Rethinking Sheldon Brown’s lock technique

On his lock strategy page, Sheldon Brown (RIP) recommends locking a bike by securing the rear wheel inside the rear triangle with a U lock. A YouTube video shows Sheldon might be wrong!

I almost always use the “Sheldon Method” of bike security by wrapping a U lock around the rear wheel inside of the space between the seat stays and chain stays as shown below.


Rear wheel

Even if a thief removes the rear wheel, the lock is inside the frame and the bike isn’t going anywhere.

Sheldon claimed that it’s too difficult to saw through the rim to make stealing the bike worthwhile for most thieves. “Cutting the rear rim is much harder than you might think,” he wrote. “Since the rim is under substantial compression due to the tension on the spokes, it would pinch a hacksaw blade tight as soon as it cut partway through. Then there are the wire beads of the tire, also difficult to cut.”

I’ve been wanting to do a Myth Busters style video to test Sheldon’s hypothesis, but I see now that somebody’s already demonstrated the ease of taking hacksaw to tire and wheel. If you can’t watch the video, it shows somebody ripping through the rear wheel in about 10 seconds with a hacksaw.



25 thoughts on “Rethinking Sheldon Brown’s lock technique”

  1. Well, that busts the “difficult to hacksaw” part, but kind of defeats the point of stealing the bike.

  2. The deterrent value of witnesses is easily overestimated.  Some burly guy carrying a saw goes to work on a bike and bystanders are likely to mind their own business.  And if he has a car, how far does he need to walk?

  3. I had a bike stolen in exactly this way on Market St in SF.

    They sawed through a $400 Spinergy Spox rear wheel.

    I assume it would have taken about he same amount of time to saw through the (aluminum) frame. The value of the frame was roughly the same as the value of the wheel.

    In short: Don’t lock your bike outside at night in urban areas if you can possibly avoid it. If you can’t afford another bike, don’t do it at all.

  4. I’ve generally gone through the wheel AND the frame, but using that basic method…. but Reed’s right – not outside overnight.  Not if I can help it.

  5. Yes, but your bike has fenders so you are guaranteed another 5 seconds of safety! 😉 I always lock through the seat-stays and roll with locking wheel skewers.

  6. Yes, but your bike has fenders so you are guaranteed another 5 seconds of safety! 😉 I always lock through the seat-stays and roll with locking wheel skewers.

  7. I wouldn’t call it 100% busted just yet. That looked like a single wall rim. What about a 700C double wall rim with a snug fitting road tyre? Having said that, it does look pretty damning… maybe 95% busted?

  8. I always lock through the frame and wheel if possible, and if its a high threat area or the bike is going to be locked up a long time I use a cable as well.

  9. I have to agree with the others. It defeats the point of stealing a bike. A good battery powered angle grinder can cut a ulock that fast also. Doesn’t mean we stop using ulocks.

  10. I have to agree with the others. It defeats the point of stealing a bike. A good battery powered angle grinder can cut a ulock that fast also. Doesn’t mean we stop using ulocks.

  11. I paid more for my Ksyrium wheels than for the Cannondale frame they are mounted on. Pinging on the tubes, I’d guess a hacksaw would go through the frame quicker, too. Still, it says that you want to lock the frame and both wheels if possible. When I take my mini u, I can’t get the lock around the frame at some racks. On those, I “Sheldon” and use the cable to keep as many bits attached to the u as possible. Even without the video, some of the Sheldon observations are easily defeated – saw through several spokes and deflate the tire and you are simply sawing through a thin aluminum extrusion and a couple of beads.

    Still, a thief with a big enough set of power cutters could probably get through the lock quicker without destroying an expensive component.

  12. At work, my big u captures both the seat tube and the rear wheel. Since it stays at work, it weighs nothing.

  13. a.  though – the back wheel is the most expensive part of the bike other than the frame

    b. it;s just as easy to put the lock around the seat stays, as well as the wheel rim

    wle

  14. Only the rear wheel gets damaged.  Small clams to pay, when what you’re really after is the frame.

  15. I always go around the frame. I thought that’s what I read on Sheldon’s website, I guess not. I would never just go around the tire.

  16. Hacksaw – amateur. Battery powered Sawzall, < three seconds. Wheel? Only the tire, tube and rim are destroyed; the spokes, hub and cassette are still fine.

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