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The art of locking your bike!

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

There's no doubt about it! Cycling is on the "up and up" in Charlotte and there are more new cyclists and cycling commuters than there have ever been before. With the demand for bicycles to meet the popularity of cycling, theft too is on the rise.

Bicycle theft is less about what bike you have and more about how you lock it up. The majority of bike theft is happenstance. This means it is to your benefit to lock up your bike better than the bike next to you. Ask any experienced cyclist in a large city and you will find a variety of techniques, tips and tricks to the art of locking your bicycle.

There are 5 points you need to understand to safe guard your bicycle from theft

  1. What kind/type of bike do you have?

  2. What kind of lock should you have?

  3. What should you lock up?

  4. What can you lock to?

  5. How should you lock your bike?

Understanding the type of bike you have

Understanding the bike you have will help you choose the right lock. Over the years, bikes have come in a multitude of shapes and sizes, materials and geometries. Bikes like cruisers, mountain bikes and comfort hybrids will have longer wheelbases than road bikes, performance hybrids and city bikes. Long wheelbases, aluminum or carbon construction bikes or larger bikes may require larger locks than others. Also available objects to lock to in your area can affect what lock you should choose.

Choosing a lock

For years, the cable lock reigned supreme as the lock of choice in Charlotte. That time has come and gone. Locks are less about securing your bike to a structure and more about the amount of time it takes to remove the lock. All locks can be removed without a key or combination. Deciding whether that process takes 30 seconds or 30 minutes is what you pay for when you purchase a lock. Locks come as simple braided cables, chains, armored plates and "U-locks." The three most popular brands are ABUS, Kryptonite and OnGuard. There are lots of other new brands emerging as well. Each company will have their own personal rating system. I tend to gravitate to the higher end because an investment in a lock can be a long term investment that can outlast your bicycle.

I personally use a two lock system consisting of a 6ft cable and a U-lock.

What part of your bicycle do you lock up?

Locking your bike should always engage one of the two main triangles of your bicycle frame. Beyond your frame, the most expensive component on your bike are the wheels. To replace a front wheel, tire, tube and rim strip (and brake rotor) can cost a minimum of $150 for a new replacement. The rear can start at close to double that for a new replacement at a bike shop. I would lock them up in addition to your frame and remember to never only lock up your wheels.

See below how to identify the main triangles of your bike.

What to lock to

As Charlotte continues to grow, hopefully city supported bike racks will continue to multiply. For now finding something to lock to can be difficult. Regardless of what you lock to, make sure that it is securely attached to the ground and is not short enough to lift the bike over the top. Here are some great things to lock to - telephone poles, light posts, and concreted bike racks. Here are things you should never lock to - Handicap signs, parking meters, handicap ramps, construction railings and things smaller than your lock or shorter than your body.

How to lock your bike

This is where the art is! Now some tips on technique.

1.) Using the U-lock within your enclosed triangles of your bike frame is necessary. Never use your accessory/wheel cable to lock your bike. Your locking method is only as strong as your weakest link.

2.) Include your wheels in the security action by using a cable. Remember that a thief may not bother with your wheels or your bike if the bike next to it is an easier target

3.) Ensure what you are locking to is secure and cannot move.

4.) Safeguard your accessories like lights by taking them with you.

See below an example of locking both wheels and frame to a secure structure.

How you lock your bike up is your choice. Please consider the foregoing a guide to best practices rather than an exact instruction. Remember that locking your bike is an art so practice locking to be confident out on the field.

Bonus tip: In case none of this has worked, be sure to have an updated picture of your bike as well as the serial number and a description of the unique additions to your bike.

Thanks for learning with us. If you have questions about locking your bike or your lock visit your local bike shop or come and talk to us at the Charlotte Re-Cyclery!

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In order to secure your cycle, the locks must be chosen of good quality. A local locksmith can help selecting the best bike door lock.

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