Thursday, August 11, 2011

Useless Cable Locks Considered Harmful to Cyclists and Society

This is an avoidable crime. This one looks sturdy, but is actually crap security, like all cables.

This is part of a continuing series on the uselessness of cable locks for bicycle security that I wish was unnecessary. After input from several thoughtful blog visitors, my view of cables is that they are semi-adequate for "just-a-minute" stops where you can keep your eye on the bicycle the whole time. Possibly they also deter easy theft of cheap wheels, thus avoiding inconvenience, when used together with a decent U-lock that is locked through the frame to some fixed structure, including the Sheldon "hook the rear wheel inside the rear triangle and lock it to something" method and its variants. But I'm telling you, and this photo is part of a sad, continuing series supporting the point: cable locks have no place as the primary method of securing a bicycle to rack for an extended and unattended period of time in a city. Period. The packages they come in ought to have warning labels stating that clearly and unequivocally so that people who do not know are not misled.

Today's example represents the theft of someone's daily transportation, the method that they used to get to and from work to earn a living. People who work to earn a living pay taxes, and spend their income on goods and services to keep the juices of our market economy flowing. This was someone who commuted on their bicycle to work in Phoenix in the summertime. So not only is it disappointing and saddening to me as a fellow cyclist, but also I feel that crimes which hamper someone's efforts to earn a living are a concern for all citizens. 

I think I'll go U-lock shopping soon, and hang around the bike rack after work to see who wants one, and who wants to learn how to use it properly--there's one U-lock user I see regularly who locks his nutted front wheel to the rack. I would much rather start a collection of uncut cable locks that I traded to people for decent U-locks while showing them how to use them properly. I'm keeping my eyes open for U-lock sales. And going to the office supply store this weekend to look for printing supplies. I'm not sure that I'll find card stock in yellow, but I will be searching.

Possibly the most effective use of cable locks for bicyclists: basket weights


  1. Your blog ate my attempted iPhone comment from the coffee store. It is not the first time. Old fool did the same.

    Anyway, tell me how to secure an expensive saddle better than with a cable. On many older bikes, that trendy Honey Brooks is worth more than both wheels put together.

    Still, as with water wearing down a rock, I'm reconsidering my current work locking strategy. That carbon hub front wheel in the same place, all day, every day, bothers me even if my parking neighbor uses no lock at all. Weight is no real consideration since I leave the locking equipment at the work rack.

  2. I guess my delta weight would consist of an extra key. These two comments are with an iPad so I know it isn't simple Apple hostility.

  3. Hi Steve, my inclination for securing expensive parts on a commuter bicycle is to leave them at home and replace them with less expensive parts. Maybe that's just me though. If for some reason I felt compelled to use a fancy I just think I would not because there's no great way to secure it--cable, security bolts, ball bearing in a hex bolt with super glue are the options, which are better than nothing, but there are jerks out there that will slice up a honey Brooks as they walk by and I haven't seen saddle lockers (steel and kevlar enclosures for your expensive saddle!) yet. For a wheel--mini U-lock to frame up front? In some places I think a pair of good mini U-locks would be a good combo but I wonder why they don't sell matched sets that use the same key, with that in mind.

    This comment posted from my Windows PC.

  4. I haven't tried it yet, but I'm not sure the Onguard mini U has enough reach to lock my front wheel to the frame. Besides, any expensive saddle I get soon looks like crap anyway. Miles will do that.

  5. Steve I did see a seat option using a bicycle chain wrapped in an inner tube through the rails and frame, which looked like it would help. I would be surprised if a mini-U didn't work for the front wheel, mine works on all my road frames with road wheels, although not on my mountain frames.

  6. Oh. Damn. Definitely going in for the U-lock. I live in a pretty bike-less city so there's not much threat of theft, but if I can prevent it from happening to me I will ...

  7. veesee, YES, u-lock! Nothing can totally prevent theft, of course, but you can employ a better deterrent than a cable certainly.


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