Cycle theft

Unlocked bicycle

Sometimes bikes are stolen purely as a means of transport, so even the oldest bike left insecure outside a shop for a few minutes is at risk.  

Bicycle secured with a poor quality lock 

Some locks may look good quality but you get what you pay for. For example, some D-locks may look robust but are mostly made up of a thick layer of plastic with only a very thin metal core - easy for a cycle thief to twist off or to cut through.

It's generally advised to spend at least 10% of the value of your bike on a lock and, ideally, to use 2 different types of lock to deter thieves. The lock should have a sold secure bronze, silver or gold rating - the industry standard for bicycle lock durability. 

Locks are generally sold with 2 keys, always keep your spare key in a safe place in case your key is lost or stolen and keep a note of your key number (this should be on the key itself or come with the lock when you buy it) so you can replace it if all else fails.

Types of bike locks available


These are heavy rigid steel locks in a 'D' or 'U' shape. They are generally very heavy and tough. D locks range from around £20-£80. Usually the more you pay the stronger and more secure it will be. They can be heavy: over 1kg, although many come with a mounting bracket so that you can attach your lock to your bike frame whilst riding. They can also be limiting in that they will not fit around all street furniture, for example lampposts.

Cable locks

Cable locks can vary enormously in weight and strength. They are more flexible than D locks so can be used in situations where a D lock might not fit. Thinner, cheaper versions are very easy to cut through but thicker cable locks can be very secure. Thinner cables are useful in combination with other locks to secure parts like wheels or your saddle so that you don't need to remove them every time you leave your bike.

Chains and padlocks

These can be very heavy and impractical to carry around but they are very tough and a good quality hardened heavy-duty chain combined with a couple of good hardened padlocks may be the strongest option available. If you lock your bicycle in the same place regularly, you might consider leaving your chain locked there permanently so that you don't have to carry it around. Please keep in mind inconvenience to other users if you decide to do this.

Bicycle locked ineffectively

When you lock your bicycle, try to fit the stand, the rim of one of the wheels and the frame into the lock. By securing your wheel as well as the frame, you’ll not only make it harder for thieves to take, but there’ll also be less space in the lock for thieves to insert bars or jacks to lever the lock.

D locks and cable locks only allow you to lock the frame and one wheel of your bike so you may decide to buy 2 D Locks to secure both wheels, or to buy a cable lock to secure the second wheel. Alternatively, you could combine your D lock with an ‘extension’ cable – a flexible cable with open loop ends which you can loop through the wheel you haven’t locked and secure to the D lock before you lock it.  

It’s best to angle the lock so that the opening is facing down. This prevents thieves from pouring in substances such as glue to prevent the owner from being able to retrieve the bike, giving them the chance to force the bike later. 

If you have quick release mechanisms on your bike, it can be very easy for thieves to steal your saddle and wheels. You may wish to replace the quick release mechanisms with ordinary bolts or nuts which fit a spanner or allen key; or you can buy special locking nuts which can only be undone with a specially designed version of an allen key which is sold with the bolt. 

Remember, always take good care of your lock and key. Bad treatment, such as leaving your lock outdoors for prolonged periods can take its toll and if your lock breaks you may find it very difficult to rescue your bike.

Locking your bike in an unsuitable location 

Leaving your bicycle in a shed or garage

Parking your bike in a shed or garage can be risky, but you can take measures to improve their security. Several companies sell tough anchors which either bolt directly to the floor or wall or can be installed into concrete. They come complete with the tools you need to install them. 

Never leave your bike outside in the garden unless you have a cycle anchor or another secure object to secure it to. Ensure that the garden gate is locked every evening. Many cycle thefts occur from bikes left in back gardens of terraced properties. 

Invest in a shed or garage alarm, available from DIY retailers. 

Remember to consider bike security if you are transporting your bike(s) on a bike carrier on your car on holiday or for recreational activities.

Street parking 

On the street, it’s generally best to use cycle parking stands if these are available. Look for secure, immovable cycle parking. Make sure the stands are bolted securely or embedded into the ground. It should ideally be possible for you to lock both your frame and your wheels to the stand – stands that only allow your front wheel to be locked should be avoided as thieves can remove your front wheel and make off with the rest of your bike. 

‘D’ or ‘U’ shaped Sheffield stands will usually allow you to do this, but beware of the temptation to only lock your bike through the frame as wheels can be easily removed and stolen. Some new designs encourage double-locking. 

If there are no suitable parking stands available, then you can use secure, immovable street furniture. Railings, lamp-posts etc. will usually allow you to lock your bike through the frame and one wheel. When choosing such a spot, try to make sure that there is plenty of ‘natural surveillance’ of the site – passing pedestrians, overlooking shops or houses and good street lighting.  

Make sure that your bike isn’t causing an obstruction to others as it may be removed by the authorities.

It’s never a good idea to settle for an inadequate location when parking your bike, even if you are only leaving it for a short time.

Dark alleys

Even if your bike is locked, a thief will have an ideal opportunity to break through your lock.

Butterfly racks 

Avoid parking which only allows you to secure your front wheel to the stand. Even if you don’t have quick release wheels, it’s very easy for a thief to detach your wheel and make off with the rest of your bike.


Short posts, or even tall posts that a lock can fit over the top of. Your bike will be lifted over the top. Even if there is a sign at the top that your lock can’t fit around, bear in mind that a very determined thief could unscrew the sign and lift your bike over, so it’s not a good idea to leave your bike locked to sign post overnight.


These can be easily shattered.

Overnight parking 

Try to avoid leaving your bike anywhere in the town centre overnight, even if there is CCTV or adequate lighting. Determined thieves are not always deterred by such measures.

Page last updated: 13 June 2019
Help us improve
This is just for feedback on our website, not comments or questions about our services. Feedback on services will not be passed on. To tell us anything else, contact us.

Please don't include any personal or financial information.