Versatile Storage with Cable Locks

Do you live in a part of the country where bike racks and other bike storage is rare or non existent. In these cases a U-Lock may leave you stranded with no where to lock your bike.

In theses cases a cable lock may be the perfect choice for to ensure a place to lock your bike every where you go.

I live in a city where cycling as a way of life is quite the oddity. The only place in town I frequent that has a bike rack is the Krogers a quarter mile from my house. It used to be in front of the store and now it’s around the side. Obviously not anchored down.

But at least they have one, no where else in town does. Coffee shops, book stores, grocery stores, etc… no places to specifically lock you bike.

So you have to get creative.

I’ve locked my bike to, among other things, trees, light posts, fences and cart returns.

This is where a cable lock is the perfect thing to carry with you. I used to carry a U-Lock and several times got stuck leaning my bike at the front of the store and hoping no one walked off with it because I had no where to lock it.

The Pros

  • There is always a place to lock your bike
  • Coils down to the same size as a U-Lock
  • You can run it through several components of your bike to secure the whole thing

The Con

I tend to think that these go hand in hand. The places where there aren’t a lot of bike facilities are probably places where bike theft is not that big of a problem. In fact, in my city, what few bikes I see around town are usually just left with the kickstand down in front of the store. No lock.

While that’s much to trusting for me (and I’m usually riding bikes that are a bit higher end), the cable lock has proved to be the perfect security for me.

What kind of locks and security do you use to keep your bike safe?

Check out the line of Kryptonite cable locks.

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0 thoughts on “Versatile Storage with Cable Locks”

  1. Dave says:

    This is a very timely article for me. I’ve been holding off on a chain or cable b/c I really wasn’t sure how secure these cables were, and in not knowing, was planning on going for broke with a Fahgettaboudit and, well, forgetting about it. Thing is, I’m sure that thing is heavy, and is probably overkill even for my level of paranoia.

    Mine is a higher end bike as well, and though I probably won’t lock it up much, it only takes the one time… hence, the paranoia.

    I used to have a U-lock, but have avoided them for exactly the reasons you state.

    I may go ahead an fork out for the Keeper 2515. It seems a good mesh of security, price and weight.

  2. Ghost Rider says:

    You can’t go wrong with a BEAST chain from OnGuard or a New York Chain from Kryptonite…all the flexibility of a cable lock with none of the security concerns. Wear it around your waist or “Pancho Villa” style over one shoulder like an ammo bandoleer. Plus, either is so freakin’ heavy that you’ll get a nice extra workout, too.

  3. Ghost Rider says:

    By the way, even the very heaviest cable made by Kryptonite (15mm braided steel) can be easily and quickly cut by a good-sized boltcutter. I know, because someone tried to jack my bike at work…thank God I backed it up with a Krypto U lock.

  4. Dignan says:

    As usual Sheldon Brown (RIP) has the answer:

    This approach is secure and simple which makes using it a no-brainer.

  5. Ghost Rider says:

    Dignan, the photo illustrating Sheldon’s technique still depends on a vertical pipe or rack in order to work…something that Tim suggested he didn’t have access to.

    Odd-shaped potential locking points absolutely require a flexible locking system, and a U lock just won’t cut it. Of course, they’re good for redundancy in these cases. A really heavy cable or a chain is the only way to go when there’s no bike rack or big, solidly-mounted pipe in the area.

  6. Derek says:

    I would absolutely never leave my bike leaning up against a building while I went inside. I would just bring my bike in! Most places really don’t care and if they do, they’ll let you know. It’s not much different than a stroller or shopping cart, really.

    I’ve had only one place ask me to not bring my bike inside. It was an Uno’s Pizzeria that was basically empty and had a big empty wall space right behind where I was sitting. I gathered my stuff to leave (I didn’t have a lock and wasn’t leaving the bike outside), put 2 dollars on the table to cover my soda, and the manager quickly reconsidered.

  7. Cafn8 says:

    I carry a U-lock with a cable coiled around it most of the time. Most of the time I can find a place to secure the bike like the method described in the Sheldon Brown link above. in those cases the cable gets stretched around the front wheel. Other times, the cable can be stretched around a secure object and around the bike, with the U-lock securing everything.

