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Stealing a bike in Toronto is a cinch, even in broad daylight, according to a recent Toronto Star article that proves bike theft in Toronto goes unreported – even unnoticed – in this city of cyclists and apathetic onlookers. Scary thought.
Cycling in Toronto is all about improving infrastructure, of course, but, sadly, it’s also about bike theft prevention. That’s why I try to lock my bike to a fixed object (one of the City of Toronto’s awesome post-and-ring bike stands), using one of the best bike locks on the market (the Kryptonite New York Standard U-lock), so I thought I was adept at outwitting bicycle thieves. I was wrong.
As was revealed to me the other night, bike theft in Toronto truly runs rampant: someone tried to steal my bike last week, after I’d stupidly locked it to a movable bike stand in a poorly lit, little trafficked corner, and the wannabe thief flipped over the stand and my bike (see photo above)! The thief (or thieves?) was likely trying to snake my bike along the stand and off the open end, but I’d locked my bike so tight, it wasn’t budging.
Lesson learned: If you lock your bike properly, it will deter thieves trying to steal it. And so, here are my 6 tips for locking your bike.
1. Buy the best bike lock you can afford.
Locks don’t prevent bike thieves from stealing bikes – locks deter thieves from stealing bikes. Thieves want to grab and go, so they won’t risk being seen by onlookers during the precious minutes it will take to pick a top-notch lock, so invest in the best.
The best is the Kryptonite New York Standard U-lock. I own two!!! Here’s why.
- Makers of the world’s best bike locks, Kryptonite rates the New York Standard U-lock an 11 out of 12 on its bicycle security scale.
- The 16 mm steel shackle is a tough nut to crack, even with bolt cutters.
- The double deadbolt locking mechanism is pretty pickproof.
- It’s the perfect size to snugly fit around a bike stand and a seat post and rear wheel. The Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Mini lock is too small and only fits around a stand and seat post. Depending on your bike, the Kryptonite New York MC lock may be too long, which will create a gap between your bike and the stand, inviting thieves to wedge a lever in the gap to pry the lock apart.
- The lock is darn heavy and large. That’s what makes it cumbersome to carry, but that’s also what keeps thieves moving on to the next bike – a bike that is secured with a lock that’s much easier to cut through or pick than yours is.
2. Buy a second locking device (yes, you DO need 2 locks!).
Proper bike theft prevention means making your bike as difficult to steal as possible. Which is why I always use 2 locking devices: a Kryptonite looped cable combined with my Kryptonite New York U-lock. (When I’m really paranoid about protecting my bike, I use both of my New York locks!)
Since a thief will always try to steal a bike that can easily be taken in seconds, rather than minutes, the trick to protection is using multiple locks. Don’t be lazy about this. Two locking devices are better than one.
3. Lock your bike to a fixed object.
Better yet, lock your bike to a fixed bike stand. Always. I will scour Toronto’s streets, looking for one of 16,000 post-and-ring stands to lock my bike to, because the stands are securely cemented to the sidewalk and I’m able to lock both the wheels and the frame to the pole. They are much sturdier than a wimpy sign post, which I only use when desperate during quick daytime stops.
Remember: a movable object can be moved, even if your bike is locked to it. See the first photo if you don’t believe me. But you do, so let’s move on, shall we?
4. Lock your bike wheels AND your bike frame to a bike stand.
The keyword here is bike: lock your bike to itself as well as a fixed stand. Double locking your bike means that if a thief steals your bike by breaking the bike stand, the thief will not be able to ride off with your bike if your wheels are locked to your frame. And it’d be mighty suspicious to carry a fully locked bike down the street, no?
Here are 5 steps for securely locking your bike with your U-lock and a looped cable (see photo above while following the instructions below).
- Place your bike – gears facing out – against a fixed stand.
- Loop one end of the cable through the front wheel and around the down tube and stand; thread one end of the cable through the other.
- Don’t leave space for bolt cutters to fit in the gap. If you need to, wrap the cable twice around the seat post, the wheel or both.
- Fit the U-lock around the bike stand, seat tube and rear wheel. (If you can only fit the U-lock around the bike stand and seat tube, so be it.)
- Thread one U-lock end through the free cable loop, and lock the lock!
Alternative 1: Loop the cable through the front wheel and down tube twice, securing the U-lock to both looped ends.
Alternative 2: Secure the front wheel with another U-lock or a cable lock instead of a looped cable.
5. Pick a highly visible, well-lit area.
The easiest way to deter someone from stealing your bike? Lock your bike in a highly visible area, as the thief won’t want to be seen stealing. The best spot would be beside a street lamp on a busy sidewalk.
Look for a public place with these 4 must-haves.
- Lots of pedestrian traffic.
- Lots of stationary people (people lingering, sitting on a patio or by a window or on a bench – people who might notice your bike and that a stranger is eyeing or handling it).
- Lots of vehicular traffic.
- Lots of light, especially at night (streetlights are your friends).
The other night (see the first photo), I locked my bike in a place blocked off by a lot of construction, where there was little vehicular and pedestrian traffic, in a dark corner between two business towers that had closed for the night. And it was a movable stand. All “don’ts”!!! The only “do” I got right was locking my bike properly with 2 locking devices – that’s what saved my bike from being stolen. Nearby, however, were 3 other stands overflowing with bikes, which brings us to Tip 6: There’s safety in numbers. Or at least there should be.
6. Prevent theft by locking your bike with lots of other bikes.
This photo I took of bikes in Lucerne, Switzerland, shows how a bike stand to bike thieves is like a candy store to a kid. However, there actually is safety in numbers when it comes to protecting your bike from theft: if your bike is locked securely, it’s safer with a group of bikes that aren’t locked properly than it is parked by itself.
As I’ve stated all along, bike thieves want to make a quick getaway more than they want to steal an expensive bike. As obvious as that sounds, I used to think it was the other way around.
So remember: if there are tons of bikes in the vicinity, they’ll always try to steal the bike that is the easiest (read: quickest) to grab. Make sure that’s not your bike!
For more on bike safety, check out…
Girly Gear to Light Up Your Ride
Use Your Knog(gin): Ride With a Bright Bike Light
I Heart My TV Sucks Ride Your Bike Bumper Sticker
‘Cause I Love My Brain, I Want a Nutcase Helmet
Simi Mini Dots Nutcase Helmet Fit for Minnie Mouse
Ring My Bell: Ciao Bello to My Public Bike Bell, Federico!