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When we think about bike security, most of us think mainly in terms of locking the whole bike and maybe the wheels. Other components are secondary, right?
Among all the parts on a bike that is stealable, the saddle is perhaps the most inviting. True, it’s not as valuable as a whole bike or a good wheelset, but it’s quick to unbolt and a thief can conceal it easily.
This article examines the problem of bike-seat theft as well as some of the solutions.
So, Thieves Steal Bike Saddles?
It may come as a surprise that bike saddles are commonly stolen. An easy mistake to make about bike thieves is to think they only steal the big, valuable items – the obvious stuff. Unfortunately, many have more nuanced tastes than that.
So, what happens if you’re the victim of a seat theft? The thief is likely to steal these two parts:
- Seatpost – the post that holds the saddle in place and is inserted into the seat tube before being clamped at the preferred height. This is usually very easy to release from the seat tube via a single bolt in a seatpost clamp.
- Saddle – the seat or saddle of your bike will probably be stolen still attached to the seat post. This is mainly because it’s fiddlier and more time-consuming to release a saddle at the rails. Plus, the seatpost may have some value.
When you return to the bike, you’ll see a gaping seat tube where the seatpost once resided, usually with the worthless seatpost clamp still present.
A bike thief only needs to arm himself or herself (probably the former, statistically) with two or three hex wrenches to be able to remove almost any saddle. A multitool would work in most cases.
When you think that a bike saddle can easily cost $100 to $300 or more from a bike store, the idea of thieves targeting such items becomes less fanciful. They don’t even have to vacate the area after each theft, as is the case with larger items.
6 Ways To Keep Your Bike Seat Locked & Safe
A thief armed with the right tools is always going to be able to steal your saddle. That’s the bad news. But bike locks and security aren’t about invincibility. What you’re aiming for is a strong deterrent. Or several deterrents.
If your saddle is harder and more time-consuming to steal than nearby items, chances are it’ll be left alone. Naturally, the likelihood of this happening is also determined by the value and appeal of the saddle.
Below are some of your best options for preventing seat theft.
1. Chain Lock
A chain lock is one way of deterring casual theft of your saddle. It has to be thin enough to pass through the saddle rails, so we’re not talking heavy-duty. You can lock your saddle to the main “triangle” of the frame or pass it through the seat stays.
Ideally, you need a chain that is covered in a fabric or plastic sleeve to avoid scratching paintwork, particularly if you carry it on the bike.
- Obstacle – a chain lock deters any casual thief who is travelling light.
- Inexpensive – likely to be cheap, even from known brands.
- Portable – the chain will be narrow and lightweight enough to easily carry or wrap around a seatpost.
- Vulnerable – anyone armed with bolt croppers can break a light chain lock in seconds (most chains, in fact, except for very heavy ones).
An example of this type of product is the ABUS WEB Chain Bike Lock. You’re better off choosing one with a keyed lock rather than a combination lock, which are typically more pickable.
Use a lock like this in conjunction with other solutions detailed below. The more barriers you put in the way, the more likely it is that a thief will move to another target.
2. Cable Locks & Lassos
Cable locks are sometimes sold with U-locks (aka D-locks) as a means of locking components other than the frame. In that instance, the looped cable-ends go over the shackles of the U-lock, so the U-lock acts as a padlock.
Of course, cable locks are a popular standalone product in their own right and are usually coated in a plastic tube to avoid damage to paintwork. They are constructed from multiple woven steel strands.
- Very casual – they’ll probably stop someone armed with only hex/Allen keys from stealing your saddle.
- Inexpensive – cable locks are cheap to buy for the most part.
- Convenient – easy to carry, whether about your person, in a pannier or wrapped around the seatpost.
- Too easy – cable locks are often ridiculously easy to break using nothing but a small pair of wire cutters.
An example of this kind of product is the Rockymounts SteelBraid Cable, which is sufficiently thick that it might delay someone with wire cutters for a short while. With this cable, you supply your own separately bought padlock or use it with a U-lock.
Again, if your saddle is valuable, consider using this in conjunction with other security measures. A cable is more vulnerable than a half-decent chain because the tool required to cut it is smaller and highly concealable.
3. Pinhead Seatpost & Saddle Locks
Pinhead locks prevent a thief from using his/her preferred modus operandi for stealing your saddle. That is to say, they can no longer simply undo the seatpost or saddle using conventional tools.
This is an effective way to lock your saddle because each lock is individual. The lock key comes with a code that acts as a password, which you must note down in case you lose the key and need to order a replacement.
The locks work in either of two ways: a) clamp the seatpost in place as you would with a regular seatpost clamp b) position it under a vertical saddle attachment bolt to block access to the seat.
