How to make sure your bike isn’t stolen

There seems to be a lot of media coverage on bike theft and how not to get your bike stolen currently. You know it must be the summer when this happens.  Most of the advice that is given is fairly common sense stuff. But, I must admit, I do find myself almost shouting at my laptop upon learning of the mistakes other cyclists have made or at the “advice” on how you should lock your bike up. I was interested to read this article in the Grauniad which interviews a former drug dealer about his hobby of stealing any bike available. It gives you an idea of just how desperate people are to steal your bike.

So this is my advice on how not to get your bike stolen.  My first golden rule on locking your bike is try, whenever possible, not to lock your bike outside. However well you lock your bike  in the street, and even if you park it in a busy area where you hope that no thief will be brazen enough to steal it, there is always a chance that someone will try to nick it.  As in the case of James Jones’ bike, it’s not always immediately obvious that someone is stealing a bike until the last minute. How many cyclists do you see removing seatposts, front wheels or making other adjustments to their bike whilst locking it up? I always remove my seatpost  when parking it in the street. Noone has ever challenged me.

Wherever you park your bike outside, there is always a chance that someone will have a go at it. Even if they don’t manage to steal your whole bike, often kids are interested in taking a wheel or other parts for the thrill of it. If they get £5 for a part in Brick Lane, they’re satisfied.

I always, where possible, park my bike off the street. When I was working up in Islington, I managed to park my bike in a friend’s residential carpark nearby each day. If you park your bike out of sight of the thieves, you’ve won half the battle as what they don’t see, they can’t steal. However, you should still lock your bike up, even if it’s in a security carpark. The carpark I was using had some bikes stolen from it because some cyclists assumed it was completely safe and didn’t even lock their bikes.   Whilst the security guard wasn’t looking, some kids ran in and took a bike.

Many offices have an underground carpark and usually set aside an area for bike parking. If your office doesn’t, I would recommend buying a fold up bike, like a Brompton, so you can take it in with you. If you lock your bike up in the street outside every day, someone will try to steal it at some point.

When I visit friends in London, I ring them beforehand and ask them if there is a safe place to lock my bike up.  Most people are happy for you to bring your bike inside their house if it is a one off or lock it up in their garden.

If you have to lock your bike in the street, and truly have no alternative, make sure you use two good locks. However good your first lock is, you shouldn’t assume that the bike thief won’t crack it. I use two strong D locks. But probably the most important factor is time. If you lock your bike in the street, don’t leave it there for hours and hours. It will give a bike thief the opportunity if he sees it to go home, get tools and come back with all his mates to remove it.

At home, I keep my bike inside my apartment. Residential bike parking tends to be a honeytrap for bike thieves and unless the security is good, I generally don’t trust it.

You can buy a fold-up bike from Decathlon (nearest tube – Canada Water) from around £250. Other bikes available from around £100.

Brompton bikes here.


5 responses to “How to make sure your bike isn’t stolen

  1. Do you know if they make strong light-weight locks? For those that travel distances it would be nice to have lighter locks to take for those times we need to stop into a grocery store.

  2. Jim, I use a Kryptonite Mini 7 as my portable lock. It weighs around 1kg and is attached to my frame. I leave a heavy duty lock attached to the bike stand where I regularly park my bike outside so that I don’t have to lug it about.

  3. Pingback: Daily Deal: Kryptonite Evo Mini-7 – light weight bike lock.

  4. My golden rules for avoiding bicycle theft in well-trodden parts of central London are (1) have an old bike (mine is about 25 years old) (2) lock it up with a D-lock. Leaving it overnight is to be avoided. I have parked my bike outside in the street in central London nearly every working day for the last 10 years. Many bicycles are stolen at the bike racks I use, but not mine. The stolen bikes are nearly all locked with cable locks, or incompetently (D-lock through the front wheel only), and modern and of reasonable quality. Given that an abandoned bike with a cable lock persisted at the bike stand for 3 years before the council removed it, it is evident that pro thieves operating in heavily trodden areas can’t be bothered even cutting a cable if the bike is of insufficient value; the unstolen bike was of comparable quality to mine before it stood there for 3 years. Curiously I had more problems locking a bike up at a very up-market dormitory town – not in the street, but on the railway station platform complete with CCTV. Vandals arrive by train from unsalubrious parts to vandalise the bikes on the platform – if they can’t break the lock to steal it – regardless of CCTV and station attendant, but in the street outside the station your bike is fine.

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