How to avoid bike theft, by Tony Tapay
How to Prevent Bike Theft
[This article was contributed by a local bike shop employee who has been theft-free for over 20 years.]
There is a continuum of locks available, ranging from deterrent to more or less total prevention. Each has its place. Small cables are a mild deterant and easy to carry. Normail weight cable locks are better. They are flexible, fairly easy to carry and enable you to lock up your whole bike with no wheel removal. Heavy U-Locks, like the full-sized Kryptonite NY lock, are practically indestructable but definitely bulky and heavy and a bit more of a challenge to use effectively.
Thin cable locks work well for a "coffee shop" lock. They are easy to carry in your pocket but only really work to prevent opportunistic snatch and ride thefts.
If you use a thin cable, the bike should always be within sight.
Thicker cables still reside in the deterent range. While better than a thin cable, I personally would almost never use a cable to lock a bike in public where I couldn't keep an eye on it. I certainly would never use one downtown or in any sort of university setting.
These are my favorite. There are different brands, sizes and different toughness levels within some brands (Kryptonite has 3). Purchase your U-Lock with an understanding of how much your bike is worth to you and how much it would cost to replace it. How does the price of the lock compare? If your bike is your only form of transportation, an $80 U-Lock is a small price to pay to insure that it stays put. A lot of bike messengers, who earn their living with their bikes, use the pocket-sized, mid-level Kryptonite lock. But their wheels are often nut-on (not quick-release), so they just need to lock their frame.
In all of my years of working at bike shops, I couldn't even begin to tell you how many times I have heard from a person whose bike was stolen off of their front porch, where it was locked with a cable. A front porch is probably the single worst place you can lock your bike. The use of a cable makes it worse. What happens is that the bike's presence on the porch becomes predictable and the thief can come prepared with bolt cutters at his/her convenience.
Don't lock your bike in a hidden area, you are giving cover to the thief so they can work at their leisure.
In general when it comes to location, you want to put as much uncertainty in a thief's mind as possible. If at all possible, lock your bike in a very public place where many people are present. A thief won't know which person might be the owner of any given bicycle.
Okay, this first paragraph is a bit of an aside; it's about your seat, not the whole bike. Unless your bike is a mountain bike, and you intend to use that seatpost quick-release, get rid of the thing. Once your seat is at the right height, you probably won't need to move it. Replace the quick-release with a standard seat collar bolt.
The most effective way to lock a standard bike is to remove the front wheel, place it next to the rear wheel and run the U-Lock so that it captures both wheels and the frame. If your bike's wheels use a nut-on system instead of a quick-release, you don't need to worry about this so much.
If you really don't want to bother with removing the front wheel, no matter how easy it is, you have a decision to make. Lock the front or back? Hmmm. The front wheel is much easier for the average thief to remove, BUT, the rear wheel is much more expensive to replace. Your choice. I usually figure that the average thief is lazy and rather unskilled. In those instances, I lock the front wheel, capturing the frame as well. If you have quick-release wheels and just don't want to take the front wheel off, you should use a cable in conjunction with your U-Lock.
If you still have questions, visit your local bike shop and ask an employee for suggestions and input. In a way, bike shop employees are on the front lines. We've sold the bikes that get swiped, we hear all the stories. And if you need it, we'll sell you a new bike.