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How To Lock Your Bike Without A Bike Rack

If you commute with your bike, then you might be a bit anxious about it getting stolen whenever you have to lock it up to go inside.

This anxiety, and theft threat, increases where there is no bike rack available for you to lock it to.

So, what you do when you need to lock your bike and there’s no rack in site?

Luckily, you don’t need that bicycle rack as long as you have a good lock.

So let us give you some tips on the proper way to lock your bike when there’s no rack.

Tip: New to cycling and wondering, what is a bike rack? and how does it work? They are designed specifically for cyclists to secure the bikes to, like in the image above. You can find these on city sidewalks, in parks, and outside of businesses.

What Can You Lock A Bike To?

We want you to be able to confidently park your bike anywhere and anytime.

And to do that, you need to know what sorts of things are good for you to lock your bike to so that it stays safe.

You should lock your bike to something that it hard to move and tall.

Good examples of this, in addition to bike racks, are:

  • trees
  • light poles
  • street signs
  • fences
  • benches that are bolted to the ground
bike locked to bridge
bike locked to bridge

You’ll notice that the bench isn’t tall, so why did we mention tall things to begin with?

Because you don’t want the thief to be able to lift the lock or cable up over and off the thing you’re locked to.

But if you have a bench that is bolted to the ground, then you can put your lock around one of the legs and it will be fine.

The truth is that bike thieves are just on the lookout for the easiest bicycles to steal – so by locking your bike up to something big, heavy, and tall you make it too difficult for them to deal with compared to other options.

What is there is nothing for you to lock your bike to? 

In this unfortunate scenario, you need to make your bike as difficult to steal as possible by immobilizing the wheels with your lock.

How To Secure Your Bike On The Street

First things first, you need to be prepared for the inevitability of needing to lock up your bicycle when there’s no bike rack in site.

1. Get A Bike Lock

Find yourself a high quality lock that looks like something no thief wants to deal with.

Honestly, it doesn’t have to be top of the line as long as it looks like something that a thief would not want to encounter.

Personally, my favorite option is the Kryptonite New York Lock Standard U-Lock – I’ve yet to find anything better than this one.

Kryptonite New York Lock Standard U-Lock

This lock right here is strong enough to withstand bolt cutters. So, if you have an expensive bicycle you definitely want a top of the line lock like this one.

Another option is a cable lock. You’ve probably seen bikes secured with these cables woven through the wheel spokes and frame.

A chain lock isn’t a bad choice, but it’s not as secure at a U-lock like the one above.

Of course, the benefit of a cable lock is that you can easily secure the bike to unconventional things. My favorite is the Kryptonite KryptoLok 990 Combo Chain Lock.

2. Find The Most Rack-Like Thing In The Area

Since there’s no rack to chain or lock your bike to, you need to find the most rack-like thing in the area.

This means something that cannot be moved – heavy, sturdy, etc.

Of course, you also need to be able to actually attack your lock to the item.

bike locked to sign

Some ideas for you:

  • trees
  • fences
  • bolted down benches
  • light poles
  • railings
  • road signs

Tip: Don’t lock to a chain link fence because thieves can easily cut those fence types with bolt cutters.

It’s important when you select a location that you make sure that you’re not going to be blocking any businesses, parking spots, or walking/driving areas.

You don’t want to be a douche and you don’t want the city removing your bike for you!

Also obey and signs or laws that prevent chaining your bike to things in the area.

3. Secure The Wheels

Sometimes I come across what’s left of a bike attached to a rack where the cyclist left the wheels exposed and they were stolen.

I always feel so bad for the cyclist in this instance.

bike with wheels stolen

That’s why it’s good to have a cable lock in addition to your U-lock. Cause people are jerks and will basically take anything that not’s secured.

To prevent this sort of thing from happening to you, it’s a good idea to use a cable lock to secure the wheels of your bicycle.

Or, at least weave the cable through the spokes so that a thief cannot roll away or ride the bike away.

Basically, if you just make it more difficult to steal your bike by making it so the wheels won’t roll, then your bike is safer while you are gone.

bike with cable lock through wheel spokes
image: Richard Masoner, Flickr, CC2.0

What If  You Don’t Have A Bike Lock?

If you own a bike, then you seriously need to get yourself a good bike lock.

Otherwise, you are really risking that bike being stolen.

But, if you don’t have a lock then you should focus on making that bike has difficult to roll away as possible.

So, do whatever you can to immobilize the wheels so that it is too difficult and time consuming to steal.

Here are some tips to keep your bicycle safe from thieves when you don’t have a lock:

  • Remove the chain from the back gears so it’s a thief cannot ride it away
  • Hide your bike behind large shrubs, cars, etc.
  • Put it in the highest gear so it’s harder for a thief to jump on a ride away quickly
  • Remove the bike seat – technically the rest can be stolen, but might be less likely
  • Remove the front wheel – technically the rest can be stolen, but might be less likely
  • Take the bike inside, if you can

And once you return to your bike, the first you should do is buy a new bike lock!

5 thoughts on “How To Lock Your Bike Without A Bike Rack”

  1. Locking your bike in a bike rack is easy, but it is still possible to lock a bike without a bike rack: You can detach the front wheel and tie it along with the rear wheel, put the two wheels together to deter thieves from stealing them. Another option is taking the chain off the rear gears or have the choice to remove the quick-release off the front wheel. A good way to make your bike more unrideable is by taking the front off of the frame,… These can essentially reduce the risk of your bike being stolen.

  2. The key to successfully locking your bike into the hitch rack is how firmly you’ve attached the bike to the mount. For this process, you will need a basic lock and a longer lock to ensure balance. These straps will ensure that the bike is well installed and provide maximum safety for the rider. It will also prevent robbers from stealing your bike.


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