Thursday 16 January 2014

What type of bike lock should I buy?

Summary: Bikes locked properly with quality U locks or chain locks will rarely get stolen in normal circumstances. Buy one that you can carry on your bike easily (comes with an attachment) and is not too heavy or limiting so that you actually use it all the time. Never use a cable lock as they are utterly useless.

The best guide on choosing a lock is Use it to:
- Determine your risk level: High Risk or Lower Risk
- If High Risk get a lock rated Gold by Sold Secure. If Lower Risk get Silver.
- For value-for-money choose an OnGuard lock unless you get a Kryptonite on sale (e.g. OnGuard Bulldog, Pitbull or Brute)
- If you need a second lock for your front wheel or seat see this guide
- If High Risk use a Silver/Gold U lock AND chain lock (some may be able to leave the heavier lock in the location you regularly park). I recommend either the 8mm OnGuard Mastiff 8022D, the 10mm Mastiff 8019 or 8019LP, or 12mm Beast 8017.
- Don't buy locks which use number combinations. The rest of the lock may be very tough but many combination locks have weaknesses that enable figuring out the correct numbers
- Avoid locks that have known recent issues with the same key being able to open multiple locks. I will aim to maintain a list below but see these videos and similar: YouTube1, YouTube2, YouTube3
- Avoid locks that seem secure but are from manufacturers currently known for quality issues (e.g. MasterLock) or little known brands. Aim to stick with OnGuard, Kryptonite and Abus.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Daniel Oines

Related Posts:
How to prevent your bike being stolen

A new website that is much more comprehensive and is kept updated now replaces most of the advice below (particularly about specific locks).

See: >

1. Only buy a quality U lock or chain lock not a cable lock
- Get a quality U lock (aka D lock) or chain lock as your main lock. All other locks offer virtually no protection against bike thieves and all but the most useless bikes are at significant risk of being stolen eventually. Cable locks are very common because they are cheap, light and easy to carry but virtually all can be quickly cut with pocket-sized cable cutters (or even scissors or garden pruners).

Even the heavy duty steel cable locks (e.g. Kryptoflex cable) can be cut with small hand tools, so these should only be used as secondary locks where appropriate (e.g. to secure a front wheel that isn't a high risk theft target).

Below you can see the common type of bike locks. The locks with the number combinations are typical cable locks and offer very little protection.

Overall, the high quality hardened chain locks are the most secure as their flexibility makes them more difficult to break than U locks with a jack or power tools. The big problem is they are extremely heavy (4-5kg), so most cyclists opt for quality U locks.

Outdoor Gear Lab: The Best Bike Lock Review - Types of locks

2. Don't worry about the extra weight of U locks. Quality chain locks are heavy but may be useful in the highest risk situations or left at a frequent parking spot
- The weight of U locks and challenge of carrying them does result in many cyclists opting for cheaper, lighter cable locks when they first start out. However, the extra 1kg of weight is insignificant for an urban cyclist compared to the combined weight of the bike and rider (60 - 100kg). Buy a U lock that comes with an attachment to the bike frame (see below).

- The weight of quality chain locks (4-5kg) is a problem though and most cyclists choose not to carry these around with them everywhere. They tend to be used only in situations where the theft risk is extremely high.

- When the weight truly is a major issue you can also consider keeping a chain lock or U lock attached to the place you regularly lock your bike (e.g. bike hoop at work).

3. Buy a U lock that comes with an attachment to the bike frame so you always use it. Or a chain lock if attachment is difficult
- Many cyclists who have their bikes stolen actually own U locks but were not using them at the time. This is generally because U locks are much more of a hassle to carry with the bike; you can't just wrap them around the seat post or frame. However, when you buy a U lock you can buy one that comes with an attachment mechanism that fits your bike. This means your U lock will always be with your bike and you'll always use it. The attachments that come with some U locks typically sit within the triangle area of the frame so factor the lock position in when buying your bike.

