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Hal Grades Your Bike Locking 3: The Final Warning!

It's Bike Month - which means there are scads of neophytes out there nationwide giving cycling a try.  Oh goody!  But, oh baddy - it also means more improper locking - and we all know there are predators just licking their chops at the thought of stealing all or part of your bike. So we want to do all we can to preach good locking technique and thwart thieves.

We need a sage in these times to remind us how easy it is to roll your bike.  Once again enter the immortal, Bicycle Habitat mechanic Hal Ruzal to give us the straight dope in what he's calling "your final warning" in this last chapter of our exclusive trilogy.  Let's hope the third time is a charm!

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

[music]
Hal Ruzel: [0:02] This is really good. This is great. This is awesome. I'll be riding a bike, sometimes in another town and they'll go, "Oh, you're the guy from the Internet. I know you." [0:12] There may be bed bugs underneath that cover.

[0:14] Seat collar that would be over here; that was taken.

[0:17] This is your third and final warning. We have the three strikes rule here.

[0:26] This is where I work. This is Bicycle Habitat. I've been a bike mechanic here since 1978 and it's still fun after all these years. You run into new problems and new adventures every day. You never know what you're going to see.

[0:37] Well, today I'm going to lock up a bicycle properly because there's always that grade how you lock up your bicycle, but maybe if I show you how to do it right first, you'll have a better clue about how this is done.

[0:47] First thing I'm going to do is make sure the pole that I'm locking my bicycle to is in the ground. Because a lot of these poles are loose or have a single bolt at the bottom that can be undone by any thief. The city has put in a lot of bike racks within the last couple years and I recommend you lock to those, but make sure they're in the ground also.

[1:08] Anything that you really want to come back to you, you should take off your bicycle. If you have an attachment to your water bottle, take your water bottle of the bicycle.

[1:16] I have chained down the seat. So that cannot be stolen so easily. I invented this in the early '80s, in 1980. When you're locking up a bike, the most valuable items are the frame, the rear wheel, and the front wheel.

[1:31] This is a cool U-lock. It's a square U-lock. It is extremely strong and quite expensive. So I come in like so and look at that! I got the rear wheel and the frame. I take my auxiliary cable, go like so, and you go like so. And look at that! My front wheel is now cable locked.

[1:59] Also, my front wheel has a special anti-theft device on it. It's not a regular Allen wrench, it's a pentagon-sized bolt here. Sometimes thieves can get money for handlebar assemblies, so what I've done here, I epoxied a ball bearing into the handlebars so that way you cannot loosen it with an Allen wrench. Now you have a completely safe, properly locked up bicycle.

[music]

Hal: [2:33] We're going to walk around now and the first 10 bikes we see, locked up, we're going give them a quick grade and we're out of here. Let's see. [2:43] Front wheel's not locked up, rear wheel's not locked up. If somebody was really energetic, you could take this off with a wrench, take the headset off, and pull the whole bike away from the pole-all that would be left would be that chain around the pole. This bike gets a D minus.

[3:00] This bike has had a calamity. [laughs] The locking job is an A, but it sticks in the ground. After it's been on the ground for a couple of weeks... They build buildings on top of graveyards sometimes and they don't know about it.

[3:15] It's two terrible locks. It's garbage and garbage. Front wheel's not locked. Seat is ignored.

[3:23] Well this one here, oh we've got square link chain, front wheel is locked, a decent master lock here, rear wheel is locked up, seat is locked up, and it's got an anti-theft skewer on the rear, the pole's in the ground, it has no resale value, and it's locked really well. So, a thief's not going to steal it because it's too much work to get no money. This bike gets an A plus. The combination of quality of bike and the locking of the bike -- this is the best job I've ever seen.

[3:57] The bike is locked to itself, which normally gives this bike an F in locking because anybody could carry it over their shoulder, but with that thing there, that's like the goddess of locking. You can't steal a bike with that on there. That's illegal and immoral and you'll be stricken down by a bolt of lightening if you were to steal this bike.

[4:16] The Schwinn has the seat locked properly, the rear wheel and the frame are locked to a secure pole, yet the front wheel... Bolt A, bolt B, you take it off and you got yourself a front wheel. It will work on any hybrid bicycle. I give this bike a C. I like the way the seats are secured, very cute. Bikes are bad and the locks are bad. So I'll give them the gentlemen's C. This would be the grade George Bush got in college.

[4:45] Now, if you steal these bikes, you may become rich because there may be coupon circulars in here, you may be able to get two pounds of bologna for dirt cheap. You got the bikes. You got the bologna. What more do you want?

