How to prevent your bike from getting piranha’d

Who's afraid of the stuffed Piranha?

A couple of my cycling friends have recently been victims of bike piranhas. They’ve come back and noticed their bike is missing a saddle or a front wheel. In the worse cases friends have reported coming back to their bike to find nothing but the frame and the bike lock.

Unfortunately, even using the correct bike locking technique not all parts of a bike a secure. A quick release saddle can be removed in a matter of seconds. What some people opt to do if the components are worth the money is to use lockable components.

This basically involves replacing the standard component fasteners with ones that can only be opened with a unique key. It is almost impossible for a bike thief to then remove parts off your bike.

This not only secures each component to your bike but it also makes it less attractive to bike thieves and reduces the number of locks you need to carry with you to secure different components.

Of course there are two downsides. The first major downside is it’s not cheap. But neither is it expensive compared to replacing those components. The second lesser problem is that you obviously need to keep the keys with you at all times in case you need to fix something on your bike.

Pinhead 4 part locking system: Wheels, seat and handlebars

Pinhead do a four pack of bike component locks for around £50. There is also a two pack just for wheels at £36.

So is it worth investing in something like this?

I personally haven’t invested in this and so far my bike components have stayed safe. I tend to lock my back wheel and frame whenever I leave my bike. The front wheel is not a quick release and so bike thieves would need a spanner to remove it.

If someone did steal my front wheel they are welcome to it. It needs replacing anyway! I think I can definitely attribute the lack of theft to my aging bike components. If I had an expensive new wheel or saddle I may re-consider.

The big potential advantage here is that the component locks are more robust than using cable locks.

I’d love to hear if you guys have this kind of security on your bike and whether you recommend it?

Leave a comment below..

Image via Dans Le Grand Blue

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46 Responses to How to prevent your bike from getting piranha’d

  1. bathori 09/09/2010 at 9:36 am #

    Last Christmas both my wheels were stolen from my bike when it was locked up inside my building, directly in front of my flat door, in the middle of the day. You need an electronic key to enter the building.

    I ended up buying those pinhead skewers when I replaced the missing parts and looking at them I would say the are deterrent on their own. I dont worry about my front wheel anymore and I lock my Dlock through the backwheel and frame to whatever I’m locking to.

    • Andreas 09/09/2010 at 10:13 am #

      Unbelievable what people do! Thanks for feedback on the Pinheads

      • Rachel 10/09/2010 at 11:38 am #

        There is just as much chance that your neighbor is a thief or a decent person.

      • lis 05/06/2013 at 7:47 pm #

        had my bike stolen once and my actual bike now has got pinheads for both wheels and 2 locks which costed me 1 of them almost a hundred pounds , all wort it so far… would recommend to everybody investing in your bike , no matter how expensive or cheap it is…

  2. Tommy Mac 09/09/2010 at 9:37 am #

    I’ve got some nice bits and bobs on my city bike and had taken to using Suguru in the recess of the allen bolt.

    It’s a type of putty that sets rock hard and thus stops theives inserting the key. It can be removed with a bit of patience and a craft knife if you desperately need an adjustment.

    As for the wheels – I’ve stuck with track nuts and good locks

  3. Nick 09/09/2010 at 10:40 am #

    3 saddles and seatposts nicked due to quick release or allen bolts. Now have an old bit of chain inside a bit of innertube wrapped around my frame and through the saddle! So far my saddle has been safe!! I also use Knog/Cateye lights so nothing is left on my bike if I leave it on the street… If tehy seriously want something to steal, they can have the front brake which is the only thing on my bike which is possibly removable with an allen key!

    I had locking wheel nuts, but can be a pain to remove the wheel if you get a puncture, now have track nuts and loop a cable through my front wheel if I leave it on the street. My thoughts have always been, if it takes longer than 3 minutes to remove something a thief will usually leave it alone, except in the case I heard about a whole bike rack ending up in the back of a van!

  4. John 09/09/2010 at 10:59 am #

    Hi
    I use Pitlock security bolts on both wheels and the saddle post.
    To date nothing has been taken.
    But if you are super concerned about your saddle, brakes or if you have them Busch and Miller dynamo lights then Pitlock make replacement bolts for all of these items.
    For brakes they are available for V brake or disc brake.
    For saddles they do a strap to connect the saddle rails to the seat clamp bolt.
    They are available if you go online direct to the Pitlock site, I have only seen the basic ones sold in the shops here.
    John

    • JohnN 22/01/2013 at 9:19 pm #

      Is it safe to remove wheel skewers and replace them with nuts?

      • Hugh 05/06/2013 at 10:34 pm #

        John,

        Definitely not safe. The skewer thread is very narrow and therefore relies on a long length of thread in the skewer bolt in order to spread the load. You will not find standard a nut long enough to spread the load and therefore risk ripping the thread clean off.

