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How To Lock A Bike Without A Bike Rack

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Securing your bicycle when a proper, fixed rack is nowhere in sight can be quite a problem.

Bike locked to a fixed bicycle rack on a public street with a chain lock and a cable lockPin
Here is my bike locked to a dedicated street rack. I love these racks, but sometimes they aren’t available and we have to improvise!

I’ll walk you through practical methods that transform everyday structures into reliable anchors for your bike, helping to keep it safe, regardless of the environment.

Ready to “unlock” 🔓 these secrets? (that was a bad joke, yes)

Best Ways To Lock A Bike Without A Rack (And Not Get Stolen)

In the absence of racks to lock your bike to, there are various other objects you can lock your bike to.

You just need to use a little imagination.

1. Lampposts

Lampposts are commonly found along streets and sidewalks, making them ideal objects to secure your bike to.

Bicycle locked to a lamppost with a red chain lockPin
I locked my bike with a chain lock to a sturdy lamppost in this photo. If your lock isn’t long enough to lock around both wheels, use a second lock to secure the front wheel if you can.

Lampposts are inherently tall, so there’s no realistic prospect of anyone lifting your locked bike over the top.

Position your bike close to the lamppost, ensuring that both the frame and wheels are securely attached to it.

Use two locks to lock both wheels to the frame and the lamppost (same applies to any object you lock your bike to).

Some lampposts will be too thick for certain types of bike lock. A long chain or cable lock will often work, but most U-locks will not.

Bike locked against lamppost with extra rack on the postPin
This is my bike locked to a lamppost with an inventive little circular rack in the middle of it that’s been added by the local council. I approve!

There’s no point in locking your bike to an immovable object if your lock is easy to cut or break.

Don’t use cheap cable locks to lock your bike to a lamppost or anything else unless the bike is within your sight and quickly reachable.

💭 In My Opinion: Having said that, I think even a cheap cable tie is better than nothing.

Anything is better than a thief being able to just walk up to the bike and ride off without any kind of obstacle.

Bike thieves can slice a cable lock open within a few seconds, normally, unless it’s a very good one.

Cable locks are best used as a tool against casual theft and as secondary locks designed to slow a thief down.

You can lock to lampposts through your saddle as well if there is room for your lock.
This helps keep your saddle from being easily stolen – especially if it’s quick release

2. Iron Railings

Railings, whether they are located outside buildings or along staircases, can provide a reliable anchor point for your bike.

Iron railings are ideal for locking your bike to, though sometimes there are restrictions that prevent this if they’re outside a private property.

When using an iron railing, ensure that it is securely attached to the ground or structure and has minimal gaps or spaces that could allow a thief to easily manipulate the lock.

💡 Pro Tip: I only lock my bike to railings if I’m confident the bike isn’t obstructing pedestrians.

I consider the elderly and wheelchair users here too, of course.

Wrap your lock tightly around the railing, passing it through the bike’s frame and wheels, to deter any potential theft attempts.

3. Trees

A mature tree is an effective anchor for your bike.

Obviously, you want to avoid a small tree or sapling that can easily be pulled out of the earth.

Bicycle locked with a Kryptonite red lock to a treePin
It’s totally fine to lock a bike to a tree. I locked mine up to a fairly sturdy tree here.
Just make sure the tree isn’t so feeble it can’t support the bike or that a thief would cut through it to steal the bike!

Position your bike in a way that allows you to loop your lock through the frame and wheels, securely fastening it to the tree.

Ideally, use two bike locks, with one going through the frame and rear wheel and another locking the front wheel to the bike.

💡 Pro Tip: Some small trees have a protective circular railing around them.

So you can lock your bike to these, combining the tree and iron railing lock methods together!

Make sure the tree is visible from nearby areas to deter theft attempts. Sometimes it’s ok to lock to trees that aren’t easily visible – more on that later.

However, be mindful of any regulations or restrictions that may prohibit locking bikes to trees in certain locations.

4. Seats & Benches

A public seat or bench can provide a practical solution when no racks are around

Look for sturdy and well-maintained seating in busy areas.

