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Hal (and Kerri) Grade Your Bike Locking

Nearly five years ago, legendary bike mechanic Hal Ruzal and I walked the streets surrounding Bicycle Habitat and graded the bike locking ability of New Yorkers - producing many humorous and enlightening anecdotes. The resulting video aired frequently on bikeTV and at many festivals, and because of it - Hal is still frequently asked by complete strangers to judge their bike locking.

I always endeavored doing another, but as with most sequels you need a new wrinkle. This time we thought we'd give Hal some company and invited former Recycle a Bicycle mechanic Kerri Martin (and founder of The Bike Church in Asbury Park, NJ) to weigh in with her expertise.

Again, bikes on the streets of SoHo provide lots of fodder for laughs and lessons to learn.We didn't plan to but we walked the same loop and even used the same one-hour time frame. The results? The grades were a little better than five years ago. Sure, still some bad locking out there, but many more people are now sporting multiple locks and better strategies! Good news, maybe we made a difference after all...

Hal Ruzal: [0:05] It was so close we were getting fouled up.
Kerri Martin: [0:10] That could be easily taken off.
Kerri Martin: [0:13] What did the first lock look like?
Hal Ruzal: [0:16] That probably was more vigor.
Hal Ruzal: [0:18] I'm Hal Ruzal.
Kerri Martin: [0:19] I'm Kerri Martin.
Hal: [0:21] Around five years ago we made a video about how to lock your bicycle and we graded people in their locking job. And we want to see if people have learned anything between now and five years ago. My gut feeling is that they're just as stupid as ever.
Kerri: [0:39] But I have a lot of experience at Recycle a Bicycle. We saw a lot of bike theft. So we heard every story there. So, are you ready? Let's cruise some bikes?
Hal: [0:46] Yeah, let's look for some bikes.
Kerri: [0:47] OK.
Hal: [0:47] Let's find some bikes. What do we have here?
Kerri: [0:49] OK. Let's look at this bike.
Hal: [0:51] Let's see, we have a frame and the rear wheel and the front wheel locked and the seat.
Kerri: [0:59] Wow.
Hal: [0:59] Whoa. A hose clamp here, very nice. That keeps your thief honest and it prevents the quick release from opening without somebody having either a screw driver or an eight millimeter wrench here to push the hose clamp off. And that's a square U-lock which you can't put a bolt cutter on.
Kerri: [1:19] It's on a long enough pole.
Hal: [1:21] The pole is in the ground quite securely.
Kerri: [1:23] I would say this is an A. They can't really get away with this bike or any of the parts.
Hal: [1:29] This is good.
Kerri: [1:30] This is pretty good.
Hal: [1:30] The bike seems secure and the thing is, when it's locked like this, you can't ride it away. Except for one little problem, we've got one little problem here. I don't know what that problem is. Do you know what that problem is? I would give this bike a C. This is $50 minimum. This is a terrible bike with a really good lock. Why'd they lock the front wheel?
Kerri: [1:53] There's no point in leaving slack in this chain. You might as well just go around the front wheel or the back wheel if it's closer.
Hal: [1:59] They still come in to... on bike TV, your lock up guy. I get this all the time, "Rate my lock."
Kerri: [2:06] Do they bring you out to the street and they have you look at the lock? Is it good Hal? Is it good?
Hal: [2:12] So look, here we have the carcass.
Kerri: [2:13] Oh!
Hal: [2:14] The Huffy Tempest. He meant well. They got the best lock you can buy. The seat is locked, but duh.
Kerri: [2:25] Yeah, the problem here is, I think, people themselves don't know how to take a rear wheel off. They think it's all complicated with all those pesky gears and everything in the back. So they think, "Oh, the bike thief isn't going to take it off either." But we're dealing with professionals here.
Hal: [2:38] To replace it costs you $120. You might as well buy another Huffy at Kmart, that costs $99. This is an F, because it's unridable. Now this is cute.
Kerri: [2:48] This is just art. Right? Or is this actually...?
Hal: [2:51] The front wheel is locked. The rear wheel is locked. And the fender is locked. I give it an A because the bike is so crappy.
Kerri: [3:00] And it literally has bird crap on it. So then this bike could just be here forever, Hal.
Hal: [3:06] It could be.
Kerri: [3:07] OK.
Hal: [3:08] Wow.
Kerri: [3:09] We've got two bikes here.
Hal: [3:10] We've got two bikes over here. Anybody with a two foot bolt cutter can easily cut this chain.
Kerri: [3:15] Somebody didn't want to buy a Kryptonite lock so they went to the hardware store and they tried to do their own.
Hal: [3:20] They bought the craptonite lock. There's the rear wheel, they think it's secure, but thieves have a five millimeter Allen wrench. You could steal this rear wheel in two seconds. You could steal the seat, also, with the same wrench.
Kerri: [3:34] And that seat too, that catches the eye.
Hal: [3:36] That's a nice seat. I think both these people got left back in seventh grade together because you bought the worst U-lock you can buy. You could break this lock so easily. You stick a two by four in here, wedge it up against here and you can pop this in a matter of five seconds. We're giving these people a group D.
Kerri: [3:57] Group D.
Hal: [3:58] Oh! There you got these things. These are your anti-theft locking skewers. Those need a hammer and a chisel to break. Has it on the front and the back wheel.
Kerri: [4:08] He or she has it on the front and also has the chain, this person had a bike stolen in the past and then they wanted this nice Kona and they did everything they could to make it theft-proof. I think we have to give this guy a little credit.
Hal: [4:22] I'm going to give him an A-.
Kerri: [4:25] Look how cute it is-when you're eight this is the lock that you got from your parents.
Hal: [4:31] I could probably chew through this.
Kerri: [4:34] I just want to steal it to get the lock because it's so cute. I don't know. It's the eyes, the eyes are watching you.
Hal: [4:43] C because it's just a bad bike.
Kerri: [4:46] This bike gets a B. We'll give this one an A, a C, and a C. He only locked his front tire. So they got the rest of the bike.
Hal: [4:55] This is an A; seat is locked, rear wheel is locked to the frame. The only thing is...
Kerri: [5:02] They could cut down the tree.
Hal: [5:03] Yeah, but that's... I don't even think thieves do that. We have a $300 rear wheel that's not locked. We give this bike a D.
Kerri: [5:14] A D.
Hal: [5:15] Nobody's going to steal this thing. You thought of your grandmother now. She was 10 when she lost the bike...
Kerri: [5:22] And she lost the key to the lock. So do you think things have improved in five years? Do you think people have learned how to lock up properly?
Hal: [5:30] They're getting smarter. After you get stuff stolen you realize you don't want that happening again. And they're learning still. Last time there were a whole mess of F's happening.
Kerri: [5:39] It's interesting seeing Hal's point of view, very jaded.

Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • ecm

    Nice follow up!

  • Terrie

    Call it a treejerk reaction but each of those dorks who locked his/her bike to a tree should get automatically downgraded to a C- and the tire deflated. The locks rub the bark and damage the tree, which is already stressed from all the honking. Do not lock your bikes to trees! Kerri, Hal, I would have expected a more holistic approach to your grading system.

  • Bicycling Green Goblin


    Hey I don't agree with locking to a tree, and don't support it, but there are many blocks in NYC where there is NOTHING to lock to. DOT should install even more racks that way people don't lock up to trees and damage them.

    I think the point of the grading was the locking and if you start making exceptions for one thing, you open up a can of worms.

  • fixxr

    Hey Green Goblin - sure there are some blocks where trees might be the only thing to lock to, and ya know what???... it's not going to kill you to walk a block and find something solid to lock to.

    If it isn't obvious enough, I agree with Terrie. Locking to a tree is about as bad for the tree as having your bike pissed on by a neighborhood dog. Nobody wants or deserves that kind of disrespect.

    FYI, ask anyone who rides every day if they lock to trees. The answer will be a resounding no.

  • The Voice of Reason

    Nice Willy...you are obviously out of touch.

    Firstly Hal is mid-fifty something, and if you ride a bike you should be thankful for the fact that the guy was promoting cycling when there was a mere fraction of the folks doing it today.

    Yeah, I'll agree with the flathead screwdriver comment, but you have totally missed the point of course...he has TWO methods to make it hard to get his front wheel quickly. As us smart cyclists know, it is all about making it difficult for thieves and make them carry more tools or spend time. Seeing that much complexity makes the thief move on.

    As far as Habitat, again be thankful they were donating $$$ and supporting T.A. when other bike shops and bike companies didn't.

  • Willy

    Thankful? For what exactly? His selfless promotion single handedly saved cycling in NYC? Oh please, give me a big old break!

    Habitat donating $$$? Care to attach a real number to that? Again, a break to be giving me please.

    What exactly was he doing in the early 90's? Hanging out at the volley ball courts, buying beers from Paulie? And yea, you're right, at that time he was in his 40's. Silly me. :-/

    NYC cycling needs to get away from these clowns if it really wants to go mainstream. Get a nice clean cut yuppie, and she/he can "sell" cycling to the other clean cut yuppies, and then you'll see some real movement. The dopey ex-messenger losers need to fade away already. Note I did not say they should finally grow up as they are Never Never land lifers.

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  • Lars

    Great video, keep them coming!

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  • Bicycling Green Goblin

    I noticed that this Willy guy posted the same comments on three different blogs regarding this video. Apparently, he has an axe to grind. Loser.

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  • http://www.asmithphotography.com Angela

    This is absolutely great!

  • http://angelasmithphotography.blogspot.com Brandon

    This is great! I probably won't have had my bike stolen a month ago if I had watched this. :)

  • Tysen

    How to steel the Bike without touching the Tree:

    The chain doesn't go through the frame, only the front wheel, and is too loose to prevent the following. Take the front quick release wheel off, turn the handlebars to the left and slip the chain over the handlebars and down the fork.

  • Bart BART

    Gotta love HAL. He's a NYC icon.

  • Joel

    I wish I would have watched this video years ago... lost a Giant to theft. Boo thieves.

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  • Rodger Lodger

    1) UNLESS I missed it, he didn't explain how to safeguard the saddle, although several times he pointed out how vulnerable it is, including with a small wrench lock (maybe I missed it).
    2) Stop bicycle thievery overnight: make the law your hand is amputated. Liberals go apopleptic, then applaud as thievery stops -- and therefore no amputations are carried out!

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  • Brutal Truth

    Seems to me this Willie character is quite the coward, inclandesantly lobbing insults over the fence without revealing his id.

    Could it be that Hal had moral occasion to bury his bike boot up Willie's kiester in the past and this is sneaky Willie's cowardly way of paying Hal back for the extra Heinie hole?

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  • http://blog.cyberion.net yann

    HAHAH. I confirm nobody stole that bike, here is an old photo of mine, that I took during a NYC visit...


    I recognized the Big Wheel from the end where it was said: "Nobody will steal this thing":

  • charley hardman

    very bad form removing seatpost and screwing the height/alignment. being a bubbly phony jackass on a "we're just helping out" vid assigns no right to screw with property.

  • http://www.creativitea.co.uk Rik

    Damn i need to carry some serious hardware to lock my bike!

  • http://akerpub.com Tom

    Very cool video, both are very great.
    Thanks for share.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QHT2PELVMXZJYWZD6QNUVY4QAE Midland

    guy in the pic needs a haircut

    ryan reynolds workout

  • mac

    Great video I definitely know how to lock my bike up now!

  • http://twitter.com/gostrojgo gostrojgo
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  • Perthbiker

    I think it is sad that New Yorkers seem to accept this high level of crime as normal.

  • Edwardsinclair

    People would stop stealing bikes, if you needed some sort of registration and tax to be able to ride one. Then if you were stopped while riding, and you were a thief, you wouldn't have the proper documents, unless your plan was to sell the components.

  • http://howtoseduceawomann.com/ how to seduce a woman

    You look rad in that photo dude


  • John Scheck

    What the hippie fails to mention is that a major part of the equation in bike theft is time. How much time does the thief have to steal your bike. It doesn't matter how big your lock is if the thief has enough time. Conversely, if you are just popping in to buy a cup of coffee you don't need to batten down the hatches. It's sad that cyclist have to spend so much money on locks. I have 90€ worth of locks for a city bike I bought used for 60€. 

  • Ramon In La

    "the Kraptonite lock!"

  • Anonymous

    Why not lock to trees?

  • Anonymous

    Trees cant hear honking, Except the ones with ears carved into them

  • Dc

    He mentions several times that with locks you're just buying time (in this and other videos linked here). I disagree with you on consciously having a bad locking job when "popping in to buy a cup of coffee". Since you never know where you're gonna stop, you normally have your primary lock with you. And if you have it with you, you might as well use it - that's why you bought it for. It takes 1 minute to find a good pole and lock up your bike. It probably takes more time to buy the cup of coffee. Laziness of bike owners is thief's best friend.

  • Bill

    I have  Hal's t-shirt

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  • ThruTheFrameOrC+

    YEah, I was thinking the same thing. It's not an A if you don't go THROUGH the frame!

  • fartond


  • swarm3d


  • truth_machine

    I didn't ask you, asshole.

  • swarm3d

    Thanks for putting me in my place. I won't comment on the Internet anymore!