how to avoid having to steal your own bike


Imagine having to steal your own bike.

That’s what I was thinking about when my heavy-duty U lock seized up over the weekend. Despite a smooth turn of the key, the shackle refused to budge from the bar, leaving my bike virtually welded to a “No Parking” sign in front of a restaurant on Lafayette Street. I wondered, Whom would I call to break the lock? A bike shop, a locksmith…a bicycle thief? And where would I find one of those, anyway?
Fortunately, after five minutes of vigorous jiggling, the thing finally popped open. Why had my otherwise trustworthy lock wigged out on me? Turns out I had been a neglectful owner. (See damning photo evidence below.) When I checked with my local bike shop, I learned that the moisture, salt and road grime that may harm bicycle components can also infiltrate and compromise metal locks. Regular cleaning and lubing helps keep them functioning smoothly. Here are some tips:

  • Thoroughly clean and dry both tips of the shackle (the U-shaped part). Wipe with a rag sprayed with WD-40 to remove rust, whether visible or not.
  • Drip or spray a few drops of bike lube into the two holes where the shackle connects with the bar. Then lock and unlock a few times.
  • To lube the cylinder (the part where you insert the key), Kryptonite, a maker of U locks, recommends spraying or dripping into the cylinder a few drops of lube that contains one of the following ingredients: silicone, graphite, Teflon or paraffin. Insert the key and turn it a few times to work the lube in.
  • If your lock is equipped with a cover that slides over the keyhole, use it to help protect the cylinder.

Note that, while cleaning and lubing may only be required every few months in fair weather, you may need to put this on your monthly to-do list during the type of harsh winter we’ve had this year.

U Lock Bar
Top: Grime accumulated around the bar opening of my lock. Bottom: Rust is visible on the shackle tip.
U Lock Shackle Tip
photos of lock: velojoy
Tags from the story


  • I carry a small spray bottle of 70% alcohol in my ride kit. It’s been terribly effective unfreezing my Kryptonite a few times this past winter. It seems to work well for on brands too. 😉

    Check your local dollar store. Lube up when you get home.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *