How To Lock Up Your Bicycle When There Is Nothing To Lock It To

Imagine this: While traveling by bike, you stop along your route and find the perfect place to camp. The ground is soft and flat… the views are fantastic… and you’re set to enjoy a beautiful night camped out under the stars. But then you give a quick look around and realize there is nowhere in sight to lock up your bicycle. There are no trees around. No fences. No street signs or telephone poles. No picnic tables or barbeques. There’s nothing to lock your bicycle to!

Even though there aren’t very many people around, you still feel the need to lock up your bicycle so it doesn’t get stolen or messed with while you are sleeping in your tent at night. And your tent isn’t big enough for both you, your gear, and your bicycle. What do you do?

Well, you could leave the bike unlocked outside your tent… and simply hope that no one steals it. But that seems kind of risky.

Instead, consider taking my approach when you find yourself in this position… and lock your bicycle to your tent!

In the photo below, you can see how I’ve wrapped my cable lock around the frame and front wheel of my bicycle… and then run that same cable lock through one of the poles on my tent.

Locking your bicycle in this manner certainly isn’t as secure as locking your bike to a much larger, more permanent fixture. But locking your bicycle up like this can actually work.

The obvious downside to locking your bicycle up in this manner is that the lock can be slipped off of the tent pole with a small amount of work. To do this, the perpetrator would have to remove the pole from the tent for a few seconds while he or she slipped the cable lock away from the tent.

But by locking your bicycle up in this way… you would likely be woken up if someone did try and rip your bicycle away from the tent in this manner. And that’s why this technique seems to work so well! With you sleeping just a few inches away, it is going to be hard to find a thief willing to attempt that kind of robbery… and even more difficult to find a thief capable of removing the lock from your tent without you noticing.

There are two main points that should be made here:

1. When you run your cable lock through the tent pole, be sure to wrap it in such a way that in order for the lock to be removed, the pole would have to be taken entirely out of the tent. Do not wrap the lock through only the rainfly or the ground cloth, as these two parts of the tent can be cut away with ease. You need to make it as difficult as possible for someone to remove that cable… and wrapping the lock through the tent pole is usually the best way to do this.

2. Secondly, lean a small part of your bicycle against the wall of your tent. In the photo below you can see how I’ve rested the saddle of my bike against the rainfly of my tent. This allows me to a) see that the bicycle is still outside (even when I am inside my tent), because I can see the outline of the seat pressed against the wall of the tent… and b) I can feel that the bike is still there with my hands, feet, or body (even during the middle of the night when I may no longer be able to see the outline of the bicycle outside).

This is not a full-proof way of locking up your bicycle as it is still possible to get your bicycle stolen using this technique. But this is a great way to add a small amount of security to your bicycle when you are camped out in an area where there is nothing to lock your bicycle to.



17 thoughts on “How To Lock Up Your Bicycle When There Is Nothing To Lock It To

  1. Glen Aldridge says:

    Hi Darren, Another option is to install a Bicycle Alarm. They only cost about $10.00, surprise the Hell out of anyone messing with your Bike & have the added benefit of acting as your personal alarm to wake you up.

  2. The other Mike says:

    Pack a bigger ten and put the bike inside with you. Kick stand maybe needed, and a block of wood so as not to poke a whole in the tent floor. 🙂

  3. carl myhill says:

    How about attaching a bear bell to your bike? I attach one to my food bag when i have it hanging in a tree. When you sleep out you are quite alert to noise, so if someone touches your bike your bell will ding a ling!

  4. Anibal Paredes says:

    What a beutiful night in camp for paranoid androids full of fears of being stolen that make you lock your mind and eyes from inside the tent on the outline of the bike seat pressed against the wall of the tent and awake all night long to feel the bike is still there with hands, feet, or body. That sounds sick.
    The magic and pleasure of outdoors is to be free of fears and stress and in tune and connection with the cosmos and nature, but not concerned about being stolen.
    Camp in a safe nice and pleasant place away from everywhere and everyone. In a spot where you feel free, safe and relaxed. That simple.

  5. Jamie says:

    You could use two “cork screw” dog tethers and a U lock. The two tethers twist into the ground independently and then are coupled together with the U lock that is also attached to the bike. The tethers cannot be removed as they will not rotate due to the U lock onto the other one.

    To be honest if I am camping out there usually *is* a nearby tree or fence

    • Wally says:

      I carry a driveway monitor alarm, it can guard the whole campsite or if that causes too many false alarms (wind can be a problem), just place the motion detector on the bike facing the ground. If either are moved the alarm will be set off.
      They are cheap tho’ a little heavy because of the batteries.

  6. Mark Hillman says:

    I had an attempted bike theft by a drunken guy one evening. It was not locked and a frame about 10cm longer than he could ride. I just opened the tent, looked him straight in the eye and yelled STOP THIEF POLICE! as loud as i could. Scared him significantly and he profusely apologized when confronted with my size and noise. Since then I always lock my bike, and when stealth camping attach it to the tent.

    Poverty does strange things to people, and there seems to be more of it all the time. Recently the locally increasing homeless population that resort to theft to support themselves find bicycles to be a great (free through theft) vehicle. Quiet and fast. Bicycles are mentioned for that reason in the news…..

    Mark Hillman
    Seattle, WA

  7. Brian says:

    All good comments. Don’t forget to run your cable through the pannier handles if you leave any on your bike whether outside overnight or when stopped for a meal etc.
    Most importantly, take a pic of your bike and serial number should your bike get ripped. Cheers
    Brian, Poughkeepsie, NY

  8. Harrywolper says:

    another possible option is to take the front wheel into the tent as this is normally a lot smaller than the whole bike 🙂

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