A bike locked to a public seat benchPin
If you’re locking to a seat, try not to make the seat “unsitable”. I’ve kind of done that here. I mean, it’s ok for SHORT durations, I suppose.

Make sure your bike doesn’t obstruct pedestrian traffic or impede the use of the actual seat.

By using a reliable lock and following proper locking techniques, you can confidently protect your bike while utilizing available public seating.

5. Street Signs

Locking your bike to a street sign can be a convenient and effective method of securing your bicycle in urban environments.

White bicycle locked to a street sign on the pavement beside the roadPin
People often lock to a street sign post. Make sure you leave enough room for pedestrians! I have done this here (honest!)

Ensure that your bike and lock do not obstruct pedestrian pathways or impede visibility for drivers – either of the actual sign or the road.

Where possible, avoid using an oversized U-lock to lock your bike to signs, as this provides space for a thief to cut or prize open the lock.

It’s harder to cut open a lock or get leverage when there’s very little space between the lock and the bike.

6. Drainpipes

Although often inadvisable, some drainpipes are sturdy enough to anchor your bike to for a brief while.

bicycle locked to a drainpipePin
Drainpipes aren’t the sturdiest of objects to lock a bike to. But hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

It goes without saying we’re talking about old-fashioned metal drainpipes here made out of materials like iron or lead. Plastic drainpipes are a non-starter.

You wouldn’t leave a bike unattended for long while attached to a drainpipe.

As other methods, it’s better if the drainpipe belongs to a public building.

Red lock locking bicycle to a drainpipe
You can see the bike could be yanked hard and the drainpipe might break off. I suppose a big deterrent for thieves here is that the noise and damage to property might put them off

7. Parking Meters

Locking a bike to a parking meter is risky because, strictly speaking, it’s often illegal.

In many instances, you’ll be obstructing access to the parking meter if you do so, which is one reason why it’s frowned upon.

💭 In My Opinion: I added this option as a bit of a last resort, when there are no real other options.

Leaving your bike attached to a parking meter is probably asking for trouble with your local council.

In some places, locking a bike to a parking meter is legal as long as certain conditions are met.

Not impeding the movement of pedestrians or traffic is a primary concern.

8. Bollards

Locking a bike to a bollard is a bad idea, ordinarily, because a bike can often be lifted straight over the top and carted off.

bike locked to bollard but easy to stealPin
A strong bollard – but can anyone see the problem here? 🧐

This isn’t quite as appealing for the average bike thief as it may seem, because most thieves prefer to ride off on the stolen machine.

Still, it won’t be long before someone removes your bike if you make the fatal mistake of locking it to a short anchor.

Some urban areas have special bike bollards, however, which include loops or holes designed to accommodate bike locks.

If you notice these, your bike parking problems are solved.

Location (Where To Lock Your Bike)

When considering how to lock a bike without a rack, the location is key.

Although it’s not unknown for thieves to steal bikes brazenly in busy areas, all of them fear being caught.

Most prefer not to attract attention to themselves.

With the above in mind, always lock your bike in a busy location, preferably within view of an obvious CCTV camera.

If it’s a high-value bike, don’t leave it anywhere for long.

Thieves of all kinds like to conceal themselves where possible, so it’s best if your bike is parked out in the open and not next to any feature that obscures a thief from view.

Bicycle hiding behind trees and shrubs
Peek-a-boo! Hiding a bike in shrubs is a great way to keep your wheels stealth and away from prying eyes. The downside is that if it is seen, the thief has cover. Double-edged sword.

Avoid locking your bike in the same place on a regular basis. One safeguard you have against bike thieves is randomness; they have to see your bike first.

If they notice a pattern, your bike could become a target.

Also read our guide on where to keep your lock when you’re riding.

How to Lock a Bike to Itself (When You Have No Locking Options)

bike locked to itself using wheelsPin
The most basic way of locking a bike to itself – with both wheels on locks around wheels and frame

Knowing how to lock a bike without a rack is one thing, but what happens when you have nothing to lock a bike to?

Do you just go home?

Not necessarily.

Immobilizing The Wheels

Most bike thieves make their escape on the stolen bike, so they much prefer a bike to be rideable.

