Streetfilms: Hal Grades Your Bike Locking 3 — The Final Warning

With Bike Month well underway and lots of new cyclists hitting the streets, we need a sage to remind us how easy it is to roll your bike. So, once again, I’m pleased to present immortal Bicycle Habitat mechanic Hal Ruzal in the last chapter of his exclusive Streetfilms trilogy
on proper bike locking. Hal is calling it "your final warning."

This time around Hal not only grades the ability of anonymous locker-uppers, but also shows you how he secures his own bike, so you too can score an
"A" (or at least have a decent shot at an A- or B+). And if you can’t get enough of Hal’s
stories and musings, don’t miss our first two
chapters: "Hal Grades Your Bike Locking" and "Hal (and Kerri) Grade Your Bike Locking."

  • I wonder if it’s depressing to be this paranoid all the time. When I go into a shop or cafe (in San Francisco) I hardly ever lock my bike unless there are obviously shady people lurking around. Last week I accidentally left my unlocked bike unattended on a busy downtown street for ten hours and it was still there when I came back.

    While I carry a U lock in my luggage, I think the level of zeal depicted in this video series just makes bicycling look like a hassle. Who would want to ride a bike if you have to chain the rear wheel to the front wheel to the U-lock to a signpost and remove your seat, your lights, your bottle, and your computer at every stop?

    And yes, I’ve had plenty of bikes stolen. Each of them was stolen from the interior of a building.

  • That was great!

  • t

    Jeffrey, think of it this way: the amount of time it takes to properly secure a bike, while seemingly long, is still less time than it takes to wait for the subway or find a parking space for a car. Cycling looks like a hassle in a vacuum, but not in comparison to other forms of transportation.

  • CR

    Jeffrey – For the record, New York City is the hottest bike market for stolen bikes. I’m not sure how SF rates, but you make it seem like some sort of mystical land where no one steals other people’s bikes – except for the ones you had stolen from *inside* a building. (I’m wondering if those were locked up or not.) Do people leave their cars unlocked with the keys inside too? How about their apartments and homes?

    While locking up your bike is more of a hassle than not doing it, you work out your “system” and you go with it. You find what lock works for you, and what you need to secure the wheels. The seat chain will be done at the shop (usually for less than $10), and the “pinheads” for the wheels are a great idea (and those you only need done once). I hammered my system down over a number of days and now it’s ready to go in a moment’s notice. Sure, this takes forethought, but so be it. All good things in life take some thinking.

    All my friends know that when I get somewhere I’m going to need 30 seconds to lock up and remove my lights (both of which clip on and off in about 1/2 a second). No one seems to complain. I don’t ride with a water bottle when I commute/get around town as it’s not needed. True story: my friend left his water bottle on his bike overnight and when he came back it was filled with urine. Not joking. Also, cycling computers I leave on my road bike.

    “I think the level of zeal depicted in this video series just makes bicycling look like a hassle. Who would want to ride a bike if you have to…” Apparently more and more people everyday.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “I think the level of zeal depicted in this video series just makes bicycling look like a hassle…And yes, I’ve had plenty of bikes stolen.”

    I haven’t had a bike stolen, triple lock it and take the seat and all accessories, and yes it is depressing.

    The worst part of bike commuting on a cold winter day? Taking off my gloves to hold all that cold steel in my burning hands while locking the heavy Kryptonite chain and two U-locks, and removing the seat.

  • CR

    Now the word “depressing” has come up twice here. What’s so depressing about locking up your bike? Perhaps they should start selling bike locks with a starter pack of Zoloft. Seriously. If I didn’t want to hassle with other people’s crap I would live a life of solitude in a wooden shack in Montana, spending my days hammering out my manifesto, while my beard grows down to my feet. However, as I do not wish to remove myself from society (nor grow a beard so long I can wear it as a garment) I guess I’ll just have to make peace with the fact that, yes, people steal bikes and do protect myself somehow. Get used to it.

  • It doesn’t take that long to lock up my bike with a U-lock and chain, and it gives me peace of mind that it’ll be there when I get back. I’ve talked to people who say they don’t mind if their bike gets stolen, and in my head I frame a silent response, “But I have places to go, things to do and people to see? How could I accomplish all that without my ride?”

  • I realize that bikes get stolen in NYC. That’s the depressing part. How can we take urban bicycling in America from something that only “bike people” do — and clearly the star of this video is a 99th-percentile bike guy — so something ordinary people do. How can we take it from something involving four chains, a sign post, ball bearings, pentagon socket heads, and epoxy turn it into something that requires at most one U-lock or chain? When you go to Amsterdam you see bike racks with hundreds of bikes, most locked with a simple chain.

  • James

    The video was entertaining and thorough, but Jeffrey is correct. If the goal is to get regular folks out there on bikes (to create a false dichotomy here, “bike pedestrians”, as opposed to “cyclists”), then most people are simply not going to put up with this. I’m fortunate enough to be able to bring my bike inside the building, but if this is what I had to go through on a daily basis, I wouldn’t commute by bike.

  • t

    Here’s what I had to go through on a daily basis when I was commuting by car in another city: variable traffic which meant a no-traffic, 20-minute drive could turn into an hour depending on accidents, ball games, or other events; hostile drivers, swinging gas prices, and car repairs.