    Nothing’s infallible, and it’s a little bulky, but it’s pretty secure and versatile. Then again, I’ve also used a cheapo cable snowboard lock at times to deter casual thieves, and never lost a bike.

  8. Jay Parkhill says:

    Tough choices- cables let you lock up sometimes in places a u-lock couldn’t reach.

    OTOH, I watched (literally) a guy on meth snip through my cable lock with a pair of bike shop brake-cable snips. I didn’t think that was possible (it also took 3 people to hold the guy down until the police arrived).

    P.S. Get Disqus or Intense Debate for your blog comments! Reply by email is game-changing.

  9. Dignan says:

    @GhostRider – right, I was only trying to give background on the most basic of lock techniques.

    Perhaps I’m a real novice but when I realized that you only need to secure your back wheel it blew my mind. (Of course I use a cable lock at the same time to secure my front wheel and seat)

  10. jason (sd) says:

    Where I live I only worry about the casual or oppertunity theft. So I use a u-lock. 1-2% of the time I lock the frame to something. The all of the other time I only lock one of the wheels to the frame.

  11. Tim Grahl says:

    This reminded me of an idea I had awhile back…

    Around my neck of the woods, fixed gear bikes don’t really exist. It’s all free wheeling. So my idea was to leave one of my fixed gear bikes in an area of town where it might get stolen and then wait and see what happens if it does… especially when it comes time to slow down through a corner.

    Obviously, the flaw in my plan is if the thief actually knows how to ride a fixie.

  12. Dylan says:

    “I carry a U-lock with a cable coiled around it most of the time. Most of the time I can find a place to secure the bike like the method described in the Sheldon Brown link above. in those cases the cable gets stretched around the front wheel. Other times, the cable can be stretched around a secure object and around the bike, with the U-lock securing everything.”


  13. Derek says:

    Tim – I had my around town fixie with me when a friend spotted me and wanted to go to a bar to watch the game. Management let me bring my bike in, but I had to put it about 15 feet from where we sat. I kept checking on it and my friend finally interjected:

    “Your bike has no brakes. If someone steals it, you can calmly note which way they went and then go scrape them off the pavement a block away.”

  14. Fritz says:

    I think all fixed riders have fantasized about a thief attempting to make off with our bike 🙂 I’ve never heard of it happening, though.

    In my small town where I live a cable lock is good enough.

    Where I work is a different story. If no place is available to U lock my bike, I bring it inside.

  15. mike says:

    cabel and a regular lock. 3 years so far and no issues so far. although another resident’s bike got stolen when she was on call overnight. not fun to have no ride home after working for 30 hrs!

  16. Daniel says:

    In my parking garage at work everyday I use a U-lock that has room to go around the bike rack, my frame, and my rear wheel. I run a small cable through the front wheel and attach to the U-Lock. The U-lock stays at work on the bike rack. Even if they get the bike off of the rack, they still have to break the Ulock b/c the frame and rear wheel are connected (or do thieves think that far ahead anyway?)

    Everywhere else, I carry a cable lock for. Fortunately bike theft really hasn’t become a huge problem yet in my area (Charlotte, NC). The most secure lock is one you’ll actually carry with you and use, and I’m not willing to drag around a U-lock or a huge chain lock.

  17. Juan says:

    They used to hang horse thieves……right?!?

  18. ethan says:

    Most of the time I use a cable lock to lock my bike to whatever is around: cart returns, telephone poles, guard rails. That works well for quick errands. I have a u-lock for shadier areas or longer storages, but I haven’t had to use it.

    I find the cable lock is a pisser to deal with. It’s all stiffly coiled up and it’s hard to work it between spokes. My u-lock is just damn quick.

    When I’m biking with my girlfriend I use the cable lock to “secure” both of our bikes.

  19. Mase says:

    I echo Cafn8’s strategy:

    I always use both a U-lock and a cable, regardless of whether I can use the U-lock to directly lock my rear wheel (thru the rear triangle, if possible, of course) to a post or not.

