Bike Rack Types, Bike Lock Types, Bike Security

If you are going anywhere that isn’t a giant infinite continuous loop, you are going to have to stop and put your bike somewhere at some stage.  That some stage, you are going to have to lean your mighty steed against some kinda object and leave it unattended for a period of time.  In which case, you probably want it to be still there when you get back.

Bike Locking Techniques

When using any lock, make sure you lock in your frame.  This is the most valuable part of your bike. To do this, the lock must go through the trianglely part of the frame between the handle bars and the seat.

Leave your bike locked to a secure object in a high traffic area.  Preferably, around other bikes.  Make sure the solid object can’t be cut, broken, manoeuvred or other wise disabled.  This may rule out some fences and trees.

For the best security, you will require 2 locks.  Use one lock to lock your frame and back wheel to an object and a second lock to lock your front wheel and frame to an object.  This secures your frame twice at two different locations and both your wheels, as well as offering two independent devices to be disabled to steal your bike.

Be aware of any easily removable accessories you might have including quick release wheels, quick release seats, bike computers, lights, saddle bags, pannier bags.  You might want to take these with you or lock them to your bike.

Front Wheel In Racks

These are the worst type of bike rack.  You might be better off going to a pole.  They are often put in as an after thought and are from an era when bike theft was unheard of and quick release wheels a figment of the imagination.  They consist of close together slots designed to hold the front or back wheel of a bike.  The front wheel in racks only offer two (or none!) truly secure bike parking locations – at the ends.  All intermediate locations are useless if you want to use a U lock as they will only secure the front wheel – not the frame.  A long cable lock is required to lock the frame and front wheel to the rack.  It will require a very long cable to get both wheels and the frame secure.  They are also designed for a large mountain bike tyre.  So often, a slimmer commuting tyre or road bike tyre does not fill up enough space between the slots to support the bike and your bike can fall over.

Frame Hoops

Most modern racks are of this type.  They are also a nice after market addition to some street posts.  These usually consist of a large oval or circle at about frame height which offer multiple locations to lock your bike up.  The proximity between your frame and the security point make it ideal and they are also compatible to the two lock technique.  These racks make it quick and easy to secure your bike and not have to worry about it falling over.

Other Rack Types

There are a multitude of other rack types out there.  Many are just combinations or interesting variations of the above.  Look for ones that allow you to secure the frame to the rack in multiple locations.

Cable Locks / Chain Locks

This lock is your typical bike lock.  It is a length of chain or cable usually encased in some kind of plastic or coating.  The cable may or may not have a built in locking mechanism.  This type of lock allows a lot of flexibility around what you can lock your bike to.   Around a tree, pole, awkward shaped objects.  Cable locks are often rated as less secure than other lock types due to the fact that they often can be cut with bolt cutters and special tools.  But they are lighter and easier to transport.  Chain locks vary in security rating depending on the chain type, steel rating and type of lock used.  Some can be incredibly heavy.

U Locks

These are the most secure type of lock.  These locks are a rigid metal U shape with a cross bar locking mechanism making them look like a D shape.  They are difficult to cut, force open or manipulate without special tools and therefore offer the best protection.  To use the lock, you remove the cross bar from the look and loop the U part around your object, your wheel and your frame then clip the cross bar back on.  They can be heavy (min 1kg) and because of their rigid nature offer less flexible opportunities to lock your bike.  If you can’t get the frame near the object, they aren’t a great deal of use.

There also was a series of U locks that could be opened by a pen due to the key and barrel design.  Avoid.

Other Bike Security Tips

If your local police offer it, register your bike.  This can also be done on a few websites.  There is a unique serial number on every bike on the underside of the frame (usually bottom bracket).

Get your bike engraved.  At many public bike events, the police have a stand offering property tracing code and use of the engraver for free.  You can also take it down to the local police station and get it done.

Tag your bike.  Like you can ID chip your dog, you can also ID chip your bike.  The chip is placed inside the frame and can be scanned to identify you as the owner.

Personalise your bike.  Make it individual as possible so it is unique and easily identifiable.

Unfortunately, most bikes are stolen from the home.  Consider how you currently store your bike and whether it needs some additional security.

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4 thoughts on “Bike Rack Types, Bike Lock Types, Bike Security

  1. You don’t actually need to put the lock around the frame itself, believe it or not. One method that works really well, with a short U-shackle in particular, is to shackle just the rear wheel, *inside* the rear triangle, to a post or frame hoop. Just make sure the lock is inside the rear triangle, or you may return to find your rear wheel has lost its bike!

    • Hey Phil

      Thanks for your input!

      I have heard of this method but didn’t want to recommend it for a few reasons. It is probably fine for 90% of situations, especially in low crime areas, but has a few vulnerabilities. It is a fine deterrent for most thieves.

      For those who don’t know what we are talking about, a picture of the technique can be found here:

      Using this technique has a few short comings:
      * It assumes the would-be-thief wont destroy the wheel to get the rest of the bike. The tyre and rim are quickly dispatched with a hacksaw and easily replaced.
      * Because the U lock has a lot of gaps inside it, this unfilled space leaves the lock more vulnerable to various torque and wedging type attacks.
      * It may also encourage a stupid thief to attempt to steal your bike assuming you haven’t locked it correctly and causing damage to your rear wheel and rear triangle.

      • Hi Nat,

        That’s exactly the method, and thinking back, I probably did learn it from Sheldon originally (may he rest in peace.) You’re right about the vulnerabilities, although with the short shackle that I use there’s not a lot of “unfilled space” and indeed the shackle is too short to fit around the wheel, frame and any decent sized post anyway. Shackling the frame in is sometimes possible, depending on post size, but it can force the frame up so hard against the post that it may even make frame damage more likely. Knowing a variety of ways you can use your lock(s) in different situations is always handy. 🙂

        90% of the time I use this method it’s at the office, where:
        * I can leave the heavy shackle bolted to the frame loop from one day to the next, instead of carrying it with me
        * It’s in a semi-secured carpark under a video camera
        * There’s often a carbon-frame Dura-Ace-equipped Specialized road bike anchored to the next frame with a ~2mm wire luggage-lock. My old aluminium beast is NOT likely to be the best value proposition for any thief under the circumstances. 🙂

        Now I’m just wondering once again whether to lug that heavy shackle on CQ with me this year. Maybe I should just get one of those wire luggage locks…….

        Now w

      • Thanks, Phil!

        You know what they say, your bike only has to be a bit more secure than the one next to it!

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