        The only safe option to get a bolted wheel is to change the hub (which involves rebuilding the wheel and may require a new set of spokes) or a new wheel altogether.

      • A.D. 08/06/2013 at 9:40 am #

        If you ‘open’ the quick release and tighten the other side with some pliers it is (a little) more secure.

    • ian 05/04/2014 at 7:17 am #

      John, alternatively you can use Sphyke – their system uses a combination lock to cover you wheel or saddle fasteners… a good option if you don’t want to carry an additional key or special tool wherever to ride.

  5. thereverent 09/09/2010 at 11:29 am #

    I’ve not suffered bike piranhas so far (touch wood).
    I use an allen key for my saddle, and even though my wheels are on quick releases I lock both of them to the frame and bike rack.

    You can make it difficult for piranhas by locking it so its difficult to get to take parts off the bike. If you use the new double level racks at stations they have bike so close together it would be difficult to strip.
    I’d never leave my bike outside overnight for a start, give them too much time to strip it. I’m only really happy to kleave my bike in a location I know for a few hours.
    Also if you come back to your bike and it is missing a wheel/saddle etc, take it home straight away or at least move it. Otherwise they will come back and take other bits, and just leave the frame.

  6. Tom 09/09/2010 at 11:43 am #

    I have superglued two or three ball bearings into the allen key holes for my stem and seatpost, so it’s impossible to fit an allen key into them.

    If I need to get them off, a little white spirit, a craft knife and five minutes does the trick.

  7. Heather 09/09/2010 at 11:55 am #

    “…except in the case I heard about a whole bike rack ending up in the back of a van!” Oh, that is just upsetting.

    I’ve had a three bikes stolen – all relatively new (Marin) hybrids. On one occasion, they broke through two looked doors to get to them & I lost two in one go. The other loss, was stolen on the street. I’ve also had both back & front wheels knicked and so I’ve taken to having the quick releases replaced with those secure ones that need special keys (and so overprices, it’s actually offensive). The problem is that these tend to snap/break, easily and so the bracket needs to be replaced. This is annoying. Oh, and why do they sell bikes with quick releases, anyway, rather than with bolts? Surely that’s the wrong way round? I suspect it’s a money making racket… Shame on them!

    • Vayid 09/09/2010 at 12:14 pm #

      Probably for bicycles that won’t be used for commuting/be locked up like mountain bikes maybe? I like the quick release but it does mean that I’d never lock my bike up anywhere, unless it’s in sight and I’m nearby. Just been to Tesco and saw a bike missing it’s front wheel there so some thief’s been round.

      • Ale 13/09/2010 at 4:07 pm #

        Whenever I cycle to the supermarket, I take the front wheel off and hang it off the hook on the back of the trolley. I also take my front wheel in with me to the office when I go to work. No need for locking nuts or anything.
        Just because you see a bike without a front wheel, it doesn’t mean it’s been nicked.

    • Matt Taber 10/09/2010 at 12:25 pm #

      The fact is that about 15 years ago, quick releases weren’t seen on bikes at all, but at that time hardly anyone commuted either. Quick releases were introduced as a trickle down from road racing on wheels where being able to get them on an off was crucial in a race to be able to change if there was a puncture. The man on the street saw them and thought they would be great on ‘normal’ bikes. However, that was without factoring in the pilfering little varmits that steal other people’s shiny stuff! The fact is, with the increase in commuting in towns and cities (in particular London), which is, frankly, absolutely fantastic, bikes are being left on the street in a way like never before and are obviously a target for petty criminals. So, full circle here we come. On commuting bikes, not having a quick release on seatposts or wheels makes perfect sense. After all, you’re not interested in saving 30 seconds on the climb up Highgate Hill to make it to the top first so if you do suffer a puncture it’s a quick fix or a trip to the LBS to get it fixed.

    • Amoeba 23/01/2013 at 7:57 am #

      ‘why do they sell bikes with quick releases, anyway, rather than with bolts?’
      Because people like them and more importantly, buy them.

  8. emster 09/09/2010 at 12:29 pm #

    I use Pinheads and they’ve worked just fine so far, and I’ve yet to find a quick hack for the locks on the web. Their after sales service is terrible, however, and I’ve been let down by them twice in as many times when I’ve contacted them for extra parts. Proceed with caution.

    Even with the full set, however, your brakes and seat (the pinhead secures your post only) are still vulnerable to attack, so you still might want to consider suguru or superglued bearings to increase your security.

  9. brazen harlot 09/09/2010 at 6:24 pm #

    I recommend pinheads, the New York Kryptonite D lock and insurance.

