How can I secure bikes stored on a publically accessible patio?
June 5, 2007 6:04 PM   Subscribe

I want to keep a few bicycles on my patio (concrete slab): how can I keep them secure?

I've got a ground-level condo with a concrete slab patio. The patio is part of my unit, but opens into shared lawn space (effectively public). I'd like to store a few bikes on the patio. My main concern is physical security, although I'd also like to find some way to hide the bikes from view.

The first thought I had was to embed some kind of metal loop into the concrete that was suitable for running/attaching a chain (and use the chain on the bikes etc). Where would I go to purchase something like this? How would I actually attach it to the patio? I imagine I'd need to drill some holes -- do I rent a rotary hammer/hammer drill, buy some masonry bits for my power drill, or what? I've never done any work with concrete before (either working with pre-existing or from fresh); is this likely to be too much to do myself?

(suggestions for alternate approaches would be most welcome of course, my imagination just isn't coming up with much)
posted by kanuck to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You don't mention whether the patio is covered at all. We just solved this problem by buying a super-long bike lock cable and looping it through the bottom of the balcony of the apartment above us. It looks sort of lame, but it does the job.
posted by crinklebat at 6:26 PM on June 5, 2007

Any and every lock can be broken, it's just a question of how much effort it takes. Even high-end locks like Kryptonite, etc. are vulnerable. And bike thieves are an especially skilled and motivated bunch. If your bikes are worth something to you, keep them indoors.
posted by randomstriker at 6:31 PM on June 5, 2007

If you're going to drill into the concrete you need a hammer drill - once you get that ($20 rental @ home depot) you can attach pretty much whatever using tapcon screws, toggle bolts, etc. The only issue with that is that anyone with the right tool can undo what you did.

One slightly cooler idea might be to break out a small section of the concrete and re-pour it with whatever you want to attach the chain to embedded inside it. Perhaps something as simple as an old bike lock embedded upside down in the concrete would be much harder to break than the chain itself.
posted by true at 6:34 PM on June 5, 2007

Do not use a cable. Use a chain. Use the thickest chain you can afford.

I've cut a bike cable (the lock froze, had no choice) with cable cutters and was shocked by how ridiculously easy it was. It will take serious effort (or seriously loud power tools) to do the same to a chain.

I've held the hefty Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit® chain, and if I had to lock up my bike outside this is what I'd use. The links are profiled such that it's designed to actually break the blades of bolt cutters. Hard to explain, but there's no way for bolt cutters to not bite down on an "edge" of the link.

Expensive, but how much would it cost to replace your bikes?

Also, renters/homeowners' insurance.

As for an anchor, consider gluing in with epoxy the Ushba Tortuga Titanium bolt. We use these for climbing anchors and I think they'd be bomber. Drill the hole in concrete, drop in the epoxy (the epoxy is stronger than the rock/concrete), and then drop in the bolt. Ta da!
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:55 PM on June 5, 2007

You've probably checked this out already but be sure that your patio really is yours and not limited-use or exclusive-use common property before you start doing any drilling/pouring/etc.

E.g., in my complex, owners don't actually own their patios even though they have exclusive use to them and are responsible for upkeep. Despite this being all laid out in our By-laws and Declaration of Condominium folks persistently believe they own their own patios and try to do stuff without Board approval, leading to sore feelings all around. In the worst cases, they can be forced to undo some pretty expensive work.

If there's any doubt, check your by-laws and ask the Board whether you need approval to do work. Don't rely on your neighbors, as there's all sorts of "common knowledge" floating around condos that's just plain wrong.
posted by Opposite George at 7:36 PM on June 5, 2007

Best answer: I have the Kryptonite Stronghold . It comes with good instructions and a masonry drill bit. You can probably use the drill bit with a decent drill if you already have one, or rent one with more torque. It is very secure and not difficult to install, probably under half an hour if you are somewhat competent.
That page also features similar anchors that might be of use. I chose the Kryptonite one because it is designed not to need professional tools or installation.
posted by cushie at 8:56 PM on June 5, 2007

Best answer: cushie's Kryptonite Stronghold is a good start.

A few ideas about bicycle security in general and possibly specific to your case:

1. How valuable are the bikes we're talking about here? Are they $89 Wal*Mart, or $1,300 bikes? You'll need to adjust your investment in security accordingly. It is possible to buy actual "bike racks" like what you see on sidewalks and install them, but this is an expensive option.

