Sheldon Brown Locking Method

So here’s how I generally lock my Sturdy Commuting Bike (click to enlarge):

Essentially, this is Sheldon Brown’s method, using a D-Lock (or, if you like, U-Lock) to secure the rear wheel of the bike to a good sturdy, immovable object. Said object needs to be some sort of hoop, or tall enough, so that the bike can’t simply be lifted, lock & all over the top of it.

When you first look at Sheldon’s method, it seems wrong. Surely, all you have to do to steal the bike is remove the back wheel? Not so – it’s impossible to get the back wheel through the rear triangle, so by securing the rear wheel like this, the rest of the bike’s also locked.

I also use a secondary chunky cable lock to secure the front wheel, and provide a little more visibility to the fact that this is a locked bike.

Using two different types of locks is a great way to deter thieves, as they’ll need to use two different sets of tools, and take twice as long to do the job. Of course, to go the whole nine yards on this, the cable shouldn’t just be secured to the D-Lock, but should have its own separate lock. But this is my sturdy commuting bike – it’s heavy enough as it is without adding yet another lock, and it’s a pretty cheep bike (has to be, as it gets left in all sorts of places!)

Looking in detail at the U-Lock:

It’s a mid-price model from Kryptonite, costing about 10% of the price of the bike it’s protecting.

I’ve also not gone for the smallest lock I could get, but it’s still considerably smaller than some.

This is a vulnerability, as it means there’s sometimes space to get a bottle jack in there, which is the vulnerability in most D-Locks. However, this does give me a little more flexibility about what I lock my bike to, as it’s quite rare to find stands / racks / posts that are suitable for the smaller, harder to break locks.

Anyway, here are the key points for locking up like this:

  • The lock secures the rear wheel to a suitable post
  • Make sure the lock is within the rear triangle of the frame, and that way, the rear wheel cannot be simply removed.
  • Spend about 10% of your bike’s value on the lock to protect it
  • Smaller D-Locks are harder to defeat than big ones
  • A secondary cable is used to secure the front wheel
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9 Responses

  1. Interesting. Is there any benefit to this method over locking the frame to an object with the u-lock and using the cable to secure the front and back tires? Is this just a bit easier?

  2. you didn’t actually use two methods to lock the bike. once (if) a thief gets through the u-lock, the cable will not need to be broken. so the thief would only need one tool with your setup.

    also, why do you take sheldon at his word? he assumes that a thief would be hacking at the rear wheel with a saw. but this seems extremely unlikely. i would think that bolt cutters would be used. so maybe this is sensible in a high visibility area in the day time, but certainly not otherwise.

  3. Daniel –
    Agreed. This only uses a single lock, and for completeness, I should have used a different type of lock to secure the cable that’s protecting the front wheel. This was a pretty cheep bike though, and not one that any ‘serious’ bike thief would really look twice at. The only reason for using the cable is that the front wheel has QR skewers, and the prospect of some scroat taking it “for a laugh” is what I’m really trying to avoid.

    As for taking Sheldon at his word . . . the biggest dimension on the rear triangle of a bike is slightly less than 1/2 that of the wheel diameter. It won’t fit through. And if someone’s willing to cut through the rear wheel & tyre to get at the rest of the bike, then they can have it! The most important thing with locking a bike up is to be better locked than the bike next to yours!

  4. why don’t you also put the u-lock through the frame of the bike and not just within the back triangle? that way, thief has to break the u-lock to get the frame. your way, thief can either break the u-lock or take off the back wheel (which you’ve discussed as highly unlikely).

  5. [...] If you can’t get the lock around the frame and wheel, use the Sheldon Brown method. [...]

  6. I say there is no reason to not at least put the U lock through the rear triangle as well. A couple snipped spokes, quick deflate tire, and cut through the rim – all that can be done pretty quickly. Always lock your frame.

  7. by “rear triangle” I meant to say “chain stays”. My bad.

  8. I really think Sheldon got it wrong with this one.

    I have no evidence, but since bike thieves will damage bikes to steal parts, As in saw through a carbon frame, spring it over the lock and ride off with the bike and strip it of components and dump the damaged frame.

    It’s pretty certain that cutting the rear wheel won’t deter some thieves from stealing bikes secure like this.

    Certainly not a method for use in high risk areas.

  9. This video made me stop trying the Sheldon Brown locking method in public: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9fLtdZyX-A

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