Skip to main content

How to lock a bike: Tips on proper practice to prevent bike theft

Image 1 of 8

How to lock a bike

How to lock a bike. Ensure that the most expensive, easily removable components are locked (Image credit: Kryptonite)
Image 2 of 8

How to lock a bike

Choose the right lock - in the right size - for the job (Image credit: Josh Ross)
Image 3 of 8

How to lock a bike

Ensure that your U-lock wraps around the frame, rear wheel and your chosen anchor (Image credit: Josh Ross)
Image 4 of 8

How to lock a bike

Choosing the right size will help ensure there's less leverage room for thieves (Image credit: Josh Ross)
Image 5 of 8

How to lock a bike

It sounds obvious, but double check you've not missed the anchor (Image credit: Josh Ross)
Image 6 of 8

How to lock a bike

Pairing a front lock (or at least a cable / chain) to the front wheel will ensure you don't return to half a bike (Image credit: Josh Ross)
Image 7 of 8

How to lock a bike

Even at home, don't let your guard down (Image credit: Hiplok)
Image 8 of 8

How to lock a bike

Choosing a big, bulky lock might offer more safety, but only if you take it with you. For this reason, most come with frame-fitting kits so that you don't need to carry it in your rucksack (Image credit: Abus)

Last year in the UK there were over 100,000 bikes stolen. In the US and Canada, the number was over 2,000,000. Those are absolutely massive numbers and the percentage of returned bikes is minuscule in comparison. Police often don't take it seriously and most of the time owners don't bother reporting it. Not only that but insurance either doesn't cover it or they cover only a fraction of the price. If you'd rather not be a part of those statistics it's important to lock your bike the right way.

It might seem like a simple thing but the best way to keep your bike yours is to lock it up and lock it up properly. Never leave an unlocked bike unattended even for just a moment, never lock your bike with an improper lock, and always use a quality lock. These are simple pieces of advice and they will mean the difference between keeping your bike and buying a new one. 

  • Need to lock your bike? Our guide to the best bike locks will help you choose which to go for

Choose the right lock

Start by considering what level of security you need. A bike left outside overnight needs a different level of security than a bike locked for 15 minutes in a busy area during the day. When considering your needs, remember that it doesn't hurt anything to overdo it, as long as you use the lock.

It's an obvious statement to say the best bike locks are going to be the most secure but that's only true if it's going to get used. A higher security lock will be bulkier and heavier and if it gets left at home as a result, it won't do much good.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a minimum level of advisable security. Cable locks are available for sale but should only be a secondary security measure. Cutting a cable lock is so easy and quick that it's possible in broad daylight with people nearby. Don't trust your bike to a cable lock alone in any situation.

Choose the right place to lock your bike 

Bike thieves are fast and well-practised. A crowd will only provide security if you've chosen a good lock and attached it to a solid object. Remember to always choose an object that isn't easy to cut or move. Make sure there's no way to lift the bike and lock off of the anchor you've chosen.

In busy areas, you might have to deal with congestion at the best places to lock a bike, such as at the train station. Just like you'd never want to park a car too close you want to be aware of other people when you lock your bike. Never lock your bike to someone else's, and never lock it so close that they can't get their bike free without damaging yours, theirs, or both. 

Use your lock correctly

Anything on your bike is up for grabs in the right situation and you can't lock everything. The rear wheel and the frame are the most expensive pieces so start there. In most situations, you'll be able to attach a U-lock to your chosen anchor, the rear wheel, and the frame. Then use a cable lock for extra security on the front wheel.

Also, be sure to get a tight fit between the lock and bike. Leaving a lot of room inside the lock makes it easier for a thief to get the leverage needed to break it. Buy the right size lock and attach it so it's tight.

Always double-check that you've remembered to attach to the anchor. Carefully threading a lock through the wheel and frame then missing the anchor is an easy mistake. 

Home isn’t safe

You've been careful to always use a good lock and use it with solid anchors when leaving the bike at the train station. But just because you made it home, it doesn't mean you can let your guard down. The number one place bikes get stolen is at home and most of the time that means a garage or shed. Like anywhere else in the world, it's important to use a good lock and attach it to a secure anchor. 

Do more than just lock your bike

Even when you've done everything you can your bike might still get stolen. If that happens one of the most important things you can do is report it stolen and include the bike's frame number (or serial number) in the report. While the percentage of returned bikes is low, police do sometimes find them.

When you get a new bike, record the serial number in a secure location. In the event a bike ends up in police custody, they will check the serial number to see if the owner has reported it stolen. If you haven't provided the serial number the chances of it getting back are even lower.

Josh Ross

Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minute details of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer is probably yes.
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Look 795 Blade RS, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Priority Continuum Onyx