2. How often do you need access to the bike? Do you take them out every day, or just once a month? If you don't use them that often (shame on you) then you can spend more time securing them with various cables, u-locks, chain, and other odds and ends.

3. Keep in mind that although bikes are sturdy, being outside 24-7 will eventually ruin them. They will still be rideable for years, but nothing stops corrosion of metal parts and the breakdown of of plastic and rubber in sunlight. If possible you should figure out a way to at least cover the bike with a tarp. Bicycle covers are made (google around for them) specific to the shape and size of a bicycle, that may look a little more presentable than some big blue tarp.

4. How crime prone is your area? Are we talking white bread suburb where the only person in your backyard is you and your kids, or are we talking about a city locale where who knows who is prowling through your stuff? If you just want to secure the bikes from a highly unlikely thief then perhaps a few cables and some department store locks will do, but if you live in a high crime (or bike theft area) like a city or college campus then you'll want to invest in multiple u-locks for each bike.

5. Have you explored other options? If you have an attic or garage space its easy to install hooks and hang bikes in lots of different ways. Again, google around. Home Depot sells rubber coated hooks which you screw into ceiling studs to provide a place to hang bikes. I know a guy who built a DYI storage rack in his hall closet where has three or four bikes in a "head to tail" fashion. He used a piece of ply wood and some off the shelf bike hooks.

6. Bike security is about playing a mind game with thieves. If a thief has enough time and your bike is desirable enough then no lock will stop him. The idea is to create a situation where the time involved to jack the bikes isn't worth the risk of getting caught. Cable locks are only good for securing parts which can "walk off" (wheels, saddle, etc.) A thief can pinch a cable in his hand and saw through it in 60 seconds, but hes not likely to do that unless he's getting the whole bike. A resourceful thief can pop a ulock with a "scissor" jack like the one in your car's trunk. But this takes time and planning, something a thief isn't likely to do in your back yard for your $89 Huffy. So you see its a balancing act between creating a time consuming hassle for the thief while creating an environment where he's more likely to just move on.
posted by wfrgms at 10:09 PM on June 5, 2007

Response by poster: Lots of food for thought folks, thanks! wfrgms raises a lot of good questions:
  1. Value of the bikes: 2 bikes, ~$500 and ~$800. So nothing top of the line here, but replacing them is not something I'd take lightly.
  2. Frequency of use: They'll be used at least every few days during the summer & fall; access is a high priority about half the year and not at all the rest of the time.. your later point about considering other storage options is well taken, I'm looking into whether some kind of hanging arrangement can be rigged in one of my closets, but I'm already very tight on storage space, so wanted to explore "outside" options.
  3. Exposure concerns: understood, my hope is that during the seasons I'll use them, a tarp will be reasonable protection. This is in Seattle; winters aren't super-harsh, but definitely wet, and I'm expecting to want an indoor alternative when the time comes.
  4. Neighbourhood risk: it's a pretty safe 'burb, and pretty much only a handful of immediate neighbours and the grounds maintenance folks actually walk by my patio. It's not at all street accessible (you need to wander into the complex and go around a few buildings), so this is really just to forestall the casual opportunist, not the serious thief.
I'm going to keep exploring closet options, which I expect I will need anyway for winter storage, and hopefully can figure out something that keeps them accessible at the same time.. failing that, it looks like something akin to the Stronghold is going to be a good bet.
posted by kanuck at 12:24 AM on June 6, 2007

Bike locker?

But seriously, keep your bikes indoors. Put hooks in the ceiling and hang them upside down. Harder to steal the whole bike, harder to steal parts off your bike (this will happen if you leave them outside in something which is not a locker), less prone to weather degradation.
posted by beerbajay at 12:24 AM on June 6, 2007

If you do decide on keeping it outside, +1 spikelee's idea on using a climbing anchor - you can get something like this Petzl thingy that doesn't even require epoxy, and if relatively sane people like me trust them with their lives, you can probably feel safe about your bike.
posted by 0xFCAF at 12:26 AM on June 6, 2007

« Older Roommate is an addict, how do I deal with this?   |   20D or 30D? You tell me! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.