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How to Lock Your Bike Without a Lock

Not every cyclist takes a bike lock with them when going for a ride, which is understandable. 

Riding lightweight without a lock is fun but can leave you in a sticky situation if you have to make an unexpected stop. 

How will you lock your bike for an emergency coffee stop without bringing a lock with you? 

Whatever your emergency, in this guide, we’ll explore the safest ways to lock your bike without a bike lock. 

So that next time you’re riding solo and need a slap of caffeine or need to pick up some flowers for your partner, your bike will be safe.  

Four different ways to lock a bike without a lock
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    Brief Overview

    Locking your bike without a lock is risky business.

    However, there are several methods you can use to increase the security of an unlocked bike while you leave it unattended. 

    One of the safest methods from the guide below is to ask someone you can trust to watch your bike. 

    If you were popping into a supermarket to pick up dinner quickly, the shop’s security guard might agree to watch over your bike if you ask nicely. 

    Otherwise, if you’re popping inside a cafe to grab a coffee, someone sitting outside will generally be happy to watch your bike for you.

    Implementing this tip and a few of the other steps below will make it harder for opportunist thieves to steal your bike.

    How To Lock a Bike Without a Lock

    No.1 Tip

    Leaving your bike unlocked in public is never very safe.

    If you have no other options, try to keep an eye on your bike if possible.

    Otherwise, try to limit the time you’re away from your bike to a minimum and implement several of the steps below to ensure it remains as secure as possible. 

    1. Ask Someone You Trust if They Can Watch It for You

    Asking someone you trust if they can keep an eye on your bike for you is one of the safest ways to lock your bike without a lock. 

    Whilst most strangers would probably be happy to watch your bike for a few minutes if you ask nicely, another cyclist is your best bet as they’ll likely sympathise with your struggle!

    Alongside this, it’s still worth implementing a few other steps below to ensure your bike is as secure as possible.

    2. Ask If It's Okay To Bring Your Bike Inside

    Depending on what you’re doing when leaving your bike, you may be able to take your bicycle with you. 

    Say you need to go into a supermarket. You’ll sometimes be able to leave your bike just inside the door if you ask nicely. 

    Normally, the security guard on the door will be able to tell you if this is ok. 

    If you can’t leave your bike inside, ask if they can watch it for you quickly whilst you’re away. 

    3. Attach Your Wheel To Your Frame With Your Helmet Strap

    making your bike hard to steal by using your helmet to secure your wheel to your frame
    Whilst a helmet can be easily removed, it'll add time to any theft attempt, which is what we're trying to achieve

    Whilst not comparable to the security of a lock, your helmet strap can loop around your wheels and help prevent opportunist theft. 

    Loop your helmet strap through the wheel and then around your bike’s frame. 

    Remember that wheels and spokes can become dirty over time, so your helmet strap might get a bit mucky if you do this repeatedly. 

    4. Use Objects To Make Your Bike Inaccessible

    Blocking your bike into a corner is a great way to “lock” it without a lock. 

    You can use bins or plant pots to block your bike into a corner when riding in urban areas. 

    Anything used to obstruct access to your bike will add to its security when you’re away from it.

    And by blocking it into a corner, you’ll also limit its visibility to passers-by.

    5. Make Your Bike Appear as Though It’s Locked

    making a bike look as though it's locked by using someone else's lock
    Despite how it looks, this lock isn't securing the bike and has jsut been threaded over the seatpost

    Bike racks usually have bike locks attached to them that can be used to make it look like your bike is locked. 

    If you see a chain lock secured to a nearby street light or bike rack, place it over your bike’s frame and make it look like it’s locked up. 

    Passers-by will see the chain and won’t suspect it’s unlocked. 

    6. Place Your Bike in a Busy Bike Park With Other Locked Bikes

    a public bike park with lots of bikes monitored by a police officer
    It'd be hard to notice an unlocked bike in a crowd of bikes this big withut drawing attention to yourself

    Busy bike parking areas often have over a hundred different bikes. 

