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How to Lock a Bike Without a Bike Rack [Guest Post]

How to lock a bike without a bike rack

By Deniz Gokce, Cycle Simply

Millions of bikers get on the saddle to commute and get around town every day. Not only does cycling have various benefits for your health, but it can also be a cheaper and faster means of commuting compared to alternatives in major cities. However, using your bike to commute does bring up the question: How do you protect it against theft?

When you are out and about on your bike, it can be a little difficult at times to ensure your bike doesn’t get stolen, especially if there’s no bike rack near where you were planning to park your bike. So how do you ensure someone else doesn’t steal your bike away when there is no bike rack to lock it to?

In this article, we will explain the options for keeping your bike safe from theft in the absence of a bike rack. Now let’s dive in:

How to lock a bike without a bike rack

Invest in a lock

It’s important to have a sturdy lock when you’re parking your bike somewhere, not for the obvious reason of securing your bike by locking it but also for deterring reasons. Bike thieves are on the lookout for bikes that seem easy to steal. When they see a bike with a heavy-looking lock, they are more likely to go searching for other targets.

The most popular bike locks fall in either one of the two categories listed below:

  • The U-lock (D-lock): These are essentially large metal padlocks that fasten around your bike and what you’re locking it to. You can find these in various sizes, weights, and prices. If you frequently lock your bike in places with lots of bike theft, it would be ideal to invest in a more expensive U-lock that is heavier, more sturdy, and difficult to get through with a bolt cutter.

  • Cable Lock (Chain Lock): Locks that are made of flexible material such as chains, ropes, or belts with interlocking ends. Again these come in various shapes and sizes. Due to their flexible nature, they tend to be easier to work with if you’re locking your bike to something that is not a bike rack. You may want to opt for stronger materials for extra security.

How to lock a bike without a bike rack

Find a fixed object that you can lock your bike to

One alternative is to lock your bike to something other than a bike rack that is tall, sturdy, and immobile. These can be trees, street signs, light poles, posts, fences, or benches that are bolted to the ground. Now, why should you be looking for things that are tall and immobile?

Obviously, you shouldn’t lock your bike to something that can be moved easily, so a potential thief doesn’t just steal your bike by taking whatever it’s locked to with them. We also need it to be tall or at least shaped in a way that will prevent the thief from stealing the bike by lifting it up.

Check if your local authorities allow you to lock your bike on the fence, street sign, or trees, as some cities may have laws against those.

You should ideally pick a spot that is away from car traffic, so a car doesn’t hit your bike in its locked spot. In addition, you shouldn’t leave your bike in the middle of a busy footpath, or somewhere with a lot of foot traffic, so your bike’s not in the way of pedestrians. Make sure you’re not blocking anyone.

Another thing to pay attention to is that you should not lock your bike on private property. Double-check that you are leaving your bike on public property before walking away.

Immobilize both wheels

If there is no structure nearby you can lock your bike to, your best bet is immobilizing your bike by immobilizing its wheels so a potential thief can’t just wheel it away. To achieve this, you can take a cable lock and tie it through the bike frame and both tires.

Even if this doesn’t make your bike impossible to steal per se, it will take a thief a long time and effort to move your bike if you do this, and he/ she would look very suspicious doing it. Just for this reason alone, a bike thief will probably be deterred from stealing your bike if they see there is a cable lock in place stabilizing both wheels.

If you don’t have a cable lock, you can also use the straps of your helmet to immobilize one of the wheels. Doing this with only one wheel does leave your bike more vulnerable to theft compared to doing it with both, as the thief might be able to wheel the bike away with one wheel still mobile. However, whoever tries to steal your bike might just think that it’s not worth it and walk away.

Leave your bike in the highest gear

This is not really a fool-proof measure, but it could earn you some time. Basically, the bike will be difficult to ride away on if you leave it in the highest gear. Again, this could cause the thief to just give up and move on to an easier target. It will also cause him to panic if you catch him in the act. He won’t be able to escape as easily by getting on your bike and riding away due to the resistance provided by the high gear.


Ensuring the safety of your bike doesn’t necessarily require bike racks. You just need to make sure your bike is locked to something that is sturdy, immobile, and shaped in a way that will prevent a potential thief from taking your bike away. It’s always a great idea to invest in a good lock if you can afford to, especially if you frequent neighborhoods with a lot of theft.

One way to avoid this problem altogether is using a bike from a bike-share system in your area instead of your own bike. For instance, New York City has Citi Bike, which has over 1,000 stations all over the city where you can leave your bike after checking out. It’s pretty easy to locate one near your destination and leave your Citi bike there instead of worrying about a safe spot to lock your bike.

Image: Unsplash/ Chris Barbalis

Author Bio

Deniz is the co-founder of Cycle Simply, a website dedicated to improving the lives of cyclists. Check out her posts on how to set your saddle height , the best cycling apps, the best bikes for big guys and the best bikes for teens.