How to Securely Lock and Fully Protect Your Electric Bike & Accessories

Court

Administrator
Staff member
#1
Hi guys! I'm moving some content off of the main site and into the most relevant categories of the forum. This post was originally made on January 19th 2016:

Bike theft is a concern for any cyclist but when you add an expensive battery, sensitive display panel and a bunch of high-tech accessories like lights, a seat post suspension and phone mounts to the mix, the stakes get even higher. The first step is really understanding how to to lock the frame, wheels and saddle properly. To help demonstrate this I created a three minute video using some of my favorite accessories: a $25 Blackburn U-Lock with two-point junction and rubberized bars, a $13 thick front wheel cable and a $7 thinner saddle leash.


While these locking accessories aren’t guaranteed to stop a thief, they should present a challenge and add time and difficulty to the process of theft and put you above the norm. You can get even fancier by upgrading the locks and cables to include sirens and mobile phone push notifications. There are even locks being designed now that emit a bad smell when someone tries to cut them. I tend to shy away from products that could damage other peoples’ property or put me in a position of liability if the would-be thief gets injured. My preference is for locks that are lighter weight or easier to transport like the new folding locks which can mount to bottle cage bosses and adjust to different scenarios more easily than going for the biggest, heaviest, most ultimate chains and padlocks… but I can see why some people choose that. One compromise approach with folding locks is to get two that are keyed alike so that you can more securely lock your wheels and frame (they’re tougher than cables) and again, raise the time it takes to successfully steal your electric bicycle.

how-to-lock-a-bike.jpeg

Okay, so now that we’ve addressed the basics of locking your rear wheel and frame along with the front wheel and saddle, let’s focus in on electric bicycles and some of the more common accessories people buy for them. I constantly evangelize the Thudbuster, SR Suntour NCX and BodyFloat suspension seat posts because ebikes tend to ride faster and further than traditional bikes. The thing is… if you’ve locked your saddle but haven’t locked the post, someone could still lift your $100+ accessory. It’s not too difficult to loop a saddle lock cable through some of these suspension posts when they have a hollow opening but another approach is to replace your hardware with starred security bolt patterns or those with locking inner cores like this. The same sort of hardware can be used with wheels instead of quick release skewers and a company called Pinhead offers several different sizes and styles. Taking it one step further, Kryptonite has invented special wheel axle bolts that cannot be unscrewed when the bike is right side up. Isn’t that a cool concept?! There is now hardware designed to not unscrew unless it is flipped over, and if the bike is locked securely to a rack, you can’t flip it!

Some other common accessories on electric bikes are bags, lights and fenders. These can be trickier to lock up but if you’ve added the lights after-market along with the bag (panniers or a trunk bag)… consider taking them off each time you park and using the bag to carry along accessories. Given that some of the fancier rechargeable lights can cost upwards of $50 per set, it’s worth the extra five minutes of hassle. Some bags are now designed to be easier to carry, integrating backpack harnesses and straps so you can wear them when off the bike. Other bags like those from Topeakslide onto their branded racks making the attach/detach process faster and easier. My approach is to carry along a small hydration pack at all times to store my lock and cables then swap out lights, display panels and other accessories when the bike is locked up. Many ebikes now come with integrated lights that cannot be stolen (or have to be completely ruined to do so) and for me this is a welcome approach because not only do they run off the main battery vs. having to be recharged separately, they also save time and are less attractive to thieves. The $10k Stromer ST2 S does this very well with an LED headlight that is built right into the head tube!

Unfortuntately, not everything is in your control for locking and protecting with electric bicycles. Maybe your bike has cheaper lights that aren’t built into the frame or maybe the display isn’t removable and thus, will endure more harsh weather and potential vandalism. Maybe the thief doesn’t understand what the display is and tries to break it off… Fortunately most battery packs are designed to lock to ebikes and more are being concealed in the downtube but in at least one case with the Brose system, batteries can be clicked onto the frame but not fully locked so a passerby could simply release it and walk away, leaving you with a $700 replacement… and this is where bike insurance comes in. I’ve written another guide about that here but the short of it is, you pay an ongoing fee to completely cover the cost of your bike AND accessories. It covers the full price of the bike without depreciating it over time and it can also provide some liability coverage in case you damage someone else’s property while riding. I use Velosurance along with my u-lock and cables mentioned at the start of this guide and have never had an issue. One of the steps they take during sign up is having you take pictures and recording the serial number of your bike (which you can do on your own for free and use with police if any bike is stolen).

