• Weakest
  • Strongest
1 cable lock

Cable locks are much cheaper than metal U-locks, but they are completely unreliable as your bike’s sole line of defense. Cable locks can be easily cut by wire cutters and won’t deter even the most inexperienced thief.

  • Weakest
  • Strongest
1 large U-lock on frame and front wheel

This is a common standard locking technique. With a large U-lock, you can typically contain the frame and the front wheel when locking it to the bike rack. This secures the front wheel, which is often attached with a quick release mechanism. Because of the size of the lock, there is typically more flexibility in how you lock your bike, so this may be a reliable solution if you find yourself locking your bike to a variety of immovable objects that may differ in shape and size.

  • Weakest
  • Strongest
1 small U-lock on rear wheel

Small U-locks are more secure than large ones because they provide less room for leverage-based lock-breaking techniques. They provide a perfect fit containing just the wheel and bike rack, allowing no room for crowbars. Locking just the rear wheel to a bike rack with the lock inside the triangle of the frame makes it impossible to pull the wheel away from the bike, even if all the screws are taken out. The only way to get the frame away would be to cut through the wheel, which is very difficult and time consuming.

  • Weakest
  • Strongest
1 small U-lock + cable
connecting frame and front wheel

Connecting a cable from the small U-lock to encircle the front wheel and frame of the bike addresses the additional concern of the quick release front wheel.

  • Weakest
  • Strongest
1 small U-lock on rear wheel +
1 large u-lock on frame and front wheel

It’s going to take a lot to get through two U-locks. On a day where you’re particularly wary, this should set your mind at ease. For everyday use, it may not be so practical, since locks are heavy and clunky to carry around.

Preventing Bike Theft

Beyond just locking your bike up wherever you go, here are some further practices that will decrease the chance of your bike getting stolen:

The safest place for your bike is always by your side or indoors within sight.

Always lock your bike, no matter how long you think you’re going to be looking away. Grabbing a soda at a gas station for just five minutes? Lock it. Always.

Make sure you’re always locking your bike to something solid and immovable. Obviously, bike racks are ideal. Watch out if you’re locking your bike to a post or sign; thieves may try to pull it up or lift the bike over the top. Small trees can also be cut.

Leave your bike in a well-lit and highly trafficked area.

Read more on how to protect your bike.

When leaving your bike overnight, do your best to try to bring it indoors rather than leaving it out on the bike rack (yes, even if you live up three flights of stairs).

If your bike is very expensive (one you use for sport, competition, or long-distance rides), consider buying a cheaper bike to use for day-to-day commuting.

Write down your bike’s serial number. This is the only way to truly identify your bike if it is ever lost. Check if your local police or bike shops have a way to register your bike online to your name and driver’s license. Then, if they ever find someone with the bike (or someone tries to sell the bike) they will know it was stolen from you immediately.

If Your Bike Gets Stolen...

This is the dreaded worst case scenario. You’re rushing to your ride, and there’s nothing there. Many of us know that heart-sinking feeling all too well.

Report the theft to the police immediately and give them the serial number of your bike. If you don’t take this step, there’s no way for them to know it’s your bike even if they do find someone with stolen bikes.

Check your local pawn shops to see if any bikes have been dropped off recently.

Look on online listing sites where the thief may have posted your bike in an attempt to sell it.

Breathe. Unfortunately bike theft is far too common. It’s not fair, and it’s not your fault. You’ll get through this.