Completist's Guide To Bike Security

aaronhamlin

New Member
Region
USA
City
Chicago, IL
In all the forums I'm a part of, bike security and locks always comes up. Being in the locksport community (think lockpicking for fun but not for stealing), I think about this perhaps more than average. So I've spent the past six months or so writing the best essay I could on bike security and giving explicit recommendations. I based the recommendations on a layered security system, bike cost, and attack times. You can skip right to the recommendation section or you can check out all roughly 22 pages.

I hope you all find this useful!

The Completist's Guide To Bike Security

I'd also love to hear your feedback so that I can make this essay as helpful as possible to others. I wrote this essay because I want as many people as possible to feel comfortable riding their nice e-bikes without fear of getting them stolen.
 

sc00ter

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Norfolk, VA
It has been said many times, if a thief really wants the bike, they'll get it. The idea is to make yours harder to steal than the other bike near yours. I grew up in the BMX heyday and saw so many bikes get stolen. Most because the owner bought a cheap lock. A good local bike shop can easily recommend an appropriate lock for your local security needs and value of said bicycle.
 

aaronhamlin

New Member
Region
USA
City
Chicago, IL
It has been said many times, if a thief really wants the bike, they'll get it. The idea is to make yours harder to steal than the other bike near yours. I grew up in the BMX heyday and saw so many bikes get stolen. Most because the owner bought a cheap lock. A good local bike shop can easily recommend an appropriate lock for your local security needs and value of said bicycle.
I think the problem is much more complicated than that, though I don't think it's completely inaccurate. Yes, you want your bike to look harder to steal than the next one. But ebikes are expensive, and your more expensive ebike may be worth the effort to a thief. And most bike shop owners do not spend the hours of research on locks or have the relevant background in locks to recommend the right one. Many store owners do not think about individual locks as part of an overall system.

That is to say, the solution is not as simple as to just buy this one lock because it's over $100 and that's the "best" lock your local bike shop happens to have. This is why people get their ebikes stolen even when they're locked with chains and U-locks. There has to be more thought behind this. And it's important because we want more people to buy and ride ebikes. Fear of getting one's bike stolen is real and pervasive. And without the right precautions—which are not always obvious—those fears are justified.

If there was a resource out there that was accurate and put everything together, then this essay would not have been necessary. But there was no such resource.
 

Catalyzt

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
I would almost never lock my bike, but I really appreciate the wisdom, advice, and attitude. Great that you covered basic principles of confrontation, though of course this doesn't cover bike jacking. (I've had one bike jacked from me, but thwarted the next two attacks and escaped. The second was at knifepoint, but oddly was my easiest escape.)

The ONE situation when I might lock my eMTB: In a remote location on the trail, hopefully hidden, so I could briefly (an hour or less) explore a side-trail that either cannot be navigated by bike, is illegal for bike riding, or where it's unwise to ride due to horses. In some parts of Griffith Park, this is possible-- either locking to a tree or to a metal pipe, railing, or electrical pole.

But this presents a real challenge: I'm a weight weenie on my longer rides, so I really want something light and that doesn't take up much space. OTOH, no one will be driving in that area, so no one will be throwing the bike in a truck, and it's unlikely that thieves would have much in the way of tools... I don't think bike thieves are prowling the trails, and I've never seen anyone actually lock bikes where I'm thinking of locking them. I looked at those folding chain motorcycle-style locks, but they are still pretty heavy, and they do not get good reviews.

I am concerned about the power poles-- or towers for high tension wires. I think it's probably illegal to lock a bike to those, and I don't want to piss off a ranger or DWP worker.

Curious as to your thoughts.
 

aaronhamlin

New Member
Region
USA
City
Chicago, IL
I would almost never lock my bike, but I really appreciate the wisdom, advice, and attitude. Great that you covered basic principles of confrontation, though of course this doesn't cover bike jacking. (I've had one bike jacked from me, but thwarted the next two attacks and escaped. The second was at knifepoint, but oddly was my easiest escape.)

The ONE situation when I might lock my eMTB: In a remote location on the trail, hopefully hidden, so I could briefly (an hour or less) explore a side-trail that either cannot be navigated by bike, is illegal for bike riding, or where it's unwise to ride due to horses. In some parts of Griffith Park, this is possible-- either locking to a tree or to a metal pipe, railing, or electrical pole.

