The three steps to a theft proof bike

Keeping your bike out of the hands of thieves is easy if you follow these three steps.

Step 1: Choose your bike locks wisely

Kryptonite Bike Lock secured through a rear wheel

I’ve always secured my bike with a Kryptonite New York 3000 lock.

In London, you need two bike locks. This secures your front wheel, your rear wheel and your bike frame. Thieves will typically not have the tools required to break through two different types of lock.

Primary lock

Product view of the Knog Strongman bike lock coloured black and white

I’ve always relied on a Kryptonite New York 3000 D-lock as my primary defence against thieves. It’s heavy to carry around but its been well tested by cycling magazines and regularly tops their list of recommended locks. Equally good is the Abus Granit X Plus which provides the same security but weighs around a 1/4 less.

There are some newer options such as the Knog Strongman shown in the image above. We’ve not yet tested this on London Cyclist but it has some excellent features such as scratch protection for your bike frame and double dead-lock which means even if the thief cuts one side of the lock, they’ll need to cut the other before getting to your bike. However, the Strongman only has a 13mm shackle compared to the 16/18mm shackle on the New York locks.

Many people balk at the price of these bike locks, but when you consider they will last you many years and that it’s much cheaper than replacing a bike, you start to see the value.

Secondary lock

The primary bike lock should always be complement by a secondary lock. We’ve listed some of the best options here.

Step 2: Don’t make this mistake

In the video above Casey Neistat uses his Kryptonite Evolution Mini to lock his bike through the stem, instead of the frame. As he’s in a haste he makes the error of locking his bike by a component that can easily be removed. A more classic version of this error is someone who locks their bike only through their front wheel. The thief then comes along, removes the front wheel and walks away with the bike in seconds.

Don’t make this error or any of these common mistakes:

  • Don’t place your bike lock near the ground where it will be easier to leverage for attack
  • Don’t lock your bike to any object that it can be lifted over (This includes sign posts where the sign could easily be removed)
  • Don’t lock your bike to old victorian railings that can be easily broken

For more horror stories take a read of:

Step 3: Secure your components

A police sticker on a bike stand shows people how to correctly lock their bike

A common story you hear is of how a cyclist returned to their bike to find that a thief had stolen their handlebars or saddle. The best way to prevent this is to use lockable components. There are a few options out there but Pinhead is the most common.

Read more about how to prevent your bike from getting attacked by piranha’s.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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38 Responses to The three steps to a theft proof bike

  1. antero virtanen 05/06/2013 at 5:48 pm #

    I bought just a TIGR of Stanton Concepts ( http://tigrlock.com). it is a lock of titanium. It weighs about one kilo. It is very practical to have and use. It is not cheap.

    • Andreas 05/06/2013 at 6:12 pm #

      How long have you been using it Antero and did you get it in the UK?

      • antero virtanen 05/06/2013 at 6:16 pm #

        I´ve had it a couple of weeks. I ordered it from US.

        • Andreas 05/06/2013 at 7:03 pm #

          Interesting – I’ve always really wanted to test this out on London Cyclist. The only thing holding me back is that I don’t think it has been safety accredited in the UK from companies such as Sold Secure.

        • TheMayor 06/06/2013 at 5:59 pm #

          Yes, I have one of these. Unfortunately it’s not certified for any UK insurance companies, therefore I had to buy the cheapest silver certified D-lock from Amazon (£20). If someone will manage to cut the TiGr (highly unlikely) I have to tell the insurance company that I was using the D-lock

      • chris 06/06/2013 at 11:00 am #

        I got one as I funded it under the Kickstarter scheme.

        The weight difference with carrying that (it gets strapped to my crossbar) and my kryptonite locks is massive.

        I dont tend to leave my bike out for too long anyway (usually if visiting friends or we pop into a bar/cafe) and if its planned, Ill take the kryptonite to lock through the rear chainstays.

        Its not cheap and its not indestructible but it will slow down a thief if they try to cut it, compared to a steel D-lock.

        • chris 06/06/2013 at 11:01 am #

          “It will slow down a thief *for a bit longer* than a D-lock”, I mean to say.

    • SteveP 07/06/2013 at 12:29 pm #

      I’ve got two TiGr locks – one wide, long one and a newer thin, short one. I use the same lock cylinder on each (so only one at a time) as the cylinders are expensive, but you can order multiples keyed alike.

      Overall I think it is a great product but needs independent testing. It would be great if they sent samples to Thatcham. Most of the available info is from the company itself, which is good but lacks an independent eye.