  10. billy 09/09/2010 at 7:40 pm #

    I have a Thudbuster seat post on my Dahon so I keep my cable looped through it and the frame and coiled behind the saddle.When I lock up I thread the cable through the rear wheel, around post or what have you, and back to the bike before securing with an Abus combination padlock. I have a security bolt in my front wheel and I take a Kryptonite U lock as well if I am going to the nasty cities such as London.
    On top of that, I always try to leave it where I can see it :0)

  11. billy 09/09/2010 at 7:41 pm #

    PS I got my security bolts off eBay for around £20. I had to cut the front one down for my narrow hub and the other three I haven’t bothered with.

  12. Biker's Delight 09/09/2010 at 8:22 pm #

    Got my quick release rack nicked! Never thought of locking it. They knew what they were looking for as it’s worth £50. Ironically I was in swanky Kensington enjoying the wonderful cycling related Spin Off event at the Dana centre. One of the rich locals must have nicked it. An annoying end to the night.

    • Woody 10/09/2010 at 12:10 pm #

      Bit unfair to blame locals. If I were a thief, I’d spend a lot of my time in Kensington. it’s well-known that handbag-grabbers go where the most expensive handbags are…

    • Amoeba 23/01/2013 at 8:04 am #

      It won’t be a rich local.

      Where would a bike thief go? To a run-down place with crap bikes, or a place where they can find expensive, high-end bikes which have been barely ridden and probably ‘secured’ with an easily-snipped cable?

      It’s hardly surprising that the bike thieves worked this out.

  13. Mr Birch 10/09/2010 at 10:39 am #

    My locks must have been very good quality, as they had to break my front wall apart to steal my bike.

  14. Manuel 10/09/2010 at 11:06 am #

    Pinhead has completely simplified my life so I heartily recommend the system 100%. All I use is a strong D-lock and that’s it. No cables, no removing the seat, no trying to get the right post or angle to secure both the wheel and the frame, no worries. Honestly, I think this system is nothing short of a revolution in bike security! My bike was stolen once (my fault as I left it in my lobby) and my one sweet revenge was thinking of the impossibly hard time and disillusion the thief would go through after realizing that it is nearly impossible to remove these from the bike, thus making it unusable after the first flat tire, or unsellable if the buyer is a keen observer and realizes the wheels and seat are locked forever…!!! As soon as I got a new bike, in went the pinheads. This should be a default operation for everybody, as natural as getting a good D-lock…

  15. Richard 10/09/2010 at 11:25 am #

    I have heard of the Zefal wheel and seat post locks. They can only be undone if you raise the bike vertically or turn it upside down. Great if you want to keep the quick release fittings for your wheels. http://www.zefal.com/zefal/produit.php?key=497001

  16. Adrian 10/09/2010 at 11:55 am #

    I’ve got a pitlock skewer for my front wheel, and just D-lock the back wheel whenever it’s locked up. So far I’ve had one seatpost and saddle piranha’d, so I ordered the Zefal turn your bike upside down thingy. Works great – but took so long to arrive I ended up buying a cheap cable lock from wilkos for the saddle. I now have both fitted, and have to say in future I’d probably go with the £2 lock from Wilkos than the £9, plus postage, plus new bolt to fit so £22 total cost Zefal lock that can be unlocked by jigging the bike up and down.

    Never been worried about the brakes being taken – maybe I should and invest in some suguru or ball bearings and superglue

  17. peter 10/09/2010 at 3:52 pm #

    The last time I had my saddle stolen they removed the bolt on the saddle (so i.e. they left the seatpost). The pinhead system doesn’t seem to address this?

  18. Brian Voakes 10/09/2010 at 8:44 pm #

    My bike is already made up of recycled parts, so not all that attractive to the piranhas but I did get a lovely second hand Brooks saddle on ebay that I do care about losing. Now that it is raining, I have covered it with a tough carrierbag and added a kryptonite saddle cable that loops thru the saddle bracket (so it cant be removed) with the other end looped through my regular bike cable lock when I tie up my mighty steed. So far so good. *knock* on wood.

    note to nasty fish people: take my wheels!

  19. Peter 10/09/2010 at 9:11 pm #

    I use pinhead locks on my wheels after loosing a pair ( and didn’t know disc brake discs were specific to the brakes till then, afterwards saw loads of bikes with discs but v-brakes – go figure)
    Pinhead aftersales are very bad – 2 months to get a replacement key when my keys got stolen in a bag.

    I’ve used an old brake cable spliced round the saddle and the frame for the saddle before (current saddle is crap anyhow)

  20. James Holden 22/09/2010 at 4:40 pm #

    I have my bike marked up with Alphadot markings on all the components, and the warning sticker placed on both sides of the frame. It’s marked in about different 40 places. The police can find the marks with UV light, read the code numbers off and identify me by phoning Alphadot.

