What is the Sheldon Method?

Last night I was the guest “professor” for a fun, weekly online chat called #bikeschool on Twitter. The format is simple: the professor asks questions, the audience answers. Participants hashtag evertyhing with #bikeschool so we can track the discussion.


Rear wheel

My theme last night was bike theft. One of my questions:

Are you aware of the “Sheldon Method”? Is it effective? Needs updating? Use a completely different method?

A few people gave answers like “the modified Sheldon” and so forth, but I also saw a few like this:


Bike mechanic Sheldon “Captain Bike” Brown passed away in 2008, which is eons ago in Internet years, so it’s no surprise that many people have never heard of him or the bike locking technique described and popularized by him so many years ago.

What is the Sheldon Method?

I encourage you to read the original article for the rationale, but the “Sheldon Method” is the technique of locking only your rear wheel to a solid post. To prevent leverage and jack attacks, it’s important to use the smallest U lock that will fit, which is why the Kyrptonite Mini is so popular. You also must run the U-lock inside the rear triangle to prevent frame theft.

The Modified Sheldon is similar, but practitioners include a portion of the frame inside the U lock, and also wrap a cable through the front wheel.

Cables through the front wheel are useless in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve several friends who lost front wheels that way. I now recommend two U-locks – one locked Sheldon style through the rear wheel, and another U lock to protect the front wheel. Security hardware such as Pinheads also seem effective. Because chains and cables to protect your saddle and seatpost are no longer effective around here, security hardware for that part is also a good idea.

In the Bay Area and Santa Cruz, modern, high quality U-locks are effective for short term parking. I’ve left bikes locked up for several hours in downtown San Francisco, along the San Francisco Embarcadero, all over the South Bay and Santa Cruz with the Sheldon Method and an extra U-lock on the front wheel. Bikes locked overnight even with modern U-locks, on the other hand, are susceptible to theft.

Who is Sheldon Brown

Back before Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and MySpace, we had a form of social media called Usenet. Sheldon Brown became frequent and popular participant in the Usenet bicycle forums after AOL became linked to the Internet. He sadly passed to a heart attack on February 8, 2008, only six months after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

His website at SheldonBrown.com remains a treasure trove of technical information, helpful tips, personal anecdotes, and archives of his Usenet conversations. His close friend John Allen keeps the site updated with current information.

6 Comments

  • March 14, 2014 - 10:38 am | Permalink

    Do you use the front U-lock with the rack or just wheel to frame?

  • March 14, 2014 - 10:54 am | Permalink

    If possible I’ll lock to something solid. Usually, though I can’t do that so wheel to downtube.

  • Jack
    March 15, 2014 - 6:10 am | Permalink

    Not only was his site an excellent source of bike knowledge with an emphasis on retrogrouch solutions but also where bike humor was promoted. ShelBro Chain Cleaning method & kits: Shimano Deluxe only $199.95 versus the more expensive SRAM at $249.95. A great man and giant in the promotion of cycling.

  • Grego
    March 15, 2014 - 6:02 pm | Permalink

    Jack, there’s good opportunity for a Shel tribute coming up in 16 days!

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  • March 17, 2014 - 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Richard, thanks for the links to my modified Sheldon method. I wholeheartedly agree that the locking method required varies greatly based on geography and local bike theft tactics and frequency. I’m in the Phoenix area, and for the most part I would say that a cable is a decent deterrent to front wheel theft. Is it the best? Absolutely not. But in a college town where so many people lock entire bikes with cable locks, a cable lock on the front wheel is pretty sufficient.

    I’m glad that some people know the “modified sheldon” method. I preach it regularly on Reddit’s bicycling related subs.

    Rather than two u-locks, if one desires a more secure front wheel method, I would suggest a chain lock and a u lock. I would use the u lock ala Sheldon but include a seat or chain stay (as in my modified method). The reason I’d recommend a chain lock over another u lock is that it is more of a challenge for a thief and generally would require two different tools. You can’t jack attack a chain lock. And a lighter chain like the Abus 585, which is case hardened multiple times, can be cheaper than most u locks but just as strong.

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