Bike shed security – part 1

By Chris Wood | Thursday, July 2, 2009 9.00am

There's no point spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds on a bike and then relying on a £20 lock to keep it safe. Our Buyer's Guide to Bike Locks gives tips on how to keep your bike safe when you're out and about. But what about storing your pride and joy overnight? In this article we give some handy tips which should help keep the thieves at bay.

The first rule of shed club...

The first rule of bike storage is simple: don't let people know you have a bike. A garage or bike shed is never going to be up there with Fort Knox in the security stakes, but it doesn't need to be.

If the local ne'er-do-wells don't know you have a valuable bike in your shed, they are unlikely to put much effort into breaking in, especially if you fit enough basic security measures to convince them to move onto an easier target.

Location, location, location

Where you choose to store your bike will depend on a number of factors, including the worth of the bike or bikes, your budget and the amount of available space, but the key criterion should be the location.

If you live in a dodgy area, even bricks and mortar may not deter the crims. On the other side of town, a wooden shed with a few extra security measures may be enough.

There are five main types of storage to consider:

1. Inside your house: This will depend on the amount of space you have and the tolerance levels of your girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/spouse/flatmates. Overall, security is high, especially if you can lock your bike to an immovable object.

2. Garage: Perfect. You can store your bike and work on it, without worrying about getting oil stains on the carpet. The drawback? Not everyone has one or has the space/money for one. The door is generally the weak point, but you can improve security by fitting a Garage Door Defender. Internally, you can beef up security by using a ground or wall anchor (see below) and a decent motorcycle chain.

3. Brick/breeze-block shed: The next best option, but if you haven't already got one they're not cheap and may need planning permission. See below for some tips on making it more secure.

4. Flat-pack shed: They're relatively cheap, easy to put up and will hide your bike(s) from view, but they're far from secure. For the purposes of this article, we'll focus on this type of storage because it's a common choice and there are some simple precautions you can take to make your shed much less attractive to thieves.

5. Standalone bike shelter: If you're short of space and need somewhere dry to store your bike, these are an option. But they're no more secure than a shed (considerably less so in some cases) and offer no room to work on your bike. See below for some tips on making it more secure. Here are some of the top options – click on the titles for our reviews.

Asgard Addition Bike Store

Asgard addition:

Shackup Tridoorbikestore

Shackup tridoorbikestore:

Bike Cave / TidyTent

Bike cave / tidytent:

Top tips for creating a secure bike shed

Whether you've plumped for the wooden shed option, or just want some ideas on making other forms of storage more secure, here are some handy tips...

1. Be realistic. A shed is never going to stand up to a serious attack by thieves. Offenders have been known to jemmy off a whole side panel or roof to get inside. The trick is to site it in an area where it is difficult for thieves to operate, avoid drawing attention to it and install as many security measures as possible to protect your precious bike(s). The harder you can make a thief work, and the longer it takes them to crack your defences, the more likely they are to give up and move on to an easier target.

2. Choose your shed location carefully. The ideal site for your shed is somewhere which is difficult for thieves to reach yet not so tucked away that criminals can operate without fear of being seen. In this case, the shed has been built in a back yard/driveway accessed by a private road. The shed can't be seen from the main road and because the access road is only used by a handful of households, any strangers in the area will immediately arouse suspicions. The neighbours are friendly, and several are elderly so they are around during the day. The shed can be seen from several surrounding houses and is within range of a security light fitted with a movement sensor. When a car is parked in the driveway next to the shed, the door can't be opened, providing extra security.

We opted for a wooden shed with a pent roof for more headroom: we opted for a wooden shed with a pent roof for more headroom

3. Take care when choosing the type of shed. There are three main types – wood (cheap and blends in well but prone to rotting), metal (strong, durable and fire retardent but prone to rust and walls are very thin on cheap models) and plastic (low maintenance but prone to condensation). Generally, the more you pay, the thicker the walls will be.

4. Think about the design of the structure. If the shed is going to be used purely for storage, and not as a workshop, consider getting one without windows, as these are an obvious weak point. The door should be clearly visible, either from your house or neighbouring properties. Double doors will enable you to get bikes in and out more easily.

5. Work out the shed's weaknesses. In this case, the door hinges are secured by small screws, the lock provided with the shed is extremely basic and the windows mean the contents are on display. Inside, there is nothing to lock your prized possession(s) to.

