So my bike got stolen today, after locking it with a Kryptonite chain through the frame and both wheels and a U-lock around the frame and a 5 cm diameter metal bar bent in an upside-down U so that both ends were fastened in the pavement. The exact same thing happened a year ago in a nearby location with the same locking technique. And yet I don't think I've ever known a more secure locking arrangement than this. Are there better techniques for locking? What other techniques and tricks are effective theft deterrents, short of actually breaking or disfiguring the bike?

To clarify, the upside-down U shape that I fastened the lock to was fastened in the ground. It was not possible to just walk away with the bike & lock.

  • was your chain and U-lock left behind or was it taken with the bike? – Adam Oct 1 '15 at 21:58
  • There was absolutely no trace left... – l0b0 Oct 1 '15 at 22:21
  • and was there any visible damage to the upside-down U shape bar? how was that attached to the ground? – Adam Oct 1 '15 at 22:42
  • Nothing other than the wear and tear of many years of bikes parking there... – l0b0 Oct 1 '15 at 22:49
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    Holroy provides a fine answer, but I will just inform you that there is a bicycle stack exchange and you will find other fine answers to this question. – Carl Oct 2 '15 at 20:05

When I studied at the university some years ago (read: a lot of years ago), there were occasionally raids of bikes being stolen. It soon turned out to be two different kind of thieves:

  • Professionals stealing quality bikes
  • Amateurs needing a bike to get downtown

The first kind of thieves are not easy to stop from stealing your bike, whilst the other group is stopped by almost any kind of locks. But the first kind of thieves are able to cut through most kind of locks, even though it is locked firmly to any object.

Of course if the bike only has a simple lock, not locked to anything, it eases the job for the thieves, but my point is that if the professional thieves really want it, they are going to get it.

Preventing theft

In my experience the best option to prevent theft is to have a somewhat decent lock, lock the bike to some object, and have an ordinary bike of medium quality. These measures have kept my bike from being stolen.

If you have an expensive bike, I would suggest never to leave it outside. When not using it, keep it inside (in garage or basement or similar), whilst still using a proper lock.

Another option if you really have to lock it outdoors, is to have it locked in a place where everyone can see it (maybe even with surveillance cameras). This will hinder the possiblity for thieves to use a lot of time or heavier tools when stealing your bike.

Lastly, the more expensive your bike is, the more you need to properly insure it, and make sure you know what demands the insurance company has related to locking your bike. Albeit I do believe your current locking scheme should be well enough for most insurance companies.

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    If you have an expensive bike, don't buy a lock at all. That way you'll never even be tempted to lock it up outside. Keep it safe indoors all the time. – fredley Oct 8 '15 at 9:32

It sounds like you didn't actually lock the bike to anything. This is not very secure at all a thief could just walk the bike away, lifting it up a little so that they were carrying it but it would still be subtle and passerby's wouldn't notice anything. Alternatively they could just load the bike into their car, again passerby's wouldn't notice anything.

To secure your bike you need a decent lock and it must be secured to something such as a tree or light pole. That way the thief must deal with the lock before being able to take the bike. However this is very easily done with bolt cutters or even an angle grinder. This is why I've mentioned passerby's in the previous paragraph. It is one of the best ways to secure your bike. If you put your bike in a place where there will always be someone looking it's far less likely that someone will use bolt cutters on your lock, because of the public awareness of their actions.


So secure your bike with a lock to an immovable object in a public place and you should be fine. The immovable object means they must deal with the lock before taking the bike and the public awareness means they cannot do so because they will surely be caught.

  • While in general a good tip, I clearly said I did lock it to an immovable object. – l0b0 Oct 1 '15 at 11:23
  • @l0b0 my apologies to me it sounded like it was just pointing down so that the wheels couldn't spin. How does one secure a lock to the pavement? – Aequitas Oct 1 '15 at 20:28
  • "5 cm diameter metal bar bent in an upside-down U so that both ends were fastened in the pavement." That part was secured to the pavement. – l0b0 Oct 1 '15 at 22:20
  • @l0b0 sorry I dunno what the pavement is like where you are but here it's completely flat with no where to lock anything into, so I'm sorry for misunderstanding – Aequitas Oct 1 '15 at 23:10

Well, I live in NYC. Here are some tips that I use and/or have seen around town:

  • Don't leave it in a busy area, no matter how good your locks are
  • I use Pinhead locks for the wheels and seat
  • I use a German made U-lock (ABUS)
  • Take off the wheel or seat and carry it with you
  • Make your bike uglier, so it's less attractive
  • Be careful to not leave your bike locked to scaffolding
  • Keep your bike indoors as much as possible (I store mine in my apt)
  • Don't let your bike be the only bike around
  • Register your bike with the police

Some people are determined, though. Sorry about your bike!

For your next bike, don't use a chain lock, upgrade your U-lock, get your bike registered with the police, use common sense in general. Good luck!

Edit: made a mistake with the bullets; make your bike uglier is it's own tip

  • Nice advice! However, I'm a bit surprised at "don't leave it in a busy area": Isn't a theft more likely if you leave it in a less busy area, since there are fewer people who might approach the thief? Or do you not mean busy in the sense of pedestrians? And where do you find a non-busy spot in NYC? :) – l0b0 Oct 4 '15 at 8:15
  • The difference is that some areas are so busy that there's so much going on that no one will really notice a bike getting stolen. Other areas are active, but out of the ordinary activity will more likely be noticed. – user70848 Oct 4 '15 at 14:46
  • Frankly most people don't notice a theft if it occurs right in front of them. Would you think anything of someone leaning over their bike and fiddling with the lock for a moment? We've all had moments where we just can't get the thing unlocked. Point 4 is interesting though - taking the seat with you, and detatching quick release wheels and locking them up separately, can make it look like an already vandalised bike and perhaps make it less of a target. – Jon Story Oct 7 '15 at 11:48
  • Well, I mean if someone is walking down the street with clippers, and they don't look like they work for the city... Granted, your bike might still get stolen, but in one area the clipper guy might be forgotten more easily. In another area, people might remember seeing something. And, I made a mistake in the bullets...going to fix. – user70848 Oct 7 '15 at 21:11

It sounds like your bike was locked into something solidly fixed into the ground to me. Unfortunately, the only answer is to buy a much less desirable bike, but you'd still need to lock it securely so that anyone who just fancies a bike ride home instead of walking won't be able to just take it easily. And make sure its covered on your Home Insurance...

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