There’s a fairly well known rule in Amsterdam; one they live by. No, it has nothing to do with marijuana, euthanasia or even canals, clogs or clandestine brothels. The rule goes that: your bike lock should cost more than your bike.
There’s good reason for this. Firstly, any new or expensive bike doesn’t stand a chance on the mean streets of Amsterdam, where bike theft is an industry more valuable than car theft. So the cheaper and older the bike, the less likely it’ll be stolen.
Of course this only works if your bike isn’t in the right place at the right time for a thief heading home, or someone looking for quick income. Last time I was in Amsterdam you could still buy a cheap ride home for around €20 from a dodgy-looking bloke sitting on a canal bridge.
The usual way to combat this is the use of two locks. Almost all Dutch bikes are fitted with a ‘ring-lock’. A lock which is attached to your frame and when locked puts a thick steel bolt through the spokes. Once locked it can only be opened by key, so if you lose your key, your bike becomes a permanent tourist attraction.
This lock alone isn’t enough. A second lock is needed to secure your bike to a bike rack or piece of the street furniture. A thick chain is recommended. Combination locks are frowned upon.
London is much the same. Here I used three locks. One to secure front wheel and frame to the bike rack. A second to do the same with the back wheel. And a third to lock my seat to the bike. It didn’t even have a quick release, but this doesn’t stop them. Despite this, my bike was still partially stolen, while locked up in our apartment garage. Every piece that wasn’t secured was removed. Bike’s are valuable in Europe, apparently. Even the parts 😦
So, when we returned to New Zealand, I was perhaps over-zealous with my lock purchases. My first lock was industrial strength – the kind you see more commonly used for motorbikes. It used a key and weighed more than my bike (slight exaggeration). This wasn’t enough – I got my parents to bring back some ring-locks from Holland for me. They bought the fantastic AXA Defender with extra locking attachement. Now we’re talking!
But I’ve observed something over the past two years… and that’s that hardly anyone is as paranoid as I am about locking their bikes. Lights get left on, as do pannier bags. Seats and wheels have quick release latches and aren’t bolted down. Sometimes bikes are even left outside – UNLOCKED – while it’s rider pops into a shop! My 20mm-5 star minimum seems a little OTT here!
So what is a good lock? Well, the most important feature a lock should have is that it’s with your bike. If it’s too heavy or difficult to bother with, then you’ll end up leaving it at home. I’ve found my old combination lock is quite handy if I’m going somewhere with the hubby. He knows the combo, so can unlock my bike for me while I finish loading the panniers. I’ve just bought my smallest lock ever. To me it looks like scissors would cut through it, but I can keep it in my handbag and I’m following the ‘old bike’ rule – my bike looks so
rusty, I mean, rustic, that no one would want to steal it.
After several years in the Netherlands, I still highly recommend a good ring-lock. You can never forget your key as you can’t leave without it in the lock! And these days the keys have registration numbers so you can replace them if they fall into the black hole keys end up in. For my older bikes, I am just using the old combination locks. I do wonder how easy these are to pick?
So what kinda lock does it for you? Are you more into security or convenience? Have you ever had a bike stolen? Do you lock your bike at all? I’d be interested in reassuring stories of bikes in NZ never being stolen… but am I dreaming?