How to Choose the Best Bike Locks to Prevent Bike Thefts Effectively

How to Choose the Best Bike Locks to Prevent Bike Thefts Effectively

A good bike lock is crucial to prevent bike theft.

...but believe or not, most cyclists don't lock their bike when it's unattended and then make a big fuss when it's stolen.

Did you know:

In a report published by the FBI, bicycles have always been one of the easiest items for thieves to steal.

...and adding to that, the growing popularity of cycling made it even appealing for thieves to target bicycles.

Studies have shown that bike theft problems often occur in universities and colleges. And only 1 out of 315 stolen bikes are recovered. About 1.5 million bikes are stolen every year and the saddest part is most of them are considered low priority, especially by the law enforcement authorities. 

It became the crime with no consequences. And that is why bike theft happens so often.

If you want to prevent your own bicycle from being stolen, then it's time to find out more about what makes a good bike lock and how to pick one. 

Let's dive straight in...

1. Type of Locks

U-Locks

A Bicycle U-Lock

Photo by: Kryptonite

Also commonly known as D-locks, these are made from hardened steel in shapes of D or U. Normally, the U-locks are covered in vinyl or rubber to prevent corrosion and also helps to protect the paint of your bicycle.

  • Pros: Compared to other locks, U-locks are one of the hardest to break, pick or drill, even with a strong bolt cutter.
  • Cons: Because they are mostly made out of steel, they’re pretty heavy to carry around.

Chain Locks

A Bicycle Chain Lock

Photo by: Krpytonite

Chain locks are made out of steel chains and they usually vary in length, weight and chain size. Chain locks often come with a built-in lock using combination locks or keyed locks.

  • Pros: Chain locks are also usually longer and can reach up to 6 feet, which means it can easily be wrapped around your bicycle. It can also endure tensional forces.
  • Cons: Depending on the quality, chain locks are can often be broken by thieves using torsional forces.

Cable Locks

A Bicycle Cable Lock

Photo by: BikeRadar

Cable locks are made of braided and twisted wires. They're typically coated with plastic or rubber so that they don't scratch your bike frame.

  • Pros: Cable locks are definitely the lightest of all bike locks, which means they’re easier to carry. They’re also flexible and don’t need too much effort to be wrapped around other objects.
  • Cons: Cheap cable locks can easily be cut using bolt coppers. Furthermore, most cable locks don’t have gold or silver sold secure rating and typically rated with bronze rating, which isn’t good.

Folding Locks

A Bicycle Folding Lock

Photo by: TrendHunter

Folding locks are made out of steel bars connected through rivets. They have the most distinctive designs among all bike locks. If you’re all about aesthetics and new designs, you’ll love this.

  • Pros: Easy to carry around and can be kept compact in your bag. They also vary in length and sizes, so there will be various options for you choose from.
  • Cons: Folding locks are relatively still new to the market, which means it’s not as available unlike its counterparts.

Which is the best type of bike locks?

Taking into consideration of all the pro and cons, the best type of bike locks are definitely U-locks.

U-locks offer the highest level of security among all as they're typically thick and available in various sizes.

Because they're made out of hard metal and rigid construction, U-locks are pretty challenging for bike thefts to cut or break.

2. Security Rating

If you’re eyeing a specific bike lock, it’s important to know its security level.

Why? 

This is to know if a certain bike lock is worth paying money for and if it’s durable enough to withstand the various techniques used by thieves to break them.

But as consumers, which ratings do you go to and who should you trust?

Manufacturer's Rating

Abus vs Kryptonite Security Ratings

How Do You Know Which is More Secure?

Most manufacturers use their own description about how their bike locks are at a certain level, which would probably leave you and I confused and totally puzzled because we have no idea about the real meaning behind it.

Sadly, most leading manufacturers use their own security ratings and only compare among their own bike locks, which make their ratings even more unreliable. 

In short, there's no industry standards when it comes to bike locks.

Sold Secure

Sold Secure is a reputable non-profit association that evaluates security products sold to the public and provide ratings. Bike locks are one of those products they evaluate among many others.

To have their products rated; manufacturers send their products to United Kingdom.

Sold Secure ratings for bike locks are classified into 3 categories:

  • Gold - This rating is highest one. Any bike locks that have this rating means it offers maximum level of security.
  • Silver - Offers a medium level of security and gives off good enough resistance to determined thieves.
  • Bronze - This is the lowest rating by Sold Secure yet it provides sufficient security from opportunist thieves. Bike locks with this rating is mostly recommended for cyclists biking around normal risk environment.

What does the different bike lock security levels mean?

Sold Secure Rating Explained

Sold Secure is the most trusted ratings among all security products like bike locks.

Their ratings are far from biased. So most likely they’re going to tell the truth about certain products.

The scheme is tested by a group of professionals and performs it by doing old and modern theft procedures. You can verify the Sold Secure ratings of a bike lock from their online database.

