"This is dog manure in the shape of a bicycle." Hal grades your locking.
July 17, 2009 10:41 AM   Subscribe

"This is the lock you got from your parents when you were 8." "I could chew through this lock." Hal Grades Your Bike Locking (2003). Hal (and Kerri) Grade Your Bike Locking (2008). Hal Grades Your Bike Locking 3: The Final Warning! (2009) Skip to the last one unless if you're not truly dedicated to locking minutiae. (via)
posted by maudlin (59 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
unless One of these days I'll be truly dedicated to proofreading.
posted by maudlin at 10:43 AM on July 17, 2009


I'm super paranoid about locking up my bike. Steel rope snaked through the quick release wheels, frame and post. Kryptonite u-lock holding the frame to the post with the steel rope attached. Another smaller steel rope with it's own lock keeping my quick-release saddle held to the frame and snaked through my helmet. And then I have to take my lights off and put them in my pocket.

It takes forever to park but I've never lost a bike.
posted by thecjm at 10:47 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fun videos. I probably rate a solid B- in my technique.
posted by arnicae at 10:49 AM on July 17, 2009


I have a couple of heavy-ass U-locks locked to racks in strategic places in my small town, rather than carrying them around. A U-lock through the rear wheel and frame counts as an "A" here, where people still routinely leave their bikes out on their porches.

Also, I like this Hal dude.
posted by everichon at 10:55 AM on July 17, 2009


"This is dog manure in the shape of a bicycle."

You must have it confused with your hair! Zing!

Now that I have that out of the way, thanks for this post; I'm going lock-shopping this very afternoon!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:59 AM on July 17, 2009


i thought it was going to be a different HAL. :(
posted by sexyrobot at 11:02 AM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


UNLOCK THE BIANCHI PISTA HAL!

I'm sorry, Dave, I cannot do that.
posted by everichon at 11:04 AM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Why does that talking tree care so much about proper bike locking?
posted by item at 11:21 AM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Heh. I'm often tempted to issue bad locking citations (but wouldn't want to leave notes that could edify thieves -- but they probably don't need any lessons.)
posted by Zed at 11:23 AM on July 17, 2009


What is the point of a quick-release + a hose-clamp? If you're going to need a wrench to get the wheel off, why not just use a bolt like in the days of yore?
posted by smackfu at 11:24 AM on July 17, 2009


3 years ago My bike was stolen in NYC utilizing his "A" locking scheme. Which isn't to say it's a bad way to go, just that in NYC, Manhattan especially, locking your bike is a precaution, not a prevention.

Since then I employ a much more efficient strategy. 1 small kryptonite u-lock, and never letting the bike out of my sight. It either comes inside with me, or I can see it from a door or window.

I think the lowest grade should be reserved for $150 Brooks saddles left unsecured on bikes that are scarcely worth much more than that. That's like telling bike thieves "keep up the good work, here's a bonus for all your effort!" I see this all the time, and want to steal the seats myself just on principle.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:25 AM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I USE CAPS LOCK111. NEVER LOST A BIKE111111
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:25 AM on July 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


His Christopher Walken is pretty good as well.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2009


Heh that's exactly the Hal I assumed it would be, the snotty old dreadlocked white guy from Bicycle Habitat on Lafayette. Love that guy.
posted by nicwolff at 11:33 AM on July 17, 2009


These videos say more about NYC than they do about bicycles or locks.
posted by LakesideOrion at 12:10 PM on July 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I just make a point of owning crap bicycles and locking up near much nicer bikes.
posted by srboisvert at 12:16 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow- I had no idea those Brooks seats were so expensive. I got mine as a gift and have been treating it too cavalierly.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:17 PM on July 17, 2009


Jesus, some of those chains look like they weigh as much as the entire bike. Do people really haul 20 pounds of locking gear around with them everywhere they ride, or am I missing something?
posted by Rhomboid at 12:19 PM on July 17, 2009


Fucker! I bought one of the 'fail' locks from one of this dude's buddies at Bicycle Habitat not three weeks ago. I wonder if they'd give me my money back.
posted by spicynuts at 12:24 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jesus, some of those chains look like they weigh as much as the entire bike. Do people really haul 20 pounds of locking gear around with them everywhere they ride, or am I missing something?

