With Spring upon us, who’s not wanting to head out to a Twin’s game or to go explore Uptown, Lyn-Lake or downtown on their bike? The trails are beckoning, and the bike truly is the best way to explore the Twin Cities, but is it really safe to lock your bike up during your adventures? We had a rash of wheel thefts at Target Field last year, so how can we avoid that kind of problem this year?
With the proper locking strategy, you need be more worried about losing your bike or a wheel than you would be about getting you car stolen. Yes, if a professional bike thief wants to steal your bike, s/he can probably make off with it in about 5 minutes. Even the most secure locks can be defeated with the right tools, but the fact of the matter is that most bike thefts are not done by professionals – they are crimes of opportunity. You can easily avoid this problem if you have the right understanding of how to lock your bike correctly.
An effective locking strategy makes your bike difficult enough to steal that it is not an attractive target. Remember – because most bike thefts are crimes of opportunity, so making the bike unstealable (which is almost impossible) is not the objective.
Cable locks are NOT an effective theft deterrent – do not rely on a cable lock alone to protect your bike. Yes, cable locks are cheaper than U-locks and they are lighter to carry, but cables (even the thick ones) can be cut quite easily with a stout bolt cutter, which is readily available at any Menard’s, Home Depot or Ace Hardware store, so the chances are good that your local bike thief has access to one of these tools within walking distance of his or her house.
U-locks are more secure than cable locks, but even the U-lock is not a panacea. U-locks can be defeated with an angle grinder or scissor jack in less than 5 minutes, and the older U-locks that used a round keyway can often be opened with a cheap plastic pen.
I prefer a lock strategy that makes the frame and higher cost rear wheel very difficult to steal and that secures the front wheel as well. My preferred choice of locks is a combination of a modern (flat-keyed) U-lock and a sturdy cable. The U-lock goes around the rear wheel and a secure object such as a bike rack or street sign. The cable is used to secure the front wheel to the U-lock (there is really no need to get the U-lock around the frame – getting it around the wheel will be just as effective).
Also, try to park your bike in a visible, high traffic area if possible. Alleys and secluded areas give potential bike thieves time to use tools like jacks and angle grinders. Parking in open public places makes the use of these kinds of tools less likely.
So, get out there and ride your bike to sample all the Twin Towns have to offer – it really is the best way to experience our City. Just remember to use the right lock strategy and you’ll have little to worry about as you hit the town.