    If I can only lock the bike to something with the cable lock, I still always lock the U-lock from the frame to the rear wheel. Even if the thief can get throught the cable, they’ll still have to mess with the U-lock later.

    Also, as I carry a normal padlock for a gym locker in my pannier too, I occaisionally put the padlock through the front chainring to further discourage taking my bike. Just more time that will have to be spent being able to get at my bike.

  20. Raiyn says:

    Using only a cable lock is an excellent way to ensure your bike’s theft. Forget the “flexibility” aspect of the cable and become more flexible with where you park your bike, that or get one of the excellent chains from Kryptonite and call it a day.

    As far as those folks who use a u-lock to “secure” the bike to itself and then anchor the bike with a cable lock: You’re really not helping yourself there in terms of preventing any but the most casual of theives. Any thief who has access to a vehicle can easily steal your bike by cutting the cable and tossing it in the vehicle. (Heck they can usually just carry it off by hand in a lot of cases.) This has the effect of rendering the U-lock a mere inconvenience to be dealt with in a location where they may have power tools or simply more time to strip the bike for the virtually untraceable parts.

  21. Noah says:

    I bypassed my own cable lock in two minutes without anything more than what you could scrounge up on the street or at a convenience store.

    Combined with a good, solid U-Lock, a cable lock makes a good companion. Even if they get the cable lock off, they have to deal with a U-Lock sooner or later. It’s just a matter of if they want to hack on it now or if they can schlep the bike off to their underground lair to cut on it. Honestly, it’s more work than many thieves of opportunity wish to exert. If there’s another bike around that’s even slightly easier to lift than yours, it’s probable that your own bike will be right where you left it.

    Relying on a cable lock alone? Not usually a good idea. It’s more of a psychological deterrent than a theft deterrent. At most, it would set an experienced bike-booster 30 seconds.

  22. Shiny Flu says:

    I still believe in the U-lock. Although I live in Berlin – a reasonably cycle friendly city – there’s never enough purpose built bike racks. However 10-20m from where I want to be there’s at least something.

    Cable locks are for convenience, not security. If you use a cable lock: be it armoured or super thick you better accept the fact that your bike will be stolen. I agree with others, a good chain and motorbike disk lock is the way to go if you want more locking options. They’re all heavy, but it’s better than coming back to no bike.

  23. Quinn says:

    IM lucky I live in a low-crime city, I Much Mucher prefer a cable lock over a U-lock, lighter weight and I can lock the whole rear of the bike to the rack/tree/light pole. or when I go out with friends we use their u locks to lock 2 bikes together (1 locked to 2, and 2 locked to 3, w/ two u locks) and my cable around them all.

  24. Raiyn says:

    Indeed Quinn, you are lucky. If you were to try that in an area with any real population you’d be in the market for a new / used bike.

  25. Quinn says:

    I would probably do that anywhere, the way I look at locks is they keep honest people honest, aka if someone Really wants my bike they know how to get it.

  26. david p. says:

    the answer has already been stated here several times, but i’ll throw my opinion in here once more for the debate’s sake:

    if you want security & flexibility, there is absolutely nothing better than the kryptonite style new york chain or fugheddaboutit (sp).

    i have quick release wheels, so i always take my front wheel off and lock the whole shootin’ match together. to me, doing that is a five second addition to the routine that is no different if i had a cable… and a u lock system to work.

    heavy duty chains secured by a mini-u lock system are so nice because you can ALWAYS find something to park it to… additionally… i get so much coverages with it when my wife and I go out it’s the only chain we need. that is something i really like.

    utility, security, flexibility.

    the weight really isn’t that bad when you wear it around your waist.

    finally… anyone who uses a cable is just asking their bike to be stolen. what’s more inconvenient, using a u-lock or chain… or having to replace your bike altogether because it got stolen?

  27. Tim Grahl says:

    I don’t agree with the “using a cable lock is asking for your bike to get stolen” line. As I wrote in the original article, I live in a low crime area of the country where bike theft is not a big problem. Cable locks in these type places are convenient and plenty of security.