      The locks are a bid fiddly to fit – the connection of the cylinder is the tricky part. And the long lock is a bit unwieldy. The suggestion is yo run it along the top tube (it comes with straps). I think it is pretty tough and being unusual may just persuade a thief to move on. I got mine in the USA.

      • antero 07/06/2013 at 1:41 pm #

        I have the wider TiGr, about 700 gr. You say the short one is newer. I didn´t see any short one in their web page. Only wider and narrower, both 61 cm long. Is the narrower less stiff maybe?

        • SteveP 07/06/2013 at 3:58 pm #

          It’s a new item – may even be a prototype at this point. About 18″ long and 3/4″ wide (45 X 2cm) Send them a message if you want one. I’m sure they will respond to product requests.

          Titanium is VERY hard to cut – there are plenty of YouTube videos showing failed attempts even with bolt cutters that can barely be lifted.

          I think these are very innovative and interesting locks and have bought two, but I would still like to see independent testing. There was a link to a Dutch site IIRC… here it is – two stars http://www.stichtingart.nl/sloten_resultaat.asp

          Search TigR lock on Twitter and you can see more

  2. David 05/06/2013 at 5:55 pm #

    Step 3 is getting tricky. I saw someone yesterday that had had their derailleur hanger stolen!

    • Andreas 05/06/2013 at 6:13 pm #

      Wow – that’s getting extreme!

  3. aggi 05/06/2013 at 6:52 pm #

    Looking at the specs for that Knog Strongman I’d be wary of it. It’s only a 13mm shackle compared to the 16/18mm of the New York locks. Fine for average use but not the best out there.

    • Andreas 05/06/2013 at 7:05 pm #

      You make a good point Aggi – the smaller shackle size is a concern. I’ve updated the post to reflect this.

  4. Tom 05/06/2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Making your bike look a bit unattractive and less saleable is also handy, I’ve got an old battered but very (not Brooks!) saddle, and the branding of my bike is covered in poorly applied refelctive vinyl. Also, try and lock your bike up next to the shiniest newest bike in the rack…

    • Cath 07/06/2013 at 10:20 am #

      Covering up brands and logos to make a bike look cheap is a fairly common tactic, and I’m pretty sure thieves are becoming wise to it. I don’t bother myself, but plenty of folk in my cycling club have had their ‘cheapened’ bikes stolen.

  5. Ellen 05/06/2013 at 8:19 pm #

    I have a knog strongman (it’s had about a year of use) – the scratch free coating and matching colour is nice but it is too short for locking to non standard racks. For me it’s great to and from work – more compact on bike but if I’m going somewhere I may have to lock to something else I tend to go back to my older (longer) Abus D-lock.

  6. Vincent 05/06/2013 at 10:00 pm #

    > In London, you need two bike locks. This secures your front wheel, your rear wheel and your bike frame

    Simpler, cheaper, and lighter alternative: Get locking skewers to lock down anything that can be unscrewed from your bike, including the wheels and the saddle.

    Brands I know are http://www.pitlock.com, http://www.pinheadcomponents.com, http://www.zefal.com, and http://www.vis-antivandale.com

    > However, the Strongman only has a 13mm shackle compared to the 16/18mm shackle on the New York locks.

    Considering the huge noise + sparks they generate, I’d be curious to know how many bikes are actually stolen with an angle grinder.
    I’ve always lived in major cities, and have never seen someone using those to break a lock. It’s to the point where the city just leaves obviously abandoned bikes instead of bothering the neighborhood.

    Get two compact U locks to lock the frame to a fixed point, and it’s very unlikely someone will steal your bike.

    > In the video above Casey Neistat uses his Kryptonite Evolution Mini to lock his bike through the stem, instead of the frame

    NYC cyclists should pressure local authorities to install enough racks so people don’t have to (illegally) lock their bikes to whatever fixed object.

    aggi > Looking at the specs for that Knog Strongman I’d be wary of it. It’s only a 13mm shackle compared to the 16/18mm of the New York locks

    I just got it, and it’s heavy enough compared to the other mini U locks I have. We’ll see if it’s reliable enough to protect my new bike :-)

    Ellen > I have a knog strongman (it’s had about a year of use) – the scratch free coating and matching colour is nice but it is too short for locking to non standard racks.

    The tighter, the better, as this prevents thieves from using a pry bar to try and break the lock.

