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How to Keep Your Bike Safe Without a Lock

By Filippo Mari

Forgetting to bring the lock with you on the ride happens even to the most organized of cyclists. Or maybe you just didn’t want to take one because you were riding light. Either way, what might happen one day is that you will get so hungry you will really need to stop cycling to buy a banana. Or you might need to buy a train ticket really quick and cannot have the bike next to you while doing that. Or, as it happened to me when I was taking the pictures for this article, it could be pouring rain and you will have to stop for an unplanned coffee. I could go on forever about all the situations when I really missed my lock.

What’s important to say is you really cannot keep your bike safe without a lock. But there are a few tricks I have learnt that could prevent the bad guys from grabbing your bike and flying away, leaving you with your mouth agape. Tricks that will slow them down, leaving you with enough time to react and stop them from running away.

Most of the time, thieves who see an unlocked bike will jump on it and try to ride away quickly, knowing that you will not be able to catch up with them, especially if you are wearing cycling shoes.

So, here are the tricks. Combine two or three and you will give bike thieves a hard time!

1. Use your helmet

When you park your bike, use your helmet’s straps to block the rear wheel from turning. Place the helmet on the less visible side of the bike if possible so the thief will not see it and, therefore, lose precious time.

2. Put in the highest gear

Before parking the bike, leave the highest gear on. This way, if they hop on it, the bike will be so hard to pedal that they will lose momentum and you will be able to catch up with them, even in your clip-on shoes.

High gear

3. Drop your chain

Another trick, which is even more efficient than the previous one, is to drop your chain so the thief doesn’t have a chance to pedal away unless they put the chain back. I don’t like this trick much because you might get your hands greasy so I normally do the previous one.

4. Park Uphill

I live in Prague, which is a hilly place. When I can, I park my bike with the front wheel facing uphill. This happens almost every day as the shop I frequent is on a very steep street and I always happen to forget something when going home. I’m too lazy to lock the bike for a few more seconds so I apply this trick knowing that the potential thief would lose precious seconds turning the bike to face downhill.

5. Take your front wheel’s quick release out

This is a very extreme measure as it could damage the front fork if the thief rides away and loses the wheel but one that is very effective. It’s also helpful in a scenario where the thieves want to lift the bike so they could put it in a van and drive away quickly. The wheel would fall off and they would need extra time trying to get it.

Quick release

If you have a multitool with a knife blade, you could think about having a zip tie with you (as I recommend in one of my previous articles) that you could use to secure the bike to a bike rack or a fixed object.

Extra tip: I bought a very minimalist lock that I always keep in my toolbox. It is not as safe as a normal lock but perfect for quick stops.