- Unique – individual locks prevent thieves from using universal hex keys to steal your saddle.
- Deterrent – strong deterrent as the thief is quite likely to seek easier targets.
- Weightless – nothing to carry and no meaningful weight added to the bike.
- Expensive – more expensive than many conventional locks.
- Double – you may need two Pinhead locks if both your seatpost and saddle are valuable.
Pinhead make various locks for different components on a bike. They also cater for vertical or horizontal saddle bolts. The Pinhead Saddle Lock with Horizontal Bolts is good for highly-prized Brooks saddles, for instance.
4. Penta Pin Bolts
An effective “tamper-proof” deterrent for bike saddle theft is the Penta Pin Security Bolt. So, how does this work? Rather than use the conventional hex bolts that come with most seatposts and saddles, you replace them with these Penta Pin bolts.
Penta Pin bolts have shielded, five-sided pentaprism access with a solid central portion that prevents anyone from jamming other tools into them for leverage. Since they’re not the norm on bikes, they do offer a level of protection.
- Weightless – again, you’re not adding anything to the weight of the bike by switching to these bolts.
- Cheap – they’re relatively inexpensive to buy.
- Deterrent – they are likely to pose a problem to many thieves.
- Access – anyone can buy the product and the key with it. Use in conjunction with other measures.
Bolt sizes for seatposts and saddles vary significantly between bikes. A common size on a seatpost clamp is an M6-1.0 X 40mm, which is one of many sizes replaceable with a Penta Pin Security Bolt.
In the absence of any totally failsafe security measure, creating an “obstacle course” for bike thieves is a useful thing to do. That’s the type of thing that’ll make them move on, unless your saddle has extreme value.
Thus far, we’ve talked about ways to lock your saddle and seatpost, but what if the saddle was part of your bike lock? That’s the case with the popular Seatylock, which combines a saddle with a robust folding lock.
Since a would-be thief would probably have to break the product to get at your bike, there’s not much chance of it being stolen for its own sell-on value. The question in this case is whether this might be a product for you.
- Motiveless – renders saddle theft pointless as breaking the lock destroys the saddle’s value. Same goes for picking the lock, which is unlikely anyway.
- Downsize – carry a lock as an integral part of the bike.
- Secure – offers more bike protection than you might think with a Sold Secure Silver rating. It’s resistant to bolt cutters, hammering, hacksaws and drilling. You probably wouldn’t use it for long periods on a high-value bike, however.
- Comfort – probably the biggest drawback is that you can’t choose a saddle that perfectly suits your anatomy, so you’re not guaranteed to find it comfortable over any significant distance.
The Seatylock Hybrid Saddle & Bike Lock is an innovative product if you want to address the problem of saddle theft and bike theft in one hit.
This is especially worthy of your consideration on a bike you ride casually for shopping, meeting friends and family, or maybe a short commute.
Video: Using The Seatylock Bike Lock
“If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” goes the adage. For seatposts and saddles that are particularly high in value, you can always install a quick-release seatpost clamp and take the two attached components with you wherever you’re going.
As long as the clamp allows torque settings, you can use a quick-release lever on carbon seatposts as well as aluminum. This is something you need to be a little wary of, as carbon is susceptible to clamping damage if over-torqued.
- Failsafe – no chance of losing your saddle unless you somehow misplace it.
- Maintenance – makes maintenance faster. Some models let you set a specific torque, so you don’t have to re-torque each time you reinstall the post.
- Snazzy – generally available in many colors, so you can jazz up your bike if that’s your thing.
- Hassle – you’re probably not going to want to lug a saddle everywhere if you lock up your bike a lot.
- Open tube – taking the seatpost out leaves an open seat tube, which some ne’er-do-wells may be tempted to fill. You also have to block it from rain.
Aside from theft prevention and maintenance, there may be other instances where a product like the Wolf Tooth QR Quick Release Seatpost Clamp is useful. Perhaps you want to swap saddles around before different kinds of rides, for example.
The Wolf clamp mentioned above is carbon-friendly, by the way, and allows you to set the torque with a torque wrench up to 6 Nm. This should be enough to prevent a carbon post from slipping in conjunction with carbon assembly paste.
There are other, inventive ways to secure your saddle on the bike. They include placing a ball bearing in the bolt head and filling it with molten wax (thus impeding access) or making your own saddle lock out of an old bike chain and tube.
Video: Make Your Own Bike Seat Lock
Any of the above products and ideas helps to protect your bike seat from theft. If you get creative and combine two or three measures, you’ll have a fairly strong deterrent.
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And always think about smaller bike components when locking up! If they’re pinchable, they may go missing.