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These days, bicycle thieves seem to be everywhere, and save for storing your bike inside your house, it seems that there’s not a lot of things you can do to prevent it from getting stolen. The good news is, with the best bike locks, you can greatly reduce the chance of your bicycle getting lifted, never to be seen again.
There are also lots of different options available, from lightweight bike locks to heavy-duty ones that are easy to use but are virtually unbreakable. You’ll also find U-locks, combination locks, and cable locks. The important thing here is to buy a good quality bike lock that offers the best in terms of anti-theft protection.
To help you out, we reviewed dozens of bike locks on the market and came up with this list of the best options that are sure to keep your bike safe from unwanted hands. We’ll also talk about all the things you need to keep in mind when buying bike locks, as well as other ways you can keep your bicycle safe. Let’s get started!
Key Features of a Good Bike Lock
First things first. If you want to make sure that the bike lock you buy is unbreakable, you need to make sure that it comes with a couple of must-have features. Ultimately, however, it all comes down to the material and style of the bike lock.
Bike Lock Style
Bicycle locks come in many different styles with varying degrees of protection capabilities. If you want the most theft-proof and secure bike lock, opt for a U-lock or a bike chain lock. These are made with uncuttable metal and are convenient to use.
Not all bike locks have this feature. Some, like cheap cable locks, can easily be cut with bolt cutters or other tools in a matter of seconds. While you may be able to use them for other things or certain bike parts, cable locks are far from the best when it comes to protecting your bike.
Bike Lock Material
The material is also important if you want to find the strongest bike lock. Some of the best bike lock materials that cannot be cut (or make it really difficult to do so) are hardened steel and exotic titanium. These are impervious to bolt cutters, sawzalls, and hacksaws, unlike softer alloys that cave-like butter.
In fact, the only way to get through titanium and steel materials is with the use of angle grinders, which are really conspicuous since they are noisy and produce a shower of sparks, so thieves are unlikely to even try.
Top 5 Best Bike Locks
Without further ado, here are the five best bike locks we found that are sure to protect your ride from bicycle thieves:
Kryptonite Evolution 11-14mm U-Lock
What better way to start this list than with a U-lock? The Kryptonite Evolution 11-14mm U-Lock is available in six sizes, from the lite mini to the standard size. This is a lightweight bike lock that is made with superior quality materials and offers reliable anti-theft protection.
In fact, it comes with a 1-year offer of anti-theft protection that guarantees reimbursement of up to $2,500 in case your bike gets lifted while you’re using this lock. It also comes with a lifetime warranty if any part of the bike lock breaks for whatever reason.
The flex frame U-bracket features a hardened max-performance steel construction that significantly reduces the size and bulk of the lock while being impervious to bolt cutters, hand tools, and leverage attacks. Meanwhile, the locking mechanism makes use of a key safe program and features a double deadbolt design.
- Safe and secure locking mechanisms
- 3 keys and 1 replaceable LED key fob included
- Rotating dust cover + stopper plug
- Pick and drill resistant disc-style cylinder
- Great value for money
TiGr Mini Lightweight Titanium Bicycle Lock
We also really like the TiGr Mini Lightweight Titanium Bicycle Lock, which is the best option if you want a lightweight bike lock that is also durable. It’s easily one of the strongest U-locks along with the Kryptonite Evolution thanks to its all-titanium construction.
This virtually unbreakable bike lock features a great locking mechanism that’s pretty smooth in its own right. The unique ductile qualities of the titanium construction and flat shape of the body makes cutting through this lock a tedious chore, to the point that hacksaws are ineffective, especially since the small size leaves no room to insert tools.
Moreover, the lock cylinder made with stainless steel is also difficult to pick, so this bike lock is sure to deter thieves. Plus, the lock is easy to use since the cylinder pops on or off the rivets smoothly. You can also stretch this lock around your bike frame, then squeeze it to attach to the cylinder and close the lock.
- Extremely lightweight titanium construction
- Quick and easy to attach and detach
- Highly resistant to bolt cutters and hacksaws
- Ideal as a primary or secondary lock
ABUS Bordo Granit XPlus 6500
Another bike lock we are proud to recommend is the ABUS Bordo Granit XPlus 6500, which many other brands try so hard to imitate due to the superior design that makes use of hardened steel plates 150mm long linked together with domed hardened rivets.
This makes for a strong bike lock that conveniently folds into a compact package. It’s corrosion-resistant, and more importantly, impossible to cut or pick thanks to the locking mechanism that encloses the barrel inside a hardened steel case that features folded over ends.
Moreover, the bolt crop resistance and under-saw attack resistance of this bike lock is also impressive, easily outperforming many D-locks on the market. That said, even though standard blades won’t cut through it, a tungsten blade or a grinder makes cutting through the lock and plates like a child’s play.
