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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

Homemade Bike Locks: What To Do If You Have No Bike Lock

by Taylor September 12, 2022

People steal bikes every single day. This fact is something many people have come to accept – someone will steal their bike eventually, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

A good lock can prevent theft, but sometimes you don’t have that option. Whether a good lock is too expensive, or you don’t have your bike lock on you, you can wind up in a situation where you need to park your bike somewhere but can’t.

And at that point, it’s easy to give up hope. You might as well just let your bike get stolen since that’s clearly going to happen, right?

Well, not necessarily. There are things you can do to help make bike theft less likely. A pricey lock is still your best bet, but other options exist if you don’t have access to one. You can either make a homemade bike lock or take other preventative measures against theft.

Let’s go over a few reasons you might not have a bike lock, followed by which homemade bike lock works for each scenario.

  1. Own A Bike Lock, But Forgot It
  2. Do Not Own A Bike Lock
  3. Other Advice
  4. Quick Tips

Own A Bike Lock, But Forgot It

If you own a bike lock but realize that you don’t have it on you and you’re in a situation where you need to go inside somewhere, there are a few things to do to minimize your theft risk. These work even without a homemade lock.

Remember, bike security is all about layering. All of these can be bypassed by a determined thief, but the trick is the thief will have a lot of things to deal with, and your chances of catching them increase.

1. Take bike inside

First and foremost, consider whether or not you can just take your bike inside with you. If you get told to leave it outside anyway, it’s not a big deal, so you might as well try. In most professional settings, this probably won’t work, but if you’re stopping at a convenience store or something briefly, you’re not likely to get told off for it.

2. Hide bike

Your next best bet is to find a good, empty hiding spot for your bike. People have reported that large crowds are actually bad for bike owners, as a thief can get lost in one without anyone noticing they’re destroying a bike lock. So finding a good hiding spot for your bike will decrease the chances of theft.

See if there’s an abandoned building or shrubs nearby that you can hide your bike behind. Any coverage can help.

3. Keep the bike in sight

If you don’t have a good hiding spot for your bike, make sure you can always see it. Position it outside a window and keep your eyes on that window while you’re doing whatever you’re doing. And no, the presence of a security camera is not secure enough to qualify here.

4. Use the rear rack bungee cord

If your rear rack has a bungee cord, you can use it to tie your bike down in a sort of makeshift homemade bike lock. A thief can break through this fast, but once you have some of these other security measures, this will become an additional obstacle. Make sure to tie your bike to something sturdy!

5. Use the helmet strap

I assume you’re wearing a helmet, as brain injuries from bikes are easy to get and devastating to deal with. You don’t need the helmet when you go indoors, though. Use the strap on the helmet to further tie your bike down, creating another obstacle for a thief and another simple homemade bike lock.

6. Tangle with a twig

If there’s a lot of foliage and twigs, you can use some of that wood to tie elaborate knots. Once again, a thief can cut through this, but if you jam your bike up with stuff, it can become a flimsy homemade bike lock and slow the thief down. Now your homemade bike lock has many layers to get through!

7. Dismantle the bike

Take out some vital parts, and the bike won’t be rideable. Odds are the thief was betting on the bike helping them make a getaway, so doing this will slow them down significantly.

Taking off the front wheel will make the bike completely unrideable. Taking the seat will make it rideable but less appealing to sell later. You can also remove the chain to prevent the cycle from being ridden. The chain will be easier to store than the other items, but the downside is you’ll get some grease in your pocket or bag.

8. Switch the bike to the lowest gear

Doing this slows down thieves as it makes the bike significantly harder to ride, meaning you’re more likely to catch them if they don’t notice the gear shift right away.

9. Cover your bike

If there’s something to cover your bike with, like a tarp lying nearby or a parka you have on you, then drape it over the bicycle. No one is going to bother to look underneath the covers. Bike thieves usually don’t check if random shapes popping up from things are bikes that they can steal.

Do Not Own A Bike Lock

If you can’t afford a good bike lock, you can make a cheap one from some supplies you can find at a hardware store. This homemade bike lock isn’t too difficult to put together, and you can make one in no time.

You might be able to make this based on things you have lying around, but if you don’t, you can still make one more powerful than a U-Lock you’d get at the same price. You only need to know what to look for.

Some of these components may end up a bit pricey. But you can budget it to get a homemade bike lock that’s much higher quality than you’d get for a regular bike lock of the same price. It’s also straightforward to put together, so you don’t need some super-intensive DIY skills on this one.

1. Bike Chain

The main component of this homemade bike lock is a chain. Do some research on what chains are most robust. Youtube videos are helpful here. Some can only be cut by the hardiest blades, and bolt cutters do nothing.