    • aggi 06/06/2013 at 11:02 am #

      I think 13mm is still “thin” enough to just about be cut by bolt croppers. It looks like it’s still a decent lock but you can get an equivalent Kryptonite for half the price http://www.tredz.co.uk/.Kryptonite-Evolution-Series-4-U-Lock-with-FlexFrame-Bracket_54214.htm

      I have Pinhead skewers on my bike and, whilst they’re OK for deterring the opportunistic thief, I have opened them without the key before when I haven’t had it with me. It’s a bit awkward but not too difficult.

      Atomic 22 http://atomic22.com/ are meant to be the ultimate in the locking skewers but they cost a bomb so I haven’t tried them.

      • ian 05/04/2014 at 7:18 am #

        For component security there is Sphyke – there system uses a combination lock to cover your wheel or saddle fasteners… a good option if you don’t want to carry an additional key or special tool wherever to ride.

    • Jude 07/06/2013 at 10:41 pm #

      I once saw a group of young guys using an angle grinder to steal a bike. I felt horribly guilty that I just walked on by and didn’t do anything – but what could I have done? They had an angle grinder! I wasn’t about to walk up to them and challenge them.

    • ian 05/04/2014 at 7:13 am #

      Instead of pinhead or pitlock there is Sphyke (Germany) – 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.

  7. Oliver 05/06/2013 at 11:27 pm #

    My trick is to use an old bike that no one would want to steal anyway – running smooth but looking rough. It has worked so far ….

  8. Tim 05/06/2013 at 11:43 pm #

    A shout out for the Masterlock ‘handcuffs’. http://road.cc/content/review/35027-masterlock-street-cuff-lock

    Mine have been pretty indestructible, and no-one’s tried it on, though admittedly mine doesn’t look the most fun bike to steal. The design surprises people, and the universal joint and cuff design gives you a lot of options for locking the bike to something.

  9. Izzy 06/06/2013 at 10:26 am #

    You don’t need two locks. Take the front wheel out and lock it together with the frame and back wheel. This has the secondary advantage of filling the shackle of the lock and deterring bottle jack attacks.

    The Kryptonite locks might well be the best thing since sliced bread but until they sell them with a mounting bracket that is fit for purpose they won’t be getting my money.

    • David 06/06/2013 at 11:01 am #

      Part of the theory behind two locks is you have two different types of locks which require different tools to defeat so the attacker gives up (perhaps only to and move onto someone else’s bike).

  10. Nick Donnelly 07/06/2013 at 10:31 am #

    I had my bike stolen with a New York 3000 lock – on City Road.

    I bought the lock in about 2000 – turns out the New York lock form then could be opened with a pen (just search YouTube).

    • Andreas 07/06/2013 at 10:55 am #

      Yeah – I remember this used to be an issue with that lock. I know they’ve resolved it since then but how irritating none the less.

  11. Ed 07/06/2013 at 11:34 am #

    “You don’t need two locks. Take the front wheel out and lock it together with the frame and back wheel. This has the secondary advantage of filling the shackle of the lock and deterring bottle jack attacks.” Izzy

    This also has the distinct disadvantage of being a royal PITA. Also risks damaging your forks. It takes one idiot to come along and lock their bike on the same rack as mine and knocking my bike & potentially wrecking my forks – no thanks!

    There are various other lock styles for components that are a lot cheaper than Pinhead. A professional thief could still nick your bike or components fairly easily within 5 minutes regardless of what precautions or locks you take.

    My advice is that if you commute and are leaving your bike for any amount of time in a high risk area is to completely “depretty” it – a bit like Andreas has. Cover all brand identification with stickers or vinyl wrap.

    Rub off the identifying graphics on decent components – white spirit & wire wool – I have heard does quite a good job!

    If your rear mech doesn’t actually say Deore XT on it – a thief is going to have a tough time getting £20 for it on Ebay!

    I have also heard of people putting a bit of solder in the Allen Key heads on their seatpost bolts. Seems like quite a good and cheap – if messy solution.

    • Izzy 07/06/2013 at 12:02 pm #

      Ed – I guess it’s each to his/her own.

      I’ve been locking my bike this way (remove front wheel) since 1981 (I still use my original Citadel lock) so I guess I’m just used to it. It takes as long to get my front wheel out and locked as it would to to fish round for a second lock.

      My forks are 531 so they are pretty sturdy and they’ve survived 32 years of this treatment.

      De-prettyfying isn’t an issue with my Carlton!

      Have a good weekend.

      • Ed 07/06/2013 at 1:15 pm #

        Fair enough Izzy – as you said, it’s a pretty old bike and I’m not sure thieves are interested in them.