- Lightweight, compact, and portable fold-up design
- Unique construction and engineering
- Superior quality folding lock
- Made with 5.5mm thick shackle plates
Kryptonite New York Lock Fahgettaboudit
Here’s another one from Kryptonite: the Kryptonite New York Lock Fahgettaboudit, a venerable U-lock that is unbreakable and makes for the best anti-theft protection, allowing you to have that peace of mind knowing that your bike isn’t going anywhere in the middle of the night.
Sure, it may not be the most affordable option, but it’s certainly the best in its class and that alone makes the price tag more than reasonable. Besides, the locking mechanism is smooth, making the locking and unlocking process a total cinch. The lock also features a double shackle/ deadbolt design and uses a hard-to-pick disc cylinder.
All that, and the hardened steel construction, makes stealing your bike an impossible job. For one, both sides of the lock need to be cut, and hacksaws or bolt cutters can’t do it. Anyway, aside from the anti-theft features, we also like that the lock is covered with a durable vinyl coating to prevent it from scratching your bike frame.
- Double deadbolt shackle design
- Anti-scratch vinyl coating
- Resistant to hacksaws and bolt cutters
- Heavy-duty hardened steel construction
Master Lock Street Cuff Locks
Last but not the least is the Master Lock Street Cuff Locks, which is a unique bicycle lock that a thief won’t easily notice, nor dismantle. This awesome bicycle lock in a fantastic street cuffs design packs some theft-proof features that you are sure to like (and a bike thief is sure to hate).
Actually, in essence, this is just a regular handcuff- but it’s also not. It features a single link chain which pivots around both cuffs, which means it’s easy and quick to secure your bicycle in a pinch. You just have to attach one end to a secure structure like a signpost or bike rack, and the other end to your bicycle.
One thing we like about this is that while it may not be the strongest per se, it’s definitely one of the more flexible bike locks, since it can be folded to further minimize its size, giving you the option to conveniently store it in your backpack.
- Unique “street cuffs” design
- Compact and portable fold-up construction
- Quick and easy to lock/ unlock
- Ideal for tight, cramped spaces
- Great value for money
Important Factors To Consider
The truth is, any bike lock is breakable, given the right tools and plenty of time. However, not all bike locks are made equal, and some locks make cutting through so much harder than others.
For example, titanium cable locks can only be defeated with angle grinders, and most likely, your average bike thief doesn’t have this tool in his arsenal. Meanwhile, a cheap cable bike lock can easily be overcomed with your typical bolt cutters.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you always need the strongest and most expensive bike lock. If you live in a great area with an organization like SFbike, and will only lock your bike outside for a few minutes, you can make do with a cheaper and lighter bicycle lock.
Bike Lock Type
The first thing you need to decide on is what type of bicycle lock you need, based on how much security you want to get. For example, if you need to lock your bike around campus or in the middle of the city for the entire day, you’ll need significantly better security, and even more so if you’re locking your bike up overnight.
The most secure bike locks are U-locks, but they are also the heaviest, since these are usually made with either hardened steel or expensive titanium. These are impervious to hand tools and will require power tools to break through.
Some models even feature a double deadbolt or shackle design, which requires two cuts before the lock is compromised.
A folding lock, as the name suggests, can fold down to give you a more compact unit that you can easily store when not in use. This convenient design is what makes this type of lock so popular.
Folding locks can reach through bike frames and wheels, along with larger structures to which you plan on locking the bike. One issue is that the folding pivots are weaker points that can easily be defeated by bolt cutters and power drills.
Chain bike locks can actually be just as safe and secure as U-locks as long as both the lock shackle and chain are made with hardened steel. In other words, stay away from gym locker locks and chains from your local hardware store, since a set of bolt cutters will easily get through them in a matter of seconds.
One thing to keep in mind is that larger chain locks are able to reach through your frame and wheels at the same time, while also increasing the size of structures you can loop around to lock to. That said, some chain locks allow for easier transport by fitting around your waist.
Finally, there are also lightweight bike locks in a variety of options, with the zip tie based locks, coiled cable locks, and combination tumblers as the more popular variations. These locks are easily defeated with the simplest hand tools like tin snips and bolt cutters.
As such, they are best used for light security situations, such as quick trips to grocery stores, or going inside places like cafes and restaurants where your road bike is always in your full view. You’ll also appreciate the reduced weight if you’re going on long distance touring trips.
If you’re buying from a reputable brand, more often than not, the bike lock will be tested and rated by an independent tester. For instance, Sold Secure Locks give security ratings of Gold, Silver, or Bronze, depending on how resistant to cutting the bike lock is, what sorts of tools can be used to defeat the lock, and how long it takes to cut through the material.
