We’re hoping that the upcoming Bike Summit will catapult Los Angeles bicycling to a whole new level. This could mean lots of new cyclists out on L.A.’s streets, and lots of bikes locked up to L.A.’s poles, racks, and meters… so I thought I’d take this opportunity to blog about the hard-hitting political topic of how to lock your bike securely.
This topic became exceedingly pertinent a couple weeks ago when my friends Yuki, Federico and I rode to see the Benjamin Button movie. Federico blogged his take on this tale already. When we locked up there were six wheels. Two hours and forty-seven CGI-laden minutes later there were only three wheels. We’re all pretty experienced riders and the good news is that we had locked our frames well enough… but it does seem like bike theft, and especially wheel theft is, at least anecdotally, getting more common in Los Angeles. Maybe it’s the economic downturn. I hope it’s that bikes are getting to be more valuable commodities.
The most important thing to remember is to lock your frame. The frame is the most valuable part of the bike. The wheels and seat are fairly replaceable. Always make certain that your lock goes through the frame. Never just lock a wheel.
Most bikes have quick-release wheels so no tool is required to remove them. Even without quick-release wheels, any thief with the proper wrench can remove your wheels in less than 30 seconds. If you’re going to leave your bike where you can’t see it (especially locations where you’d be expected to stay a while, such as Metro Rail stations and movie theaters,) you need to secure your wheels, too. If you only have one lock, then you should remove your front wheel and lock it together with your frame and your back wheel, as depicted on the right below:I carry two locks all the time. One is a U-lock and the other is a very small cable lock. It’s a little heavy, but it saves me the time that I used to take detaching and re-attaching my front wheel whenever I stopped. Here’s a shot of my bike locked up to one of LA City’s inverted-U racks. I always think that two different types of locks will discourage thieves somewhat. A seasoned bicycle thief could probably get my bike if they really want it, but two locks will likely send the more amateur thief on to other less secure bikes.
There are a quite a few sites that cover the how-to-lock topic in greater depth: Keeping your Bicycle Safe – Cambridge Bicycle Campaign
How-to-lock-your-bicycle – mechBgon
Locking Your Bike and Getting It Back – Jim Langley
Bike Locking – Missing Link Bicycle Co-op