How To Secure Your Bicycle & Belongings When Going Inside A Building

The other day I received an email from 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:

Hey Darren,

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.

7 thoughts on “How To Secure Your Bicycle & Belongings When Going Inside A Building

  1. Brim Stone says:

    Don’t forget the possibility of checking bags in for the day at the baggage hold office at train stations, bus stations. and airports. These are common in Europe and charge a small fee. Sometimes a hostel will have a baggage check area they’ll let you use, even if you’re not staying there. One big sack- in German it’s a”Schmutzsak” or dirt sack- would be useful to consolidate all your panniers and discourage pilferage in this situation. Even a large garbage bag would do.

    In some places you might consider paying a street urchin to watch your locked bike. Pay them a little up front, show them the bigger payoff bakshish they’ll get if everything’s OK when you return. Ask their name and take a digital photo of them with the bike…they’ll think twice about stealing something themselves if they know you have their mugshot.

    The cop station, or a local bike shop, will sometimes hold your stuff for a while.

    Nothing is completely safe.

  2. Angelo L. Coletta says:

    Since I ride a small wheel bike-Currently a Bike Friday-I have just loaded up the bike in a shopping cart at a grocery store and wheeled on in. When I can I wheel the bike into what ever building I need to go into. Being so compact, it fits small elevators just fine. I have used as many as 3 locks securing that bike outside. Darren, your on tour suggestions are good.

  3. Anne Kessler says:

    Great comments from Brim Stone. I especially liked the idea of taking a picture of the person who might be asked to guard the bike. In my experience, though, I have found that businesses will help a biker to find a storage area as Darren suggested. Extra long thin cables can also be used to pass through the paniers and make the taking harder and thus the items more secure.

  4. RIck says:

    I, mostly, disagree. I’ve left my bike all over the place (fully loaded). Doesn’t mean I don’t stress about it a bit, nor that I just randomly leave it anywhere. I do always make sure I lock it up, no matter how long it’s going to be. And I also tend to take my handlebar bag, but that’s as much because it’s got my camera and other asundries in it I’ll be likely to need.

    As to putting it somewhere you can watch it if someone’s tampering with it? If someone takes something it’s likely to be a snatch and grab, and being nearby, honestly, isn’t going to do you a damn bit of good. I’ve watched someone go into a store and be having lunch at the window by the door, and left their bike unlocked. Even with their immediate response, the bike was long gone.

    I can only speak to Europe and the US. But I’ve left it locked up all over Europe in wildly varying places, and never had anything stolen off of it. Wait, let me correct that. The one time I left it in a locked shed with people I’d met that were part of a touring company who told me I could lock up my bike with them in a “secure place”; there I lost the pump and cycling computer.

    Some helpful tips: run the u lock through the rear wheel by the seat tube. That tends to be thin enough you get a bit more reach, but you don’t need to lock the frame at that point, as you can’t remove the rear tire.

    Also, don’t carry all your credit cards and cash in one place – you’re a lot more likely to lose all of them hat way! I tend to keep a credit card on me, one in my handlebar bag, and one in a pannier (one the side I tend to leave up against a wall).

  5. Lonneke says:

    Any tips for locking/leaving the bike at night, while you sleep in your tent?

  6. Phil Dickie says:

    Travelling as a family or group you also have the option of locking bikes together into a great unwieldy bundle, ideally attached somewhere to something immovable. Also good for campsites.

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