    By placing your bike in the middle of one of these parking zones, you reduce the chances of your bike standing out, and it’s highly unlikely that anyone will realise it’s been left unlocked. 

    Use this step alongside step 5, and you’ll blend in just fine!

    6. Use a Bike Alarm

    abus alarm box anti-theft bike alarm attached to bike
    The ABUS Alarm Box utilises a loud 100dB alarm system that sounds when disturbances are detected

    Bike Alarms are a great way to prevent tampering with your bike when you’re away from it, whether locked or not. 

    If, for whatever reason, you’re going to be leaving your bike unlocked frequently, an Alarm is one of the best investments you could make.  

    Our recommendation for a bike alarm is one of the ABUS Alarm Boxes; these are mounted to your bike’s frame and activated when left unattended. 

    The Alarm Box uses motion sensors to detect tampering, and if someone starts to fiddle with your bike, the alarm will sound, startling them and attracting the attention of people nearby. 

    7. Remove Your Wheel If Using Quick Release

    Removing a wheel from your bike is an excellent way to secure it without a lock since it stops thieves from being able to ride away on it. 

    The slower they perceive their getaway, the less likely they’ll attempt to steal your bike. 

    Just make sure you re-attach it properly before you get back on the move.

    8. Take Your Chain Off Your Gears

    When your chain isn’t attached to your drivetrain, your bike won’t ride properly. 

    By loosening the slack on your rear derailleur, you can take your chain off your cranks, preventing a quick getaway. 

    Bike chains typically carry a bit of dirt and grime, so if possible, use something to stop your hands from getting dirty. 

    A clean leaf off the road or a plastic bag are two great ways to stop your fingers from getting mucky. 

    9. Use a Bike Cover to Cover Your Bike

    bike covered by black bike cover to prevent theft
    Thieves are unlikely to check underneath a bike cover to see if the bike is locked as they won't want to draw attention to themselves

    If thieves can’t tell it’s a bike, it’s less likely to be targeted. 

    The fact that you don’t have a bike lock with you suggests you won’t have a bike cover. 

    But if you can cover it with something like a tarp, it’ll be more secure when you’re away from it. 

    10. Put Your Bike Somewhere Out of Sight

    As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind”. If thieves can’t see your bike, it’s unlikely to be targeted. 

    Hide it behind some bushes or a group of bins and limit the time you’re away from it to a minimum, and you’ll likely still have a bike upon your return. 

    11. Tie Your Bike Up

    If you have a jacket or jumper or are lucky enough to find a piece of old rope nearby, you can use these to tie your bike up. 

    Use the arms of your jacket or jumper to tie your bike’s frame to an immovable object with a double knot, and it’ll be much safer than if left entirely unsecured. 

    Summary - How to Lock Your Bike Without a Lock

    We hope one of these ten methods of locking your bike without a lock will be helpful to you next time you need to make an unexpected stop. 

    If you use a different method to secure your bike without a lock, let us know in the comments section below, and we’ll add it to the article for the next reader to learn from!

    Ultimately, it would be best if you always rode with a lock, so having a few different locks for varying locking situations is convenient. 

    A high-security lock for securing your bike overnight and a lightweight, compact lock for bike rides.

    These will cover you for most locking scenarios and ensure your bike is secure when left in public areas. 

    Read our reviews of the best lightweight bike locks and the best uncuttable bike locks for some high-security recommendations. 

    Author of This Post:
    Picture of James Grear (Lead Editor)
    James Grear (Lead Editor)

    Understanding how devastating it is to have a bike stolen, I've researched & immersed myself in the world of bicycle security since 2013.

    I then built BikeLockWiki in 2019 to share everything I'd learned with the worldwide cycling community so that cyclists can improve their bike security skills and make informed decisions when purchasing new products and services.

    Learn More about Me & BikeLockWiki here.

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