    Here’s what I have to go through on a daily basis when I commute in NYC via subway: inexplicable delays, rerouted trains, crowded and sometimes dirty cars, people clipping their fingernails or blasting music as they sit next to me, riders leaning on poles, and dirty and hot stations during the summer.

    Not that biking isn’t without its hazards and annoyances, but it takes me no more than a minute or two to lock up my bike so that it won’t get stolen. That’s a fare trade to avoid the subways, get a little exercise, and enjoy the nice weather. In fact, it’s a breeze compared with the alternatives. Granted, everyone has different tolerance levels, and the city should offer easier, more secure bike parking, but to write off biking because it takes a long time to lock up a bike is to ignore all of the things that can make alternatives just as, if not more, frustrating.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Now the word ‘depressing’ has come up twice here.”

    I don’t find getting around by bicycle to be depressing. But if you were to rank everything about it from the best to the worst, this to me is the worst — the fact that yes, it does appear extreme measures are required in NYC and I spend quite a bit of time locking and disassembling.

    Not the weather in winter, or conflicts with drivers, which I’ve had no serious problems with. Thieves.

    Nothing is without a downside, and this is really the only one for bicycle transport for me. Now should I stop locking one wheel and the frame with both a massive chain and a U lock, the other wheel with another U lock, taking the seat, and removing the lights, odometer/speedometer and radio? Not according to Hal.

  • This may be the best Streetfilm ever. I am not going to admit to what grade Hal might have given me, though.

  • Gwin

    Frankly, I was suprised by some of the “advice” he gave. A teeny cable lock to secure the front wheel? I had a bike stolen in less than a minute which had one of those on it, plus a much thicker one for the frame/back wheel — the thieves cut through both in broad daylight in less than a minute (I got the timed surveillance footage from my company). I should’ve had better locks on my bike — so I was surprised to see someone recommending that very same cable lock.

    Also, his method for securing a seat? Tried that once… and the seat was stolen the very next day. Again, anyone can clip right through a welded bike chain.

  • James: Anecdotal evidence proves that people really appreciate seeing these films and in fact is doing the opposite of what you claim. In the months after we have posted each “Hal Grading Film” I get constant feedback from people thanking us for doing these films – that they learned just how easy it is to lose a part of a bike or more. Hal – gets it daily multiple times at the store, people ask him advice or want him to grade their bike outside. Sadly other people come in and say “if I had just watched your video first, I wouldn’t have had my bike stolen.”

    Jeffery: Once you learn what to do, it all becomes automatic locking up, taking stuff with you, etc. I wouldn’t call it “depressing” but it can be annoying. I sure wish it wasn’t this way – we should all have a place to put our bike safe, NYPD should do more about theft, we need lighter and more easy to carry locking devices….

    It’d be great if everytime I left my bike somewhere and daises would begin to grow around it and protect it. However, that is not gonna happen (okay maybe if we find a kudzu plant, but I digress. This is the unfortunate reality, and I don’t want to get a bike stolen. It is part of the rules in NYC and we are presenting reality here. If I were a beginning cyclist, I’d much rather know the game going in, rather than lose my bike in my first week of owning it. If that happens to someone, chance are they don ‘t go back to cycling. So better to be informed. And in Hal’s delightfully humorous manner.

  • Doesn’t everything in NYC require four chains, a sign post, ball bearings, pentagon socket heads, and a little epoxy? But the only thing “depressing” about cycling is finding your bicycle gone because you didn’t adequately secure it. In fact, cycling is known to release endorphins which is the same effect known as ” runner’s high. It provides a wonderful lift when urban life starts to impact on the soul. Maybe if Jeffrey finds all this “depressing” he just isn’t riding his bike enough.

    I was at Bicycle Habitat last week when I noticed Clarence and Hal across the street so I’ve been looking forward to this film ever since. Clarence, you didn’t disappoint 🙂

  • t

    For what it’s worth, the coffee shop I frequent has both of their outside benches chained to the building. Bikes are no different than anything else in this city that’s apt to disappear if they aren’t secured. Heck, even gas stations in the burbs attach their keys to hubcaps.

  • I think this is a great video on how to properly lock your bike! Getting your bike stolen can just ruin your day. Whether you have an expensive bike or an old junker, it is still your way to get around or have fun with. By taking these small, extra precautions, you can prevent the heartache of getting it stolen.

  • Gwin

    *sigh*

  • @Jeffery – Very good points. For newbies at urban biking, I think just installing the locking skewers for wheels and seat, then just using a U lock is your best bet. This makes it easy to lock up and such, but gives you pretty good protection. I think Hal would give it a B or maybe a B+, but really, I’ve never had a problem with it in 5 years in SF.

    And those kryptonite cables – those are not strong. The thief of my first stolen bike was nice enough to leave the cut cable laying around. I took a pair of fresh pliers to it and made a new cut in about 5 minutes. And that was a thicker cable than Hal uses in the video, and I’m no professional. It did pretty much kill the pliers thou.

    Of course, the best protection of all is just to lower that resale value factor…

  • Chris

    Perhaps bike manufacturers could help by creating bikes that could be rendered somewhat useless with the removal of a part or two, like a removable front from a car stereo. Not sure what but something.

  • Very helpful site. I appreciate your effort, looking forward to your feed updates…

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