How to lock your bike

Bike theft is on the rise, even in Juneau, and one of the best ways to avoid becoming a victim is to lock your bike whenever you leave it unattended. A well-locked bike will be a significant deterrent to all but the most persistent thieves, whereas a poorly locked bike might as well not be locked at all. Pay attention to where you lock up your bike, the type of lock you use, and how you lock it.

Finding an appropriate object to lock your bike to in Juneau can be a challenge.Photo: Brenwynne Grigg
Finding an appropriate object to lock your bike to in Juneau can be a challenge.
Photo: Brenwynne Grigg

Where to lock it: The reality is more bikes are stolen from home than from public areas. Store your bike inside your home or locked garage if possible. Away from home, lock your bike in visible, well-lighted areas among other bikes if possible. Lock your bike to a rack designed for bikes when one is available. The best type of rack is anchored to the ground, and allows you to lock your frame to it, not just a wheel. If a rack is not available, use an immovable object like a metal post, tall enough that a thief can’t lift the bike and lock over the top of the post to free the bike. Thin wooden posts, chain link fences, or posts that lift out of the ground are not good choices.

Type of lock: No bike lock can stop a skilled and determined bike thief. However, for the amateur bike thief, locks can be very effective deterrents. You need to consider where you are locking your bike before you determine what type of lock or locks you should use. If you are in a high risk area, you will need a higher level of security. Cable locks are the least secure: a thief can break most cable locks with bolt cutters in mere seconds. A U-lock is more of a deterrent, requiring a pry bar and more effort to break it. Purchase the smallest U-lock that will work for your bike. The tighter it is to your bike, the less space there it to use a pry bar. However, U-locks are heavier and bulkier to carry, and less versatile than chains or cables for locking the frame and wheels. A combination of types is the most secure, since it requires different tools and more time to break. A longer cable can be handy to secure the wheels, seat, panniers, handlebar bag, helmet, and other accessories to the frame to stop the casual thief from making off with parts.

To protect components such as your seat or your wheels, consider replacing quick release seat post clamps and wheel skewers with bolted types that require an Allen wrench. Quick release skewers on your wheels are easier targets for thieves than bolted skewers. You can also purchase locking skewers that require a special tool.

Note: Some U-lock manufacturers offer insurance coverage if a thief breaks their lock.

How to lock it: The most secure way to lock your bike in public is with a combination of U-lock and cable. Use the U-lock to secure the frame by putting it through the rear wheel inside the rear triangle of the frame, and around an immovable object such as a rack or post. Secure the lock so that the surface where you insert the key is facing down. Don’t let the lock rest on the ground where it can be smashed. Use a cable to secure the front wheel and accessories. If your U-lock is large enough, you may want to remove the front wheel and secure it with the back wheel and frame.

Bike locking diagram
From the Juneau Bike Map.

By Alice Tiernan

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