Yes, they do. Particularly bike messengers and food delivery people.
posted by spicynuts at 12:24 PM on July 17, 2009


Hal plays guitar in my band!
posted by monospace at 12:24 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


How to avoid getting your expensive bike stolen.
1. Haphazardly cover your expensive bike frame in duct tape.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:27 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ooh, dreads on a smarmy white guy! Cultural-appropration-a-licious!
posted by ShawnStruck at 1:14 PM on July 17, 2009


What's a lock? I'm either riding it or looking at it.
posted by fixedgear at 1:56 PM on July 17, 2009


Ooh, dreads on a smarmy white guy! Cultural-appropration-a-licious!

Did you have a bike stolen recently or something?
posted by solipsophistocracy at 2:39 PM on July 17, 2009


I have a couple of heavy-ass U-locks locked to racks in strategic places in my small town, rather than carrying them around.

I was wondering why there are so many U-lock-sans-bike gathering rust on bike stands all over the world. I assume they were the mocking remains of some kind of successful theft. This is a much happier explanation :)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:49 PM on July 17, 2009


What fixedgear said, except for that one bike that, if I lost it, I'd be bummed, but not heartbroken. This is also the bike that I've tried to make as ugly and unfashionable and mismatched and worn-looking as possible.
posted by box at 2:57 PM on July 17, 2009


I have a couple of heavy-ass U-locks locked to racks in strategic places in my small town, rather than carrying them around.

That would be more practical if Kryptonites heavy-duty locks weren't $100!
posted by smackfu at 3:06 PM on July 17, 2009


These videos say more about NYC than they do about bicycles or locks.

How so?
posted by kathrineg at 3:09 PM on July 17, 2009


Related: How to steal a bike in New York City
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7zb8YXrmIA
posted by tresbizzare at 4:04 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Eh, the bike thieves won the war. They won it bad. The only thing to do, if you like using a bike for transportation, is to get a crappy beater bike from a thrift store or something and lock it up with whatever cheap lock you want to prevent a lazy thief from just casually running off with it. Any bike you'd actually care about losing should be kept in a locked garage and probably insured as well, because even that doesn't always work.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:08 PM on July 17, 2009


I don't get this "blame the owner" shit. When your car is stolen, people don't say "serves you right, you should have bought a Chevette and taken the spark cable out". But for some reason bicycles are treated the same as coffee room candy.
posted by Popular Ethics at 4:39 PM on July 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Hal's a great guy. Put a cork in the hate.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:17 PM on July 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


What is the point of a quick-release + a hose-clamp? If you're going to need a wrench to get the wheel off, why not just use a bolt like in the days of yore?

Because bikes tend to come with quick-release skewers today. So once you have quick-release wheels already, you could get a set of locking skewers for $20-$100, or you could get two $1 hose clamps.

When your car is stolen, people don't say "serves you right, you should have bought a Chevette and taken the spark cable out". But for some reason bicycles are treated the same as coffee room candy.

Bikes don't come with a bunch of security features built-in. If you had to come up with your own car locking scheme, people would be saying that. (People do say that about Jeep soft tops, for instance, or expensive aftermarket import racer rims, two cases where you do have to come up with your own security scheme for cars.)

And there's a lot more opportunistic bike theft and bike part theft than car theft and car part theft.
posted by mendel at 5:32 PM on July 17, 2009


But for some reason bicycles are treated the same as coffee room candy.

Because in the USA they are seen as children's toys. All legal system personnel must be made to watch The Bicycle Thief.
posted by fixedgear at 6:03 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The only thing to do, if you like using a bike for transportation, is to get a crappy beater bike from a thrift store or something and lock it up with whatever cheap lock you want to prevent a lazy thief from just casually running off with it.

Or just live in the kind of superficial well-to-do area where no self-respecting person would be caught dead riding anything that lacks a motor. I have a carbon-fiber racing bike loaded to the gills with gear, and I've had it for eight years now, ride it places most days, only bother to lock the frame (sometimes I don't lock it at all) and I've never had any part of it stolen. Other places I've been, I would have lost it years ago.

I think that areas where bikes have (or are approaching) mainstream acceptance tend to have the biggest theft issues. It's a barb in the success of bicycle advocacy :-/
posted by -harlequin- at 6:03 PM on July 17, 2009


Like so many other things, some large part of this can probably be laid at the door of the war on drugs. Free up law enforcement to enforce real crimes, remove some of the desperate theft incentives of addicts, stop releasing thieves from jail because you only have room for the mandatory-sentencing cases (a.k.a. drug offenders), and you might see some improvement in the situation.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:30 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


remove some of the desperate theft incentives of addicts,

I am no fan of the war on drugs. But would one of the effects of legalizing drugs really be that jukies would suddenly have money?
posted by The World Famous at 8:04 PM on July 17, 2009


TWF, arguably they'd need to come up with a whole lot less every day.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:08 PM on July 17, 2009


Related: How to steal a bike in New York City

That just proves that it's easy to steal something if you look like the kind of guy who should be the owner.
posted by smackfu at 8:10 PM on July 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I lock my bike in the trunk of my car.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:51 PM on July 17, 2009


Ugh, forgot the... /s(uburbanite)
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:51 PM on July 17, 2009


TWF, arguably they'd need to come up with a whole lot less every day.