3. Size of the Bike Locks

Bike locks also differ from thickness, length and weight.

If you want to secure your bicycle on an immovable object, then I'd recommend opting for a lock with lesser diameter that is just enough to wrap around the bike frame.

But isn't the bigger the better?

Well, not really.

Thieves can take advantage of the extra space available inside the bike lock by using a leverage bar. Also, the weight of the lock also matters since you’re basically going to carry this around wherever you ride. 

What U-lock size should I get?

It depends. Because bike locks are normally made out of various metals, considerably, they're heavy. 

At this point, you also have to consider if the weight of the bike lock isn’t much of a nuisance. Choose the ones that are easy for you to carry around.

What U-lock thickness should I get?

For U-locks, it’s smarter to select the ones with thicker metals. An average-sized bolt cutter can easily cut through 13 to 15 mm of metal no matter what kind of metal it was made of.

To be safe, I suggest going for U-locks with diameters ranging from 16 to 23 mm and above. This way, even if they use the biggest bolt cutter on the planet, they'd have a hard time doing so.

4. Keys or Combination Locks

Generally, bike locks can be categorized in 2 types; keyed bike locks and combination bike locks. 

Keys Locks

Circular vs Flat Bike Lock Keys

Choose Flat Keys over Circular Keys

Keyed bike locks use circular/tubular shaped keys or flat keys. It aligns the spring loaded pins located inside the lock and opens once the right key is inserted. 

Keyed locks are generally durable and hard to break. However, if you buy a cheap bike lock, there’s a high possibility that thieves will be able to pick it by just using a pin.

Combination Locks

Combination Bike Locks

Combination bike locks on the other hand uses multiple dial locks or single dial locks, which means it requires you to remember a series of numeral codes.

It’s convenient to use because you don’t have to worry about losing your keys unlike the keyed bike locks.

In spite of this, combination bike locks can still be cracked by any determined thief in around 40 minutes to 4 hours.

Should I get a combination or keys bike lock?

The two types of bike locks have their pros and cons, but I still believe that keyed bike locks are better than its combination.

A lot of combination bike locks can be reset and hacked in roughly about 40 minutes. Therefore, a keyed bike lock is preferred and provides more security.

What can I do if I lose the keys to the bike lock?

Normally, keyed bike locks come with 2 keys, so you can keep the other 1 as a backup. However, it’s not uncommon to see cyclists lose both of those keys.

Luckily, most companies, especially reputable ones provide replacements, assuming you’ve registered your bike locks or remember the key numbers written on the key.

5. Best Bike Lock Brands

While there are hundreds of bike lock brands in the market today, some are always the go-to brands.

Kryptonite and Abus are the top 2 bike lock companies and they’ve both been around since the 70s. But which one is the best?

I'll let you decide.

Abus

Abus Logo

Abus is a prominent European brand founded in 1971. 

They’re one of the first companies to offer bike locks and since then, they've been known for their reliability and good reputation.

Their locks are made in Ruhr Valley located in Germany which ensures that they’re using quality European steel. Abus also offers replacement keys in case you lost it. Each Abus bike locks come with a card where you'll quote the code on it to them for keys replacement.

Kryptonite Locks

Kryptonite Locks Logo

Kryptonite Locks has been around since 1970 and was founded in United States. 

They are usually a little cheaper than Abus, which makes it a good candidate for those trying to save money.

Moreover, Kryptonite provides one of the best customer services. In case you lose your keys, they offer to give replacement keys for free so long as you've had your lock registered.

Additionally, they also offer their own anti-theft protection if your bike ever get stolen because of their locks. 

One thing to note though. Kryptonite manufactures their bike locks in China/Taiwan as compared to Abus in Germany. All in all, if you want to achieve reliability, value for money and excellent service, then Kryptonite it is.

Summary

Now that I’ve talked about the most important key considerations about bike locks, here's a summary of what I think are the best features your next bike lock.

  • U-Locks: Because they’re simply one of the hardest lock to break. Opt for a thick yet compact U-lock because it’ll be harder and almost impossible for thieves to break it apart.
  • Gold Rating: Choose bike locks rated with gold standard because it means that you’re choosing a lock that can withstand all sorts of tensional or torsional forces. Gold rating also means that the bike lock can provide the highest level of security for your bicycle.
  • Thick and Portable: Go for bike locks with thicker frames,16mm and above so that it’ll be harder to cut through. In addition to that, in terms of weight and size, I'd recommend going for one that just fits your bike and nothing bigger for better portability.
  • Key Bike Locks: Because they offer better defence and resistance to bike theft.
  • Abus or Kryptonite: You definitely can't go wrong with Abus or Kryptonite. They’re the leading bike locks brands in the world and has great reputation among bicycle riders. In addition to that, most of their bike locks have achieved Gold Sold Secure rating, sometimes Silver but never gone down to Bronze. 

Lastly, if you’re looking for the best bike locks, check out some of my bike u-lock recommendations.

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