        I certainly woulldn’t want to just leave my carbon or even aluminium forks on the ground and don’t when I have to repair my bikes.

        They are just a lot more flimsy than old steel forks.

        Andreas – query – your locking method. Is that a recommended way to lock your rear wheel?

        I have always locked my rear wheel by the rim.

        Not sure this is the best “technique” – please let us know…

    • ian 25/06/2013 at 5:32 pm #

      It is a shame that thieves have had such a negative impact on cycling behavior. carrying cables, 2nd locks, taking wheels off, defacing.

      It is the most efficient form of human transport, with the best engineers improving on this every year…with the best lightest materials… and we have to ride around on rust buckets.. with extra Kgs of second locks

      The answer is NO!
      Lock your back wheel and frame with a high end D-Lock to a rigid pole, and secure the front wheel with a http://www.sphyke.com wheel lock – your wheel wont get stolen, and only when you get a flat do you need to think about it – just plug in your personalised combination and off comes the wheel. No special key required. Under £25. 5-10 grams extra on your bike.

      I also have one on my rear – Alfine 11 with aero spokes on a Mavic rim… No theft after 3 years. Locked up in Berlin, London and Barcelona.

  12. SteveP 07/06/2013 at 12:40 pm #

    I don’t think it’s practical to try and theftproof every part of a bike. Pinlocks for your handlebars? Stem? Seatpost? Brakes? How about pedals? Bikes can be disassembled. You can superglue ball bearings into the heads of sockets, or fill them with solder, but my gawd, that’s a lot of bother and then you have to undo it for service. Bit of a losing battle.

    Inner city use? Ride a cheap bike you can afford to lose. Buy some nice old “recycled” bike.

    Use a lock – any lock is better than none (I still suspect many stolen bikes were never locked at all).

    Get a decent U-lock (rated if necessary for insurance) and remove the front wheel locking it and the frame to a suitable support. Two locks? Really? Maybe if I can leave them locked to the rack at each end…

    If you have a fancy bike, take it inside with you and lock it at least to itself (i.e. unrideable). Never leave a nice bike in one place every day.

  13. David 07/06/2013 at 2:52 pm #

    I use a Kryptonite long lock for the frame and have two Kryptonite cableswhich go through front and rear wheels respectively. Admittedly if a thief gets through the main D-lock I’m scuppered, but either the whole bike will be there or none of it.

  14. rogbert 07/06/2013 at 6:50 pm #

    what about these trackers you can insert in your seat post stem for £14 they seem a good idea

    • SteveP 07/06/2013 at 8:48 pm #

      I don’t think you can get a “tracker” for £14? There is the Immmobilise transponder-thingy that can be “read” by police when/if your bike is recovered. It goes down your seatpost a bit like a star nut in a stem. But it can’t be “tracked” remotely.

      There are a couple of tracking units available – one has the option of stem mount or a lookalike rear light and is reasonably priced. The other goes in the seatpost and (as I recall) £10/mo on top of the device cost. And they have their limits (need GPS signal, need mobile phone signal).

  15. Rossibossi 08/06/2013 at 4:32 pm #

    I’d steer clear of any Knog lock. I’ve just been working in three Australian cities and bike locking techniques are pretty light there, even for very nice road bikes. Knog may be good Aus market but they’re an easy target in London.

    +1 for the ABUS GRANIT XPLUS 54 230mm. Buy it online or price match. The EazyKF bracket it far superior to the crap one that Kryptonite supply.

    AVOID those Kryptonite Silver locks. I’ve seen several either cut cleanly (only 1 cut needed) or twisted which has damaged the bike severely if the thief has given up.

    Kryptonite Evolution Mini is a great secondary lock.

    Solder in Allen bolt heads has served me well as has scummifying my bike and scraping decals off components.

    Pit Locks have worked for me.

    Only keep the important bits clean – rims, drive train etc.

    Never leave your bike out overnight or in the same place every day

    Check on your bike regularly like its your baby.

    Take lots
    of photos of your bike to identify it.

  16. margaretalena 05/04/2014 at 2:10 am #

    When you have a $1000 plus tied up in a bike even a few hundred dollars for a lock set would not be to unreasonable. I would pay even $300 for a lock set that was indeed theft proof. if you lost the key oh well you would just have to show proof you owned the bike and had bill of sale and id to get another key. I want a fool proof way to secure my bike. I am sick to death worrying if my bike will be there when I get back. I have 2 locks on mine and even a 3rd but this is crazy when crooks are just as determined to get what it yours.

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