[4:55] If I were a wheel thief, I could have four rear wheels. This one here, that one there, that one there, and that one there. They're just getting all Fs. It's like a total disaster.

[5:10] Here we have our $150 saddle not locked up. The back wheel, not locked up. I give this bike a solid D.

Man 1: [5:20] Now we are returning to your bike.
Hal: [5:21] We're returning to my bike. It looks there, but I've been joined. I've been joined by a bicycle and a whole mess of garbage. Welcome to New York! [5:30] All he's locked is his frame. His seat is insecure. His wheels can be stolen. This is a D minus. He was hoping my good locking job would camouflage his bad locking job. And he's hoping to hide behind the garbage.

[5:44] I feel good that I'm creating good bike karma by showing people how to lock their bikes properly and saving some people some money and aggravation. This is your third and final warning. So learn it this time, don't get your stuff stolen.

[6:00] I never thought, when I was growing up, A, I would see a bike lane, B, I would see a bike lane this wide, C, that they would ever take away a lane of parked cars to make a bike lane, and D, that I'd ever see a bike lane the color of Kermit the Frog-no way. This is great!



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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  • Mr. Magwai

    I could watch ten episodes of Hal in action.

  • Quansu Dude

    I want to watch this every morning to be happier.

  • http://webonastick.com/ Darren Embry

    I'll bite... what's wrong with locking to a parking meter?

  • Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

    Actually it all depends on what type of parking meter, some probably are okay but it isn't worth the 30 seconds we used up in the video and we cut it in favor of the on-screen text warning.

    NYC has many different varieties, as do other cities. If you lock to a typical single head parking meter and say you use a kryptonite chain lock to lock up - then it is possible to lift the entire bike over the parking meter head, if you use a little moxie. The bike would still be locked to itself, but you could carry the bike away. To be honest in the past, I have locked to a single head parking meter and have locked up really, really tight with no room to spare and have felt I was safe. But a few years ago, my friend swears he did the same and the thief got his bike, so I stopped doing that.

    Double headed parking meters are probably a much safer bet cause the chain can't go over both, but better to stay away from them altogether if you can.

  • andy

    Instant classic, especially the ending sequence with Hal rhapsodizing on the green bike lane!

    Happy Bike Month!

  • Eric McClure

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

    But I do promise to improve my locking technique!

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/npGREENWAY Scott for npGREENWAY

    Love it. Send Hal out to Portland for a field trip of bike lock job grading...

  • brian

    does anyone know more about that ball bearing in the handlebar post? I've never seen that before, how do you remove it when you need to work on your bike?

  • DynamicDeebytheSea

    I love you HAL!

  • hal ruzal

    You must use a torch, turn the bike upside down and heat the glue till the bearing falls out, most thieves don't carry torches around in order to steal handlebars, thanks, Hal

  • Skratchy

    Nice tip on the ballbearing Hal! I thought about putting glue on the threads of bolts and then screwing them in but that method looks way better.

    Regarding the anti-theft seat device - was that an old chain with recycled innertubes you used?

  • Mimi

    Thank you so much Hal! My last bike got stolen and now I know everything to do to make sure that never happens again!

  • http://gettinaroundpnw.blogspot.com Mark K.

    Hal referred to a long-shackle Kryptonite lock as "garbage" in the video. As I have one, I have to ask, what's wrong with them?

    I think I'll be looking for a couple of auxilary cables and maybe some old chain and tube sections to copy Hal's seat anti-theft measures...

  • http://www.bikeregistry.com Bike Registry

    Very good primer on theft reduction. Definitely second the comment regarding cable; AVOID cable at all costs. Don't forget about registry for recovery, just in case.....

  • Greg

    I really like that seat lock idea, I've never seen it in Toronto, are they DIY, or do you have to purchase them?

  • jcs

    hal: check out copenhagen sometime. everyone bikes, you'll love it, but they have a bit of a bike theft problem---most barely lock their very expensive bikes, it's kinda tragic. that said, there are so many bikes and comparatively fewer thefts you can sorta see why.

    most common locking? just a bar that clicks through the rear wheel so you can't drive it away, but you can pick it up.

  • http://brockkake.com brock

    Hal referred to a long-shackle Kryptonite lock as "garbage" in the video. As I have one, I have to ask, what's wrong with them?

    It looked like it could have been one of the ye olde Kryps that you can crack with a Bic pen plus it was fairly dainty to the point that some bolt cutters could have gone through it.

  • Tmo

    Hal sounds like Christopher Walken

  • TwowheelinTim

    It's nice to live in a place where I can park my bike without having to worry about carrying so much lock, chain and cable. Hal would probably give me a D-, but where I park my bike, I probably don't have to lock it at all.