But this presents a real challenge: I'm a weight weenie on my longer rides, so I really want something light and that doesn't take up much space. OTOH, no one will be driving in that area, so no one will be throwing the bike in a truck, and it's unlikely that thieves would have much in the way of tools... I don't think bike thieves are prowling the trails, and I've never seen anyone actually lock bikes where I'm thinking of locking them. I looked at those folding chain motorcycle-style locks, but they are still pretty heavy, and they do not get good reviews.

I am concerned about the power poles-- or towers for high tension wires. I think it's probably illegal to lock a bike to those, and I don't want to piss off a ranger or DWP worker.

Curious as to your thoughts.
The thought of a bike jacking sounds terrifying. I'm glad you made it out of there. Sabre pepper spray is still the only thing I can think of there (I went down a real wormhole there to research that part).

In the situation you describe on the trail, it sounds like your issue is not having something to lock to. There may be signs for the trails to lock to. Of course, these can be sawed through, but it seems like a situation where folks are less likely to bring those kinds of tools (just as you mentioned).

If you must leave your bike, then consider immobilizing the wheels forcing a would-be thief to carry your heavy e-bike. There's the n-lock, disc brake lock, and frame lock. If you have a mountain bike, sometimes the rear suspension creates a frame that doesn't fit for a frame lock, so you may have to use a disc brake on the back wheel. I'd also recommend Pinhead bolts to secure all the components. These are all lightweight solutions, by the way. You can also attach a GPS tracking device such as a Boomerang. That'll let you know, too, if someone is messing with your bike since it includes an accelerometer that connects to your phone. There's a fancy electronic frame lock that does the same thing. Both have an audible alarm as well.

Separately, I actually don't recommend any folding locks. There are strong U-locks that are better and either the same price or cheaper.

Hope this helps! Would love to see you explore more trails!
 

sc00ter

Well-Known Member
Region
USA
City
Norfolk, VA
I said good bike shop for a recommendation on locks, not Wal-Mart. All of our local bike shops take security very serious and recommend a lock accordingly. The problem is when a $150 and up lock is suggested people tend to cheap out and get lesser security. I've watched bikes get stolen in Washington D.C. in broad daylight. Very nice locks defeated in seconds. Here's what I did when selecting my lock. I found the top 3 I was interested in and then went on YouTube and watched how fast they were defeated and selected my lock based on that.
 

dmourati

Member
Region
USA
City
Mountain View
Hey what's up. Former Chicago guy here now in SF Bay Area.

I like locksport and bikes so your post comes from a familiar perspective.

The part about chain locks was a little strange to me. I think of chains and locks as two separate things. I have a $100 12mm chain and a few hundred dollar Abloy padlock. I know LPL went with a combo for his bike but I also think his bike is like $500 or something.


In general, layered security is the right model.

Airtag is a good example of keeping this document fresh as this is a new option. I had a conversation with another biker/security friend this morning, he has one. My hesitation on Airtag or GPS tracking in general is do I want to really track down stolen merchandise? I settled on no and went with insurance and a good lock.
 

aaronhamlin

New Member
Region
USA
City
Chicago, IL
Hey what's up. Former Chicago guy here now in SF Bay Area.

I like locksport and bikes so your post comes from a familiar perspective.

The part about chain locks was a little strange to me. I think of chains and locks as two separate things. I have a $100 12mm chain and a few hundred dollar Abloy padlock. I know LPL went with a combo for his bike but I also think his bike is like $500 or something.


In general, layered security is the right model.

Airtag is a good example of keeping this document fresh as this is a new option. I had a conversation with another biker/security friend this morning, he has one. My hesitation on Airtag or GPS tracking in general is do I want to really track down stolen merchandise? I settled on no and went with insurance and a good lock.
So, a chain lock can have the chain and lock built into the same unit, or it can be separate where the lock itself is loose. The portable ones I recommended are within the same unit. I make an exception for very heavy chains used for home storage. Your idea of using a rigging supply company for home chains makes a lot of sense and is a good one. For portability though, there are great U-locks that protect against bolt cutters and have better resistance times to angle grinders. Especially for portable locks, many U-locks are more cost-effective for their value.

I get the GPS and recovery part. The heavy reliance on insurance may be the best option if you don't want to confront someone trying to steal your bike and you don't want to deal with the police to track them down. Though this does take out some protective security layers. Also, insurance will still require that you make a police report and document, so there's still a bit of a hassle.
 
Last edited: