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bike 101: what to do when you forgot your bike lock

May 4, 2011

We’ve all been there, right? You’re half way to your destination when it suddently hits you that your lock is still sitting at home where you last set it down or around the top tube of your other bike. One easy solution, of course, is to have more than one lock. Ideally, a lock on each bike you use so that you don’t have to worry about switching it between bikes with each use. But if you’re like me and just have one lock, you may find yourself in the above cited predicament. So what do you do if you don’t have the time to turn around and go back home for your lock?

Here are some tips and strategies I’ve employed or encountered…

Forgot my bike lock

1. Take Bike In To Office/Indoor Space/Destination Point With You

The few times I’ve left my bike lock at home, I just took my bikes right into my office on campus. This works because we have an elevator and because I don’t share my office, so no one else is put out by this. I’ve also had students ask to bring their bikes into the classroom and I’ve always allowed it (although the university states that no bikes should be in the building). The classrooms are usually large enough that a bike propped up against a wall at the back of the room isn’t in anyone’s way.

I’ve also taken my bike inside my yoga studio one time when I forgot my lock at home. My yoga instructor was very understanding and allowed me to leave my bike there while I went to coffee with some of the other yoga girls after our class and then the nearby library to pick up some books. I ran my errands and then returned to retrieve my bike from the yoga center, sparing me the headache of having to find a new solution at each point of my destination.

I have, however, also encountered negative reactions to this. On one occasion, I asked my local thrift store if I could bring the bike inside the store where I could park it out of anyone’s way while I shopped and was told that it wouldn’t be a good idea ‘because someone might walk off with it’. This was their way of basically telling me ‘no’.

2. Take the Bike SEAT In To Office/Indoor Space/Destination Point With You

I’ve never done this, but I’ve had students bring just their seat inside as a way to deter bike theft when leaving their bikes unlocked outside of our campus building. (This method may not work in some more theft-happy bigger cities, but it suffices as a deterent in our small town).

3. Ask a Friend To Share Their Lock

I’ve seen my students come into the classroom and ask fellow cyclists if they wouldn’t mind going back down to the bike rack with them and sharing their lock for the duration of class. A nice example of campus camaraderie.

4. Ask a Stranger To Share Their Lock

Last week, I attended a campus symphony orchestra concert and just as I was locking up my bike outside of the music building, another cyclist standing by approached me and asked if I wouldn’t mind sharing my bike lock for the duration of the concert. I of course agreed and locked our bikes together. He had forgotten his lock and was waiting to catch another cyclist to ask to share their lock, to which I happily obliged. I can’t imagine that any cyclist would say no to this request.

5. Any Other Tips or Suggestions? Fill in the Blank with your Strategies here:___________________

What do you do when you forget your bike lock? Hopefully, you’re a little less absent-minded than I am and don’t have to often worry about this problem. But if you have encountered this dilemma, how have you solved it in the past? Please share your tips in the comments!

Forgot my bike lock again

27 Comments leave one →
  1. James Baum permalink
    May 4, 2011 07:16

    Great solutions to the age-old problem of not having a lock with you.

    As an avid bike collector, junkpile rescuer, and fixxer-upper another reason to not have your lock is because one spotted a great abandoned bike on the way in a dumpster or at the curbside and because of a bicycle lifestyle couldn’t pick up it up while on the bike.

    I’m not the only trash-to-treasure dumpster-diver and have noticed that a bike I spotted while out on an errand is often gone by the time I get back or the dumpster has been emptied. The obvious solution is to move it to a bike rack and lock it up with my lock and come back later but that leaves me lockless. I’ll have to keep your suggestions in mind.

  2. Erin B permalink
    May 4, 2011 08:44

    While not an ideal bike lock, you can buy three packs of keyed alike cable locks at Home Depot for around $20. Not the BEST lock, but they will deter causal thieves and you can leave one on each bike as an emergency back up lock. Plus they are great when you have more kids and you don’t want to have to keep track of all their bike lock keys.

  3. May 4, 2011 09:14

    I was terrible for this so we did spring for a frame mounted O-lock/Dutch lock on each of our bikes. Note: the kind that require you to leave the key in them while open are best so you don’t leave the key at home ;)

    However, like you I take the bike in but ask first. When I came to a store that gave me grief I’d point out that I came to spend money and if they wished me to spend money at their location that it would be in their interest to allow me to just rest the bike to the side. If they said no, I would just turn around and go home.

    Otherwise, and my situation is very different from yours, at that point I almost always had my children with me because we home-schooled and I’d scramble to write a note on an old receipt and send the eldest child in with the note and money or whatever and get them to do the errand while I waited with the cycles. Or, if there was good visibility I’d run in and watch the children through the windows while I ran the errand.

    If I didn’t have children I’d sometimes call the place and explain that I was standing outside, my predicament and ask if they had a solution.

    Like I said… I was notorious. Now every bike has a frame lock and a cable wrapped around the seat stem. It was an investment but other than the one I had riveted to a frame, we can take them off when selling and move them on to the next bike.

  4. May 4, 2011 09:28

    If you get a jogging stroller for little C. (and I’ll bet you will) you will encounter this with your jogging stroller. When we went to town, we would lock the jogging stroller up just like a bike, but sometimes we forgot the lock. A jogging stroller is bulkier than a bike, and most stores would really frown on us bringing it into the store. Never did come up with a solution for that one!

    • May 4, 2011 13:23

      Oh wow, for some reason I never even considered that I’d have to lock my stroller up, but it makes sense. Especially since we’re planning on getting a really nice BOB running stroller which I’d hate to see disspear. Ok, add to baby list…. lock for stroller :) Thanks!


  5. May 4, 2011 10:26

    I’m lucky, in that I also have office space at work that I can bring my bike into if I have to, but also, my workplace (which is a medical university) provides a bunch of locks at each parking location, which you can get keys for from the parking and transportation department.

    Though I mostly solved this problem by getting a rear wheel lock with a chain attachment, so now the lock just stays on my bike permanently, and I can’t forget the key either, because it won’t come out of the lock when it’s unlocked :)

    I’ve also had people at the grocery store ask if I would watch their bike for a few minutes, while they just run in to get something quickly, as they forgot their lock. One of them even bought me a beer for the trouble, which I thought was pretty awesome (good beer, too) :)

    I also one time left my bike right outside the front window of our cobbler on the sidewalk when I was going in to pick up shoes (it’s in downtown), and he noticed it outside the window and said “you’re welcome to bring your bike in if you want. I always welcome bikes and dogs, but if you have small children, leave them outside (big grin)” :)

    • May 4, 2011 13:25

      Haha, good one! (The cobbler, that is).

      That’s awesome about your work, it never ceases to amaze me how health and bike friendly your employer is. That’s wonderful. As was the person who got you that beer! :)


  6. May 4, 2011 10:50

    I usually bring my bike in with me if I forget my lock, but just yesterday I was reading that a lot of Portland businesses have started providing bike locks for patrons who forgot theirs. Pretty cool.

  7. May 4, 2011 11:30

    I did this yesterday. Might be time to invest in another bike lock and just keep one on each bike at all times.

    Luckily I can keep my bike inside my building at work. I just couldn’t ride to someplace for lunch which I was a little sad about.

  8. May 4, 2011 11:36

    yes this has happened to many times…most of the time i have no choice but to go back home and get it..otherwise if i am with the mister we just take turns waiting outside with it when we are shopping or doing errands!


  9. May 4, 2011 17:05

    Great tips! And your office is really cute. For some reason, I thought you were a student not on staff at your school. :)

    • May 4, 2011 19:19

      Thanks, I really liked it too. My first ‘grown up’ office that I didn’t share with other TAs. I am still a grad student in that I’m finishing my dissertation for my home institution but I was working full time as faculty this past year at a different institution than the one that’s granting me my degree.

      I have one more year until I finish but I just found out that I got a dissertation fellowship I applied for, so the coming academic year I’ll be at home with little C. and writing/working from home. I’m nervous and excited for this new stage in life!

  10. May 4, 2011 20:05

    I’m lucky where I can store my bike inside the hallway of my office building excerice facility. Many of us don’t like leaving our bikes outside, not for theft, but the outdoor elements, and we don’t like the cheapo rack which the company purchased. I really need to talk to my company about this :)… If your going to give us racks, make them nice ones.

  11. May 4, 2011 21:16

    When in this predicament, I’ve clipped my helmet straps around the bike frame and rack. Then I loosen the front quick release as a further deterrent. In a pinch this seems to work, but I’ve never left my bike for more than an hour this way.

  12. May 4, 2011 22:51

    Does stomping one’s feet and swearing count as a tip? It might not keep my World Tourister safe but it makes me feel a bit better. :)

  13. May 6, 2011 16:25

    remove front wheel and carry with you!
    or…. go to store and ask cashier to take care your bike!


  14. May 7, 2011 22:58

    The taking the seat suggestion made me giggle. When I was a student, I always took my saddle to class with me, to prevent the saddle from being stolen. I’d never leave my bike out of sight, unlocked.

    My strategy for not forgetting my lock is always keeping my bikes locked at home. Every bike has a lock, and so none of them go anywhere without me putting the lock in my bag or pannier first.

  15. ridon permalink
    May 10, 2011 06:58

    wish my work was as bike friendly! our request to turn one of the numerous empty rooms in one wing of our floor into indoor bike parking was denied (they claimed it was a safety hazard and that bikes were dirty). i was locking my bike to a street sign when a store owner popped his head out and asked me if i was going into the store. perplexed, i said yes and he said to bring the bike in while i shopped! i’ve also brought my bike into walgreens when they had no bike racks outside.

    as far as asking people to share their lock, i’ve never thought of that! this seems like a nice idea. i know i would share my lock if asked.

  16. May 10, 2011 18:35

    i’ve had to use nature to hide my bike in bushes or under leaves, I’ve also hoisted it up on top of a flat garage roof, and hidden it behind a dumpster.

  17. May 31, 2011 12:15

    I love tip #4! Great way to build community and solve a security issue!

  18. bmxer permalink
    December 13, 2011 16:54

    2 more helpers
    -tighten up your brakes so that your wheels are locked
    -if you have a masterlink, remove your chain and lock your bike up with that.

    • bmxer permalink
      December 13, 2011 16:57

      also theres a hard to explain method on locking your bike up on a busrack, but get a left front peg and try and figure it out

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