3 Tips on How to Lock Your Bike

The last thing this cargo biking mom wants to deal with is arriving back to my bike with two tired kids after having a kickass time somewhere, only to find that our trusty steed has vanished. So, here are the three things that I do to keep my bike as theft-resistant as possible:

1. Well Lit Spot

…but, not necessarily a super busy spot. This tip is a fine balance between a remote parking spot (giving a thief a lot of time to work on stealing your precious bike) and one that is too busy (with hubbub providing a level of cover for thieves all on its own).

In my opinion, the ideal spot is where you can easily check on it. For example, if you pop in to a café, peer in the window to see where there’s room to sit, lock your bike close to that, and grab that comfy seat! When we’re at the outdoor swimming pool, we can’t see the bike when we’re in the change room, but we can see it when on the pool deck.

In Calgary, if you think there should be a bike rack in a certain area, you can do that online here: City of Calgary 311 Online Services. The “Service Type” is “Cycling Information Inquiry”*. In my experience it works, we now have a bike rack at the Stanley Park Outdoor Pool (the turnaround was 4-6 weeks).

2. Two or Three Locks

…preferably different types, with the thought being a different tool is needed for each job. But, mostly it’s about quantity because it just takes longer to cut through more than one lock. And, if you were a bike thief, would you pick the bike with two or three locks or move on to an easier, faster job? Ultimately, all locks are destructible especially since the advent of cordless grinders that can cut through metal like butter. So, it’s really a matter of making your bike the most laborious bike to steal.

Unfortunately, Calgary has pretty much turned into a two lock city over the past while, especially in certain parts of town or if you’re leaving your bike for longer periods. We use all Abus locks now, mostly Bordos and we have a frame lock on our bakfiets. Love the Bordos, we just have too many of them! A tip for multilock families: nail polish. The really caustic stuff, not Piggie Paint. Put a bit at the base of the key and another bit on the lock.

I’d like to have a frame lock on each of our bikes because they’re always just there and I don’t have to think to make sure I have two locks with me. So far, we only have one. A tip I learned recently is when you are locking up your frame lock, spin your wheel such that the tube valve is adjacent to the frame lock pin as this makes it hard to pry open the lock without flatting the tire (thus making for a tricky getaway).

People often wonder how much to spend on a lock. There’s a rule of thumb that suggests spending 10% of what your bike is worth, but that’s essentially impossible if you have a cargo bike (thankfully I’ve never seen a $250+ lock!). I guess we accomplish this by locking up the cargo bikes with more than one (expensive) lock, ha!

Oh, and don’t use a cable lock. Ever. Use a chain if you need something flexible. I’d like to try a good chain with a mini-U-lock.

If you use a U-lock (aka D-lock), the smaller the better (less room for prying apart).

And, no lock is any good if it’s poorly placed, on to Tip #3…

3. Lock Placement

You want to lock to value, i.e. your frame.

When I’m locking up my long tail, I lock front wheel and front (big) triangle to the bike rack or other secure, stationary object. Then I usually run a cable through my rear wheel and the rear triangle, loop my helmet along with the kids’ on the cable, and secure this cable to another lock around:

Main triangle, front wheel, and bike rack with one lock.

Cable through rear wheel and helmets; cable on lock with lock around frame’s rear triangle and bike rack.

The City of Calgary has started educating citizens about this with a recent infographic sticker campaign which can now be found on many bike racks in town:

city of calgary locking guide

There’s no way I’m popping off my wheel on my cargo bike every time I lock it up, while watching a kid or two, as shown in “Best”. I opt to carry two locks, instead.

And, just in case…

Have identifying info of your bike, for example:

  • a photo with you in it;
  • serial number;
  • receipt for proof of purchase (if bought new); and,
  • identifying marks (like scratches, stickers, accessories like racks, etc.)

When we bought our Edgerunner, our local bike shop (BikeBike) gave us a little package with receipt and serial number, giving us a head start on building our bike i.d. I’d love this to be standard for all bike purchases, just to help folks out and build awareness.

Consider signing up for a program like Project 529, which will hopefully be fully supported by the Calgary Police Services soon. Fingers crossed as I personally have a friend who had her (stripped) bike recovered because of this program in Vancouver. You can purchase decals for your bike that alert any potential nasty people that your bike is registered so f* off; MEC is one retailer. At the very least, Project 529 seems like a great place to register your bike so that you have all of the important info you would need to make a recovery should the need arise.

One thing I’ve started doing in the past year or so is taking advantage of my smart smartphone: I take a pic of my bike all locked up before I leave it, figuring that’ll come in handy for insurance claims, if it boils down to that as the pics are time stamped and show that my bike was locked up and how (i.e. well!!!). I never share this pic on social media, etc. until after I’ve left the location, either.

 

*FYI “Cycling Information Inquiry” can also be used for the following:

  • Bike Lanes: Proposed
  • Bike Parking Query
  • Bike Rack Installation/Sponsorship Request
  • Bike Route -On STREET – EXISTING route only Query
  • Bike Route -ON STREET – Request for new
  • Bike Safety & Education Query
  • Cycling Information Session Query
  • Cycling Surveys Query
  • Cycle Track(s)
  • Opinion on Cycling Project
  • Park ‘n’ Bike Query

What have you gleaned from this? Questions? Comments? Please reply here: