Our Locking Strategy

Kryptonite New York Noose

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on locks, I thought I’d share a bit about our locking strategy.

We’re in somewhat of a unique situation in that we’re often riding bikes that were loaned to us by manufacturers or local dealers. It’s important that we keep the bikes in good condition and deliver them back in the same condition in which they arrived. Because we live in the suburbs, we’re often sharing bike racks with kids riding ratty BMX bikes. As you can imagine, packs of adolescent boys on bikes are not overly concerned with keeping our bikes scratch-free, so we often park off to the side of bike racks.

The question is how to lock up securely, while maintaining some distance from the pile of beat up BMX bikes in the rack? In the past, we tempted fate by using the heaviest cable we could find, looping it through both frames, then around the corner of the bike rack. So far we’ve been lucky, but using this method we were never quite comfortable leaving the bikes out of sight for any length of time. We recently upgraded the cable to a case-hardened chain and mini U-lock in combination with a cable through the wheels. Here’s how it works…

Because we live in the suburbs, we’re often sharing bike racks with kids riding ratty BMX bikes. As you can imagine, packs of adolescent boys on bikes are not overly concerned with keeping our bikes scratch-free, so we often park off to the side of bike racks.

Our main lock is a Kryptonite New York Noose 1213 (the 1213 is a 4-foot hardened manganese steel chain mated to an Evolution Series 4 Disc Lock). The NY Noose is unique in that one end of the chain has a large link that can be slipped over the other end of the chain, effectively making a slip knot that can be placed around any immovable object. This frees up the remainder of the chain to be threaded through both bikes and locked to one of the frames. This design nearly doubles the length of usable chain over a standard chain without the “noose”. Before locking the free end of the chain to the bike, we slip one looped-end of a heavy-duty cable onto the chain, thread the cable through all four wheels, then slip the other looped-end onto the chain. Once the chain is locked to the second bike, all four wheels and both frames are secure, a safe distance from our little BMX brats. If only one bike is being locked, the chain is just looped around the frame and through the wheels as you’d do with any chain or cable.

This method doesn’t take into account the ease with which a saddle can be stolen (all it takes is two turns of a hex key), but in the areas where we typically park, it’s a risk we’re comfortable taking. It also doesn’t fully account for the safety of the wheels, but again, it’s a calculated risk based upon our riding habits and environs.

If we weren’t always switching up bikes and riding loaners, I’d consider setting up our personal bikes with full Pitlock systems. Here’s a description from Peter White:

Pitlock skewers make it very difficult for a thief to steal your wheels, seat post, even your threadless fork and brakes. Pitlock replaces your hub’s quick release skewers, brake fixing bolts, 1 1/8″ threadless headset top bolt and cap, seatpost fixing bolt, and even replaceable rear dropout bolts with special bolts that require a special stainless steel key or “Pit” wrench to open. The locking nuts can’t be opened without one of 256 individually shaped “Pits”. Ordinary wrenches can’t grab onto the specially shaped nuts and bolt heads making up the Pitlock system. Only the included Pits can engage the heads. And there are 256 different shapes to these Pits, nutsand bolt heads. A thief would have to make a huge investment in Pitlock sets in order to have a good chance of having the correct Pit for your Pitlock set.

Setting up a bike with Pitlocks, and locking up with a small, high-quality U-Lock, would be much cleaner and simpler than our method. The lock would be half the weight of our chain/cable combo, faster to lock-up, and easier to carry on the bike. The only downside I can see is that there’s a fairly limited range of objects to which you can attach a small U-lock.

The moral of this long-winded story is that there’s no one perfect method for locking a bike. The most important thing is to be sure the method you use is enough of a deterrent to discourage thieves in the situations in which you typically lock your bike. As various people mentioned in the comments under the prior post on locks, the conditions in which you park your bike should be carefully considered when devising a locking strategy for yourself.

13 Responses to “Our Locking Strategy”

  • Croupier says:

    It may be ratty looking but, I’m not “adolescent” enough to think it’s OK to scratch your bike.

  • Cezar says:

    I personally use the Delta Hublox Security Skewers http://www.deltacycle.com/Hublox-Security-Skewers

    They only have one wrench, but it’s not common. Not as secure as a Pit, but not nearly as expensive.

  • Mark says:

    I use exactly the strategy you mention at the end, pitlocks and a bulldog mini (which I use “Sheldon Brown” style, locking the back wheel inside the rear triangle.) I still have my bike, so it seems to be working…

  • Doug R. says:

    The genetic engineers at “RATCO” are hard at work developing a new type of killer hornet which will nest underneath a Brooks saddle. The hornets will be safe to the owner of the bicycle with a special owner scent training program they will receive. However, they will be trained to smell and attack every scumbag that tries mess with your ride! The ultimate in bicycle safety! Stay tuned!