I understand, but it seems to me that, with respect to some drugs in particular, that wouldn't make much of a difference. A junkie who will steal a bike wheel to buy $100 worth of drug x will also steal a bike to buy $20 of the same drug when the price has dropped. It's not like the bike-stealing junkies have some drug money but just not enough for the inflated prices of the drug war, is it? Maybe I'm naive, but I don't imagine that the junkie bike thieves are stealing to support a pot habit, for example, but are instead stealing to support a habit doing a drug that has a more profound effect on their total earning capacity and cash flow, not only because of its price, but because of its effect on their lifestyle as a whole. But maybe I'm mistaken.
posted by The World Famous at 8:57 PM on July 17, 2009


Well, perhaps someone else can produce and sift through the figures on drug-related crime, determine (to the extent it's documented) what percentage of the street price is driven by its illegality, e.g the cost of bribery all the way down the production, importation and distribution chain, losses to government seizures, lawyers to keep the big guys out of jail, etc. etc. Once you filter it down to a revised street price, figure out how much stealing is fueled by the price of drugs vs a simple inability to work because of addiction, etc.

I don't have that analysis in front of me, and until one of us produces it we're trading in argument from ignorance, which is a bit pointless.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:03 PM on July 17, 2009


That's true. The only information I'm going on is the anecdotal evidence of the people I have known who were junkies on heroin, meth, crack, or some combination thereof.
posted by The World Famous at 9:10 PM on July 17, 2009


Well, this subtopic is a bit of a derailleur (HA! get it? I kill me) but of course decriminalization creates an entirely different economic ball game -- some people would get out of it because the rewards for the apex players would not be so huge, others would get in because the barriers to entry dropped. It might end up being mere pennies, but that's speculation.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:15 PM on July 17, 2009


True. It's a fascinating debate.

Now, let's get back to locking bikes. I locked mine for years with a fail-oriented U-Lock and cable, but I did lock everything up (both wheels and the seat). I never had the bike or any components stolen. But I didn't live in New York, either.
posted by The World Famous at 9:20 PM on July 17, 2009


Oh, one other hopefully more on-topic note: figures from the Netherlands might be illuminating, in that they have both a huge bicycling culture and a major degree of decriminalization. And while this is as anecdotal as it gets, I have seen an awful lot of nice bikes there whose owners' locking practices would oblige this guy to come up with several grades below F-.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:24 PM on July 17, 2009


As someone above said, I think that says more about New York City than it does about bike lock techniques or about drug de-criminalization. I think the bike theft thing has as much to do with American culture as it does with drug crime.
posted by The World Famous at 9:26 PM on July 17, 2009


It used to be a running joke in The Netherlands, that the most common crime was bicycle theft. Growing up there, I didn't know of anybody who didn't have a bike stolen at least once. With over 700.000 bikes stolen every year, a new "National Bike Register" is supposed to help people keep track of stolen bikes. Also, decriminalization of drugs seems to have had a positive influence in reducing the number of bikes getting stolen.
posted by monospace at 10:40 PM on July 17, 2009


This is really only a concern for those who use their bikes as a mode of transportation, and need to keep it unattended in public for long stretches. A good frame-mounted wheel lock and a medium-weight cable is all you need for rec riding.

If you do need to park your commuter bike (I do at the train station), then component theft becomes a concern, as do lock breakers.

The crux if it is this: no bike locking scheme is foolproof. If someone really wants your bike they will take it. The trick is to make it so they really don't want your bike - you want to make it as time consuming and annoying as possible to steal or vandalize your ride, so the thief will decide to pick on someone else's bike. If they enjoyed hard work and a decent challenge, they wouldn't be thieves.

Believe it or not, a bigger u-lock is not always better - in fact, it's often worse, despite being made of thicker steel, because the shackle is wide enough to slip in a small bottle-jack, which breaks your lock. I have an OnGuard Bulldog Mini - the Bulldog is their premier line, and more expensive than Walmart OnGuard locks, so they're pretty resistant to hacksaws and bolt cutters... yet the shackle is thinner, and not as broad as the typical u-lock. There's really no room to slide in even a "stubby" bottle-jack, when the front wheel, frame and bike-rack/signpost are locked together. Even if I had a locking QR on he front wheel, I'd still lock it to the frame, because they can't roll or steer the bike if they disassemble the bike rack to walk away with the bikes. (Ahhh, I bet you didn't know they did that! They do. Easier and less obvious than carrying around a battery-powered angle-grinder to attack u-locks and heavy chains.)

