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 Comments

  • June 22, 2011 - 11:41 pm | Permalink

    but theres no way your riding away from that. also theres no way anyone is gonna think your doing that to your own  bike.

  • MikeOnBike
    June 22, 2011 - 11:52 pm | Permalink

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

  • Anonymous
    June 22, 2011 - 11:52 pm | Permalink

    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?

  • June 23, 2011 - 12:01 am | Permalink

    The Neistat Brothers and Kitty Genovese both demonstrated the lack of any bystander response.

  • June 23, 2011 - 12:17 am | Permalink

    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.

  • June 23, 2011 - 2:04 am | Permalink

    Indeed.  The only bystanders who will do anything are bike messengers  :)

  • Tom Ligman
    June 23, 2011 - 2:14 am | Permalink

    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.

  • June 23, 2011 - 2:37 am | Permalink

    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.

  • June 23, 2011 - 2:37 am | Permalink

    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.

  • June 23, 2011 - 3:01 am | Permalink

    Don’t steal bikes Pappy!

  • Jules
    June 23, 2011 - 9:54 am | Permalink

    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?

  • June 23, 2011 - 12:53 pm | Permalink

    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.

  • June 23, 2011 - 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Nice spoke card!

  • June 23, 2011 - 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Nice spoke card!

  • June 23, 2011 - 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Nice spoke card!

  • June 23, 2011 - 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Nice spoke card!

  • June 23, 2011 - 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Nice spoke card!

  • Adam "Cezar" Jenkins
    June 23, 2011 - 5:39 pm | Permalink

    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.

  • Adam "Cezar" Jenkins
    June 23, 2011 - 5:39 pm | Permalink

    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.

  • Anonymous
    June 23, 2011 - 11:06 pm | Permalink

    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.

  • Anonymous
    June 23, 2011 - 11:08 pm | Permalink

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

  • June 24, 2011 - 2:30 pm | Permalink

    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

  • anon
    June 28, 2011 - 8:57 pm | Permalink

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

  • B
    July 29, 2013 - 3:27 am | Permalink

    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.

  • SCB
    November 19, 2013 - 9:01 am | Permalink

    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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