The other day I received an email from BicycleTouringPro.com reader Josh Wildman. Josh is currently in the process of planning his first long distance bicycle tour, so here is what he had to say:
I was just wondering how you trust your bike is secure when you go inside places for hours at a time; such as the movies or a casino. If possible, could you explain your method with enough detail so I could do the same? Also, do you leave all your panniers attached to your bike or do you carry them inside with you?
Thanks for all the great advice, Josh
In response to Josh’s question, here is my suggestion on securing your bicycle and belongings when you want to go inside of a building:
Most of the time it’s fine to simply leave your bike locked up outside a store with the panniers still on it. You might do this when running into a fast-food restaurant to use the restroom or fill up your water bottles. You might even do this when running into a supermarket to grab some food. But this should not be done when you are going into a business for an extended period of time.
Before going inside a business in which your bicycle will be out of sight, I recommend you find a place to lock it up! If possible, lock the bike up in a public place! If there are a lot of people around, it is very unlikely that the bike will be stolen.
If you can, lock the bike in an area visible from inside the building. This way you can see if someone is tampering with your bike and easily run out to stop them.
If you read my article on packing your handlebar bag you know that when I do go inside a building, I always bring my handlebar bag with me. Inside my handlebar bag I carry my wallet, camera, cell phone, bike lock key, and all of my other valuable possessions. This way, if my bike or panniers do get stolen, I at least have my phone to call for help. I also have my identification and credit cards to help get me on my way.
In some cases though, you may want to go inside of a building for an extended period of time. Josh suggested going into a movie theatre or casino. Another example of this might be when you want to visit a museum or large chain store.
First of all, I would not suggest leaving your bicycle outside for an extended period of time. If you think you will be inside the building for more than 10 minutes, you’ll usually want to find a better way of securing your belongs than just leaving them outside, hanging on your bike.
If you’re going inside a theatre, for example, and you want to make sure your bike and panniers do not get stolen while you are inside, the first thing I would do is ask the theatre manager or someone working at the theatre if I could bring my bicycle into the building. When they see that all of your belongings are on your bike, they will usually help you find a place inside the building to store your belongings (typically in a closet, basement, or low traffic area). They typically want your business, so they are usually happy to help you out.
If they don’t want your bike inside their building or they simply can’t think of a good place to store your bike, then you should lock your bike outside and carry your panniers in with you. Then ask the manager or one of the workers if there is a place that you can store your panniers. This is usually a lot easier than asking them to store your fully loaded bicycle.
If this doesn’t work, leave your rear panniers on your bike and carry in your handlebar bag and the front two panniers. Make sure that the items left inside your rear panniers are of little apparent value (i.e. Your sleeping bag, tent, stove, sleeping mat, etc.). This way, if they do get stolen or tampered with, it won’t be the end of the world
When securing your bike, wrap the lock through the panniers as best you can. Most panniers are made of cloth, so they can easily be cut and removed from the lock, but simply wrapping the lock through the panniers will deter would-be thieves in most cases. Do whatever you can to make it as difficult as possible for someone to quickly steal your belongings.
In some cases, simply leaving your bike outside is not an option. If the manager of the business you are trying to solicit will not help you out, you may just want to forget about going inside at all and move on to a business that is more willing to accommodate you.