How to Keep Your Bike Safe in the Big City

Avoid theft and damage with the following tips

I remember the moment I chose my first road bike. After four hours of test rides at a used bike shop in Seattle, I was on my last option: an emerald green Soma Smoothie. As I took off into the fading light of an early summer Northwest evening, I noticed the silence. This feels less like riding and more like sailing, I thought. And that was it: I was sold. 

Any serious rider knows that finding the right road bike is challenging, but worth every ounce of effort. When you finally identify that perfect fit, it’s not unlike falling in love. You feel a burst of energy and a deep connection, and you and that bike then begin to bond.

Five years, four cities and a couple thousand miles later, I felt like my bike was my steed—dependable, hardworking and ready to conquer any (paved) terrain, from the roads of New York City to the foothills of central California.

This is why it was so heartbreaking when a car destroyed my Soma two weeks ago. At the time, the bike was locked up outside my office. The driver left without so much as a “sorry”—and definitely didn’t offer to pay for the damages.

Thanks to the kind folks at Soma and my local New York City bike shop Continuum Cycles, I was able to get a new set up with a new bike quickly. The incident encouraged me to become more savvy about keeping my bike safe in the city and to share what I learned with others. 

Think About Location
Lock up your bike as far from the street as possible. This will limit the likelihood that it gets damaged when someone accidentally backs up into the bike rack.

Use Two Locks (and Lock Your Bike Properly)
Lock your bike frame and wheel with a high quality U-lock (many of brands also offer insurance). I like to run a cable lock through my back wheel, as well (click here to see a photo of the setup). This is an additional deterrent. If someone is going to steal a bike, they’ll probably go for the one that’s easiest to take.

Register Your Bike
You can do this at your local police department and it may be necessary to take advantage of your lock manufacturer’s warranty. In addition, keep your bike’s serial number and a photo of you and your unlocked bike in a safe place. This will help you identify your bike if it gets stolen.

Embrace City Bike
Be selective about where and when you use your bike. While you can pull it out for those long weekend rides, you may want to opt for City Bike on your commute.

Watch for “Sucker Poles”
Check the bolts on the pole or bike rack. If they look loose, find somewhere else to lock up your bike. 

Security Cameras Can Be Your Best Friends
If your bike gets damaged while it’s locked up, look around to see if any nearby stores have video cameras. If they record what’s happening on the street, you may be able to use the footage to figure out who was at fault.