How can I avoid getting my bike stolen?
Bike theft happens on a daily basis, both in large cities and smaller towns. The increasing popularity of this ecological and healthy form of transport goes beyond fashion, and is something that we should be proud of. The negative side however, is that some people take advantage of the increased numbers of bikes and decide to steal them from their owners.
So the question is: how can I protect my bike from theft? The best answer is based on a combination of factors, such as having common sense, being prudent, and crucially, a good bicycle lock.
A good bicycle lock is key
There are multiple options available on the market when it comes to selecting a bicycle lock. But which one will best suit our needs? We should consider the following concepts:
• The anti-theft security level: the most resistant devices are U-shackle locks, chains and folding locks, which are usually manufactured in steel.
• The size and weight: the most secure locks often make it harder to pedal due to their size and material. That is why we need to consider whether the value of our bike is sufficiently high enough to opt for one of the maximum security models, or if a medium-high security but lighter option could be suitable.
• The number of items it can lock: a bicycle lock should generally be able to lock at least one wheel and the frame. We recommend using two anti-theft devices to lock bike elements that thieves target the most: wheels, frame, and seat. If users prefer to carry a single lock, then it should be able to encompass both wheels and the frame. A cable lock such as the 2 metre IFAM Trans200 is a good example.
Types of bicycle locks
After considering the above points, let’s take a look at the main types of bicycle locks and their characteristics:
• Chain locks. They may incorporate a lock or may not, in which case they are used with a padlock. Using a padlock adds an extra level of security, as while chains with built-in locks are secure, the locking point tends to be the most sensitive to an attack. If we use a padlock to close the chain then we have more options to choose from based on the overall level of security that we want to achieve. The most recommendable chains due to the balance of strength and lightness are those with 8 and 6 mm thick links.
• U-shackle locks. The rigid steel ring and long U section make them an ideal and resistant option to protect the wheel-frame set. Choose models that come with a bracket to secure it to the bike frame, the preferred model for most urban cyclists.
• Cable locks. The main strengths of this kind of lock are its length, capable of blocking both wheels and the frame, and lightness when it comes to transporting them. They are composed of a braided steel cable which has a plastic sleeve to make them resistant to moisture. Some cyclists use them to prevent their seats from being stolen.
• Folding locks. They are made with steel plates that are coated to prevent rust and which are unfolded to secure the wheel and frame. The main advantage of these locks is that they are easy to transport, as the plates take up very little space when folded. They can be easily attached to the bike frame when pedalling.
Prudence and common sense
After studying the different locking possibilities, let’s look at some advice to prevent our bicycle from being stolen. As we mentioned earlier, prudence and common sense give us some basic guidelines:
• Always protect the frame and the wheels. As noted, at least one wheel and the frame must be immobilised by securing them to a fixed element in the street. If we want to lock both wheels and the frame with a single lock (which is not long enough to lock the entire bicycle when it is fully assembled), then the solution is to remove the front wheel and place it next to the rear wheel so they can be locked together. However, IFAM recommends that two locks be used to securely lock all of the bike’s key elements.
• Avoid leaving a very valuable bicycle out in the street. For example, if we leave it in a bicycle park and it stands out from the rest, then it is very likely that thieves will pay more attention to it than the others.
• Do not leave your bike in areas with little traffic. The mere presence of people around the area will deter most bicycle thieves. And for this reason, we do not recommend leaving a bike out in the street all night.
• Use supervised car parks, which already exist in some big cities. They will let you store your bike for a very affordable price, without having to keep it at home or in a storage room.
• Secure the bike to fixed elements that cannot be broken or removed. Although it may seem exaggerated, there have been cases of thieves who have cut down trees to steal bikes attached to them. Securing a bike to a traffic sign is not advisable either.