About fitting bicycle locks in a nutshell
- The differences in quality between bicycle locks are great. But even a high-quality lock offers little security if you attach it to your bike or e-bike incorrectly.
- Above all, make sure you lock your bike to a solid object. Also, the lock should not be too close to the ground. Ideally, you should use several locks to secure the bike itself and expensive accessories.
- You can only achieve security without compromise if you combine good bike locks with a high-quality GPS tracker. With BikeTrax from PowUnity, the chances of getting a stolen e-bike back are excellent.
No bicycle lock is impregnable. But a high-quality lock can present thieves with challenges. Ideally, these are so great that the thieves (have to) abandon their plan. The decisive factor is not only the type and model of the lock, but also how you attach it.
Here we explain what you should pay attention to, what mistakes you should avoid and what else you can do to avoid your bike or e-bike from being stolen.
Brief overview of bicycle locks
Common bicycle locks can be divided into the following types:
A simple frame lock is often already attached to the frame of a bicycle. It locks the rear wheel, but does not prevent bicycles from being carried away. Therefore, it is at best suitable as an immobiliser for short moments or in combination with another, better lock.
A cable lock is hardly more secure, especially if it is a not armoured cable lock.
Contrary to what advertising promises would have you believe, textile bicycle locks made of fibrous materials woven together in layers also offer little protection against theft.
A high-quality chain lock are not easy to transport, but depending on the thickness of their links they are relatively secure.
If you want to make it really difficult for thieves, you should go for a folding locks or U-locks (also named D-locks. Both can only be picked with the right tools and sufficient strength.
This list makes it clear: folding locks and frame locks are worlds apart. You should not save money at this point. Especially if you own an expensive bike or e-bike, it is worth investing in solid bike security.
When choosing a lock, also look for additional functions. Some locks have an integrated alarm system that warns the bike owner of an attempted theft and/or alerts passers-by. We will come back to this topic later. You can transport locks, for example, with a frame bag and/or suitable holders for your bike.
You can find out more about the different types of bike locks and their features in our article “Bike lock with GPS: Which combination is safe? | Info & models at a glance”. You prefer watching to reading? Then take a look at this video:
Fitting a lock to your bike – it all comes down to this
Have you decided on the right lock or several solid ones? Then follow these tips when locking your bike:
Lock a bike the lock to a fixed object
One reason why frame locks are so insecure is simple: You cannot lock your bike to an object.
As a result, thieves can simply carry your bike away while you are at the bakery or put it in a van and pick the lock later at their leisure. However, the same can happen with any other lock if you only loop it around the tyre and frame.
Therefore, always remember to secure your bike to a fixed object, such as a street light, a bike rack or a fence. Make sure that the bike cannot be loosened by lifting it up because the post you locked it to is only one metre high. A wire mesh fence is also not very suitable as a locking place. In this case, thieves can cut the fence and carry your bike away.
It’s best to follow these tips even if you’re just going to the supermarket.
Use different locks
One lock is not enough.
There are several reasons:
- The more locks thieves have to pick, the more time-consuming and costly the theft. Under certain circumstances, they don’t even start.
- With the help of several decent locks, e.g. also for components, you can prevent a thief from stealing a wheel or your saddle. Expensive wheels are particularly coveted and can often be stolen in no time at all thanks to quick-releases.
Combine different types of locks to secure your bike to an object and to secure accessories. Alternatively or additionally, you can use accessory locks such as HexLox. This allows you to secure a wheel, for example, without having to use a heavy extra lock..
Attach the lock high enough
Attach the lock high up on the frame. If it is close to the ground, thieves can use leverage to work with bolt cutters or other tools. It may even be possible to destroy the lock with a hammer blow. To avoid lockpicking, lock cylinders should face the floor.
Keep the “Sheldon method” in mind
Sheldon Brown, a renowned biking expert, championed a unique bike locking strategy: using a u-lock to secure just the rear wheel within the frame’s rear triangle, leaving the bike frame itself unfastened. The idea is that the wheel can’t be slipped through this arrangement, eliminating the need to lock the entire frame. This approach allows for the use of a smaller, lighter u-lock, enhancing portability.
Nevertheless, it’s essential to exercise prudence, especially when dealing with high-value bicycles. Determined thieves armed with the right tools could potentially saw through the rear wheel to free the lock. Moreover, unaware or hurried thieves might inadvertently cause significant damage while attempting to make off with your bike.
However, in situations where space constraints prevent locking both the frame and the wheel, this technique can serve as a viable temporary solution, offering a degree of security for shorter periods of immobilization. So, it’s a technique worth considering, but only when circumstances demand it.
Pay attention to the location
Finally, it depends on the location. In some places, the risk of bicycles or e-bikes being stolen is greater than in others.
