How to Lock Bike with a U Lock

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A U lock is a great way to secure a bike, since good U locks are resistant to cutting, breaking, freezing, and other methods of theft.

However, a U lock can only protect your bike from bike thieves if it is used properly.

Today we'll be looking at the right way to use a U lock to secure a bike and get as much security as possible.

Part 1: Where to Lock Your Bike

Before we begin, it's important to remember that no lock can protect a bike from a determined, well-equipped thief.

If they have the tools and the time, any lock can be defeated.

It's extremely common for people to report that their bikes were stolen in broad daylight, with people around, even as the thief used tools and broke the lock to steal the bike.

So it's important to choose the best lock you can and use it in the right way every time and not just the cheapest lock you can find.

However, there is no method of locking a bike that completely eliminates risk.

These are simply the best practices to reduce risk.

To find the best possible place to lock your bike, look for these indicators:

A sturdy, immovable surface

Always lock your bike to an object that can't be easily broken, unscrewed, lifted, or dismantled.

Check that a bike rack or traffic sign is securely cemented to the ground.

A well-trafficked area with CCTV

While the presence of other people won't always deter thieves, it does help.

And CCTV is a great security measure, since thieves tend to avoid those areas.

When possible, lock your bike somewhere that is public and where there are cameras.

Part 2: How to Use a U lock

When using a U lock, make sure that the bike frame and the rear wheel are both enclosed in the lock, and attached to a bike rack or secure structure.

If you lock on the frame, a bike thief may steal the wheel.

If you lock only the wheel, they may steal the frame.

Using a U lock on your frame, rear wheel, and bike rack is the customary way to use a U lock.

It's also the easiest way to lock a bike.

For added security, take additional measures:

Use a second U lock

Use one U lock on the rear wheel, frame, and bike rack, and use a second U lock on the front wheel, frame, and bike rack.

If a thief is using a lever or jack to pry the U lock open, they will have to do it twice.

If they are using a cutter to cut the U lock open, they will have to do it four times.

That takes time and increases the chances of being caught.

It may not be worth the risk for them.

Lock both wheels with a single U lock

If you have quick release wheels, you may want to remove the front wheel and place it next to the rear wheel.

Then use the U lock on both wheels, the bike frame, and the bike rack. 

This method is very secure, since it leaves little room for a lever or jack inside the U lock, but may require a longer U lock than is standard.

This carries with it a weight penalty.

The bigger the U Lock the heavier it is (generally).

Use a cable and a U lock

Many people choose to thread a cable through the front wheel and around the frame, and then loop the cable through the U lock along with the rear wheel, frame, and bike rack.

This method provides slightly more security for the front wheel, and acts as a visual deterrent for thieves.

Part 3: Lock Placement 

As we mentioned, even the best U locks can be defeated with time and effort.

Here are some ways to place your lock that will help reduce the chances of breaking or tampering.

The most common ways to defeat a U lock are:

Smashing the lock mechanism

Some thieves will take a hammer and attempt to crush or smash the lock mechanism against the ground.

To prevent this, place your U lock up off the ground, so that there is no hard surface to crush it against.

Cutting the crossbars

While cables and thin bars can be cut with bolt cutters, some heavier U locks can be cut with bolt cutters when they are leveraged against the ground.

Again, place your U lock away from the ground so that it can't be used for leverage.

Girl holding U Lock

Twisting the lock open

Some older or poor-quality U locks can be defeated by twisting and applying a shearing motion.

To prevent this, do not lock the top tube of your bike frame with the U lock.

If the U lock is attached to the top tube, some thieves will attempt to lift the bike and turn the frame itself to pop the lock open.

Even if they fail, they may damage your bike.

Instead, attach the U lock lower on the bike frame.

Picking or tampering with the lock

Some locks are easy to defeat simply by picking them open, or by cracking the combination.

Try to place your keyhole facing downward, or make it less accessible, so that there is less opportunity for a thief to mess with the lock.

Using a bottle jack

The most common way defeat a U lock is to insert a crowbar or even a hydraulic bottle jack inside the space of the lock, and wedge it open.

To prevent this, use the smallest U lock you can, so that the combination of your wheel and the frame and the bike rack leaves little extra space for a tool or implement.

Look for the Security Ratings

Of course you also want the best lock you can afford and one of the best ways of doing that is to go for as high a security rating as possible like Sold Secure Gold.


Following these tips will allow you to get the most security you can out of a U lock, making it as difficult as possible for bike thieves to break or tamper with the lock and steal your bike.

While no locking method is completely theft-proof, using your U lock in the best possible way will help to protect your bike.

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