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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 08-28-10, 11:04 AM   #1
vol
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What to do if you can't UNlock your bike??

I've heard quite some incidents when someone's U-lock (or other lock) key got stuck or broken and it became impossible to unlock the bike away from home. This may be the most feared situation after bike being stolen. Even if you can manage to get home, what to do to get the bike out? Call 911 or 311? Will police help?
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Old 08-28-10, 11:19 AM   #2
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Call the pop-a-lock guy. He'll either pick your lock, cut you a new key, or take a saw to it. I've forgotten my lock combination a few times, now I have it covertly saved on my cellphone.
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Old 08-28-10, 11:19 AM   #3
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When it happened to me, a stranger got his car jack and helped break the lock open. Our local locksmith will drill out the mechanism, but it will cost some $, so diy is better. When I called our local police, they said they don't help with that sort of thing. Your results may vary, but our PD is EXTREMELY anti-bike. Also, our AAA is now doing roadside assistance for bikes. I don't know if that includes dealing with locks the way they do for carcissists, but check it out if you are a member.

Last week it happened to someone from France whom I had loaned a bike and lock to (someone super-glued the lock). She assumed the gluer was going to steal the bike if it was left overnight, so she got another lock and relocked it. She came back with her son and they managed to break the glued Krytonite open the next morning.
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Old 08-28-10, 11:27 AM   #4
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She assumed the gluer was going to steal the bike if it was left overnight, so she got another lock and relocked it.
That's a good idea!
P.S. Just another reason to have two locks for your bike!

Last edited by vol; 08-28-10 at 01:53 PM.
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Old 08-28-10, 12:40 PM   #5
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Cut it yourself is what I will do. Before you do, tried to bring copies of any document showing ownership of bike.

It's not hard to cut the lock with the right tool nor do you really need a expensive battery operated grinder. Just a regular corded 4 1/2 inch right angle grinder with a 3/64 cutoff disc will work. As for the power source, you probably already have one to use for the 115v grinder if you own a desktop computer.......if you know what I mean.
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Old 08-28-10, 12:55 PM   #6
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I had the key of a Kryptonite cable lock break off IN the lock once last winter. I use a u-lock on the rear, and a cable on a front. I took the bus home, bought a pair of eye-brow tweezers at Wal-mart, and took the bus back in the morning to unlock it (still have one spare key for it).

It was a real PITA to get the key out, because this particular lock had little metal spring-loaded plates that covered the key-hole. I had to use a tire lever or something to force the plates open, while trying to jiggle the broken key around to get it out with the tweezers.

This is the lock: http://www.evanscycles.com/products/...-lock-ec006266

Carrying around fine tweezers in the winter time isn't exactly the craziest thing to put in a tool-bag any more.
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Old 08-28-10, 01:56 PM   #7
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Cut it yourself is what I will do.
Beside the grinder, do you also need muscles for this job?

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Thanks for showing which lock to avoid.
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Old 08-28-10, 03:00 PM   #8
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I had my ulock get stuck. The key went in and out but wouldn't turn. I walked down to the dollar store and bought a can of wd-40. Sprayed a good bit in the keyhole, gave it a few minutes and it opened up fine.
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Old 08-28-10, 03:02 PM   #9
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Beside the grinder, do you also need muscles for this job?
Nope, a long pry bar and a pipe wrench with a cheater pipe will also do. It's all about leverage. I work with metal shops boys and took a old U-lock to work, and those fellow show me 5 different way of removing it. Some noisy, some silent, and one even used a portable hydraulic crimper like tool that can shear through u-lock or harden grade 80 chain. I wouldn't worry too much if my lock malfunction to unlock on me, but I'll be more concern with leaving it outside overnight.
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Old 08-28-10, 03:08 PM   #10
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I had my ulock get stuck. The key went in and out but wouldn't turn. I walked down to the dollar store and bought a can of wd-40. Sprayed a good bit in the keyhole, gave it a few minutes and it opened up fine.
Wow, thanks for the tip. Will definitely try that if it ever happens to me (hopefully not). Was that a Kryptonite?

