Melbourne sans car #4: Keeping your bicycle yours (anti-theft)

Most bicycles stolen in Victoria have been left unlocked. Half of bicycles stolen from the owner’s home, because most people don’t lock their bicycles at home. When a bicycle is stolen it is usually very difficult to recover.

Your best chances of keeping your bicycle is to lock it whenever you have to leave it, even if its only to duck into the shops, and most definitely when its at home or work.

In this post I’ll talk about:

1. How to lock it?
2. Where to lock it?
3. How tempting is your bike to thieves?
4. How identifiable is your bike?
5. Insuring your bike

How to lock it?

The most anti-theft way to lock your bike is with a combination of D-lock (U-lock) AND a cable lock. Lock your back wheel inside the rear triangle of the frame to the solid object (such as bike rack) and a cable lock to secure the front wheel to the frame (or to the frame and a solid object if possible). Locking this way means you can buy the a smaller D-lock, and the combination of D-lock and cable means its harder to steal as thieves usually only carry tools to target one of these. See Sheldon Brown’s lock strategy for more information and an illustration of how to use a D-lock.

If you are in a situation where you can’t get a D-lock around something secure, with the above D-lock and cable combination you at least still have the chain to reach around, and you can lock your back wheel to the frame which would slow down a thief.

If you find yourself in a situation of having to leave your bike for a short period without something suitable to lock to, you can still use the D-lock to lock your back wheel to the frame, and front wheel to frame with the cable lock, as it can’t be ridden until unlocked, and in that state most thieves will leave it alone.

Locking your wheels, instead of just your frame, is especially important if you have quick release wheels. Quick release seats may also be targeted by thieves. Hose clamps with a screw/band can be used on some quick release items to make it less tempting for thieves, and these can be picked up rather cheaply from discount stores and hardware stores.

Also, when you leave your bike it’s important to take items with you – your lights, cycle computer, pumps, panniers and bags – unless they are secured somehow so they can’t be nicked. You may even like to take your bike seat with you, unless you have a cable lock on that.

Where to lock it?

The best place to park a bike and lock it is places visible to people walking past and well lit at night. If you can find a bike rack, that’s best, but otherwise find something that can’t be lifted out of the ground (such as those ‘sucker poles’ that aren’t cemented in) and make sure it is tall enough that you’re bike can’t simply be lifted over it. If you have to lock it on the street every day and own a fancy bike, try to find different ‘good’ spots to lock it up in your area, so a thief doesn’t walk past your bike same place everyday and it gets tempting. If you don’t have secure parking at home or work, you need to spend a bit on a decent D-lock, such as a Kryptonite. Typically the more you spend, the better the lock. Some prefer to leave the lock at work or uni instead of carrying it around (as they can be heavy things), and just using a light cable lock for times when you need to stop in somewhere quickly. Again, its best to use a combination of D-lock and cable lock at work, uni or home.

How tempting is your bike to thieves?

If you have an expensive brand name bike you should try to disguise this as much as possible. Peeling off stickers that advertise what your bike is worth, painting over logos, and decorating your bike with your own stickers will make your bike look less like something that can easily be resold. Some also employ techniques like using duct tape on the bike, cutting the seat and taping that to make it less appealing, applying stickers that make your bike look like it has rust or damage.

If you want a flashy bike for weekend rides but don’t need it for the bicycle commute, you might like to find a good second hand bike that is less appealing to thieves and keep your good bike locked up at home in a room or shed.

How identifiable is your bicycle?

There are a few things to do to ensure your bike can be identified more easily if it is stolen.

Engrave ‘V’ (for Victoria) followed by your drivers license number on your bike. I believe you can borrow an engraver from police stations overnight. Ride to Work day (October 15 this year) often includes a bike engraving service. If you don’t have a drivers license, ask a friend or family member if you can use their license number instead and make a note of the number yourself. It makes it easier for the police to track a recovered bicycle back to you.

Record your bicycle’s serial number. This is often found on your bike frame near the pedals. Also record the bikes make and model. Keep this information in a safe place where you can find it.

Take photos of your bike, including its unique characteristics (like scratches it has or modifications you made) which would make it easier to identify.

With all these things, you are able to provide a lot more information to police if your bike is stolen, than simply knowing its colour, make and model, and this will assist in recovering the bike.

Many cyclists make their bike unique through stickers, paint jobs and other decoration. Not only will this make your bike less tempting to thieves, but may also help make your bicycle more identifiable.

Insuring your bicycle

Insurance is not for everyone, but if you already have home contents insurance, you may be able to insure your bicycle as part of that. Bicycles can also be insured against theft and damage through other policies, so ask your insurance company about this.

Further reading

If you have any other tips, or stories to share about Melbourne sans car, please add to the comments.


This post is the forth of a series of posts about Melbourne sans car.
1. Benefits of not owning a motor vehicle
2. Getting some wheels… Bicycle wheels
3. Bicycling Melbourne safely
4. Keeping your bicycle yours (anti-theft)
5. Shopping by bicycle
6. Commuting by bicycle
7. Maintaining your bicycle
8. Exploring Melbourne by bicycle

2 Comments so far

  1. adrock2xander (mel_john) on October 9th, 2008 @ 7:39 pm

    Ehm, I believe this is your forth post. Not your second? Copying and pasting? Hehe…

  2. maree on October 10th, 2008 @ 9:32 am

    Oops, you caught me. Nice pick up. (Fixed now).

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