How to lock your bike to prevent theft

a properly locked bike

Danny Baggs

Posted June 07, 2022

Bikes are a top target for thieves. Here’s how to properly lock your bicycle to prevent theft.

Bike theft is a risk for any cyclist, from professional racers to a weekend cruisers. Bicycles are attractive targets for thieves because they are lightweight, easily dismantled into parts, quick to sell, and hard to track down.

A recent report from Bicycle Network found that reported bike thefts in Victoria had grown 81.2% from 2011-2020, but that only 9% of bike theft cases were solved. While inner city suburbs like Brunswick, Melbourne CBD, St Kilda, Carlton and Richmond pose high bike theft risks, the threat is also growing outside metropolitan Melbourne. In regional Victoria, the hardest hit areas for bike theft include Shepparton, Mildura and Wangaratta.  
Considering rising bike theft numbers, it’s more important than ever to learn how to properly lock your bicycle to deter theft.

Watch how to properly lock your bike. Video: Robert Fearon

How to lock your bike properly

No matter where you leave your bike, make sure that it’s properly secured by learning how to lock your bike properly.

There are many types of bike locks, including D-locks, chains, folding locks, wheel locks and cables. Hardened steel D-locks (sometimes called U-locks) are the best bike lock, because they are secure, simple and safe from bolt cutters. Buy the best D-locks you can afford to ensure good quality, with a parabolic shank design that requires both sides of the shank to be cut in order to break the lock.

“D-locks give the rider the best chance that their bike will remain where they left it,” confirmed Victoria Police Transit North Acting Sergeant Julie Hose. “Compared to most cables and chain locks, they are the best solution to keeping bikes safe from theft.”

  1. Locate an immoveable object, such as a Ned Kelly bike rail, Sheffield stand, or other bike rack that is cemented into the ground. Check that the stand hasn’t been tampered with, and that there are no signs of bike theft around (e.g. cut locks or locked wheels with no frames). Don’t lock your bike to an object that can be lifted over (such as a signpost) or to an object that can be easily broken (such as a chain link fence).

  2. Attach a good quality D-lock to connect your rear wheel, seat tube and the solid anchor point.

  3. Attach a second good quality D-lock to your front wheel, down tube and the solid anchor point. If the anchor point is not long enough for this, use the D-lock to secure your front wheel and down tube together.

  4. Double-check that you have correctly secured your bike before you leave.


one bike wheel locked to a pole with a D-lock

Quality D-locks are the best way to secure your bike. Image: Getty

Bike lock mistakes

Here are some common mistakes to stay away from when locking your bike:

“Remember: bike locks are not failsafe,” cautioned Hunter. “With enough time and the right tools, any bike lock can be cut, broken, or opened.” But using appropriate bike locks will deter many opportunistic thieves and will likely take too much time to break through before the thief is spotted by yourself or a passer-by.

  • Locking your bike’s wheels only – thieves can simply remove the wheel from your bike and take the frame away.

  • Locking your bike’s frame only – thieves can remove both wheels.

  • Locking your bike’s top tube – thieves can lift and twist the entire bike, using the frame to try and break the lock.

  • Using a cable lock only – thieves can easily cut through most cable locks with bolt cutters or ankle grinders.

  • Allowing your lock to touch the ground – thieves can use a hammer to smash the lock.

  • Allowing your lock to be too loose – thieves can then use leverage-style attacks to break the lock.

“Remember: bike locks are not failsafe,” cautioned Hunter. “With enough time and the right tools, any bike lock can be cut, broken, or opened.” But using appropriate bike locks will deter many opportunistic thieves and will likely take too much time to break through before the thief is spotted by yourself or a passer-by.


a key in a bike D-lock

Don't forget your key when you secure your bike! Image: Matt Harvey

How to deter bike theft

Avoid leaving your bike in high-risk areas

Some of the worst places to leave your bike are uni campuses, train stations, and inner-city streets. That said, thefts from apartment buildings and car parks are also rapidly increasing.

“Bike thefts occur when riders don't lock their bike up properly in a secure setting. If someone with sticky fingers sees an easy score, they’ll nab it,” said Bicycle Network Research and Policy Advisor Nicholas Hunter. “Ideally, places like schools, public transport hubs, workplaces and shopping centres should all have dedicated bike lock-ups, while bike hoops on the street should be placed in highly visible places with lots of foot traffic.”

If you need to lock up your bike in these areas, join a secure bike parking facility like Parkiteer or hire a bike cage at your uni campus or workplace. If these options aren’t available, try to park in a busy and well-lit area covered by CCTV. Don’t ever leave your bike unlocked and unattended, even if you only intend to be away for a minute.

Take extra precautions with your bike

When you purchase a new bike, take photographs and record its make, model, year, colour and serial number so that you can easily identify it.

Even if your bike is parked in a secure facility, you should remove any valuable components such as lights, bike computers, panniers and sensors from your bike and bring them with you.

You can also consider purchasing:

  • Security bolts – to replace the quick-release mechanisms on your seat and wheels to prevent thieves from bike stripping.

  • A bike alarm – to scare off a thief and/or alert your smartphone when your bike is jostled.

  • A bike identification kit – to make it almost impossible for thieves to de-identify your bike, so it’s easier to find and get back.

  • A covert GPS tracker – to alert you when your bike is moved and show you exactly where your bike is taken.

Remember to always lock up your bike, even if it’s parked in your garage or on your balcony. If you use Strava or another ride recording app, revise your privacy settings so that you aren’t highlighting your bike’s model and address for thieves to target.

Prepare for potential bike theft

If the worst happens and your bike is stolen:

  • Report bike theft immediately to police, either online, in person at your local police station, or by calling the Police Assistance Line (131 444)

  • Register your stolen bike on BikeVAULT, which works to recover stolen bicycles

  • Search for your bike on resale websites like Gumtree, eBay and Facebook Marketplace: odds are the thief will quickly try to sell your bike.

Be prepared that you might not get your bike returned. “Since bikes can be quickly dismantled and easily sold to a big second-hand market, recovering stolen bikes and catching bike thieves is difficult,” explained Hunter.

If your bike is stolen, RACV Bike Assist can get you home safely.
Get RACV Bike Assist →