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Source: Drpavloff via Flickr Creative Commons

A stolen bike is something of a rite of passage for serious bikers in New York City, but that does not take away the burn of returning to where you left your bike only to find the bike lock clipped and your bike gone. Trust me, I have had three bikes stolen. I have cried over them, I have filed police reports and I have scoured Craigslist for leads and nothing has brought my bikes back. The main outcome is i now embrace safer locking practices. Here’s a rundown of tips and best practices for locking your bike safely in NYC.

Types of Locks

  • U-Locks: U-Locks are the best bet for New York City bikers. They are relatively light, easy to carry and compact. They can easily be clipped onto a lock holder. Kryptonite makes a solid New York model. It sells for $102, which is not cheap but when it comes to bike locks, it’s worth investing in something really good. The only drawback to u-locks is that given its shape, it can be more difficult to lock — especially in tight spaces.
  • Cables: In a bike theft-prone city like New York, cables are a poor choice. These types of locks are very easy to cut and should only be used as a supplement to secure your wheels, but not as your primary lock.
  • Heavy Chains and Padlocks: Heavy chains and padlocks are good options and without a doubt incredibly sturdy, but they are also incredibly heavy and not practical for the average commuter.

Locking Locations

  • Choose a well-lit, visible area
  • Choose an area that has other locked bikes around it. A thief is less likely to attempt to steal your bike if there are other riders locking and unlocking their bikes nearby.
  • Best bets for street parking: Street lamps, sign posts, bike racks, steel fence railings.
  • Poor choices for street parking: Trees, scaffolding, MTA property

Locking Tips

  • Wiggle room is a bad thing. The tighter your bike is locked to the rack or sign post, the harder it will be for a thief to insert a pry bar and break open your lock.
  • Switch it up. Don’t leave you bike locked to the same sign post or rack day in and day out. You don’t want thieves to think you’re not keeping an eye on it.
  • Take your lights and accessories with you when you lock up. Bike lights are expensive and easy to steal – thieves know this. If you leave them on your bike, chances are they will be gone when you get back. Locking your helmet to your bike is less risky. To steal it, thieves will either have to clip the strap or break the helmet, both of which will render it useless. That said, it’s best to take your helmet with you unless you are going somewhere with limited space. A helmet left on a bicycle is an invitation for people to mess with it.
  • If you have quick release tires, be sure you use a cable lock to properly secure both your front and bike wheel. See here for instructions.
  • If you have a removable seat, bring it with you.