Cycle Touring Bike Security
Let me be the first to admit that if there were a spectrum of sentiment about bike security then I would be near one end, the end marked “Paranoid”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t walk around in a perpetual xenophobic haze believing that every stranger is about to do me harm, quite the opposite, I have a firm belief in the goodness of 99.9% of humanity and the more we travel the greater that belief grows. But here, I’m talking about the 0.1%.
There’s a few factors at play here; not least is the still recent and raw memory of riding the train back home in our Lycra looking into each other’s tear-filled eyes knowing that we would never see our beloved bikes again; they were now in the back of a nondescript van going god knows where. We knew that because we had seen the thieves on the security CCTV with a monster pair of boltcutters that made light work of our substantial bike chains.
So, yes, I’m a little over-sensitive and, it’s not just to combat the threat, it’s to put my mind at ease that I like to see the bikes locked up at night, preferably beside our hotel bed.
Let’s start with the easy stuff first, the Bike Lock. People talk about not carrying that hefty lump of steel about, but comfort will make or break a trip and that includes psychological comfort. At 1.5kg each for our bike locks, that’s weight well spent for me.
We were always going to go for a Gold Standard lock and, largely because we have had the Abus 501 uGrip locks for years that we wanted to stay with the Abus. They have a good reputation, they meet the standard and they tuck down nicely behind the panniers when fitted with the USH bracket.
Well, they did on our last bikes, but they were a bit fat on our new builds and didn’t sit that well. We went for the Abus Granit X-Plus 540 300mm for the reasons above; along with the great write-ups they were getting and the fact that the D loop was slimmer and now sits tighter to the bike frame and slides much easier behind the panniers.
They do two versions, the 230mm (standard) and the larger 300mm. We bought the 300mm because, with two bikes, it gave us more options to lock the bikes together through the frames whilst locking one of the bikes to something substantial; many times we have arrived somewhere and only had space to secure one of the bikes to a hard fixing such as a railing or post.
We also bought the 300mm with an idea to deal with the issue of how to secure the bikes when camping in the open.
Cycle Touring Bike Security when Camping
Sometime, somewhere I saw an ingenious idea of using two dog tether posts in line and a D-Lock like this. If you think about it for a minute, and it took me a minute, it’s very difficult to get the tether posts out because you can’t unscrew them both at the same time with a D-Lock holding them together.
The tethers screw down about 12-18″ so are relatively secure but the weakness is that, on soft ground, that you might be able to pull them straight up. But to manage that with both of them that have 2 x D-Locks and 2 x Bikes attached to them through the frame would still be quite a task.
Here you see how it works with two bikes and this would be our preferred configuration.
It’s not completely clear from the photos but the 300mm Abus Granit X-Plus D-Locks are also intertwined which means that, even if you did manage to get the tether posts out, then the bikes are still connected to each other with the D-Locks and the nest step is going to need an angle grinder or similar.
The bikes are held upright by the excellent Click-Stands but I’m not sure about this as a solution for overnight. The bikes won’t fall over because of the D-Locks holding them to the tether posts but the wind will probably rattle them off the click stands when they have their cover* on them. I think a better option would be to use a bungee to tie them together at the crossbars and then use a guy rope the opposite side of the tent.
Last we week we tried this all out in the garden with the test of our camping gear and it all worked well.
*cover – our garden table cover works surprisingly well as a 2 bike cover with a draw string around the bottom to secure it. It’s very light.
Security for the Other Parts of the Bikes
So, that’s the frame secured but the other parts, especially wheels and saddles are vulnerable. Someone suggested that the first move should be replace those thief-friendly quick-release skewers with some allen key skewers (aka hex key) and we thought that this was a good idea.
But then we took it one stage further when we discovered Hexlox. It’s a Dutch company that uses these little magnetic thingamajigs that fit into your 4, 5 or 6mm allen key holes, the video shows it better than I can explain it. But we bought 10 of these at 5mm (8 with 2 spare) as two sets along with the Hexlox skewers and they are now permanent installations on the bikes. It’s worth noting that although the Hexlox keys are uniquely coded, if you buy them all together like we did, they will supply all the components with the same code.
We used them cycling through Thailand and they were effective. Nothing’s perfect though and the two downsides seem to be the cost (by any measure, they ain’t cheap!) and the dust/grit gets into them on the skewers and can make them difficult to remove if you get a puncture. It took me 20 mins of swearing and wrestling to get one out of a front skewer when Siubhan got a puncture in 33º heat and 85% humidity in Thailand where there was no shade. I can now do it in 5 mins as the technique that seems to work is to engage the key and then wiggle it in each of the 6 directions to free the grit, before then withdrawing the Hexlox straight out as it was intended. Yes, it’s all a bit of a faff at times, but it gives us some peace of mind.