Real Advice: How to Lock Your Bike

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week we hear again from Brian, a member of our content team, with some advice on how to lock up your bike. Brian lived in Chicago for about 10 years, and had more than a few run-ins with bike thieves.

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In the years I lived in Chicago, I had the following bikes— listed in no particular order—stolen: a black GT Pulse track bike, a beautiful emerald green Ciocc Enemy track bike, and a chromed-out Bianchi Pista track bike. I won’t even go into how many seat posts, saddles, and wheels I’ve replaced. Some may have said I got what I deserved for riding those bikes in a big city with a notorious bike theft problem. But after the tears dried, I came to realize that I was actually being taught the very valuable (and expensive) lesson that there is a right way and many, many, many wrong ways to do everything. Eventually, I got the hang of it, and haven’t had a bike stolen since.

So let me spare you some heartache by passing on a few tips you can learn at my expense. This is mostly advice for those of you in urban/suburban areas, college campuses and anywhere else that bike theft is a real issue.

1. Nail it down: So you’ve got your lock, but do you know how to use it? Here, I’ll lay out my Program of Bike Locking Excellence for you to follow:

  • Buy a strong u-lock, as well as both a thick and a thin lock cable (usually a 4-6 ft. cable is good). The basic idea is to lock anything that can be easily removed, such as the wheels, saddle and frame.

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  • First, route the thinner cable through the rails of your saddle by passing one end of the cable through one of the eyelets and cinching it down around the rails, leaving plenty of cable and an eyelet hanging down.

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  • Next, run your thicker lock cable through the rear wheel, and again pass one end of the cable through the eyelet, so the cable cinches around the wheel rim and the seat tube.

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  • Now, pass the thicker cable through the eyelet of the thinner cable.

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  • Position the u-lock shackle so as to lock the front wheel to the frame, and pass the shackle through the cable eyelet.

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  • Pass the u-lock shackle around the object you are locking to, replace the cross bar, and turn the key.

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  • When all this is done, double check that everything is actually secure.

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2. If you live in NYC or San Francisco: Disregard all of the above advice and buy the biggest, beefiest chain lock you can find on Performancebike.com.

3. Make it solid: Knowing how to lock your bike is only half the battle. To make sure your bike is still there when you get back, you’ll want to find the most solid, immovable thing you can (city bike racks, street lamps, parking meters) and lock your bike to it as securely as possible. To do this right, you have to think like a thief, which means you have to evaluate every potential locking location for ways it can be defeated. To wit, when my Ciocc was stolen, it was locked to a street sign pole outside of a bar. At the end of the night, my friends and I found the actual street sign on the ground and my bike nowhere in sight. The thief had somehow gotten up the pole, unbolted the sign, and then slid my bike—lock and all—up and over. That was a long walk home…

4. There are no quick errands: This seems obvious, but too many people just lean their bike up against a wall while they “quickly run into the coffee shop”. No matter how quick the errand, no matter how visible you think your bike is, or how many people are around, lock it up. It might seem like a hassle, but it’s worth taking the extra 20 seconds to properly lock up your bike. Because it takes even less time than that for someone to just hop on it and pedal away.

5. Safety in numbers: When possible, park your bike in an area where there are lots of other bikes. This won’t necessarily deter a thief in and of itself, but it waters down the chances of a thief targeting your bike. If possible, also try to find a bike that looks more desirable than yours and lock up next to that one. It may seem callous, but remember, you don’t have to be faster than the bear—you just have to be faster than the other guy.

6. Write it down: Let’s be honest here: there is no lock on earth that’s going to stop a very determined or experienced thief. If at all possible, bring your bike inside—especially overnight. Write down your bike’s serial number (usually found on the underside of the bottom bracket shell), and keep a detailed list and photos of your bike and components (take a new photo when you upgrade any parts). Most renters and home owner’s insurance policies will cover bike theft, so it’s a good idea to have proof of what kind of components were on your bike if you need to make a claim. Most lock companies like Kryptonite and OnGuard also offer a reimbursement program to help you buy a new bike if yours was stolen while using their product; inside your lock packaging will be instructions on how to sign up for this protection.

Real Advice: Wheels

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week Brian, a member of our content team, is going to share with you some thoughts on wheels.