  28. Quinn says:

    Another part about securing your bike is the monitary gaurantee that the lock manufacturers put the locks…. “we will pay $X,000 if your bike is stolen, when properly locked with this lock.”

  29. Fritz says:

    The Kryptonite Fuggedaboutit lock is useful where needed, but it’s not for everybody. That lock is very heavy and is literally a pain to carry.

    For low crime areas, cable locks are just fine. I understand they’re just to keep people honest, but for many locations that’s often good enough.

  30. Raiyn says:

    @ Quinn: Cable locks generally don’t have any anti-theft warranty. That’s U-lock and chain territory.

    @Tim Lynchburg isn’t so “low crime”, it actually ranks above average for the state of Va.
    I’m glad you’ve been able to live in an area where you feel a simple cable lock is adequate, however the majority of folks in this country (who might take up bicycle commuting) don’t have that luxury. Locking up on a college campus or even slightly more urban setting is going to require a proper rack as well as a better lock than a simple to break cable. To your point, if I still lived in the tiny little town where I grew up, a cable lock would be overkill, but then again we’re talking about a town where people generally don’t lock their doors at night. These days, I live in a city where the population is 100 times greater, and a simple cable lock wouldn’t protect a used Huffy.

    If the true aim of “” is to get people out on bikes, you might want to share the realities of proper (situationally appropriate) locking techniques. Unfortunately, we don’t all live in an Utopian society, bike thieves do exist beyond opportunistic snatch and grab artists, and, in truth, people do prey on the ill-informed.

    Now before you get the wrong idea, I don’t steal bikes, however, I will deliberately park near someone who has locked with an inferior lock because it increases the odds that my bike will still be there when I get back. This logic is based on an old story we used to tell in my small Northern MN hometown:

    So, there are these two guys camping in the woods. Late one night they are woken by a noise outside their tent. The first camper peeks outside the tent to see a large grizzly bear sifting through their supplies. With horror he turns to his fellow camper and explains the situation. Obviously the bear is hungry, and once it is finished with the supplies it will surely turn on the two campers.

    “What are we going to do?” asks the second camper.

    “We can make a run for the car.” whispers the first camper.

    With that the second camper begins to put on his running shoes.

    “What are you doing?” asks the first camper frantically “You can’t outrun a bear!”

    “I know,” replies the second camper, “I don’t have to outrun the bear – I have to outrun you.”

  31. Quinn says:

    This picture showa how I always lock up.
    around the seat tube/TT, through the Rr whl/rear triangle and rack, OR around a pole, through the Rr whl. In the 2 years that I have ridden everywhere it has not failed me.

  32. Quinn says:

    The Perfect anti-thelf device- a fixie! most see the 1 gear and think IM nuts, also most people around here think fixies are posessed.

  33. Raiyn says:

    @ Quinn


    You’re kidding me right? Any thief with a 2 foot bolt cutter in a backback is going to get away in >10 seconds. I’m not a thief (though if I were I’d never want for a bike with people like you around) and I could walk up to that bike with nothing more than a pocket knife and a beer can I found on the side of the road and shim that lock in under 5 minutes. Another thing to consider is the fact that you’ve left the front wheel completely unsecured.

    Reality check Quinn – you’re not the only person in the world who can ride a fixie, so don’t count on that to save you. Around here it’s not uncommon to see a thief riding one bike while guiding a second, riderless and stolen, along side.

  34. Raiyn says:

    One more thing, there’s a link to “Grade your bike locking skills” in the Related Articles that I really think some of you need to visit.

    Actually I’ll cut to the chase and give a link to both videos

  35. Quinn says:



    Let me ask you one thing? How many bikes have you had stolen?
    I lived in the DC metro, Honolulu, and now Reno, in my 12 year of cycling I have Never had a bike stolen.

    If you look back at my First post, you will see that I said that If someone Really wanys a bike Then they will take it, not matter if this a Small cable Or a big ass U-lock.

    As far as the fixed gear pair- cyclist around here view being able to ride a fixed gear as a thing of pride, in turn we look out for each other.
    Also the people that are not into bikes, more than to buy a BLO at walmart, have never heard of a fixed, much less to ride one.

