The 4 Best Bike Locks for Your Needs
A proper bike lock is essential to preventing bike theft. Find out which of the different types are ideal for you and how to use them properly.
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Tl;dr Bike theft is a problem in every city, and returning to find your stuff has been tampered with or stolen is upsetting. Beyond the emotional toll, it takes time and energy to recoup what was lost. Investing in a high-quality bike lock to protect your bike from thieves is one of the first obvious moves to make sure your bike stays in place all day long. But, with so many different types of locks available, it can be overwhelming to know which to choose. In this article, we’ll take a look at the different types of bike locks, how they work, and what to consider when choosing the best lock for your needs.
What Are the Different Types of Bike Locks?
There are a bunch of different types of bike locks that fit a range of needs that I’ll talk about throughout this article. But to get started, there are the main types of locks:
- Chain locks
- Folding locks
The chain lock is a popular choice among cyclists for its versatility. When compared to U-locks, chain locks offer more flexibility for locking onto different urban objects. Folding locks are similar to chain locks in their versatility and can be stored in small pockets for easy and compact storage, but they might not have the best overall security. It’s a lot to cover and we’ll get more into it below.
What to Look for in a Bike Lock
Because bike locks vary widely in terms of their security level, some locks—particularly cheap cable or combination locks—can be simply cut with bolt cutters or lock-picked by a part-time thief. Due to this, it's important to prioritize factors such as high-security ratings (diamond, gold, silver, bronze, 5/10, 10/10, etc), locking mechanisms (disc detainer, wafer, keyed or combination), and the type of bike rack or fixed object you'll be locking your bike to.
First, look for locks that have a Sold Secure rating, which indicates that they have been tested and approved by the Sold Secure organization for their security level. Consider whether you need a lock that can secure your bike's frame, front wheel, and rear wheel, or just one or two of these components. That decision is most factored on how safe you feel about your bike parking, and if you know a location has been hit by bike thieves in the past. Next, look for locks that are made from hardened steel, which is more resistant to cutting and sawing than materials like titanium.
Can Bike Locks Be Cut?
The obvious and unfortunate answer is: no lock is 100% secure, and determined bike thieves—with the right tools and enough time—will destroy even the strongest bike locks. However, investing in a high-quality bike lock goes a long way toward deterring potential thieves and keeping your bike on the rack.
Equally as important are simple precautions to take. First, a lock must be used correctly—which will depend on the model you choose. Next, be sure to lock your bike in a well-lit area with plenty of foot traffic. Later in this article, I’ll outline some specific ways to make sure your bike is properly secured.
4 Expert-Recommended Bike Locks
1. Kryptonite Keeper U-Lock with Cable
This lock is an excellent, highly transportable choice for those who want to lock both wheels along with their frame. Made of hardened steel, it is highly resistant to cutting and drilling. Although heavier and bulkier than other bike locks, its combination of a four-foot cable—which loops through the wheels—and a U-lock provides added security, especially in high-risk areas.
This U-lock comes with a frame mount bracket for easy transportation; though fully securing the lock does require more time and effort to park the bike. Instead, for quick trips, you can save time by skipping the cable and only using just the U-lock.
And if you believe the area you park your bike may require an even higher-security U-lock, try upgrading to the Kryptonite Evolution or the Kryptonite New York lock in combination with a cable.
2. Abus U-Lock Ultra Mini 410 Bike Lock
This lock is small, quick, and easy to use. Made of hardened steel with a durable, scratch-resistant coating, it features a double-bolted locking mechanism for added security. Plus, the lock can be mounted directly onto the bike frame using the included bracket, making it a practical and convenient solution for short stops or running errands. Or, its compact size and lightweight design fits easily into a pocket or bag.
Similar options with higher security ratings include the diamond-rated, 20mm-thick Hiplok D1000, designed to prevent damage from angle grinders. Most of their options, like the Hiplok DX are versatile and have a clip that holds the lock to waistlines and belts.
3. Kryptonite Keeper 712
In my opinion, the Kryptonite Keeper 712 is the most versatile and affordable chain lock on the market. Its 47.3-inch length can easily wrap around a bike's frame and lock it to any fixed object. Further, it can be used in combination with a cable to make sure each of the wheels are secured.
Made of hardened steel, it’s going to prevent anyone from simply walking away with the bike, but an angle grinder will get through it without a challenge, so you’ll need to make sure the bike is not left out overnight or in areas with low-visibility. But it’s a great option and my first choice, an integrated lock head conveniently eliminates the need for a separate padlock, and a weather-resistant nylon sleeve slips around the chain.
Another convenient option, which can be worn around the waist, is the Hiplok Gold; great for anyone who makes multiple trips throughout the day—like bicycle couriers.
4. ABUS Bordo 6000 Keyed Folding Lock
A great choice for a simple bike lock that can be carried in a backpack, saddlebag, or mounted to the frame. Its flexible design allows one to lock the bike to almost any fixed object, and its 90cm length is enough to secure the frame and one wheel to any rack or pole.
While it is manufactured from hardened steel, this folding lock may not provide as much security as a heavier U-lock. Plus, the folding design may require some practice to get used to. For the upgraded version of this lock, check out the Abus Bordo Granit. The Foldylock Compact is a similarly solid choice for anyone who wants a smaller folding lock, though keep in mind it only has a bronze security rating.
Tips for Properly Locking a Bike
1. Lock It to a Fixed Object
Make sure to secure your lock to a fixed object, such as a bike rack or a sturdy pole. Avoid locking it to objects that can be easily moved or lifted.
Sadly, locking onto small trees can be a quick, surefire way to kill a tree—many thieves could care less about sawing a tree in half to get to your bike!
2. Lock Both the Frame and Wheels
To prevent thieves from removing individual parts of your bike, be sure to lock both the frame and wheels. To secure the frame, use a U-lock or heavy-duty chain. Next, combine a cable lock to secure the wheels.
3. Lock It in a Well-Lit Area
Thieves are more likely to target bikes that stand in poorly lit areas or places where there is little foot traffic. Look for spots that have video surveillance, are near the front entrances of busy buildings, or have active security personnel nearby.
4. Use a Secondary Lock
In addition to your main lock, consider using a secondary lock as an added layer of security. This can be a lightweight cable lock or a smaller U-lock that you use to secure other parts of your bike, like the saddle. Especially with pricey e-bikes, it’s not uncommon to use two U-locks paired with a strong chain. It’s heavy, but worth it.
5. Remove Accessories
Thieves often target bikes with accessories, so remove any accessories or valuables from your bike before leaving it unattended. This includes lights, GPS units, and bike bags. Remember, even if the bike itself is securely locked, the gear attached to it might still go missing.
6. Consider Attaching a GPS Tracker
It’s a good precaution to hide a GPS tracker, like Apple AirTags or a Tile, somewhere on your bike. In the event it goes missing, it may help the police to recover it.
Investing in a high-quality lock is one of the best ways to protect your bike from theft, though where you place it is just as important. Remember, no matter where your bike is parked, the longer it sits there, the longer it will be potentially exposed to theft. Above all, try not to leave your bike outside overnight.