The Test That’s Never Graded Until You Fail.

locked bike

Locking a bike up is existential dread.

Testing out bike locks and writing about them induced a fair amount of paranoia. What do I know about locks? What if my bikes get stolen? What if they work for me but not for someone else? What makes a lock safe anyway?

While I’ve never had a bike stolen in the forty-plus years I’ve been locking bikes in public, I never feel like an expert when I stop to ponder. That I’ve never had the pleasure of a thief taking a ride with my ride, I always fear is because of luck, not smarts or following a proper protocol. Part of my reluctance is because I had a car stolen, and it wasn’t a coveted car, not even for its parts. The car was stolen and abandoned and I got it back. Another part is that I have no idea how protective the locks I’ve been using are. Even if they’re highly regarded, I assume there’s always a novel way to destroy them that just hasn’t been widely shared yet. Most of the times I’m locking up my bike in public, it’s an old bike I might not shed a tear over if it disappears. But I probably will.

Reviewing the two locks had me scouring the internet for better ways to secure bikes, wiser locking protocols. Things like harder-to-pick locks, thicker, tougher metal pieces, threading the lock through wheels seem wise, but also entirely possible of being defeated. So, too, do locking devices on the axles, and locking wheels as well as the frame.

I came across this old video of Hal Ruzal, formerly of Bicycle Habitat, walking around Soho and grading locks and lock jobs.

Hal’s video made me feel that I’m lucky I’ve never had a bike or wheel stolen. He offers up one piece of counter-intuitive advice. ‘Quiet streets spook thieves.’ Don’t know how he knows this, but it’s striking. And sort of borne out by videos created by Casey Neistat.

On the other hand, I know a home health worker who has been making daily house calls on a titanium Litespeed with quick-release hubs. This has been his commuter, his pleasure ride for years, and nothing has ever happened to it. He attributes his success to the relatively short length of his house calls.

I had a job at a midtown office tower where there was a signpost literally across the sidewalk from the front door. And a doorman. The doorman kept bugging me to take in the front wheel. After a few days of ignoring his entreaties, I asked him why he thought that was a good idea when he was there all the time. His reply: no one rides away on a bike missing a wheel. On the other hand, a person who worked on my floor kept two locks on a light post around the corner. He rode to work, used both locks when he was at work, relocked them to the post at the end of the day, and rode home.

I sought out locking advice on the internet. Not always the best source, I know. Not all lock companies offer advice on best practices.

Kryptonite does, and a pretty thorough job of it.

Abus has fairly minimal advice,

as does OnGuard.

A British website called The Best Bike Lock has the most comprehensive information.

How to Lock Your Bike.

Do BEFORE Your Bike’s Stolen.

Do AFTER Your Bike’s Stolen.

They even look at bike insurance. 

It suggests a few things I hadn’t considered. One is utilizing free bike registration at 529 Garage. According to the press mentions on their website, it seems legit.

Another is registering bikes with the local police department or precinct. Gotta get on this.

One thing I have done is marked up my bikes with my name and taken photographic evidence of the bikes. Like a picture of myself with my bike. Keeping receipts would be a good idea. So, too, creating a spreadsheet with essential info on all the bikes in the house.  Make, model, year, color, serial number.

I don’t see paranoia about bike locking disappearing. I just want to make sure I’ve right-sized the paranoia.

Share your thoughts.