Saturday, July 14, 2018

lock that bike! lock it like you mean it!

Last week, I tuned up a friend's bike. She's having a great time on it now.
But she asked what lock she should use to keep it secure.

So I decided to build a blog post around that topic.

First, skip the woven steel cable. Don't waste your time using this as a primary lock, anywhere. I can cut through one of those in a few seconds with simple bike shop cable cutters, or with a bolt cutter available at any Harbor Freight store for under twenty bucks.

A U-lock is what you're looking for.
Skip the cheapo brands and go straight to either Abus or Kryptonite. Today's versions use flat/rectangular keys and cannot be popped with a Bic pen.

Note: Be prepared to spend upwards of $50-70 for a good U-lock. That may sound like a lot of money but it's still a lot cheaper than having to buy a new bike.

Here's a few to start with:

1. Kryptonite Evolution series Standard U-lock. I have one of these that's several years old and still going strong. It's ideal for fatter-tired city bikes with fenders, or any bike where you need a standard-length shackle to secure it to a rack.

2. Kruptonite Evolution-7 Mini (comes with cable). I use one of these on my other bike, which has smaller tires and wheels that are closer to the frame. With care, I can run it through my front wheel and frame to a "staple" rack.
The lock comes in a pack with a cable, which I use as a secondary lock anytime I feel I'm in a riskier, higher-theft area. Simply loop the cable through itself around your front wheel and frame, then bring the free end back to the U-lock, which goes around your real wheel and frame to the bike rack.

3.  Kryptonite NY Lock. I had one of these back in the day when I went to grad school and lived in Center City Philadelphia. Coming from Portland, OR I felt I needed to up my game a bit. And while I was glad to have the extra protection this lock provided, its weight  was enough to convince me to sell it when it was time to leave Philly and go home to much smaller PDX. Still, if you live in an especially big, bad city where bike theft is crazy-high, this could be the lock to get. Comes in standard and mini sizes. Weighs a freaking TON.
KRYPTONITE|New York Lock4. Abus U-mini U-lock. Similarly constructed and priced to the Kryptonite Evolution Mini, this is a good, solid lock for city and campus use. Combine it with a cable for more protection.

ABUS U-Mini U-Lock: Yellow

5. Abus Granit 640 U-lock. For use in higher-risk areas. It's heavier and costlier, closer in strength and weight to the NY Lock above. With a retail price over $100, get this if you're riding a very fancy or hard-to replace bike that you can't bear to lose. 

6. TiGr mini Titanium lock. In the Other Lock department, I've started to see these pop up on bikes around Portland. This mini version costs around a hundred bucks and weighs less than a pound. I have yet to hear of one being successfully broken by a would-be thief. The mounting bracket is sort of funky and requires a lot of space on a bicycle frame, so it may not be ideal for smaller-sized bikes; but with its light weight you could easily carry it in a backpack or pannier.

It's not enough to buy a great lock. You also need to use it properly.

A U-lock should ideally go through the rear wheel and frame to the rack, especially if you only have the one lock. (If you have a cable, use that to secure the front wheel, running the end to the U-lock.)
If you're locking a bike on campus, park it near other bikes in a well-lit, public area.
Remove all accessories that arean't bolted onto the bike -- tools, pump, lights, pannier.
If you don't want to hassle with all that every time you lock up, consider carrying less stuff on your urban rides. Bring a patch kit, a mini-pump and a mini-tool. If you need anything more than that in the city, you're not far from a bike shop or public transit. (And if your city's transit doesn't allow bikes on board, then you have something to work on there.)

If you are able to store your bike in a garage, lock it up inside the garage, to something solid and very heavy if possible. Serious bike thieves can and do break into garages where they know bicycles are stored, and sometimes they do it forcefully (a truck plowed through a garage door in Portland earlier this summer, allowing thieves to steal six bikes from a family). If you can hang your bikes up from the ceiling, that will make it take long to steal and could attract attention from neighbors.
If you live in an apartment building, store your bike in your apartment. If your manager requires you to lock up in a shared basement, lock your bike to the gas meter. And if you aren't able to store a bike inside the building, consider looking for another apartment to live in.

Even if you live in a single-family house, you should still lock your bikes inside the house, and away from big windows that allow thieves to see them easily. Serious bike thieves will case a place for days or even weeks, to establish an occupant's routine and determine when the best time is to break in.
You may not be able to prevent bicycle theft, but at the very least you should make it as hard as you can. If our bike looks more securely locked than other bikes nearby, the thief will choose an easier target somewhere else.

Register your bikes with local law enforcement, or with an online service like Project 529.
If you have renter's or homeowner's insurance, make sure you keep photos and serial numbers on file to share with your insurance agent in case of theft.

And above all, remember that a couple of minutes is all it takes for someone to see an opportunity and act on it. So LOCK YOUR BIKE EVERY TIME. Period. No excuses. Your bike will thank you for it.

Happy riding.

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