Introduction: How to Keep Your Bike From Being Stolen

Picture of How to Keep Your Bike From Being Stolen

You've just spend a lot of money on a new bike, or you feel rather sentimentally attached to your old beater, either way you want to do everything you can to keep in in your possession.

Just a note, this won't work in an extremely high crime area, if you live in a place where people are willing to strip the parts off your bike, don't let it out of your sight. If your lucky enough to live in a city where you can just leave your bike unlocked, then you probably live in a city with more cows than people. For those moderate crime areas, this should work.

There seems to be a bit of a misunderstanding here. People keep on recommending better locks under the assumption that they are harder to break. Any lock can be broken, but if the thief has the time to take a car jack out and spend the ten minutes prying it open, its your fault for leaving your bike there.

People also suggest doing things like rounding off all the screws on your bike, or filling them with epoxy. Good idea until it breaks and you can't remove it.

The safest place for your bike is under your legs, short of that, by your side. At least within your sight. Locks, no matter how nice, will only help so much.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Bike

This is hard, take a step back and forget how much you love that hunk of steel or aluminum, and try to actually evaluate its worth.
Some hints:
If its not made out of steel or aluminum, its likely worth a lot.
triple butted anything, expensive
Carbon fiber anything, expensive
If it even thinks words like 'Campy' or Dura-Ace, its worth a lot.
Anything handmade (you don't count)

If your bike really is worth that much, and not just to you, the best and only way to ensure it doesn't get stolen is to never let it out of your site. Take it into your house with you at night and keep it next to your bed.
Otherwise you will probably be fine leaving it outside overnight.
Then again, if you couldn't bear to part with it, inside is always best.

Step 2: Protection

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Buy yourself a lock or two. U-locks provide the best protection. One that can't be opened by a bic is nice, one that can fit in your pocket is damn cool, but its up to you.
In general, the more you pay, the better it is, a wonder that free market system of ours.
For the most part, a u-lock is enough, but if you want to be really safe, a separate cable lock provides the most protection when combined with a U-lock. Then again, if theft in your area is so high that you need to do this, consider taking your bike inside.

Step 3: Actually Locking the Bike

Picture of Actually Locking the Bike

Even if you have the biggest, scariest most theft deterring u-lock its useless unless you use it properly. Ideally you want to lock the bike to something, as well as lock it to itself.
The easiest way to do this is to put the u-lock around the rear wheel inside of the rear triangle. This is effectively locking both the rear wheel and the frame. The wheel can not be removed from the frame, regardless of the amount of jumping up and down it can sustain.

If there are bike racks, use them, you can almost always lock more securely to a rack than to a street fixture. There is also the safety in numbers. As long as your bike is surrounded by bikes that are easier to steal, its somewhat safer.

Alternatively, bring it inside with you. Much more secure than any lock.

Step 4: What Not to Do

The heart of this instructable, how to not lock your bike. I realize this may be a bit unnecessary, but every day I see so many bike so poorly locked i feel the need to lash out against the owners on a non-larcenous method.

Warning: the following pages contain images of horrifically abused bikes that more sensitive viewers may find offensive.

Step 5: Do Not Do This: Not Locking to Something

Picture of Do Not Do This: Not Locking to Something

Need I say, do not lock like this if you value your bike.

Always lock your bike to something immobile, otherwise there is nothing to stop a van full of marauding bike thieves from grabbing your bike, throwing it in the back of their mobile bike theft machine and having their way with it. If the idea of a hoard of ugly men having their way with your precious bike doesn't fill you with fear, well then I'm sorry, i just can't relate.

Step 6: Another Do Not Do This: Not Locking at All

Picture of Another Do Not Do This: Not Locking at All

No lock, no matter how ugly your bike is there is someone with an uglier bike who wants yours. No excuse no matter how quick the errand will be or how cheap your bike is, there is still no reason to leave it unlocked.

Step 7: Do Not Do This

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No matter how good of a unicyclist you are you want to lock the bike, not just the wheel. If only the front wheel is locked, all you have to do is flip the quick release and take the frame, if you really want it that badly.

Step 8: Don't Do This: Ignoring the First Step

Picture of Don't Do This: Ignoring the First Step

Remember the first thing you did, deciding whether or not your bike was really that valuable. It's important, and these people failed. They made the cardinal mistake of being the best bike locked up at a certain location, making them the focus of theft attempts.