In back, to keep my rear wheel where it is, I have a small "armored cable" padlock that's really a re-purposed gun lock designed to go through shotgun breeches - tough enough to put up a fight when someone takes a short pair of bolt cutters to it, flexible enough where a prybar can't be used against it.

I have an odd-ball sized seatpost bolt, but if I didn't, I'd replace the QR with a locking quick-release or security bolt. I have solder filling the hex-head screws on everything with a hex head bolt. Easier to get out than epoxy, not as easy as hot-melt glue. I should move to hot-melt glue, because you can just pry it out with an awl... what kind of theif wants to spend five minutes picking out glue with an awl to get at a used set of handlebars? As the owner, I don't adjust my bars enough to care about the extra effort.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:03 PM on July 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


  1. Lock your bike next to other, nicer-looking bikes
  2. Make sure yours is the biggest pain-in-the-ass to steal.
  3. Take the seat off.
An opportunist will want to pop your locks and ride off. A serious thief, with a battery-operated angle grinder (etc.) and a truck won't be stopped by anything except couriernet.

*"MF! My bike's been jacked!"*
*"What is it?, over."*
*"Purple cannondale, custom paint (etc.)"*
*"I see it, in a truck going down Bronson. Courier army, converge, and take no prisoners."*
posted by Decimask at 11:07 PM on July 17, 2009


> A good frame-mounted wheel lock and a medium-weight cable is all you need for rec riding.

I'm going to bed, but I'm 99% confident your suggested lock was beaten by a tension trick with a key blank ages ago. I remember from trying to find that lock on the web after seeing it ages ago.
posted by Decimask at 11:11 PM on July 17, 2009


It's really only good for locking up outside the 7-11 while you run in for a drink, or outside the library while you return some books. It's to keep honest people honest... you could probably pry it apart with a long diesel mechanic's screwdriver. Casual thieves will not have a key blank handy, or know the tension trick. Hell, Professional thieves will not have a key blank handy or know the tension trick... they will have bolt-cutters and a set of allen wrenches.

Lockpicks are not a concern. It requires too much effort to master, and it pays more to be a locksmith than it does to steal bikes to sell on Craigslist. Portable angle-grinders and vandals looking to steal components to sell on ebay, or to refurbish an old bike to sell on craigslist, are larger worries.

But, if you're just tootling around town or the bike path, a nice frame-mounted wheel lock and cable will do fine. If you lock your bike in the same place every day and leave it there unattended 8 hours or more, then you need something more serious.
posted by Slap*Happy at 11:34 PM on July 17, 2009


Wow- I had no idea those Brooks seats were so expensive. I got mine as a gift and have been treating it too cavalierly

What? You haven't been... sitting on it, have you?!?!
posted by ActingTheGoat at 12:16 AM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was wondering why there are so many U-lock-sans-bike gathering rust on bike stands all over the world. I assume they were the mocking remains of some kind of successful theft.

In places like universities, it's fairly common to see abandoned bikes locked to cycle racks and rusting. Tidier places do periodic abandoned bike removals.

The first port of call at my place is to cut the lock and sell the bike, with proceeds going to charity. If the bike removal guys can't cut through the lock, they just cut through the frame, wheels etc, which are much easier to cut. Result: One lock left on a rack without a bike.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:50 AM on July 18, 2009


I think the bike theft thing has as much to do with American culture as it does with drug crime.

Eh, it's a big step from NYC bike thefts to American culture as a whole.
posted by smackfu at 6:47 AM on July 18, 2009


I once locked my bike outside a busy coffee shop on a busy corner in the city, and promptly lost the key. I returned the next day with a hacksaw and, at lunch time with people everywhere, proceeded to saw through my lock. It took a good fifteen minutes, and not once did someone stop me or ask why I was cutting through the lock. I wasn't approached by any security or police, and once I was through the lock I hopped on and rode off without a problem.

Since then, I've just accepted that my bike will, in time, be stolen.
posted by twirlypen at 10:35 AM on July 18, 2009


Eh, it's a big step from NYC bike thefts to American culture as a whole.

It was more an effort to differentiate it from non-American culture than to lump it in with some non-existent uniformity across the U.S.
posted by The World Famous at 10:43 AM on July 20, 2009


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