For example, your bike will be safer in a locked bicycle storage room than in the open street. Outside, it would be better to park your bike so that you can see it when you are sitting outside a restaurant or waiting in line at an ice cream parlour. There are often cameras outside public buildings such as banks. Thieves usually know this and avoid these places.
Opinions differ on whether busy streets are generally safer than less frequented places. On the one hand, there are many people on the move in a large shopping street who could become aware of the theft. On the other hand, experience shows that most passers-by do not care what others are doing. It may even be that a lonely pedestrian in a quiet side street is more likely to take notice if someone is fiddling with a side cutter on a bicycle lock.
One thing is certain: Leaving your expensive bike overnight in a place where no one is guaranteed to pass by is not a good idea.
How to NOT lock your bike
To ensure the security of your bike, avoid these common mistakes when locking it::
- Avoid Single Wheel Locking: Refrain from locking your bike using only the front wheel or the rear wheel. This method leaves your bicycle vulnerable, as a thief can swiftly detach the rear or front wheel and make off with the rest of your bike, leaving behind a lonely front wheel.
No Bike-to-Bike Locking: Don’t interlock your bike with another one. This might seem like a space-saving idea, but it compromises the safety of both bikes, making them easier targets for theft.
- Frame-Only Locking: Opting for a lock solely on the frame is not recommended. It creates ample room inside the lock, providing a potential thief with the leverage needed to break it. In this scenario, your wheels remain unprotected, inviting theft.
Thorough Lock Check: Before you part ways with your bike, always double-check that your locks are properly secured and anchored to bike racks or similar. Taking this extra step ensures your bike remains safeguarded while you’re away.
Other ways to make theft more difficult
Even if you follow all our tips, your bike is not immune to theft. Professional thieves do not shy away from breaking into bicycle cellars or garages.
That’s why we advise you to add an extra layer of security. The following options are available to you:
Buy a bicycle lock with an alarm system
Bicycle locks are also available with an alarm system. The underlying principle is always the same:
- As soon as an unauthorised person moves your bike, a motion sensor reacts to the associated vibration.
The sensor triggers a loud alarm. Ideally, this ensures that thieves flee and/or passers-by intervene.
Differences exist, for example, in the way a sensor reacts to vibrations. Some only trigger a pre-alarm in case of slight movements. This prevents an alarm siren from startling the neighbours every time there is a gust of wind. Particularly practical are alarm systems that can be operated via smartphone and inform you about theft attempts. Finally, even with a lock with an alarm system, it is better to use a robust U-lock than a frame lock.
A bicycle lock with an alarm system offers more security than a lock without. But professional thieves can pick both in a short time. In addition, passers-by are often so deadened to alarm sounds that they do not react to them.
If you really want maximum security, we recommend a different solution.
You can find out more about bicycle alarm systems and a comparison of different devices in our article “Bike alarm – how to find the right one”.
The safest option how to lock your bike: Combine GPS tracker with bike lock
The best protection against theft, especially for expensive e-bikes, is to combine good bike locks with a high-quality GPS tracker. This not only prevents theft. You also ensure that you get a stolen bike back.
It is important that the tracker meets the following requirements:
- It is hidden on the bike so that thieves do not discover and remove it. For e-bikes, it is recommended to mount it in the motor housing.
The tracker enables area-wide and cross-border tracking in real time.
Its battery has sufficient runtime.
It is operated via a smartphone app.
The tracker has an integrated SIM card.
When researching GPS trackers, look for online test reports: In this GPS tracker check, you’ll learn how to recognise dubious internet tests, how different GPS tracker models differ and which is the best choice for you to secure your bike or e-bike via GPS.
BikeTrax by PowUnity:
The GPS tracker BikeTrax by PowUnity is the perfect complement to a good bike lock and the ideal solution for all e-bike owners who don’t want to compromise on theft protection.
It is invisibly integrated into the motor housing and connected to the PowUnity app. The app alerts you to any attempted theft via your smartphone. If you arrive too late to prevent the crime, you can track the location of the stolen e-bike in real time and pass it directly to the police. This way, the thieves usually don’t get far.
The PowUnity app also offers you valuable additional features, from a bike passport to a digital theft report.
Conclusion: Properly installing a bike lock pays off
Minor carelessness when locking your bike can have serious consequences. Even a high-quality bicycle lock loses a lot of its protective effect if you don’t lock your bike to a fixed object or place it close to the ground after riding. Then it may not make much difference whether you only have a frame lock or a U-lock.
If you want to make theft as difficult as possible, a good bike lock is not enough. Also make sure you fit it properly. It’s even better if you use several locks to secure e-bikes and also use a GPS tracker. With BikeTrax from PowUnity, e-bike owners benefit from a level of security that no lock can offer.