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Bike Anti-Theft Tips

Below are practical and helpful tips from Caltech Security regarding protecting your bike from theft.  If you own a bike, you may find these tips useful.

Register Your Bike with Security

Register your bike at the Caltech Parking Office (x8877) and the Pasadena Police Department. If you are unlucky enough to have your bike stolen, having your bike registered will help you get it back. We recommend that you take a photo of your bike and record any details like the model and color, as well as the frame number. Most importantly, make sure you label your bike in multiple places indicating where the bike is registered. If stolen, the thief will likely strip off what labels he/she easily sees, but the one label he/she misses could help you get your bike back!

  • Consider using the bike cage (managed by Campus Security) located in the Holliston structure. This cage is accessed by your Caltech ID. It is on a monitored camera  24/7. There has never been a bike theft from this secured location. The cost is $50.00 a year! That comes to less than $5.00 a month!

Use Good Locks

No lock is totally thief-proof but the more you spend, the better the lock will be. As a rough  guideline, look to spend 20% of the value of the bike on locks. There  are several types:

  • D or U locks are rigid steel locks  that separate into two pieces. Get a lock that physically locks both  ends of the U to the cross-bar. If you are going to get a cable lock for the front wheel, get the smallest lock possible, and lock it through  the rim of the rear wheel.
  • Cable locks can be looped around the bike and around larger objects. Go for a thick one with interwoven threads, which will take a thief longer to cut through. However, any cable can be cut through in seconds with a good set of bolt cutters. In high-theft areas, they are only good for securing the front wheel to the frame.
  • There are also hardened bike chains, which are the best option for securing your bike. If you have quick release mechanisms on your seat  or wheels, you can buy locking nuts and bolts. These can be undone with a uniquely shaped key-so passing thieves can’t steal them.

Lock Your Bike Correctly

Make sure your D-lock is tight so that the lock is not hanging loose and there’s no space between the bike and the object to which it is locked. This will make it difficult to lever the lock open. Make sure the key-hole is pointing down so the thieves can’t fill it with a corrosive fluid, or with glue, which means you can’t move it, but they can come back and steal it later. When you lock your bike somewhere, remember to remove accessories like lights or the seat if you haven’t fitted locking nuts. 

Lock Your Bike Somewhere Sensible  

Always lock your bike, even if you’re only leaving it for a minute. Leave it in as public a place as possible. Ideally, lock it where you can see  it -- or where lots of other people can see it. If you’re just taking a break, lock it up nearby where you're sitting down.

Lock Your Bike to Something Solid

Make sure your bike is secured to an immovable object like a cycle anchor. Somethings that look solid are not so check before you lock your bike somewhere. If you are locking it to a post, make sure the post is at least 12 feet (4 meters) high so thieves can’t lift it over the top.

Label Your Bike with Your Name

Make sure to label your bike with your name and registration information in multiple locations. If you have a drill, carve your name under the bike. Carving your name into your bike ensures that if someone steals the bike, they can’t remove your name without breaking the bike. Even if they paint over your name, it will be rough, and your name will be visible.

Additional Caltech Resources

  • Check out the Caltech Bike Lab, a bike cooperative run by volunteers at Caltech. Learn how to fix and maintain your bike, organize classes on how to ride safely in the streets, host rides and other club events, teach classes on bike repair, and participate in local Pasadena/Los Angeles bike community outreach. Visit the Caltech Bike Lab during Office Hours or sign up for their mailing list!