    Other than that I lock with two locks, a chain and a D-lock, one through each wheel and the frame. No trouble yet. I always try and lock it with other bikes, particularly ones that look poorly secured.

  21. Stuart 24/09/2010 at 7:31 am #

    Answers:

    Get a Brompton folding bike that you can always take indoors with you.

    or

    (I always thought this would be a neat job creator)

    Why hasn’t someone thought of “manning” the bicycle racks? Someone who has no desire for a desk job could sit next to the bicycle rack, even pump up the tires or do some simple bicycle maintenance, whatever the bike owner asked, but his/her main job would be watching the bicycles until the owners come back, kind of like a bicycle coat check. The owners could pay 25 pence or something. All you need for this job is some kind of city-approved ID and a folding chair.

    • Terr 09/09/2011 at 11:27 pm #

      I grew up in China and this is an extremely common sight even now that regular bicycles are less common and a growing number of commuters opt to ride e-bikes or e-scooters. These are usually state owned plots of sidewalk leased out to private operators who charge a fee for looking after your bike or privately owned by companies and located close to their building. The beauty of the system is that in China ‘dutch’ style bikes are the norm and every bike is guaranteed to have a kickstand which means they take up much less space when parked.

      Unfortunately I don’t feel that a system like this would work in the UK as the government will be unwilling to fund it.

  22. Ben 11/11/2010 at 5:46 pm #

    Andreas, do the pit locks work only on the wheel hubs and seat post? Thieves recently stole the seat by unscrewing it from the seat post – do pit locks help against this?

    Being so annoyed with bike crime, I have set up a new website and added the details of my two recent losses – lights and seat theft. Here is the seat page:
    http://www.bikecrime.co.uk/2010/10/25/specialized-langster-seat/

    • Andreas 12/11/2010 at 9:52 am #

      That’s right it would make it difficult for them to steal your seat. If they stole it from the clamp point. (Where it goes into the frame)

      • John 14/05/2011 at 7:20 pm #

        Pitlock make a small steel cable with two loops on it which goes around the rails of your saddle and down to the pitlock saddle clamp bolt between either side of the saddle clamp thus securing the saddle and seat post.

  23. Richard 22/03/2011 at 9:54 am #

    I think my seat post is so rarely adjusted and poorly looked after that it has become one with the frame, so I don’t worry too much about that! Both my wheels are quick release but I lock them both separately (via the frame) so don’t think the cost of the component locks would be justified for me.

  24. Paul 25/03/2011 at 12:57 pm #

    a little cost savings on pinheads and the like if you have two bikes – split a set between them. Now I carry one lock (I still use two for long term parking) and lock the frame and non-pinheaded-wheel.

    (Don’t worry, you easily remember which bike you lock front and which you lock rear.)

  25. Vicki 10/04/2012 at 10:09 pm #

    When I bought a decent saddle, I just got a 1cm thick, plastic covered lock from Homebase which I loop through my saddle and onto the frame. This is only when I’m using bike for errands and leaving in public place. I’d take inside if commuting for work.

    I bring the saddle in overnight anyway as my cover fits better with it off. (My landlord won’t allow me to bring bike in house or though to garden so it’s kept locked in front garden with three locks, ground anchor and next to a housemates window!)

  26. Dave 17/05/2012 at 9:36 am #

    I go with Stuart “Get a Brompton folding bike that you can always take indoors with you.”

    What is this bike lock of which we are speaking?

  27. Caspa 28/06/2012 at 7:05 pm #

    I got myself the PinHead locking system and am very very happy. I am no longer worried that my chain might be not long enough to catch the wheels if I need to fix the bike to a lampost, or I can fix it to an item higher off the ground so the potential thief cannot use ground as extra leverage for bolt cutters.
    However the saddle-post bit was rubbish. The screw head just snapped off one of these days…
    Overall – I’d do it again without hesitation and I keep both they lock key with pinhead key.

    Added bonus: pinhead key doubles up as a bottle opener :)

  28. Moshbear 12/07/2012 at 10:00 am #

    While not ideal, I use an old bicycle chain to secure the saddle to the frame. The only way that a thief can get the seat is if he/she brings bolt cutters and/or a chain tool. Not fit for sprockets doesn’t imply not fit for immobilizing :)

  29. Adam 07/06/2013 at 1:04 pm #

    I’ve been stripped once. My entire group set – cranks, derailleurs, shifters, brakes, etc – was taken, as was my saddle, seat post, handlebars and stem. I was left with a frame and a pair of wheels, though they were both damaged beyond redemption by the thief’s unsuccessful attempts to take them.

    I gave the frame to a friend who needed a spare frame.

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