Bike Locking Do’s & Don’ts

This is what happens when you only lock your front wheel to the rack
This is what happens when you only lock your front wheel to the rack; there goes the rest of the bike!

I was out on campus the other day and saw a pretty nice bike locked up in a particularly bad way which prompted me to take some more pics of other bikes in the same area to show how to both NOT lock up and how to best lock up your bike.  I also included some pics of some helpful anti-theft devices that we sell in our Center to help you avoid becoming a victim out there plus a few examples of what can get your bike impounded by the MSU Police.  Check out additional pics below (click on the pics in the slideshow to get captions/ more info) for more examples of what to do/ not to do.

The Basic Rules:

  • Use the best lock you can afford (U-shaped locks are generally the strongest when used correctly) if you want to prevent theft of your bike.  We sell a good selection of U-locks but refuse to sell cable locks as over 90% are to blame for bike thefts.  We sell them in the Center and through our webstore here. 
  • Lock your bike correctly (see pics in the gallery linked above) to a good bike rack or, lacking a good rack, to something that’s not movable and/or easily cut (on campus the ordinance requires that you lock to bike racks to avoid impoundment).
  • Lock your bike in an area that’s highly visible; more secluded areas tend to have more theft as fewer people can potentially catch them in the act.
  • If your bike is flashy (i.e. newer, bright colors), and expensive it’s best to NOT lock up outside at night ever; use your residence hall bike room if it has one (3/4 of residence halls on campus have them; check at your front desk).
  • Seats and wheels are commonly stolen when they have quick releases (mechanisms that you can loosen with bare hands – no tools required).  Secure all components that have quick-release mechanisms with anti-theft skewers (for your wheels) and bolts for your seat adjustment that require tools to loosen (and not just your fingers).  We sell them in the Center and through our webstore here. 

Examples of good and bad ways of locking up & anti-theft accessories.

More anti-theft tips:
Ever forget your lock and need to lockup for a quick visit to a store or cafe?  Here are a few quick tips:

  • Take your front wheel inside with you.
  • Release the quick-release on your rear wheel; as soon as the would-be thief tries to ride off the rear wheel will shift in the frame and lockup (only works on bikes with horizontal drop-outs NOT vertical drop-outs).
  • Use your helmet and strap it thru your rear wheel and frame.
  • This one is more complex, only works with certain brakes and requires some forethought: adjust one of your brakes with the release in the open position then close it when necessary to lock your brake.
  • Check out the late Sheldon Brown’s page of clever anti-theft tips.
  • Join the Facebook group Michigan Hates Bike Thieves! for more tips and info. for recovering and preventing theft or sharing stories w/ others.

529-By-The-Numbers-Infographic Excellent infographic by Project 529 – an online bike registration system
(as of Aug. 2019)


Author: Tim Potter

Sustainable Transportation Manager, MSU Bikes Service Center; member of the All University Traffic & Transportation Committee (; founding member of MSU Bike Advisory Committee (; advocate for local & regional non-motorized transportation issues thru the Tri-Co. Bike Assn. Advocacy Committee (; board member of the Ride of Silence (; year-round bicyclist of all sorts; photographer; soccer player; father of 3; married 35+ yrs. to Hiromi, Japanese national (daughter of former Natl. Keirin Champion, Seiichi Nishiji); Christ follower.

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