colleen: well, naturally the solution of this problem is another fear: thieves can unlock our locks even if we can't...
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Old 08-28-10, 03:46 PM   #11
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...As for the power source, you probably already have one to use for the 115v grinder if you own a desktop computer.......if you know what I mean.
I don't know what you mean, unless you're assuming the bike is locked at home. Care to enlighten me?
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Old 08-28-10, 04:19 PM   #12
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I don't know what you mean, unless you're assuming the bike is locked at home. Care to enlighten me?
Lots of folks have a battery backup power supply for their desktop in the event of an power failure. That same backup PS can run a 115 vac grinder long enough to cut through chain, shackle etc..... No need to buy an expensive battery grinder. All fit in a backpack

Last edited by colleen c; 08-28-10 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 08-28-10, 04:34 PM   #13
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I used to use one of those old Kryptonite locks that could be picked with a bic pen (as a backup) until I read of one where a thief had attempted to break into it and had gummed up the works with the remnants of the pen. Then I figured it was too much work for the minor benefit.
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Old 08-28-10, 04:54 PM   #14
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Wow, thanks for the tip. Will definitely try that if it ever happens to me (hopefully not). Was that a Kryptonite?

colleen: well, naturally the solution of this problem is another fear: thieves can unlock our locks even if we can't...
It was this one I found at walmart. http://www.walmart.com/ip/On-Guard-O...-5510/14264312
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Old 08-28-10, 04:54 PM   #15
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Lots of folks have a battery backup power supply for their desktop in the event of an power failure. That same backup PS can run a 115 vac grinder long enough to cut through chain, shackle etc..... No need to buy an expensive battery grinder. All fit in a backpack
Thanks! I kind of thought you were going for that, but I don't have an UPS (though I should).
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Old 08-28-10, 05:24 PM   #16
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I would go get my chainsaw or table saw and cut it.
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Old 08-28-10, 08:58 PM   #17
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I have an old U-lock which is many years old as well as its key which I bought at a local bicycle shop. One day after a ride, I found that the key fit but I wasn't able to unlock it. Since then, I bought another U-lock to replace it which hasn't yet presented any problems. Is there anything I can do to make the old lock usefull again (e.g. taking it to a locksmith)?

Last edited by powerhouse; 08-29-10 at 07:57 AM.
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Old 08-28-10, 09:33 PM   #18
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Maybe some of you used cheaper locks than I use...but a car jack isn't taking out a Kryptonite Evolution Series 4, not without either hurting you, the bike or both. A little grinder powered by a lap top battery? Have fun with that. I'd have gone the locksmith route, except it happened to me on a Sunday, and I didn't trust that someone else wouldn't get through it if left over night (or strip parts).

I ended up getting bailed out by my dad...it was actually one of the funnier, yet embarrassing moments I've had. First I tried freon and a hammer, with crowbar. NOTHING. I tried picking it...that was futile. I even tried the car jack...and it wouldn't have fit without hurting the bike.

I had locked it on Chestnut Street...right downtown in Philadelphia's shopping district. My father came out with a HUGE generator...one he uses for the house during power failures and a vicious looking saw. The car was parked half way on the street and half on the sidewalk in a no stopping zone. This gigantic generator is belching smoke and we're pouring in gasoline. We're cutting the lock and it's shooting sparks everywhere and making very very slow progress. In short, we looked ridiculous. 3 police officers passed us by...not one said a word or looked twice. No pedestrians said a word. Finally, the saw blade broke with about the lock 2/3rds sliced through. I tried buying a new blade, but finding a decent hardware store in Center City on a Sunday is a futile endeavor.

With the lock weakened, we kept shooting freon into the cut area and attacking it with a crow bar and a sledge hammer. After about an hour of this, it FINALLY broke.
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Old 08-28-10, 09:56 PM   #19
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I have an old U-lock which is many years old as well as its key which I bought at a local bicycle shop. One day after a ride, I found that the key fit but I wasn't able to unlock it. Since then, I bought another U-lock to replace it. Is there anything I can do to make the old lock usefull again (e.g. taking it to a locksmith)?
Maybe try asforme's WD-40 method?