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Several years ago, when I got my first carbon fiber road race bike, I was so amped. It had SRAM 10-speed Rival on it, a full carbon frame and fork, and a carbon seatpost. I’d even splurged on some carbon fiber bottle cages. In those days, this was some pretty heavy artillery to be bringing for the level of racing I was at. Admittedly, I didn’t know an awful lot about bikes at the time, and I hadn’t ridden the bike much before the race. All I knew was I had the latest and greatest carbon 10-speed stuff, while most of those other chumps were rockin’ alloy 9-speed gear. According to all my mental math, I was already standing at the top of the podium.

When the race started, everything seemed to be going fine. I rode well and felt strong. Until I got out of the saddle at speed or tried to sprint in the drops. Every time I did, I could hear the rim hitting the brake pads with every pedal stroke, shedding speed and momentum. When I leaned into a corner, the rims squealed against the brakes the entire time, slowing me down drastically, and I watched furiously as other riders flowed past me, despite me having the extra 10th gear.

After the race, I was fuming. I had just spent all this money on a carbon fiber frame that I believed to be about as stiff as a wet noodle. I ranted to another rider about how flexible the frame and fork were, and how poorly the bike had performed. The other (more experienced) rider took one look at my bike and said simply “dude, it’s not your frame—it’s your wheels.” I did the next race on a borrowed wheelset that proved him right.

For most riders, whether you race or not, wheels are the most overlooked and important upgrade. It’s incredibly tempting to upgrade your bike with the newest drivetrain, or all the carbon fiber you can find. While the performance gains you get from those parts are significant, they still pale in comparison to investing in a great set of wheels. Among the many improvements you’ll get will be stiffer rims, lighter weight, improved handling, and greater aerodynamic performance. But before you buy, here’s a quick guide to help you find the wheels that are right for you.

 

  1. What kind of wheels do you need: The first step to buying new wheels is ensuring they will work with your equipment. It may seem like a wheel is a wheel, but asking a few basic questions can help you get it right the first time.
    • Does your bike have rim or disc brakes? If disc brakes, what kind are they?
    • How many speeds is your drive train (ex: 11-speed cassettes usually require 11-speed freehubs)?
    • What brand of drive train do you have (SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo)?

    These DT Swiss XM 1650 MTB wheels will work with center-lock disc brakes, Shimano cassettes, and tubeless tires.

  2. Know what you want: Few wheels can really be placed in the do-it-all category. Knowing what you want to get out of your rides can help you narrow things down.

    A pair of lightweight alloy clinchers, like these Easton SLX wheels, can shed significant weight from a bike, making them ideal for climbing

  3. Alloy vs. Carbon: This one is entirely up to you, and a full discussion would be another blog post, but here’s a basic breakdown:
    • Alloy wheels are usually more durable, less expensive, and offer better braking performance, especially in wet weather, but tend to be heavier and less aerodynamic than carbon wheels
    • Carbon wheels are much lighter, aerodynamic, stiff, and (according to some) cooler looking than alloy, but are also much more expensive. Carbon road wheels also can have diminished braking performance, especially when wet (this isn’t a problem with MTB carbon disc brake wheels)

    Carbon wheels, like this pair from Reynolds offer significant aerodynamic and weight savings

  4. Tubular vs. Clincher vs. Tubeless: These are the three basic types of bicycle wheels, and each have their pros and cons.
    • Tubular wheels require tubular tires (tires with an inner tube sewn inside) which have to be glued onto the rim. They are very lightweight, and offer unsurpassed road feel and cornering abilities, but they require a special technique to mount and may be difficult  to change if you flat on the road.
    • Clincher wheels are the most common, and use a tire with a separate inner tube that hooks onto a bead on the rim. Clincher wheels are very convenient for most rides, since it’s very easy to change a flat, and some of the best clincher tires approach the road feel of tubulars. The drawbacks are that clinchers are often heavier than tubulars, and if the tire is under inflated or flat it can sometimes roll off of the rim.
    • Tubeless wheels are quickly becoming de riguer on mountain bikes, and are finding their way onto the road. Tubeless wheels require the use of special tubeless tires and use no inner tube. The bead on both the rim and the tire is made very tight, so as to make an airtight seal when inflated. The benefits of tubeless tires are legion, specifically that they virtually eliminate the chance of flatting. The downside (for the road at least) is that they are the heaviest type of wheels.

    These Reynolds Assault CX tubulars are perfect for cyclocross season

So there’s a basic breakdown of wheels. For a little more information on other upgrades you can make, check out this article in our Learning Center.

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