The Importance of a Good Lock (and how I learned a valuable lesson)

The above are the locks I use for my bikes, and I try to switch them from bike-to-bike, depending on what one I'm riding. My two regulars are the u-lock (which is about 20-years-old) and the six foot cable, which I attach with a heavy padlock. The other two cables are brand new and have not been used yet...but more on those in a minute. First I have a quick story to tell.

Last week I was at a service at our church when the usher came to me and said I'd better check on my bike, that he just scared away a guy who he said looked like he was about to steal it (yes, even while at a church nothing sacred). He told me he saw a guy with a pair of bolt cutters; I thought he was exaggerating. Anyhow, I had ridden the Mundo that day and as is often the case I attached both the u-lock and cable lock. The u-lock was down low so the potential thief probably did not see it in his haste. And unless he was able to cut the u-lock he would have had to dismantle the fence it was locked to in order to take the bike.

Today when I was locking up my bike at a store I happened to notice the cut in the cable (pictured below); the cable is cut on both sides and nearly through...he wasn't just looking at the bike he had the cutters on the cable.

Lesson learned.

Though the Mundo, and any bike for that matter, is just a thing and easily is still personalized and I would have been very sad (and angry) if it was stolen.

I'd like to hear what others have to say about this. What types of locks do you use. Have you ever had a bike stolen (I hope not), and if so were you able to get it back.


Jim said…
I have not had a bike stolen in the time I've really been riding for transportation (the past four or five years), for which I am grateful. I don't have a particularly stout lock (just a half-inch diameter cable lock), but I use it diligently and try to use common sense about where I park. It would probably be wise of me to get a u-lock too.

I did have a bicycle stolen from my dormitory bike rack when I was college. It was an old and humble Huffy, but I was sad to lose it - I'd had it since I could barely reach the pedals. I was perplexed why it was stolen, since it was admittedly a beater locked among much nicer bikes. Looking back, that may explain it - after all, perhaps because it already wasmore or less "out to pasture", I did not put much effort into recovering it.

On a separate occasion, my roommate and I were accused of a stealing a bike! It turned out that the person we encountered had the exact same model bicycle as my roommate, both recently purchased. In retrospect, I am impressed how calmly everyone handled themselves in that situation - although I recall a tense moment with everyone holding on to the same bike as we walked back to confirm that the other was still there. Ha!
Max said…
Wow, Joe, how fortunate that the usher saw it and told you in time! Is there a patron saint of bicycles?

I've had two bikes stolen, and one close call, all in quiet little Savannah, GA. The first was a Schwinn Varsity hand-me-down. The second, a Bianchi road bike that I foolishly left unlocked and unattended for less than thirty seconds. Shame on me. And the close call was a robbery at gunpoint by some foolish teens. I somehow talked them out it.

For many years after all that I operated with two U locks, one for each wheel. It was a commuting/touring bike, and the added weight really didn't matter to me. Then those Kryptonite U locks (with a round key) were found to be easily openable with a Bic pen tube. I now use either a new style U lock, or a super duper crazy heavy New York style chain with it's tiny NYC U lock. It really depends on where I am going. As far as the ridiculous weight of such a lock, I figure the Mundo and Christiania are already heavy, so why not. They are cargo bikes, after all.

For what it's worth, I had to cut through a U lock once, and found it surprisingly (depressingly) easy. My wife snapped the key in her OnGuard U lock, so I used my Dremmel tool and it cut it like butter. I think that experience influenced the purchase of the ridiculously heavy chain and lock.

Lastly, I strongly recommend customizing or personalizing bikes, so they're not indistinguishable from others. I helped a neighbor fix up a junk bike, and a few months later it was stolen from his yard. I found it almost a year later. I knew it was his because it was a mix of parts, some of which I had given him, plus a new rack that he bought. Long story short I reclaimed the bike from it's new owner. If the bike had been a new stock bike, I couldn't have ID'd it confidently.

the_big_smile said…
I had a bike back in the 70-ties, that was stolen two time by american soldiers here in Germany.
Back in the 70-ties we had much problems with missbehaving US-soldiers here in Germany...

The first the bike even had a flat tire in the back! I found the bike two days later near the barracks. The thief had tried to ride the bike with the flat tire! I am sure, he was drunk!

The second time I got the bike back from the police. The bike was painted very special and I had informed the police. They picked the bike up, when the guy rode it through town.

But both time the bike was not locked.
I never lost a bike, that was locked.

Today I lock up both bikes with a lock from Abus wich is said to be the best lock you can get at the moment.

But you are right, it is very sad to loose a bike, even it is only a thing.
DanT said…
Hi Joe,

I have had 2 bikes stolen from my garage when I lived in Rosedale, Toronto. Around 1995 I had a Miyata 1000 Touring and a Miyata mountain bike that had been modified for street only stolen. Both were unlocked.
I went out and bought 2 identical ones to replace them.
Now for locks, I used to own a lock business so I know a little about this.
No matter what you do, a bike can be stolen. It is all about make the theft difficult and an unattractive risk to the thief. They will have to steal someone else's bike.
I use a good ulock as a secondary lock and I use a Heavy chain such as this one and a good round lock on it like this .
I know that is a heavy solution but that is what it takes. Cables are almost useless and a u-lock on its own can be defeated relatively easily.
I gues that it is is a good thing that I have my Mundo and a tourer to handle the weight.
DanT said…
Joe, Unfortunately the chain didn't show in my last post.
I use an 8 ft version of this combination and a u-lock on my bikes.

amoeba said…
I live in the UK and have never had a bike stolen. However, more than one of the nearby towns has a high bike theft rate.

Normally, I use a high-quality U-lock, but recently, I have added a special hardened chain and high security padlock, in addition to the U-lock. I only use the padlock and chain when I believe the risk is higher.

Cables are too vulnerable. I've stopped using them. A quick, quiet snip and your bike is now theirs.

Since someone tried stealing your bike outside the church, If I were you, I would take that to mean the locality is high-risk.

My advice is to use a short U-lock and endeavour to fill it with bike and post. That way you can help prevent pry-bars and jacks being used.
Select the best chains and padlocks.

And avoid cables, even those that are made to look huge, they aren't cheap and to the best of my knowledge they're fairly useless.

Good luck.
Max said…
The more I think about the fact that he went for the Mundo, it makes me wonder. I mean while they are without a doubt wonderful bikes, they are quite unique, and standout. Was it just a random opportunism? Or was it specific interest?

I would assume, unless the guy was stupid enough to ride it around town, that it would go to NYC for resale. Maybe you should use your old V1 as a bait bike and catch this a**hole.

Anyone watch The Bicycle Thief lately?
Joe said…
Hey Everyone, Thanks so much for all your comments, stories, and suggestions. I posted a continuation of this post here: