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Thwart cycle thieves with a little help from the letter U.

Aytan Luck, owner of Truly Spoken Cycles in Riverwest, learned about bike security the hard way. Chaining your ride to a stop sign? Seems safe, but it wasn’t for Luck. Thieves yanked the pole out of the ground. How about a porch railing? Kicked that sucker out of its socket. On yet another occasion, Luck locked a bike’s wheel to its frame, thinking he’d be away for only a short spell. That was long enough for someone to carry off the frame, wheels, everything. These days, “I have a lightweight, but pretty secure, U-lock that cost $80.”

Two brands of U-lock – a bar that attaches to a metal “U” – came up in conversations with shop owners: Kryptonite, which makes a line of black and yellow locks, and German standby Abus. Although thieves may still pry open a cheaply constructed U-lock, those costing north of $50 will repel almost all lock breakers.

Luck and Paul Warloski of Ben’s Cycle on Lincoln Avenue both recommend using lightweight chain locks only for temporary storage. A thief with bolt cutters or even garden shears can make quick work of most light cables. High-end alternatives – including Kryptonite’s New York Fahgettaboudit chain lock – feature thick chains made of hardened steel capable of weathering “shady neighborhoods overnight,” according to the company.

Luck also recommends U-locking or chaining bikes that are stored in garages, lest they be lost to a break-in.

Warloski says to choose a security system based on what you’ll use it for, be it lightweight, moderate or serious sentry duty. From there, choose a sturdy (or, if at all possible, indoor) location and loop the U-lock around the frame and one of the wheels. Add a secondary chain to tie down the other wheel, especially if it has a quick-release mechanism. Lastly, strip the bike of lights or “anything that’s fairly expensive.”

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According to Luck, securing one’s bike ultimately becomes a question of how much one is willing to pay. “For every security risk,” he says, “there’s a company making a solution for it.”

5 Other Items to Keep on Hand While Biking

Photo by Laura Dierbeck.

 1:  In the back of every cyclists’ mind is fear of a flat tire. So pack a patch kit ($2). A tube can be patched at least a dozen times!

 2:  Before you can fix that flat, you’ll usually need a wrench – 15 mm works best ($5) – to remove the wheel from the frame.

 3:  A mini bike pump ($25) that works with both Presta and Schraeder  valves can make you a hero to a fellow cyclist in need.

 4 & 5:  . A pair of tire levers ($2 each) are helpful with the removal and installation of tight fitting tires on rims. If you’re on your 13th patch, a spare innertube ($5) will save the day. And all of these items can be stored under your seat in this nifty pack ($5).