Bike Locking Do’s & Don’ts

Example of how NOT to lockup
Example of how NOT to lockup – click to see more examples and how TO lockup properly too.

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 the pics here.

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 and other lesser expensive locks.
  • 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).
  • Secure any components that have quick-release mechanisms with anti-theft type mechanisms (we sell them in the Center).  Seats and wheels are commonly stolen when they have quick releases.

 

2011-07-26_15-53-49_298
The Right Way to lockup!
Click to see more examples and how TO lockup properly too.

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 without 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.
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U-Lock Woes

U-locked bike
Example of a properly U-locked bike (just don’t forget your key!).

You come out to your locked bike and are in a hurry to get to class.  You quickly jam your key in the lock, try to turn it and it just doesn’t want to turn, so you turn harder, and harder til “SNAP” it goes and now you have to walk or take the bus.  ARRGGHHH!

Does this scenario sound familiar?  Well, you’re not alone.  The good news is that this headache is preventable with a little forethought.

According to a bunch of people who work with thousands of bikes on campuses around the country it seems that virtually every U-lock made will eventually develop rust inside the lock.   When you add ice to the rusty mess opening U-locks can become very frustrating not to mention expensive if you break your key.

Thanks to one of those campus bike specialists,  John Brandt, here’s your solution to eliminating your ‘U-lock Woes’:

The simple solution I’ve found is to put an occasional drop of heavy oil on the moving parts of the locking mechanism that engage the u-bar portion of the lock.  Some of the lube may find its way back into the lock tumblers, but in every case I’ve worked on it’s the sliding-locking-bar/pin that was the problem.  Simple lubrication seems to prevent the problem from ever occurring and usually fixes it if it does.

Lubing a U-lock - pic 1
Where to lube your U-lock.

Specifically:

  • take the lock apart into its two parts
  • set the u-portion aside, it’s just an inert piece of metal
  • turn the key to make the lock mechanism move to the locked position
  • as you turn the key, look into the holes where the u-portion fits
  • some u-locks will only lock one side, other will lock at both ends (photo shows a one-sided mechanism)
  • drip several drops of machine oil (or chain lube) onto the part that you see moving when you turn the key; this is the sliding-locking-bar/pin that engages the u-portion (see photo below)
  • work the key back and forth a few times to get the oil between the moving parts
  • once they move smoothly again, the key should no longer bind and you’re good to go

Even with a frozen/stuck u-lock, there is one thing you can try as long as the key isn’t broken off in the lock and unable to be removed.  Squirt copious amounts of a thin penetrating oil (like WD-40) down the tiny seams where the u-portion enters both sides of the bar of the u-lock (see photo below).  Do it on both sides and don’t be shy with the amount; flood it good.  Squirt a tiny bit right into the keyhole, too, just in case.  If you’re willing to wait a few minutes for the oil to penetrate, you may find that the key turns again if you start by gently wiggling it back and forth to help the oil penetrate even further.  That works on better than 90% of the stuck locks I’ve worked on.  I do not use thin oils like WD-40 to lube locks once they’re working again; it washes off too quickly so I use a heavy lube for that.

Lubing a U-lock - pic 2
Where to lube a U-lock for preventative maintenance.

For preventive maintenance:

  • Check your lock whenever you lube your chain
  • If the turning key seems to bind or turn stiffly, re-lube those parts (you already have your lube in your hand)
  • Prevention is key.  If you leave your bicycle outside in the rain a lot, lube the lock more often;  the more it rains, the more often you should re-lube the mechanism
  • I use a non-greasy lube (Poxylube) for my keyholes so my key doesn’t always come out greasy and stain my pockets( http://www.locksmithledger.com/product/10288074/sandstrom-products-poxyluber-cp200 ), but I prefer a heavy lube for the mechanism because it doesn’t wash off as fast.  (MSU Bikes sells Pedro’s Syn Lube which is a great heavier lube for both your lock and your chain)

My bikes don’t live outside 24/7 like many others do, but I lube all my locks once a year and I’ve never had a problem with any of my u-locks in over 20 years.

John Brandt
Safety, Security & Transportation Manager
The Universities at Shady Grove, MD