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Updated August 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best U locks

With more and more cities making dedicated bike lanes for transportation purposes, bike travel is becoming a part of everyday city life. As such, people need to have a secure way to lock up their bikes when not in use. That’s where a U lock can come in handy.

U locks are extremely secure locks for your bicycle. They are called U locks because they have a solid U-shaped piece of metal that locks on both ends into a solid metal rod. They can be used either to lock a bike frame to its own tire or to lock the frame of the bike around a bike rack or other solid structure. Some come with handy features as well, including weatherproof keyholes, additional cable locks (to keep your bike extra secure), and a mounting bracket to attach the U lock to your bike.

Although U locks perform the same function as a chain lock, they have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. We provide the information you need to decide if a U lock is right for you, and we share a few of our favorite models.

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U locks are the preferred method of locking bikes throughout European cities, where bike travel is becoming more common among daily commuters.

Key considerations

U locks are relatively basic pieces of equipment. However, there are a number of factors to consider when choosing which one you want to purchase. First of all, you will need to decide how you plan to use it. If you only need it to lock the bike to its own wheel, then you won’t have the same requirements as someone who wants to lock the bike to a rack or other structure. Also, how you lock and unlock your bike will have a major bearing on the type of lock you will choose. Consider the following factors when making your final decision on which U lock is the best for your needs:

Key vs. combination lock

Some U locks have a key-lock system, while others use a combination lock. Whether you choose one or the other depends largely on your personal preference and what you find more convenient. A key lock is more convenient for those who want to unlock in a hurry, while a combination lock is more convenient for someone who may be prone to losing their keys.

Weather concerns

If your U lock will be exposed to the elements every single day, you’ll want to think about what type of conditions it will be facing. If you live in a high-precipitation zone, then the lock could be susceptible to rust damage. For both key and combination locks, rust can do severe damage to the exterior and interior mechanical parts.

Portability

U locks by nature are not flexible. In fact, they can be downright heavy and cumbersome. If you want a U lock that doesn’t weigh a ton and one that is small enough for you to carry around in your bag, you’ll need to do research and check the specs of each lock. Look for one that has small dimensions and is made of especially lightweight material, such as aluminum.

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Did you know?
Most lock companies will offer the ability to get a replacement key if yours is lost. You must contact them directly, though, and provide whatever information they request in order to do so.
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Features

The most important thing to remember when reviewing available features for a U lock is that the primary function of any lock is to secure your valuables. Additional features on U locks that merely serve as a gimmick may not be worth the extra cost on the price tag. Conversely, any features offered that make the lock more secure, and less likely to be broken, are features worth considering.

Mounting bracket

If you don’t know where to put your U lock when riding your bike, then a mounting bracket is perfect for you. Some U locks come with mounting brackets that will strap to your bicycle, allowing you to mount your U lock on your bike while in transit.

The worst thing that can happen upon arriving at your destination is to realize that you have no way of locking your bike because you forgot your lock at home. A mounting bracket helps avoid this common problem.

Cable locks

Many people think that U locks work best when used in tandem with cable locks. That’s why some U locks can be purchased with additional cable locks to supplement them. If you think you want the extra security and extra adaptability of a cable lock to work along with your U lock, then consider purchasing one of these combination kits.

Weatherproof keyhole

Rusted keyholes can cause major problems on any bike lock. If you want to make sure that you’re not locked out of your own U lock due to rust and weathering, then consider purchasing a U lock that has a weatherproof keyhole.

U lock prices

Inexpensive

The least expensive U locks available will cost you between $5 and $50. These U locks will offer the most basic features and designs. Some of them will come with additional cables as well.

Mid-range

For $50 to $100, you’ll find U locks that will likely have additional features such as both key and combination locks and a buckle jacket to protect your bike from contact scratches.

Expensive

The highest-priced U locks on the market range between $100 and $200. They are all made from high-stress steel and feature more sophisticated locking systems, which are less likely to be broken than their cheap counterparts.

Tips

  • Never give anyone who you don’t know the combination to your bike lock or a copy of your key.

  • Remember that using a U lock to simply lock the tire to the frame of the bike does not mean that the whole bike is safe from theft. It only ensures that the bike is unrideable while locked.

  • Never lock your bike to structures that you don’t have permission to use. This is a quick way to lose your bicycle.

  • Always wear a helmet when biking. Head injuries are no laughing matter.

  • Follow all of your local rules in connection with biking. Most cities now have dedicated bike lanes and laws that govern rider conduct.

  • Take care when connecting your U lock to your bicycle not to scratch the surface. Because locks are made of high-stress steel they can scratch a bike’s surface easily.

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In addition to locking bicycles to fixed items, U locks are useful for locking your bike tires in place, so no one can ride it.

FAQ

Q. Isn’t my bike just as safe with a standard chain lock as with a U lock?

A. No, U locks offer an added level of security for your bike, because they are made from hardened steel, which is far more difficult to break than a basic metal chain.

Q. Should I also use a cable lock in addition to my U lock?

A. Maybe. An added lock, no matter what type it is, adds a level of security because it extends the amount of time that a would-be thief would need to spend to steal your property.

Q. Are less expensive U locks less secure?

A. Not necessarily. Research the specific specs of every U lock you are considering. Sometimes a low-cost option is the best one for you.

Q. Can I use my U lock for items other than my bicycle?

A. Yes. A U lock is designed to secure any item which has a gap that can be attached to another fixed item. The only limit to what you can secure with a U lock is the dimensions of said item.

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