Lock Up That Bike Good

Two Saturdays ago, I learned a little more about security. Not cryptography, which is what usually occupies my mind when it comes to security, but with bikes. Good ol’ physical locks with combos and keys… or maybe RFID readers…

Being someone who had a bike stolen recently, this should have been higher on my priority list. I learned to always lock my bike no matter what. The location that bike was being kept while I was out of town was at a nice residence in a suburban area, not in sight from the streets and the house had cameras. I didn’t really think that locking my bike was really necessary.

Obviously, I was wrong. The thing got snatched up and the cameras could not capture the person’s face so that I could hunt them down and make them think twice about stealing a bike ever again (*puts on fiercest face possible).

So, I learned.

1st Lesson:
Lock it. Don’t be like me. Don’t be haunted by this.

Further lessons happened by bike guru, Ross Willard. We were at the Hispanic Heritage Festival in Harrisburg. It was a beautiful event on a perfect day with great music and people dancing in the street.

I met Ross there to show off the more sensible bike I’d procured and to learn a thing or two. One very memorable part was learning how to properly lock a bike.

Now, when it comes to physical security, creating a barrier to entry is always a useful way to prevent theft. Lazy thieves won’t put in the effort for a bike locked three times over.

But, in the case of those savvy bike thieves, it can’t hurt to be prepared, give them less opportunity, and second thoughts.

Lesson 2:
A bike lock through the frame, the back wheel, the front wheel, and secured to a bike rack is a good start. Repeat: through the frame, the back wheel, and the front wheel. Wheels, especially front ones, are often easy to detach so can be a target all by itself.

Observe the cord… through the back wheel, within the frame, around the pole, and through the front wheel.

Lesson 3:
To add extra security, make it more difficult by locking down the rear wheel and frame, preferably with a U lock. This can reeeaalllly frustrate a bike thief.

Kryptonite U lock through back wheel, around frame.

Lesson 4:
Don’t just lock it to a pole without inspecting it. There are ones that might seem obvious because you could just lift the lock and pull it off the pole. But there are less obvious places. Is it on a sign that a motivated thief could throw it up and over? Is the post easy to pull out of the ground? If so, the thief could get your bike and worry about the lock later. Basically, the lesson is to look around and think like a thief, thereby avoiding one.

Lesson 5:
Not all locks are created equal. There are your basic dinky locks that someone could come back with a clipper and then suddenly your bike is stolen. Getting one with a strong, thick cord would be harder. Getting one with a solid, thick bar of metal is even harder. And if you need that flexibility, getting a several times over braided cord as thick as possible is the way to go. Here are some examples.

Ross Willard with three bike locks. The one in the middle is the lesser of the three.

Now, I’m a hacker and although combos are alright, you can brute force one of those suckers and it might not take super long and certainly not if you already have the bike and can work on it for a while. So, a well locked bike with longer combos are better.

Carrying keys is laughable. I do not do keys. Plus, lock picking thieves can still be threatening. So, my next idea is to hack one and get an RFID reader in one so that I can use my xEM to open the hefty U lock I will soon have. Yes, a thief could smash the tech, but that wouldn’t open the lock.   It would just mean more annoyance for me getting it home and a lock to repair. But losing my keys is more annoying and woefully possible, and then I gotta get a new bike lock… or learn to lock pick and make a key. Which would be pretty cool… but I think making an RFID bike lock would be cooler.

Regardless of RFID opening bike locks or more mainstream ones, I offer you some good tips for keeping one of your most useful possessions safe. I hope they were helpful!


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