One way to check if the chain is right for you is to go into a hardware store and ask a clerk if they can cut the chain to a smaller size. If they can’t, the chain probably can’t be cut well, and that’s the one you should get.

2. Padlock  

The second component is a padlock. Be careful because sometimes people focus so much on an indestructible chain that they don’t notice they have a cheap padlock. Make sure your padlock is high-quality, and do the same research you did for your chain to ensure your homemade bike lock works as it should.

3. Shielding

Finally, get something to cover the chain with so that it doesn’t mark up your bike. Doing this is optional, but it’s nice to have. If you have an old t-shirt or some other fabric lying around, you can use it to cover up the chain. Electrical or duct tape works as well.

4. GPS Tracking

A GPS unit is probably worth getting if you can spend a little more money. That way, if someone does steal your bike, you can recover it pretty quickly. If the GPS unit is small, you can hide it under the seat, and a thief is unlikely to find it and remove it.

5. Skewers 

You can also buy some cheap locking skewers to help deter thieves. This isn’t a great preventative measure, but it’ll slow a thief down if they notice the skewers and stop a thief in their tracks (albeit momentarily) if they don’t see the skewers. If you have some extra dollars, they’re probably worth buying.

Other Advice

Even with a bike lock (whether it’s a homemade bike lock or not), there are other bits of caution that you should take when parking your bike outdoors. As you probably know, bike theft happens often. While it’s not something you necessarily have to accept and let happen, it is something you should prepare for.

These little pieces of advice aren’t the strongest deterrents to bike theft on their own, but every bit helps. These are easy to do and decrease your chances of bike theft, especially when combined with a homemade bike lock.

1. Marking

Try to write your name somewhere on the bike. That way, if it’s stolen, it’s easy to prove that it’s yours. On top of that, it’s hard to sell an obviously stolen bike, making it less appealing to bike thieves.

2. Parking

When you park your bike regularly, try to park it in different spots. Sometimes, more well-planned thieves will scout out an area first and see patterns in the way bikes are parked. They might already have your bike marked, so you should be careful and inconsistent.

Quick Tips

What to do if you don’t have a bike lock:

You need to try every security measure possible. Hiding the bike is a good idea, as is tying it down with multiple objects to create a simple homemade bike lock. You can use a bungee cord or helmet strap or whatever else you have with you at the time. You can also dismantle the bike and take parts with you, or even take the whole bicycle inside.

How to secure a bike without a lock:

There are ways to lower the risk of bike theft if you don’t have a lock. You can try to take your bike inside, hide it somewhere, or keep it in sight. You can tie it up with your helmet strap, bungee cord, or even foliage to make a homemade bike lock. You can also take parts off the bike and carry them inside to make it unrideable.

How to secure a bike without a rack:

If you want to know how to lock up a bike without a rack, you only need to find something else sturdy. Make sure the bike can’t be lifted over this object, and try not to go for trees, as you can damage them. Try locking it to a bench, monument, or anything nearby stuck to the ground permanently.

How to open an Abus bike lock without a key:

The answer varies wildly based on what kind of Abus bike lock you have. You’ll probably have to pick the bike lock open, though, which is something that a professional locksmith can do for you. 

Abus makes a large variety of locks, and a locksmith can identify which one you have. All locks can be picked, but several Abus models are high-security enough to resist lock picking attempts by some professionals.

How to make a bike lock without a chain:

You can’t make a very effective homemade bike lock without a chain. Anything else is something that a bike thief can cut through quite easily. If you really can’t use a chain, your next best bet is probably a series of zip ties.

How to keep your bike safe without a lock:

If you have no lock for your bike, you can try to hide it somewhere or tie it down with a helmet strap or a bungee cord. Doing this will buy some time if someone tries to steal it by creating a rudimentary homemade bike lock. You can also take the bike indoors with you or dismantle part of it and take that part with you.


Worrying about your bike is a pretty reasonable thing. Be careful, and don’t make your bike a potential target for thieves. And if you don’t have a lock, you can still take some measures to prevent crime

When it comes down to it, most of these measures are helpful even if you have a lock, whether you have a homemade bike lock or a store-bought one. Preventing theft mostly comes down to using as many preventative measures as possible and discouraging thieves from targeting you.

You can even make a homemade bike lock from some spare parts or other things you can buy at a hardware store. Some of these locks are more effective than the cheapest bike locks and can get you a long way.

Be careful when dealing with something as expensive and valuable as a bike. You don’t want to end up stranded somewhere after getting a bike stolen. Take as many preventative measures as possible to stop that from happening. Making homemade bike locks and being cautious is, fortunately, not too hard.

Category: How To's, Lock Types, Safety & Security

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