  • another hippy guy

    Im in love with Hal, can you get him to do a cooking series? or anything else for that matter...

  • http://www.westpalmbeach-criminalattorney.com/ West Palm Beach criminal attorney

    Agree with the above comment someone get this man his own show.

  • paul c, SF

    Great Film! Should be required viewing.
    I've had 4 bikes stolen in SF over 30+ years (approx 1 each 10 yrs.), and mostly it's due to stupidity.
    HOWEVER.
    I've also found there are two things about thefts that you don't mention in your video, because you're talking mechanics (physics and topology).
    One is probabilities (chance). If you leave your bike for .5 hours, the chance is pretty low, except in prime theft spots. You play those odds all the time. Ex.: #3 parked out front of library with kryptonite for 10 min. Much nicer bike parked next to me with same lock. Analysis: Hi theft area with lookout and list that included a kid carrier. Shoulda used 2nd lock in old fashioned (but effective) cage-style lock protector bike rack.
    Other thing: Psychology. Many use this already. Crap up the bike so it's not sparkly new. Stickers, dirty, duct tape, paint, ripped up (but functional) seat, etc. If they're desperate (chance again!), they'll take it anyway. But I suspect the pros won't be as interested as in a spiffy new bike.
    Also, out of sight of the street is way safer than visible from the cruising van.
    Or, if on the street, right where you can keep an eye on it.
    Finally, I never spend over $400 for a bike now. Less attractive, one hopes, and certainly not as great a loss, if you're wrong. And get used to the idea that if you manage to keep it for 10 years you're doing well, and can let it go easier. I try not to get too attached to machines, even my trusty bike. Kinda Zen: it's a CA thing.

  • paul c, SF

    I'm not sure if anyone answered Mark K about the long kryptonite lock problem. Long before the "bic solution" was discovered, thieves discovered that a tire jack (Volvo's was preferred at the time) could get inside one and pop it. I assume that's how my #3 above was taken in seconds. I hear that freon was also used to freeze then shatter it (may be urban legend). Basically, its length just gives thieves a lot of space to work in.

  • Damon Spark

    There are so many things wrong with this. Epoxy a ball bearing into your stem bolt? How are you ever going to take it off? They don't even make them like that anymore anyhow. Cities need to invest covered bike lockers so thieves can't even tell what bikes are in there and can't swipe the parts!

  • Georwatterutt

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  • Brendan

    while the auxilary cable is clever and i havent seen it before i do see a flaw in it. the purpose of using both cable and u-lock is not only to secure the front and rear wheels but also to stump potential thieves because if you have the tools to crack a u lock you need different tools for a cable lock which is not always on hand, and vice versa. the flaw with the aux cable is if the u lock is cracked so is the cable. i use a u lock and a cable lock together to prevent theft, in areas of high theft or a long time storage i use two cables and a u lock sometimes even a chain

  • Tara

    Hal is awesome.

  • http://www.couponmole.com/ Kristen Simmons

    LOL you only care about how well your bike is locked after it gets stolen. I got one stolen right out of my building's garage when I lived in DC. Never thought that was possible!

  • http://registrycleaners10.com/ RegistryCleaners10.com

    This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. This is extremely nice one and gives in depth info.

  • Ovis2000

    Hal, what is your opinion on Pinhead locks 4 pack lock set?

  • http://www.melfast.com wholesale fasteners

    Hi,

    Nice article guys, I liked it.

  • Psleeth

    Thanks Hal!!!!! Love the info, very helpful! AND GREAT ATTITUDE!

  • http://www.facebook.com/YourFriendlyNeighborhoodCameron Cameron Badal

    Ah the bridgestone RB-2, that is my favorite of all my bikes.

  • Karl

    best way to lock up your bike, don't live in the city!

  • uygfyfvhgvhj

    I like how his shorts get shorter in each film.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Greg-Gross/500014741 Greg Gross

    Great stuff. I still say bike thieves should be treated like horse thieves in the Old West. But until we're legally allowed to string them up from the nearest tree or lamp post, smart bike security is the next best bet. Keep on bringing the knowledge.

  • Sean o’ Riada

    Love your videos Hal! If you ever come to Ireland I'll buy you a Guinness!

  • Dkkdk

    Sometimes you need to take your handle bars off to put some grease in there.  How do you get them off with a ball bearing epoxyed in there?

  • Dkkdk

    Sorry, never mind- I just read Hal's response below.

  • http://flickr.com/yonas1 yonas

    That was so awesome. I love that guy.

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