Step 9: Trying to Make Your Bike Unridable

Picture of Trying to Make Your Bike Unridable

Many people advocate vindictive anti-theft measures, such as loosening your front quick release, opening the brakes and derailing the chain, in an attempt to punish anyone who tried to ride off with their unlocked bike. These may cause pain and anguish, but they too are not an effective anti-theft measure, for them to work, someone has to have already stolen your bike. Furthermore, chances are just once you'll forget to tighten the quick release and you'll be the one needing dental work.

Fixed gear riders advocate fixed gear bicycles as a method of this, that they are somehow more secure because they are harder to ride. They are forgetting that due to the unbearable popularity of fixed gear bikes, they have become incredibly attractive targets for theft.

Step 10: Camouflage

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Some people seem to think that they can avoid theft by making their bike look to unique to sell, other think they can just make their bike look crappy. To some extent they are right, you can make a bike look crappy, or unique, but that doesn't help theft proof it if you don't lock it properly, it just makes it look ugly.

This myth is so prevalent that even major bike manufacturers have taken to making intensionally ugly bicycles. Please, a bicycle should be a thing of beauty, make the madness stop.

Step 11: Do Not Do This: Exotic Locking Mistakes

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Sometimes people get really creative with their locking, and sometimes it works. More often though, it fails and makes the bike rather easy to steal.

Step 12: Subtle Security

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This bike may seem to be violating just about every one of the rules I have posted, but it has a secret form of security that may not be immediately visible. It's my bike, and if you so much as touch it, I will end you. If you try to take it, your getting your head bashed in with my U-lock. Remember, YOU are always the best security (Even better than those heavy chains that you get to wear as bandoleers).


RicC1 (author)2014-09-28

Sold a kid a baby blue $600 hand made (BMX) frame and purple handle bars. He added a $300 rear wheel and left it out front of McD's with three friends. All three of theirs were stolen, his was spared. It does help to have an ugly bike, also most often second rate parts work every bit as well as trophy parts but will attract much less positive and negative attention.

signupsignin (author)2014-04-24

forget about ANY "lock" that is out there except for what is at this link - and get ready for a shock - -- then add a worthy lock: NOW is when you don't have to worry...

hollowmike (author)2013-03-03

i laughed so hard with this xD very helpfull though

the.goat (author)2013-01-30

The bikes with a cable through the frame and wheel is a deterrent. They're there only to stop joy riders. In my home town a bike is less likey to be stolen for it's parts (high end cycles excluded) then taken to ride and ditch. It's important to know what type of thieves are in your area; Boise, Idaho has joyriders while Eugene, Oregon has big dollar chop shops.

lrohret (author)2012-12-27

LOL This instructable was worth reading just for the hilarious writing! Keep it up!

The Old Fart (author)2012-12-18

This is a very good stuctable and one that is needed very much. I thank you for posting it.

I make custom bikes and I use hardened steel rods for trikes and I also use a 7 foot logging chain to go threw all tires and frame and around a light post. I use a stainless steel abus discus lock with S. Steel inserts that can not be drilled with basic bits.

I avoid solid locks like brass that have a plate on he side that with a light tap of a screw driver will expose the pins that can then be dumped out. Some big solid looking ones have a plate holding the locking mechanism in place, A small file notching the rivet and it can be unscrewed with a screwdriver dumping out he goods and then opened. I can brake a master combination lock open in less than 30 seconds with a fork. Two large screwdrivers put threw a shackle can open almost any lock faster than if you had the key. Most lock have a hardened shackle but the locking pin that holds it is aluminum or zink and takes nothing to brake. I have tools that can open just about any lock you can think of. A big U-lock can be opened in about 45 seconds. the way that I lock up my bikes can be broken in about an hour or maybe 30 minutes if you were me. Remember this: LOCKS ONLY KEEP HONEST PEOPLE HONEST. Your job is to slow them down or have them move onto anothers bike that the owner just doesn't care about. If you spend $1000.00 or more on a bike and buy the cheapest lock then you are STUPID.People put money in banks to keep it safe. Spending around $50 and you may just be able to find your bike when you get back.
If your bike oes get pinched then there is a way that you could get it back. Go buy yourself a Low-Jack for your bike. Some pet stores sell a GPS device that attaches to your dogs coller and it's battery will last for 72 hours when charged. Buy this then change the battery so that it will last all year long then intall in th frame while using the fram8e as the antenia. get online with the collers supplied website and go film the Police aresting them then post on you tube.

soy_bean (author)2012-12-16

Is that UCDavis?

