiplok’s Airlok.
Social media risks and safeguards
Sheri Rosenbaum and Russell Starke both pointed out one of the newest risks.
Sheri explained, “ In Europe it was reported that thieves monitored Strava to see what gear (bikes) riders have. Then they follow their ride maps right to their houses. Instead, give your bikes a name so no one knows the brand/model.”
And Russell commented, “Don’t post your rides on social media. At least don’t let the ride map show your house as the start/stop.
Thanks to everyone for the great tips! To use an old pun, you’re helping take a bike out of crime.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak 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.
Newer garage door openers (within the last ~15 years) use “rolling” codes that change every time the door is opened, so they are immune to scanners. If your opener is old, consider upgrading. Newer ones also offer features like battery backup and quiet belt drives.
Geoffrey Moulton says
Smart remote control outlets could be used to control the power to the garage door opener motor. You could use your smart phone to turn them on/off. That way you could turn the power on from outside the house. One example is https://www.smarthome.com/insteon-2635-222-on-off-module.html
Randall Stafford says
Be careful with Strava. Be sure to use the Strava function to that creates a public perimeter of privacy around your home and work addresses.
I just discovered that there many videos on Youtube that show how to pick most padlocks in a few seconds – even the high security model that I use on our backyard storage shed and my bike cable lock. Very scary! Also, that there are military grade padlocks available for over a thousand dollars!
John B says
Any sectioned-garage-door (as opposed to one-piece, pivoting garage door) is vulnerable to one more old-fashioned break-in trick. Observe your door from the inside when it’s in the down/closed position. You’ll note the the hanging safety-release-cord has moved to the front of the garage and can be quite near to the door. If there is the slightest play between sections of your door, or if they can be forced slightly apart with a screwdriver, thieves can stick a thin, flat piece of metal between your door sections. This flat metal slat has a horizontal hook on the end and thieves will hook your safety release cord and then pull their tool back out from your door. The hook catches on your safety-release-cord and won’t slide off because it meets the t-handle at the bottom of the cord. It only takes a short pull to release your door from it’s motor/chain. Your door is then free and can be lifted by hand. There is a very simple fix for this. Look at your safety-release-cord. If it dangles down past the first hinge-point of your garage, it can be grabbed. Simply tie a loop in the cord so that the handle is above this first hinge-point in your garage door. That way when they slide their tool into your garage, it only slices through empty air.