Step-by-step guide to beefing up shed security

In this first half of our guide, we show you how to improve the security of your shed. In part two we'll explain how you can make life tough for any thief who manages to breach these external security devices.

1. Toughen up the hinges

Door hinges can be toughened up by replacing the screws with bolts: door hinges can be toughened up by replacing the screws with bolts

In this case, the hinges are attached to the soft timber door using seven short screws. If a thief shoulder barges/kicks the door with enough force, these could just rip out of the wood. Failing that, it wouldn't take them long to simply unscrew them all.

Simply widen the screw holes with a drill...: simply widen the screw holes with a drill...

To make life harder for the crims, take out the screws, widen the holes using a drill and replace the screws with nuts and bolts.

... and insert a bolt, with the nut on the inside of the door: ... and insert a bolt, with the nut on the inside of the door

Then you need to make sure thieves can't simply unscrew the bolts. In this case we've simply added a drop of superglue where the shaft of each bolt meets the nut.

To ensure the bolt can't be removed, simply add a drop of superglue. alternatively, use a non-removable security screw: to ensure the bolt can't be removed, simply add a drop of superglue. alternatively, use a non-removable security screw

Other options include using Allen key bolts and hammering ball bearings into the end so they can't be unscrewed, or using one-way security screws.

2. Add hasps and padlocks

Don't go overboard with external security. the more locks you have fitted, the more obvious it is that there's something inside the shed that's worth protecting:

The basic locks which come with most sheds are next to useless, so fit at least one hasp with a decent padlock. There is always a trade-off between increasing security and making it obvious you've got something to hide. Fit several hasps with high-end padlocks and you risk attracting unwanted attention, but rely on the in-built lock and you may regret it.

Here we've used a Powerlok from Squire, which has an 11mm shackle made of hardened boron alloy steel and a five-pin tumbler lock. It comes with a 10-year guarantee. Use different locks from different manufacturers to make a thief’s job that little bit harder. Again, using bolts to secure the hasps instead of screws will make them harder to break.

3. Fit an alarm

This alarm combines a pir movement sensor...: this alarm combines a pir movement sensor...

At the end of the day, a determined burglar is always going to be able to break into your shed. The next step is to make sure they don't hang around if they do breach the external security. An alarm is the obvious answer.

... with magnetic entry sensors, and will go off if anyone tampers with it: ... with magnetic entry sensors, and will go off if anyone tampers with it

They're available from most DIY/hardware stores. This particular model combines a movement sensor with a door trigger and can be armed and disarmed using a key-fob remote control. The sensor is angled to cover the windows, so if anyone breaks the glass the alarm should sound.

4. Obscure the view through the windows

Windows are another weak point. if your shed is purely for storage, try to find one without any windows. if you'll be using it as a workshop, a bit of natural light may be worth the slight loss of security. it's easy enough for a burglar to smash a window but if they to climb in, the alarm will go off: windows are another weak point. if your shed is purely for storage, try to find one without any windows. if you'll be using it as a workshop, a bit of natural light may be worth the slight loss of security. it's easy enough for a burglar to smash a window but if they to climb in, the alarm will go off

If a thief can see you have an expensive bike, they're more likely to go through the effort of breaking into your shed rather than moving onto an easier target.

To stop thieves spotting your bikes, put translucent film over the windows or use a spray like this: to stop thieves spotting your bikes, put translucent film over the windows or use a spray like this

There are various ways to make the glass opaque. In this case we've gone for a can of spray-on glass frosting from a DIY store. The advantage of this method is that it can be washed off with warm water if needed. Other options include stick-on film sheets (difficult to apply without air bubbles but has the added advantage of preventing the glass from shattering if broken) and replacing the original windows with opaque glass.

... but there's still plenty of natural light for when you're working on your bike: ... but there's still plenty of natural light for when you're working on your bike

Once applied, light can still flood in but it's impossible to make out what is stored inside.

5. Consider securing the shed to the ground

In this case, the shed is large (5ft x 12ft) and heavy – it took six people to lift the roof into place – so it is unlikely thieves will be able to simply lift up one side to gain access. However, if you feel there is a risk of this happening to you, consider fixing the shed to the ground using L-brackets (also known as corner braces or angle brackets), screws and Rawl plugs.

Part two

In part two of this feature, we'll look at how you can increase security inside the shed by fitting ground and wall anchors, and some options for storing your bike(s) out of the way. Stay tuned. If you have any safety tips to share, please have your say in the comments box below.

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