Note that I do not generally leave my e-bike outside over night. I make sure that I lock it to very secure racks as some thieves have been known to steal entire racks and ALL bikes attached to them when they were just bolted to the ground. I try to park my bike where I can see it or seek out covered parking areas with security personnel or security cameras and I also search for bike valet parking. This is a new development similar to car valet where you leave your bike at a secure dropoff where it is watched by a guard while you are away. In recent years, some ebikes are offering GPS enabled theft recovery and SMS alerts if the bike is jostled or moved… Some even automatically disable the electrical systems and lock the motors in place but this is rare and often requires a service fee. I like the removable display option that Bosch and some other leading companies offer personally because it’s simple, protects the display and disables the bike… making it heavy and worth less. As more and more people get onto bikes and we spend increasingly large sums for electric assist, lights, suspension, racks, bags etc. it’s great to see innovative services and fancier locks. Some of it comes down to where you ride and park, how long you leave the bike etc. but I think anyone can take the extra step or two with cables in addition to u-locks and folding locks and just do it properly to begin with. I welcome input and feedback here, new locks come out all the time and it’s great to hear what has worked for others :)
 
Last edited:

Court

Administrator
Staff member
#2
Following are some of the original comments that were made on that post:

ROBB PDX
This is a great bike security website. Security bolts, Security axles or axle nuts that require proprietary keys or wrenches: bicyclebolts.com (a San Francisco company) these are relatively inexpensive ways to make your equipment/wheels impossible to remove without specialized tools. Great article Court. Robb

COURT
Thanks for the tip Robb! And for the other feedback you shared the other day that helped me make this article, you’re an inspiration and I appreciate your friendship :D

JUAN NOVAL
Great write up, Court. As always, thorough and concise. These tips will go a long way to help keep a bike, electric or not, safe from thieving hands. At the very least it will hopefully deter a thief. Thx again.

COURT
Sure thing Juan! Had a great time learning about all the fancy new hardware solutions out there. I’ve had good luck with the u-lock plus cables and hope this helps others just take those little steps or sort of adjust what they may already be doing to be more secure :)

RESIDENT
Some additional tactics to consider:
  1. Use motorcycle locks (heavier, beefier, not priced for the “boutique” bicyclist : )
  2. Put the U-lock through your frame “triangle” (not where the frame can be disassembled like your rear suspension swing arm)
  3. Route the cables up high, away from the ground (so there’s no leverage for a cutting tool to be braced against the ground)
  4. Route a cable through the chain ring
  5. Personal trick: A luggage alarm or motorcycle rotor lock (motion activated siren) which can be clamped onto a brake rotor or through the locks
  6. Choose a U-lock that remains attached to the frame in a carrier with a design that inhibits cutting or sawing
COURT
Awesome tips! Thanks for sharing these and offering more perspective on ways to protect an expensive electric bicycle without completely draining the bank account :p

ROOTEDSUPERUSER
Unfortunately all cables can be easily cut with a pruning shear. They look thick, but in all actuality the vinyl sheathing makes it look thick. Use a 1/4″ chain in an old bike tire tube or 2, it’s heavy, but it needs serious gear to cut through it. And a good combo lock of course.

COURT
Great feedback. I saw a video about this on YouTube the other day where a masked thief was showing how easy it is to cut through cables. It seemed like they were recommending two u-locks put through the frame and wheels. Your idea about using a tire tube to cover a chain lock makes sense. Thanks!

ERROL
Hi Court Rye, What’s the best method to lock the fat ebikes? The ubolt doesn’t fit around the fat tire & rim. Also a ubolt with a length of 6″ is too short to even lock. Are there wider ubolts available & will need a much longer unit, maybe 10″ or 12″.
Thanks, Errol

COURT
Great question Errol! I’m not a fat ebike expert and don’t feel confident recommending one solution over another here… Perhaps in the forums under the fat bike section someone would have a good idea? I have seen longer U-Locks but heard they are easier to pry open. There are the motorcycle chains but those tend to get heavy… Maybe a disc brake lock or something else? I’m interested to learn too :)

LARRY GANZ
I just bought a two-pack of the Altor 560G grade 5 Titanium folding lock (with 4 matching keys and 2 bottle cage boss holders), for my Trek Powerfly 7 ebike and my wife’s Neko+ e-bike. The two locks can be linked together to make one longer lock for the two bikes together, but by itself each lock has a 7″x9″ opening. This is bigger than the TiGR mini or a Kryptonite New York u-lock. Each 560G can lock the frame and rear wheel to a bike rack, and we can use a 4′ or 7′ Kryptonite cable with this lock to secure the front wheels. The best part is they only weight 1.2 lbs due to the grade 5 titanium construction – much lighter and stronger than a comparable ABUS folding steel lock.

COURT
Nice! Thanks for the suggestion, sounds like you’ve got a great setup Larry!