How to Lock Your Bike & Prevent Bike Theft

Every 30 seconds a bicycle is stolen in the United States. That’s not a typo, that’s a problem (impacting a million bicycle owners every year). Securing your bike from thieves may take a few extra seconds every time you ride, but it pays off many times over by keeping your bike yours.

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance, in partnership with Project 529, have a few tips to help you securely lock your bike. Following these steps can save you hours of hassle and money, not to mention saving you from the aggravation of losing your ride.

Register your bike.

Register your bike with Portland-based Project 529 to capture photos of your bike and its serial number so law enforcement can help your recover your bike if, in the unfortunate situation, it is ever stolen. Most bicyclists don’t record their serial number. However, law enforcement can’t do much without a serial number, so keep track of it.

Bike Registration Kit

Lock up your bike. Always.

…even in your backyard or on your porch. It only takes a second for someone to walk off with your unlocked bike.

Lock it to something secure.

When deciding WHERE to lock up, always lock your bike to a secure, sturdy rack or pole i.e. one that isn’t easily cut through or removed from the ground, or that your bike can’t be lifted over or off. The longer and more awkward it would be for a thief to get your bike, the better the location. When possible, well-lit, heavily trafficked areas are preferable. The Portland Active Transportation Division even has a map of their bike racks around town.​

Don’t use cable locks.

Police reports show that the mass majority of locked bikes stolen in Portland are locked up with a cable lock. In short, don’t use cable locks.

Cable lock

Use a U-lock or hefty bike-specific chain.

When it comes to your lock, you don’t want to skimp. Get a u-Lock or a hefty bike-specific chain. Mini u-locks are easily transportable and typically lighter, but generally are unable to lock up everything you would want them too.


Lock up what’s important.

If you can’t lock up everything, at least lock up your frame. Prioritize the items you definitely want to keep: typically the frame and at least one wheel. And don’t forget about your lights, pumps, or whathaveyou. Lights, which are easy to remove, can disappear quickly, so take them with you.

Wheel u-locked to tree

Beware of quick releases.

Quick-releases are great if you find yourself removing your wheels and seat post frequently. However, they also make it easy for thieves if you’re not careful. Consider replacing your quick release “skewers” with a more secure system. Otherwise, consider locking up your wheels. Don’t make your quick-release equal quick-to-steal.

Quick releaseSeatpost binder bolt

Lock up your wheel too (but which one?)

Depending on who you ask, you will get a different answer. Some people will tell you to lock your front wheel as it’s “easier to steal.” Others will tell you to lock up the rear wheel as it’s worth more. Either way, with quick releases, front wheels take 6 seconds to remove while rear wheels take 7 seconds. That said, rear wheels are more difficult and expensive to replace. You choose, but choose at least one.

Failing to learn from history.

Lock up a lot with a little: the rear triangle.

In the photos below, the lock only goes around two things: the rack and the wheel. If you think about it, however, it’s actually locking up the frame too. How? When the rear wheel is locked within the rear triangle of the frame, it is impossible to remove the frame. Unless a thief wants to cut the tire, tube, and rim, it’s is a secure way to lock up your rear wheel and frame with even a very small lock.

The rear wheel trick.The Trick with both wheels

U-lock/cable combinations

If you want to lock up both wheels, but don’t want to be taking one off all the time, consider pairing a cable with your u-lock. Most bike shops sell cables with looped ends for this very purpose. Cables are not thief-proof, but if it is only locking up a wheel, most thieves will seek lower hanging fruit. Just be certain to lock the frame with your u-lock.

u-lock and cable combo


On average more than ten bikes a day are stolen in Portland. We don’t want you to be amongst that group. Register your bike with Project 529 and securely lock your bike to be proactive in keeping your ride yours to ride.