How to lock a bike securely

Cycles are stolen at all times of the day and night.  The fact that there are often people watching the activity, is not enough to deter some thieves - here is one such brazen example of (literally) daylight robbery.


Cycles can be stolen whether they are locked or not so it is important to try to make YOUR cycle less attractive than someone else's bicycle.  By unattractive I mean less quick and easy to steal, not more ugly; although some people really do think that an ugly bike is less attractive to theives.  This product is one way to make your bike apparently ugly.

 Peel off rust stickers for bike frame

The frame before adding the stickers and afterwards.  

Before and after applying fake rust stickers to bike

Hanging on to your bicycle

If adding rust to deter the theives isn't your preference, what can you do to increase the chances of all of your cycle still being there upon your return?

Buy one - preferably two - decent locks and USE THEM.  The best locks are the steel D-shaped shackle locks (called D-locks) that are made of a hoop of solid metal.

A D-Lock for a bicycle

The more you spend on a D-Lock, the better it is likely to be.  Look for Sold Secure products which are graded Bronze, Silver or Gold according to the level of protection that they offer.  Sold Secure is an independent company that is dedicated to reducing the risk of crime by the assessment of security products.

Chains and cable locks do not deter even the very casual thief. They are VERY easily and quickly cut as our collection shows.  These cables and chains are all very thin....

A selection of small cable locks that have been cut

These cable locks LOOK like they ought to be heavy duty enough but a long handled pair of bolt cutters is sufficient to cut through even these locks. 

A selection of large cable locks that have been cut

Beware of flexible cable locks.  As this next image shows they have a variable thickness of plastic over a cable core which is the key component.  This lock is of a reasonable diameter and looks like it should be strong.  However it consists of a thin metal core with a very thin metal cable inside.  Each of those flexible joints is a point of weakness in the outer cable and is where the bolt cutters are going to be used.

A chunky looking, flexible but mainly hollow cable lock

Motor bike or heavy duty chain with a padlock is another option but it really does need to be a good quality, heavy duty chain to be any use.


If you have removal items on your cycle - then YOU should remove them before leaving your cycle!  That includes seat posts, lights, pumps, saddle bags, computers etc.


But even a good D-lock is not going to help if you don't learn to use it properly!  Pick a solid part of your bike to fit your lock onto.  Don't choose something that can be unscrewed or otherwise removed from your bike or you might find that they disappear.

Only the frame left locked to the railings; no wheels left

Lock your cycle to a solid and immovable object (wooden fence rails are often kicked in to steal a bike so they are not recommended). 

The bike has gone and only the lock remains

Use a metal cycle rack if at all possible.   If you cannot use a recognised cycle parking facility and need to use a railing then ensure that you do not block any emergency exits.  Also avoid blocking any entrances to buildings. 

Locking a bicycle to the railings

You should also take care not to leave your cycle in sensitive locations (such as under the archways of Chancellor's Court on the Birmingham University campus).  Lamp-posts are not ideal for locking your cycle to as they do not provide sufficient support and many cycles locked to lamp posts fall over and then obstruct the footpath.

Quick release wheels are regularly stolen from cycles if they have not been properly secured.  Those wheels are then mated with cycles which have been stolen without one of the wheels.  The thief now has a complete cycle to sell.

A quick release cycle wheel

Therefore...if you have quick release front wheels (especially), make sure that you either remove them and lock them to the frame and back wheel or make sure that a second lock secures that wheel to a solid and immovable object (such as a cycle rack).  Quick-release rear wheels are also vulnerable although these will take longer for a thief to remove, so you should ensure that the rear wheel is locked to the frame and an immovable object. 

Make sure that your D-Lock passes through the rear wheel, the frame and then around the secure object to which you are locking your cycle.  Then use your second lock to secure the  front wheel to a secure immovable object or to the rear wheel and frame.

D-Lock correctly fitted through wheel and onto solid object


Leave your cycle in a well lit location and one where people will be passing by regularly.  This makes it harder for a thief to work undetected.


If possible, leave your cycle in a special cycle locker or in a dedicated secure cycle shelter. 

These lockers were introduced at Birmingham University in 2012 on a trial basis.  Details of where they are located and how to hire them are available here.

Birmingham University branded bike lockers

This cycle shelter is on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham site.

A secure, lockable cycle shed

This shelter is by the Munrow Sports Centre on the main Birmingham University campus.  The right hand side of the shelter is freely accessible but the left hand section uses a PIN code access system.  To register to use this facility please visit the Munrow Sports Centre reception and present your Birmingham University ID card.  You will then be asked to complete a short application form before being provided with the pin code.  The pin code will only be given to a limited number of registered staff and students to ensure that spaces are as readily available as possible. 

Munrow Sports Centre secure cycle parking compound

Get your cycle security-coded.  West Midlands Police will do this for Birmingham University/Queen Elizabeth Hospital staff and students in the West Midlands Police room in University Centre on a Wednesday between 12.00 and 15.00.  Bring your cycle with you!   The SelectaMark system is used to mark your cycle.

Security marking a bike

Consider fitting a Datatag to your cycle.  This costs about £25 currently (August 2012).  Evans cycle shops are one of the outlets that can supply these for bicycles.

Register your bike with SelectaMark or the National Bike Registry.

If you see anyone interfering with a bicycle or acting suspiciously, on the Birmingham University or Selly Oak campuses you can call Birmingham University Security on Extn 44444 (or 0121 414 4444) to raise the alarm urgently.


Next steps?

You've bought a lock and had your bike security coded and you know how to lock your bike up.  What else can you do to mitigate the hassle associated with bike theft? 

We recommend that you consider insurance for you and your bike.  We have some information on this topic on our insurance and bike theft page.


Links to other security advice






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