To give you an idea, Gold locks are the safest options, although they are often also the heaviest. On the other hand, Bronze locks are the least safe.
Ease of Use
You also want your bicycle lock to be easy to use so you can quickly secure your bicycle to a nearby structure as soon as you get to your destination. Since you’ll likely have to hold your bicycle steady with one hand, being able to secure the lock with a one-handed operation can be a real benefit.
Unless you bring a great bike repair stand, which is just added weight, and highly impractical.
This means that the main locking mechanism shouldn’t be overly complicated or difficult to control. After all, if the lock proves to be a hassle to use, chances are, you’ll simply decide not to use it and just risk leaving your bike unattended.
It’s also great if the bicycle lock features some sort of protection against the elements so it’s less prone to wear and tear, rust, and corrosion. This is important even if you don’t experience a lot of rain, since changes in humidity can still cause damage to your lock.
Even if the weatherproofing isn’t present around the entire bike lock, the key barrel should at the very least offer some sort of weather resistance.
Aside from the type of bike lock, you’ll also want to consider its style, since this impacts how and where you can use the lock when locking your bike, and where you can store it while you are riding off into the sunset.
For example, some bike locks come with mounts so you can fit them to the bike. This is a relatively convenient option, but it can affect your aerodynamics and handling since you’re adding extra weight to the frame. Instead, you may want to opt for wearable locks.
- Protective coating– you wouldn’t want your bike lock clattering against your frame and scratching it up, so a protective coating or even using a sponge or cloth cover can make all the difference
- Weighted lock barrel– a heavier lock barrel is almost always a sure indication that the locking mechanism is armoured, meaning it’s more difficult to pick
- Multiple keys– as with anything requiring a key, having more than one is important in case your main key gets lost or damaged
- Anti-theft guarantee– some bike lock brands such as Kryptonite offer insurance in the form of anti-theft protection for added peace of mind
- Warranty– while an extended warranty won’t protect you against theft, it will protect your investment in case of lock seize ups or parts that are falling apart
- Maintenance– no matter how good the weatherproofing of the lock is, it’s always a good idea to protect it further by using water repellents or light lubes periodically
How To Keep Your Bicycle Safe
Even if you have the best bike lock, it won’t do much good if you’re not using it correctly or if the way you store your bike attracts bicycle thieves. As such, you need to make sure that you are properly securing your bicycle at all times. Here’s how:
Don’t Store Your Bike in a Dark Alley
Some might think that secluded, out of the way spots are good places to hide their bikes since they won’t be seen by as many people, but the truth is, it opens up opportunities for a thief to tamper with your bike away from prying eyes.
So, it’s so much better to choose busy spots with plenty of foot traffic where people will easily notice if someone’s trying to pry apart a bike lock with a noisy power tool.
Use a Small, Snug, and Durable Bike Lock
The less space there is between the bike, the lock, and whatever structure you’re locking the bike to, the less room you are presenting to the bike thief to work with, meaning he cannot easily pick the lock or cut the shackle. This will also make it more difficult to reposition the lock in a way that makes it easier to cut.
Given that, you’ll want to opt for the smallest possible lock that looks like it’s a lot of trouble to pick and cut. That said, you still need to allow for room so the lock can go around your frame and wheels. If you have fat tire bikes, you might need a few extra inches of the shackle length to be able to go around the wide tires.
Lock Up Your Bike Properly
Of course, small isn’t the only magic word. The lock also needs to be effective and hardened, and you need to use the lock smartly. It’s quite surprising that not many people know how to properly lock up a bicycle. Looping your cable lock around the wrong spots can make it easy for a thief to not even cut it, really, but sometimes merely slide it off the bike.
- Look for a post or other immovable structure to lock around.
- Ideally, you should remove the front wheel and place it beside the rear wheel. Alternatively, use a secondary lock to secure the front wheel to the frame.
- Run the bike lock through the rear wheel, then around one of the seat stays or chainstays, before finally running it around the post.
That’s it, really! It’s simple, easy, quick, but secure. The best part? It’s highly effective in protecting your bicycle against thieves.
Note: if you have one of the best hybrid bikes, you are more likely to be able to easily remove the front wheel, but if that’s not the case, just use a secondary lock and you’re good to go.
As you can see, there are many great options when it comes to finding the best bike lock, from cheaper lightweight bike locks to more expensive U-locks.
Any decent bike lock will cost anywhere from $15 to as much as $120, with the best and most secure ones at the upper half of the price range. These will mostly be U-locks and combination cable locks that are made with strong, uncuttable materials.
U-locks are almost always better than cable bike locks since cables are quite vulnerable to cutting. That said, cable locks are actually decent secondary locks to secure your wheels or accessories, or as an extra tool to secure your bike on an SUV bike rack.