SeanPatrick (author)2010-06-21

You've got it all wrong! That person was just using that bike to keep someone from stealing their U-lock

Kemerd (author)SeanPatrick2012-12-16

Finally, someone who understands me!

Hazzard2theworld911 (author)2012-08-12

I love in Lowell, MA, and here we have one of the highest bike theft rates in the US. I once watched my Huffy Lifestyler get stolen, followed the guy to his house, and then I stole it back.
I have a new bike now [worth more than i care to say] and i Installed a Lojack system in the 'Gas Tank' on the top tube. I'll know where it is [within 3 feet of it's location] in 5 minutes. Can't beat that.

ReddWolf (author)2009-08-13

This step is not very helpful since I am a small, short girl... I don't think I would be much of a threat deterrant. Now my 75 lb German Shepherd may be...

bendog38 (author)ReddWolf2010-03-16

 a german shepard will make ANY criminal run for their LIFE

batvans46 (author)bendog382011-09-10

just lock that puppy up with your bike ;)

my rottweiler is well enough trained that if i lock his chain to my bike and tell him to sit, he wont do a damned thing till i get back. that is, of course, unless someone causes any movement to his chain...

havent needed to search for a bike rack in 5 years. best theft deterrent EVAR

bendog38 (author)batvans462012-04-24

That's just plain awesome. If my Aussie were that well trained, he might do just as well. But a Rottweiler?! It can't be overkill if it is that successful!


batvans46 (author)bendog382012-04-27

he isnt particularly well trained, he just knows how to guard my bike lol. hes a smart dog, he knows i love my bike and that im not as fast as he is without it. i just trained him with a bone locking him up outside my house with my bike every couple of days for an hour at a time.

ReddWolf (author)batvans462012-01-16

Yeah unfortunately my bike was stolen with the K9 Cruiser dog attachment on it (for the dog to run with the bike while you ride.) It was in my backyard locked up but unfortunately above mentioned German Shepherd was not in the yard when this happened, and I was not in the state.

batvans46 (author)ReddWolf2012-01-17

frank castle just runs right next to me (yes thats who i named him after lol). sorry for your loss :(

robbied (author)2012-04-21

you could also carry a small length of rope. If you lock your bike using a U-lock and cable lock, then tie the whole lot together with a piece of rope, that would make it way more annoying for a thief to try and get around. I'm not sure bolt cutters would cut through rope.

pyro=fire (author)2012-04-18

Where would won lock his bike here because it doesnt look like any other lock can reach

countrygiri (author)2012-02-02

I wouldn't actually advise u-locks- I myself know how to break them open. A really strong,well placed stomp normally does the trick.

Then again-you get what to pay for. If you have a really good u-lock,chances are it'll be ok.

Napole (author)2010-07-10

Two words of wisdom: Presa Canario.

jarrelb (author)Napole2012-02-02

i actually had to google Presa Canario. and i agree.

MrHacks (author)2011-08-27

I've been following such security measure even before I read this article. My problem is my town lacks places to hook a bike up while I'm in a store. (My U-Lock can't reach around certain things whenever a bike rack isn't around.)

Since I live just outside of town, how do I get the folks in the city to listen to someone living just outside of city limits to get more bike racks?

batvans46 (author)MrHacks2012-01-17

buy a cheap 20$ bike off craigslist, plant it, "steal" it. complain, repaint it, repeat.

cry_wolf (author)2008-06-11

Buddy i stumbled upon this picture and im wondering, if this secure enough? :D
U-Lock Madness

mickryobe (author)cry_wolf2012-01-15

He stole the bike, the locks and the bike stand.
A truly ambitious bikenapper.

Derin (author)cry_wolf2008-07-17


cry_wolf (author)Derin2008-07-17

The best part is, that none of the U-Locks are attached to the rail, however one U-Lock is attached to the rail by a pull-tie. LOL

NuclearDog (author)cry_wolf2008-07-24

Yeah, only one is attached, but surely no one will be riding that away. Those wheels aren't turning!

bad ass pope (author)NuclearDog2010-03-08

And it's got flat tires.

Richie15 (author)NuclearDog2009-10-04

But you could pop that attaced one, throw it in the back of a van and drive off somewhere you'd have time to work on the rest. But of course you or I would never do that... ;)

Fuzz2050 (author)NuclearDog2008-07-25

What's really ironic, under all those locks, it's a huffy

I smell bacon (author)Fuzz20502008-12-10


cry_wolf (author)Fuzz20502008-07-25

Haha true.