- Some bike frames (e.g. road bikes) have odd shaped tubes making some U lock attachments harder to fit. However, the besr U locks have versatile attachments to suit any top tube. E.g. The Kryptonite U locks.

- If you have multiple bikes, collect multiple U lock attachments and you can then keep them permanently attached to all of your bikes but rely on just one quality U lock you use with all of them. I have kept the attachment from the cheapest Kryptonite U lock (Keeper) and also bought an attachment second hand in order to be able to use my U lock with any of my bikes.

4. Spend $40 to $120 on a U lock or chain lock in relation to your bike's value
- Depending on the cost of your bike you should scale up the quality (thus cost) of your U lock or chain lock accordingly. For a cheap bike worth less than $150, a cheap U lock may suffice such as the light duty Kryptonite Keeper U lock, which costs $20. However, it has several weaknesses such as the cylinder area (where the key goes).

- For bikes worth over $200, higher-quality U locks are strongly recommended (over $40). I currently would recommend the OnGuard Bulldog or Brute and Kryptonite Kryptolok Series 2 as value-for-money, high-quality U locks. See the full range here: Kryptonite Lock Range. The Kryptolok Series 2 can be bought with a steel cable for $51. The Kryptolok Series 2 has a protected cylinder, "bent foot" design and 13mm shackle diameter. This is what I now use on my $380 bike. For a full review see: The Best Bike Lock Today

- For chain locks, choose one of the top rated ones for security. If being able to wear the lock is important, the Hiplok has a buckle that allows for easy wearing around the hip.

Choose quality, highly-recommended U locks or chains locks by reading recent reviews:
The Best Bike Lock Review
The Best Bike Lock Today

5. If your bike is prone to high theft risks, take extra measures
- A few cities which have professional bike thieves or high theft risks (e.g. New York, London, Amsterdam) do require more careful choice among U locks, use of secondary locks (chain locks) and care about where/when you leave your bike unattended. However, in most cities, a bike that's not in the top 20% (by value) will rarely get stolen (in most circumstances) if locked properly with a quality U lock or chain lock.

6. Learn how to lock your bike up properly and make it a habit
- You can have the greatest lock in the world but if you don't use it or lock your bike properly or practice other anti-theft measures then you aren't actually protecting your precious bike. So ensure you review good advice on how to lock your bike and keep it safe and embed it in your daily habits. See: > How to prevent your bike being stolen

7. Avoid locks that seem secure but have known issues (combination locks, brands where the same key opens multiple locks)

- Don't buy locks which use number combinations. The rest of the lock may be very tough but many combination locks have weaknesses that enable figuring out the correct numbers

- Avoid locks that have known recent issues with the same key being able to open multiple locks. I will aim to maintain a list below but see these videos and similar: YouTube1YouTube2YouTube3

- Some locks may be rated relatively highly by the manufacturer or even by one security rating site but be rated low by Sold Secure or

8. Where worthwhile, equip your bike with additional locks that have minimal weight and hassles
- For example, adding a quality wheel lock to your bike may be particularly useful if subject to high theft risks or you need to secure both wheels. These have the side benefit of being a way of keeping your bike secure for a very short period, such as when popping into a shop.
A Look At Wheel Locks For Bike Touring

- An inexpensive padlock is also a good investment. They can be used to secure secondary locks (like the Kryptoflex steel cable), to secure the wheel that isn't locked, or just to make it an extra hassle to steal and move the bike. If parking my bike for awhile in a high risk area I often take along this $5 padlock and secure the front wheel of my bike to the fork. The hubs on many bike wheels have eyelets that make this trick possible.

- Even on hubs that don't have such eyelets, you can still use a padlock to lock the fork to a couple of spokes instead. It will require the thief to spend time breaking the spokes to move the lock out of the way.

Further Info:
Outdoor Gear Lab
> The Best Bike Lock Review

The Best Bike Lock Today

2013 locks test (Ride On magazine)

Bike locks test 2012-13 (Bicycle Network)

Dutch Art - Bike lock ratings