Locking up

Love your bicycle? Other people may love it too. They may love it so much, in fact, that they want to take it. That's why bicycle locks were invented.

Oh, but there's so many kinds of locks and ways to lock up! What's a bike lover to do? Here's the skinny on locks:

Types of Locks

U Locks

  • These are the most-used and most secure locks--strong, steel-alloy ones are the best. If the manufacturer offers a warranty or insurance, register the lock and write down the lock's serial number and purchase date. U locks have one drawback, though--they can't be locked up to thicker objects. If you have to lock your bike to a wooden pole, use a cable lock in combination with the U lock.

Padlocks & Chains

  • The thicker, the better. Chain links and lock clasps should be at least 3/8 of an inch thick. Look for locks and chains that are case-hardened, a process that makes them harder to cut.


  • Some cables are actually harder to cut than chains, because they don't snap and thieves can't pry them open. Use a cable at least 3/8 of an inch thick with a lock just as thick (or thicker).

Preventing Theft

Where to Lock Up

  • Don't hide your bike! Lock your bike in an area with lots of foot traffic. This way, people can easily see your bike. If you lock your bike overnight, make sure you park near lights or windows so your bike is still visible after sunset.  

  • Permanent fixtures. You're asking for trouble when you lock your bike to something that's easily removable. Lock your bike to something that's permanent, like a bike rack or locker-as a head's up, Minneapolis and Saint Paul (pdf) have online maps of bicycle rack and locker locations. Also, your workplace may allow you to bring your bike into your office. Depending on building security and the value of your bike, you may still want to lock it up

If you can't find a bike rack, lock it to metal fence posts, street signs, or U lock compatible parking meters. Don't lock your bike to another bike, a door handle, or a small tree. That's just stupid.

How to Lock Up

Pass the lock through both the wheel and the frame of the bike. If you just lock up the wheel, thieves can leave the wheel and steal the rest of the bike. If you have a quick-release front hub, take off the wheel and lock it along with the rear wheel and frame. Also, remove any parts of your bike that you can't lock up.

Extra security

Cross Locking

Thieves don't want to work very hard to steal a bike, so using more than one kind of lock is a great way to foil thieves. For example, put a U lock through your frame and rear wheel, and then put a cable or chain through your frame and front tire.

Placing the Lock

Thieves may break a lock by putting it against a wall or sidewalk and smashing it with a hammer. If you use a padlock, try to place it far from the ground and far from a wall or other solid surfaces. When using a U lock, leave little or no space in the lock's middle to prevent prying.