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This gigantic generator is belching smoke and we're pouring in gasoline.
Wouldn't that cause fire?

If it were a cheap bike I would give up - maybe sell it
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Old 08-29-10, 12:25 AM   #20
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My wife's cheap combination cable lock (used to lock up her equally cheap commuterized MTB) seized up and would not open when she was ready to come home after work. She called me for help and I showed up with a pair of side cutters and a grim look on my face. She said that she had something better than my side cutters and returned moments later with what I assumed to be a pair of bolt cutters. They of course made short work of the cable lock and I inquired why there were a set of bolt cutters in her department at work. It turns out they were in fact "pin cutters"... an orthopedic tool used to cut the pins (i.e. rods) used to stabilize fractured bones. You see, my wife sterilizes OR equipment for a living. Don't worry - they went back into the "dirty" bin.
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Old 08-29-10, 07:59 AM   #21
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That's why I use a combination lock. I never forget combinations, but I do loose keys. And yeah, you can keep your combination disguised somewhere. And I lube the mechanism so it doesn't get stuck and keep the lock in a waterproof pannier to prevent the corrosion so it um... doesn't get stuck.
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Old 08-29-10, 01:10 PM   #22
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I once locked my bike on a group ride at the lunch stop with a cheap cable lock. After lunch I discovered I had forgotten to bring the key, to make it worse, I had locked through another frame.

After a fruitless few minutes trying to scare up a hacksaw, ( the lunch place was part of a gas stop ) Another rider came to me with the lock in his hand, the lock was still closed, but sheared thru where the pin went in. He said, "I just grabbed the lock and squeezed, didn't take much pressure."

From that, I learned 2 things, cheap locks are a joke, and I typically leave the locks closed, can't use a closed lock without the key, right?
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Old 08-29-10, 09:48 PM   #23
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That's why I use a combination lock. I never forget combinations, but I do loose keys. And yeah, you can keep your combination disguised somewhere. And I lube the mechanism so it doesn't get stuck and keep the lock in a waterproof pannier to prevent the corrosion so it um... doesn't get stuck.
I'm curious; which combination lock do you use? Having read many of your posts (and your blog) you strike me as a seasoned commuter, and since you live in NYC I assume bike security is high on your list of priorities.

BTW all of my locks came with spare keys and a code to order replacements should I lose them. My Magnum lock even has a lighted key for seeing the keyhole in the dark... nifty!
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Old 08-30-10, 07:14 AM   #24
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Maybe some of you used cheaper locks than I use...but a car jack isn't taking out a Kryptonite Evolution Series 4, not without either hurting you, the bike or both. A little grinder powered by a lap top battery? Have fun with that. I'd have gone the locksmith route, except it happened to me on a Sunday, and I didn't trust that someone else wouldn't get through it if left over night (or strip parts).
He wasn't saying a laptop battery. he was saying a UPS - Uninterruptable power supply. It is basically a small car battery (lead-acid) hooked up to a power strip. Power goes down, battery goes up. It would run a full-strength angle grinder with a diamond blade anywhere from 20 minutes for the smallest UPS's to hours for even moderate sized ones.

Actually, this is a pretty great idea, you'd probably get far more torque out of a corded angle grinder on a UPS than on a cordless 18volt.
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Old 08-30-10, 07:24 AM   #25
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He wasn't saying a laptop battery. he was saying a UPS - Uninterruptable power supply. It is basically a small car battery (lead-acid) hooked up to a power strip. Power goes down, battery goes up. It would run a full-strength angle grinder with a diamond blade anywhere from 20 minutes for the smallest UPS's to hours for even moderate sized ones.

Actually, this is a pretty great idea, you'd probably get far more torque out of a corded angle grinder on a UPS than on a cordless 18volt.
Learn something every day...I've never heard of a UPS. From what I experienced, you need a LOT of power tool to get through a decent ubolt.
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