Derin (author)cry_wolf2008-07-20

I saw that!it is pretty epic,but you would have to spend your week there 24/7 to get that bike

Gamernotnerd (author)Derin2009-02-03

I am pretty sure all of those locks cost more than the bike itself.

langston p. landman (author)2012-01-05

I wouldn't just have "U" locks on a bike to lock just a wheel and frame, but have a 6' cable and a good meddle resistance lock to lock the frame and both wheels as well as keeping the bike in my site. The wheels can also be as expensive as well as the bike, especially if the bike is a expensive one. The pad lock I would use is the one that has no screws nor reverts or shows anything that is holding the lock together and an key hole that is difficult to pick.

thehumble1 (author)2008-06-17

that's actually a pretty nice setup. alum rims, single speed, nice canti brakes, good straight bars and probably a deceptively great frame under that paint camo. I'd kinda like to take it for a ride.

kjones5 (author)thehumble12011-07-07

Looks like a Nishiki. My wife has one very similar. A few minor changes to the frame and, of course, she still has the 21 speeds. The grips are the same as the ones we took off her bike.

She's getting into sprint triathalons. She needed a road bike as the mountain bike simply put her at a huge disadvantage. She found her Nishiki and was immediately a lot faster. She had the tires swapped out for true road tires and gained even more speed. It's pretty fast for what it is. She's still building skill and power, so it's plenty of bike for her right now. In fact, she's beating a lot of folks, in all age groups, with bikes priced in the multi-thousand dollar range. Next step is to add tri-bars.

frisbeechamp1983 (author)2011-05-26

Hey,I just wanted to put out there, that this article is good at the first, until all the stuff about how not to lock up a bike, It's just a little too much. I mean, It's a good idea to lock up your bike, but unless you live in a really bad area, and I mean BAD, there is no need to take off the front wheel, and use four different locks, where I live, which is like a suburban area, my bike wont get stolen just because I didn't lock the front wheel, and my crankshaft. I mean, who would want to just take the front wheel on my bike, I can always get a replacement, no big harm, it's not like I didn't lock up my bike at all. so to whoever feels like they need to lock up their bike, but does not want to go out of there way, just lock the frame, and run the cable lock through your front wheel as wheel, problem solved. it takes less than thirty seconds. thanks

jimboburgess (author)2011-05-09

I don't know how many times walking back drunk at night i've longed for a bike to ride. If it's not locked up there is no problem if I borrow it, you just got to come pick it up outside of my place.

jimboburgess (author)2011-05-09

Many people who steal bikes aren't in it to make several hundred dollars parting it out or even selling the whole thing. They want to make $20 bucks to get high or they are kids that do it cause they don't know any better.

My strategy is the same as if I was running from a bear I just have to be faster than my slowest friend.

In the case of bikes, I make my bike more complecated to steal than other bikes i park around. I take the front wheel off, lock that to the back wheel/frame and to something cemented to the ground with a U-lock. I also use a cable lock that is largely superficial but it loops around my seat, frame, wheels and whatever i locked it too also. It takes me about 2/3 minutes to do it all but I have peace of mind. I live in NYC commute to work but store my bike inside at night.

Ma77h3w (author)2011-03-27

Would connecting a charged camera flash circuit to a bike lock take out a potential robber? Or would that be considered too illegal?

elrodqfudp (author)2011-03-26

I use a folding bike because I live on my sailboat and it makes it easy to store the bike inside out of the salt air.

When I go into a store I fold the bike, put it in a shopping cart and take it in with me. If the store to which I am going does not have shopping carts, then I pick one up near by and return it when I am finished with it.

inquist (author)2011-03-20

I agree with this article and this page, although the mere threat of violence is enough without actually resorting to it. I once had to chase a guy down, who was riding off on my bike, because I left it unlocked. Never again in public!

Screamo (author)2010-11-07

I don't see any lock on it.

Hallmar (author)Screamo2011-03-20

Hey dude, Its between the front of the rear rim and the center tube.

sockeye101 (author)2010-11-17

Where do you get your attack cats from? The suppliers here in Ontario charge waaayy to much for shipping...

simonguy27 (author)2010-10-12

"I've always wanted a Varsity" hey i got a varsity thats in good shape for 140 bucks

dinglballs (author)2010-10-02

hahahaha im beginning to think you were once a bike thief from the way you are talking about all this...

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