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How to keep your bike safe in Beijing

3 pieces of advice to help you keep your bike out of harm's way

You're not a true Beijinger until you've had a bike stolen. Sad, but true – almost everyone you meet here has one horror story or another about leaving their trusted two-wheeler unattended for mere minutes, only to find it vanished upon return.

Whether you're in Beijing for two weeks, two months or two years, keeping a bike safe can feel like fighting a losing battle and, sometimes, simply impossible. To top it off, it's barely worth reporting a theft to the police, as it's almost certain nothing will come of investigation. This is nothing new to Beijingers and it's definitely not small-scale. But don't give up hope just yet.

After a spate of bike thefts around our office, we decided it was time to find out the best ways to stave off those pesky thieves – thus keeping your precious hunk of metal safe in your hands.

For our research, we enlisted the help of the magnanimous Shannon Bufton, co-founder of Serk Cycling and the Beijing Vintage Ride. We've got three simple measures that you can take to keep your bike safe – or at least prolong the amount of time until it gets stolen.

Choose your lock wisely

Constantine Pankin from Shutterstock.com

Don't be cheap with your choice of lock, or you might end up paying more in the end when replacing that lost bike.

If you want to take a middle road on prices, choose a big brand lock such as a Giant lock or U-lock. However, if you're serious about staving off bike predators, Bufton says, it's important to go all out on the purchase.

He recommends a high-end brand such as Abus, especially a lock that includes a chain for proper locking throughout the bike's frame. A solid-quality lock usually costs about 300RMB – available at Serk, of course.

Lock your bike like a pro

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Ever seen a single wheel locked to a bike rack? Of course you have. The sad sign of a theft victim who didn't know how to lock properly. Make sure you use a method that works.

Lock the bike's frame to a fixed object (and make sure it's actually rooted – some thieves will attempt to dig out poles just to nab your wheels, Bufton tells us).

Don't just fasten the lock within one wheel alone; that just makes it too easy – any thief can remove the wheel and steal the rest of the bike easily. Connect the lock between the frame and a wheel, ideally with a fastening chain.

Or if you're travelling with a friend and the area's slim on fixed objects, lock your bikes together – whisking away two bikes without arousing suspicion seems a lot harder than one.

Choose your parking spot with care

Having a nice lock won't make a difference if you're a dunce about the bike's resting spot. These suggestions might seem obvious, but sometimes we forget.

Keep guard

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Try to keep your bike under a security guard's watch – one who looks like he won't make off with your bike himself – or by police posts. In areas near office buildings and shopping malls, there are always parking lots with security men charging a little money to keep an eye on your bikes during office hours. If there aren't any security men around, the shared parking spaces near public areas are still good choices – and, as a patron of the establishment, you have a right to park there.

Keep it seen

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Park your bike in a busy area with a lot of light. With lots of people coming and going, it’s hard for a thief to take your bike away, so do not put your bike in an isolated area. The more people around, the more likely it is that someone will spot a thief with lock-breaking tools and shoo them away – not just to help you out, but to protect their bikes, too.

Avoid the 'hot spots'

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Lu Jinrong from Shutterstock.com
Bufton warned us about some 'hot spots' in the city that are especially at risk for bike theft. He has a special 'Sanlitun throw-away bike' that he brings whenever in the area, as 'he would never bring a good bike there; it would be stolen in minutes.' Solana and the CBD are also great choices if you're itching to have your bike swiped from under your nose.

Limit alone time

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Do not leave your bike alone for a long time. Some people go to a restaurant or a bar by bike and then take alternate transportation home. This leaves an extended period for a thief covered by darkness – the perfect setting in which to strike. If you can avoid it, keep your bike in your apartment complex or somewhere completely out of public reach during your snooze. Many a bike has been known to 'grow feet' and disappear before the rooster's call; if you're snuggling in bed, leave your bike on the street at your own risk.

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