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For thieves, taking an unlocked bike is an easy decision. Yes, it'll ruin your day, but if your bike is just waiting unprotected, you've made it oh so easy for them. Selecting a quality bike lock is the first step in preventing bike theft.
At BestReviews, we've done quite a bit of digging into the various bike locks on the market to create this informative guide. We’ll provide you with a brief rundown of what to look for when browsing bike locks, what the advantages and disadvantages of specific locks may be, and we even provide you with some crucial tips on how to stop your bike from getting stolen, even with a lock in place. We also have a section to give you pointers on how to properly lock up your bike.
We never accept free samples from manufacturers, so you can count on our reviews to be unbiased. We buy products from the same stores where you shop, test them in our labs, and analyze feedback from existing owners, all to give you the most thorough information before you make your purchasing decision. Read on for our guide to selecting a bike lock, and when you’re ready to purchase, take a look at our recommendations in the grid above.
When browsing the myriad of bike locks available for purchase, consider the following to ensure you're getting the right amount of protection.
Bike lock sizing is super important. Make sure your chosen lock is large enough to fit around your bike, and whatever object you're affixing it to, but don't pick a lock that leaves a lot of wiggle room. A tight-fitting lock is your best bet for properly securing your bike.
Some heavy duty locks come with generous guarantees should your bike get stolen. But you have to sign up to be eligible for any kind of reimbursement, should your bike go missing.
Some locks are wrapped in protective materials to ensure your bike doesn't get scratched. A soft housing might also be helpful if you plan on throwing your bike lock into your backpack. The casing will protect other objects from getting damaged.
Check to see if a particular lock has undergone testing. A high-quality lock has been thoroughly tested to ensure it's extremely secure and difficult to break.
Don't lock your bike in the same place every day. It'll be easier for thieves to notice, and they may get a feel for how long your bike tends to be unattended.
There are three different locking mechanisms that you'll find in bike locks: keys, combinations, and electronic locks. It's up to each rider to decide what works best, but there are advantages and disadvantages with each bike lock option.
Locks that utilize keys are the most secure option, but you do need to remember to carry your key with you and not lose it along the way. Sure, a sneaky thief can try to pick a key lock, but they are tougher to crack than combination codes.
A combo lock means you don't have to worry about remembering to bring a key, but they are not super secure. Combination locks can be cracked, and some locks are pretty easy to cut open.
Finally, there are electronic locks. This type of tech allows you to unlock your bike just by being near it, or by typing in a code. They're quite cool, but are more expensive than traditional locking mechanisms, and they aren't foolproof. Some models have advanced features, like alarms that alert you that your bike is being stolen. They also look expensive and may attract thieves. Many require a power source and need to be recharged. What happens when the battery runs out?
When using a key lock, position the keyhole so that it's difficult to reach. Annoying for you, possibly, but even more annoying for lock pickers.
There are a variety of bike lock types available for purchase, each suiting different needs and types of riders.
Cable locks are the least secure of the bunch because they're quite easy to cut through. They're lightweight, which makes them easier to handle than other lock types. They can wrap around anything without much of a fight. They're best for locking up an inexpensive bike in a low-crime area.
Some areas feature special garages for commuters to store their bikes while they take public transit and head off to work. These are usually only accessible with some kind of pass or code, but that doesn't mean you should neglect to lock up your bike inside.
These are really hard to cut because they're made of very strong materials and are shaped so that thieves will have a hard time finding space to maneuver their tools.
For a U-lock to be effective, you need to select one that fits around your frame, but leaves very little space. Otherwise, you're spending extra money for no reason.
If you plan to store your bike in a shed, make sure you affix a good lock to the structure.
Chain locks look tough, and they are harder to cut through than cable locks, but they're not as resistant as a U-lock. They're heavier than other options, so they aren't a good choice for commuters who might find it annoying to lug around a clunky locking mechanism.
These are great for securing a bike to awkwardly shaped objects. They're light and compact, so they're easy to travel with, but they aren't as secure as a U-lock.
Don't lock your bike up to an object that can be moved or broken. Avoid poles that are short enough for someone to lift the bike over.
A sturdy, quality lock will start at about $50. Those living in low crime or rural areas may be able to get away with cheaper, flimsier lock options under $50, though.
If you have a fancy bike with lots of removable parts, spending money on a super sturdy lock is a smart idea.
If you plan on using extra locks to secure your seat and wheels, that will set you back a little more.
The more expensive the bike, the better lock you need.
A lock is your first defense when it comes to preventing bike theft, but it's not the only way to protect your ride. Buying the best bike lock out there won't help if you forget to lock up your bike in the first place.
Keep your lock on your person when commuting, and lock it up even if you're heading inside a building for just a few minutes.
Using two or more bike locks can help secure your bike even further. More than one lock will make your bike a lot less appealing to potential thieves.
And don't forget to secure your wheels and other removable peripherals, especially on a fancy road bike. Thieves will be none too happy to walk away with easy to grab tires.
Lock your bike up next to a fancier looking ride to make it look less appealing to thieves.
Avoid the all too common mistake of only locking up your wheel. Make sure to secure your frame! If you'd rather not spend additional dollars on extra locks, take removable parts like wheels, panniers, and lights with you.
When you're locking up your bike leave as little space as possible between the lock and your bike. That makes it much harder for would-be thieves to gain leverage when trying to cut off a lock. Don't lock up your bike in a low-traffic area. That makes your sweet ride a sitting duck. Try not to leave it overnight, either.
After you've locked it up, make sure to verify that it's actually locked. Being paranoid is okay — it's your ride!
Don't be shy, head over to your local police station and ask to register your bike. It'll make it easier to find you, the original owner, should the bike get stolen and find its way to law enforcement.
Q. What's the most secure type of lock?
A. A U-lock with key access is the most secure bike lock option. First, you need a key to open it, and only you have it. Second, it's tough to cut into and, in general, thieves are lazy. They'll go for the bike with the lock that's easier to remove.
Q. I bought a good lock, but I'm still paranoid about getting my bike stolen while I leave it at the train station bike rack. Will it get taken?
A. If you can, lock your bike up around other bikes. At a train station, there's a good chance there's plenty of intermittent foot traffic. But yes, it's true, there will be stretches of quiet. In that case, lock your bike up with two locks if you're worried, or find a fancy bike and secure your bike next to it. Your bike won't look as appealing to thieves. In general, bike thieves target expensive models or whatever is easiest to snag.
Q. I have a key entry U-lock for my bike. What's the best way to place it to secure my bike?
A. Good choice! Make sure to get a tight fit. That makes it tough to find a place to cut through. You can also position the key-entry down or out of the way to make it tough for a thief to pick. It'll make it harder for you to unlock, but if you're in an area where bike theft is common, it's a good preventative measure.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.