If you remove the front wheel and lock it to the back wheel and bike frame, you will make the bike as unappealing to a thief as it can be without being tied to something.

You could also lock your helmet to the bike too.

Bicycle locked to itself with the front wheel detachedPin
If you can remove the front wheel and lock it to the back that helps.
I do not like the front forks sitting on the concrete like you can see here.
Makes me cringe a little seeing that!

The usual rules about bike locks apply. Do the above with the average cable lock and a thief can slice though it in seconds.

A decent U-lock or chain lock is better.

💡 Pro Tip: Never use a cheap lock on a valuable bike.

Unless it’s for a short time and you can half keep your eye on it (you’re grabbing a coffee of something.

Of course, the caveat here is that someone will lift up your bike and put it in their vehicle if you leave it there long enough.

The more valuable the bike is, the quicker this is likely to happen.

Don’t employ this method near a car park.

Other Measures

As well as locking your bike up as described above, you can further reduce the chance of it being stolen in the following ways:

  • Hide the bike: place the bike in shrubbery or behind a large object or structure. Thieves can only steal what they see. Ideally, put it somewhere far from vehicular access.

  • Remove bike parts: make the bike completely unrideable by taking bits off it . Examples might include a quick-release skewer, thru-axle, bike seat, pedals. Here is a YouTube video on removing skewers.

Close up of quick release lever for a bicycle front wheelPin
Close up (and rather blurry) photo of the quick release lever on the front wheel of my bike. Handy for a “quick release”
  • Flatten a tire: if you have a pump on you, of course. Release all the air from one of your tires, then pump again when you want to set off again.

  • Ride a cheap bike: don’t use an expensive bike for errands. Career bike thieves know the value of bikes and a certain amount of risk assessment goes on.

  • Private bike parking: try to find an address where you can park your bike, offering a small sum of money to sweeten the deal (e.g., a local business).

Flatten bike tyres when locking and pump up againPin
Deflating and then pumping up tyres is an option.
A bit of a pain to do, but an option!
I carry my compact Topeak Race Rocket pump if doing this.

What Bike Locks Are Best To Use When Racks Are Not Available

Some bike locks are better than others if you don’t have anything to lock your bike to.

Bike Lock With Alarm


Some bike thieves don’t care about being noticed, especially when they work in pairs and are armed with an angle grinder.

However, most thieves don’t like attracting attention.

A bike lock with an alarm is one way to put a thief off of stealing your bike when it isn’t tethered to something else (or when it is).

You ideally need to be within sight of the bike and/or be able to hear the alarm.

Bluetooth Connected Lock


If you stay within a certain distance of your bike, a Bluetooth connected lock like the award-winning ZiiLock X will tell you when someone is trying to steal your bike.

Of course, the downside of using expensive high-tech locks without tethering the bike is that you could lose the lock as well as the bike.

That’s where a hidden GPS tracker might be useful.

Hidden GPS trackers are often installed behind a bike reflector or under a headset cap.

Here’s a YouTube video on using Apple Airtag to track your bike.

Kryptonite Keeper chain lock redPin
My trusted Kryptonite Keeper chain lock. Heavy, but trusted.

I often just use a good chain lock (Kryptonite) and an extra cable lock (cheap) for locking bikes.

It’s more for daytime locking in public places. though.

Common Questions On Locking Bikes With No Racks Available

Are There Any Extra Measures I Can Take To Increase My Bike’s Security?

Use more than one lock to slow a thief down.

Preferably use different types of lock so that alternative methods or tools are necessary to open them.

How Can I Secure The Removable Parts And Accessories Of My Bike?

Take them with you or use non-standard bike nuts and bolts (e.g., Hexlox products) to secure them, thus vastly reducing the chance of theft.

For bike saddles, I wrote a guide on how to lock your bike saddle.

How Does Bike Insurance Work and How Can It Help Me?

Bike insurance offers financial protection for you and your bicycle in case of damage, theft, or accident, ensuring you’re not burdened with costly expenses.

With regard to theft protection, always lock your bike securely to another object to avoid nullifying a claim.

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Mark Whitley
Article By:
Mark is the founder of BikePush, a bicycle commuting website. When he's not working on BikePush, you can find him out riding.

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