  36. Raiyn says:


    Damn right FAIL.

    How many bikes have I had stolen? Not that it’s any of your business two. One was locked in the same manner as yours and the other was a sacrificial Huffy locked using a Master Crap Street Cuff (for a review on MTBR)

    Now I know you’re all flustered ( I can tell by how quickly you typed a response) , but the fact of the matter is that a cable lock is a piss poor method of securing a bike. Especially your setup.

    The fact that it’s a fixie will NOT protect you, but if you insist on deluding yourself, by all means, do.

  37. Noah says:

    All of you need to go read Part Two of Bruce Schneier’s book, Beyond Fear to get a firm grasp on how security actually works.

    Right now, all I’m seeing in the comments is a bunchload of fearmongering and misinformation.

    The fact is that unless you’re being cased, your bike will be a target of opportunity. And if you’re being cased, the only way to ensure your bike’s safety is to keep it in eyeshot at all times and next to you in bed, cuffed to you while sleeping.

    Your goal: make sure that your bike is in the same place you left it, and hopefully in the same condition when you return to it.

    There are a great many more elements in play than what kind of lock you’re using. The fact of the matter is that a cable lock does something to improve your stance versus just leaving it in the same location without the cable. The rest is variable.

    Attacks include whole theft, vandalism, or stripping of parts.

    Attacker profiles are many but include rational burglars who are driven by the potential of making a lot of money and irrational addicts who want to trade the bike or parts directly for drugs or to sell for enough money to beg their dealer.

    Rational attackers may feel like they have a lot to lose (i.e. getting hauled off to jail) whereas irrational ones with a one-track mind may take higher risks to get their fix. You have to examine the potential attacker’s motives, resources (time, tools) and expertise among a bevy of other attributes.

    It is absolutely and completely ignorant to say that cable locks have no merit whatsoever. Just because you got your bike yank’d in downtown philly because it was locked with something beefier than a cable lock doesn’t immediately invalidate cable locks as a viable security method.

    It certainly won’t work everywhere. Those of us who live in suburbia and are running quick errands close to home, however, will likely find ample, convenient security in cable locks.

  38. Quinn says:

    Thank You Noah

  39. Raiyn says:

    @ Quinn
    Don’t thank him, your lock still sucks.

    @ Noah
    I did say in one of my previous posts the words “proper (situationally appropriate) locking techniques.” Locking up in a city of 210,000 (especially one like Reno) demands a better lock than what Quinn uses. Cable locks are appropriate as a secondary locking device for front wheels etc and are best used in conjunction with a quality U-lock. The reason for this works to your point of bike theft being a crime of opportunity. If a crook sees that he’ll need two different types of tools to crack your system he’ll find something easier – like Quinn’s.

    Look at these links -Hal grades your bike locking pts. 1&2 Nice guy, knows his stuff
    Self explanatory

    One thing I’m rather amused with Noah, is the fact that you’ve said nearly the exact same thing I’m preaching in post #21 and now you’re talking about “fearmongering”.

  40. Raiyn says:

    @ Noah

    The links aren’t meant specifically for you, they were an afterthought that I snuck in.

  41. Noah says:


    I not only am in the business of security, but I’m quite passionate (and rather knowledgeable) about the whole field including security theory, encryption, physical security, surveillance, lock picking/lock design, and the like. My brain breathes, eats, and dreams of security related topics. I can’t see alarm systems without wondering how they can be made to fail. I can’t see closed circuit TV cameras without calculating blind spots in coverage. This is not to exploit them, per-se. It’s more that I simply enjoy the puzzles that security offers, and like taking a non-traditional approach to it.

    Every security countermeasure that you can conceive of has some benefit. No security countermeasure you can think of is going to be 100% perfect. The trick is finding a countermeasure that strikes an acceptable balance of usability and risk. Where risk is extremely high (a Philly ghetto parked outside overnight, for example), you will need to use a horribly inconvenient locking scheme. Where risk is low (my cubicle) you might not need a lock at all.

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