  • RI Swamp Yankee says:

    Well, I have an Electra Townie 21D with a beautiful metal-flake blue paintjob that scratches if you even look at it hard… it’s a $600 bike, they put the money into the frame and wheels/tires. So I don’t care if it gets scratched. I do care if it gets swiped, and it’s left unattended at the train station for 10 hours or more at a time.

    Old Way:

    1) Sheldon Method – Long, thin U-Lock shackle through the rear wheel and rear seat-stay or chain-stay. A narrow, thin U-lock shackle is better than a stout, wide U-lock shackle, as the latter is much easier to jack apart with a “stubby” bottle jack. Sheldon method makes this harder, and a narrow shackle makes it impossible without nuking the bike in the bargain.

    2) Generic shotgun “breach lock” – meant to prevent kids from loading an automatic shotgun, mine was on-sale at Wallyworld for $2.50. It’s a stout little padlock with a shackle made from flexible steel links coated in a thick blue plastic. This locks the front wheel to the suspension fork.

    3) Home-rigged metal loop on the backside of the grocery pannier, and a small brass lock to keep it on the rack.

    4) Seat-posrt QR torqued down with an allen wrench to where it’s not a QR anymore.

    Result? Nothing in 10 months. Good! But now I’m thinking “upgrade.”

    New School:

    1) Sheldon Method – why mess with success?

    2) V.O. security skewers. These are very well-made aluminum skewers with steel facings. They can only be loosened with a pin-head allen wrench, which is a tough tool to come by. Someone with a set of vice-grips could loosen it a little – and then the pin-head allen socket part of the skewer rotates free. Not even enough to release the wheel, and they’re dead in their tracks.

    3) I have a Brooks B33 I really want to put on this thing. It’s worth almost as much as the bike (not really, but I like it a lot.) To keep it, I’ll replace the QR with a serious compression clamp, with a pin-head allen bolt for starters, and then replace the generic lock-nuts securing the saddle to the seat-post with a set of these.

    4) I still like my grocery pannier… only now I can use the gun-lock to secure my commuter pannier on the other side as well.

  • patrick says:

    there are few people more despised than a bike thief, but if a thief wants your bike, he’s gonna get it. if he wants your seat, your fancy hub, your cranks, or even your bell, it’s his.
    bring it inside if youre gonna be a while, let business owners know about your concerns, (here in philly all the parking is vanishing, so im a broken record about it) and solve problems in novel ways. quick release? get hose clamps or torx head screws. fancy seat? get a seat cover or a plastic bag (it might rain anyway).

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    As you mention, I think the issue of convenience is an important one. At what point does the effort, time and carry-load involved in securing your bike outweigh the convenience of getting around by bike? This is why I prefer to use a cable lock and park my bike where I can watch it out of a window. But that is not an ideal situation either. As the popularity of cycling for transportation grows, I really wish that someone would invent a good integrated lock system once and for all!

  • Alan says:

    @Lovely Bicycle!

    We’ve used your strategy quite a lot, sometimes even riding without locks knowing that we’d either park where we can see the bikes or one of us would stay outside while the other goes in to do the shopping, etc. Where it breaks down for us is when we go out to eat, to a dental/medical appointment, or when riding solo.

    A friend has an Abus wheel lock with a chain that plugs into it. It’s probably the most well-integrated set-up I’ve seen. I’m a little leery of the plug-in connection; I’d like to see some test results to be sure it can withstand an attack.


  • Jay says:

    I use Pinhead/Onguard locking skewers for my wheels, and then use a good, older model Kryptonite chain that I find very convenient. It’s like a NY Kyrptonite chain, but way smaller – at least half the diameter.

    I just bought locking skewers for my girlfriend’s bike too, and as we normally lock up together, we usually use the chain, and then a u-lock as well. We’ve always used a cable leash as well to secure her wheels, though hopefully the locking skewers will prevent that need. They’re not perfect, but I can’t see myself shelling out for Pitlocks, which look to be the best by far.

    Convenience matters to me, and I HATE running a leash through the wheels. They’re dirty, and I hate getting greasy black road grime on my hands, and also on the cable leash, which will then inevitably rub against something else and get grease on THAT, too.

    Simplicity! Wheels that are locked by locking skewers, and a simple chain/u-lock for the frame – that’s my ideal.

  • Dave says:

    I cut another lock. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cold_iron/4409827464/

  • Kee says:

    Could I get a link to a pool of photos on flcikr or picasa of these various locking methods?
    Anyone. I’d love to loose a few pounds off of my daddy-cycle.

  • Chandra says:

    What kinda cable are you talking about? (“we slip one looped-end of a heavy-duty cable onto the chain”). Do you recommend a particular brand, thickness, material?
    Peace :)

  • Alan says:


    Any bike-specific 3/8″ cable with looped ends. Something like this:



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