If you ride bike and want to keep it, you need a bike lock. But which one? We researched 30 top models before testing the best 7 locks side-by-side for several months. Our veteran cycling commuters and joy riders hit the bike paths with these models to find each one's strengths and weaknesses. Through street use and garage tests, we investigated key aspects like how easy each one is to lock up to oddly-shaped structures and transport on the frame or in a backpack. Most importantly, we took a systematic approach to destroying each lock to know just how tough they stand up to professional bike thieves. There isn't a single best lock out there, but there is an ideal lock for you, your bike, and the community you live in, and this review helps you find it.
Updated August 2017
Our goal is to keep your bike safe by maintaining an up-to-date and relevant review of the best locks for your wheels. The OutdoorGearLab team of bike experts is currently testing a new round of bike locks, and we'll publish the results in September. In the meantime, we know you probably need a lock right now, so we're sharing some info on one lock we're psyched on in particular. New to our selection this year is the Abus Bordo 5700 Folding Lock. It's fairly lightweight, easy to use, and a cinch to transport. It isn't made for high-security needs, but not every community demands that level of protection. Check out more details below, with a full review coming soon!
The Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock earns our Editors' Choice Award. This classic model scored well across all of our metrics, thanks to Kryptonite's well thought out design. For every perceived problem, there was an answer. This product offers serious security, winning Sold Secure's Gold designation and user peace of mind. Additionally, the New York Standard has a mounting bracket for your frame that makes for easy storage while riding. This product is easy to use, and you can fit both your wheels within its reach (if you remove your front). Kudos to Kryptonite for making a versatile, burly and user-friendly bike lock of such quality. This may well be the only lock you'll ever need to buy.
Our Best Buy Award goes to a mid-security model with an entry level price: the Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 Standard U-Lock. This classic U-lock comes with a four-foot cable that can reach around both wheels and is efficient to secure and un-secure. Although OnGuard makes this style of mid-security U-Lock with cable in their Bulldog DT, we thought that Kryptonite made an all-around better product. From the higher quality cable to the easy locking "bent foot" design, the KryptoLok gradually pulled ahead in points.
Want a lock that you'll love transporting? We do too. It is such a rarity to find one that answers the pesky question of how to effectively lug it around between lockups, but our Top Pick for Commuting, the **Hiplok V1.50 Chain Lock does it with ingenuity. Hiplok took a beefy 8mm hardened steel chain two feet long and put a nylon sheath around it. Next, Hiplok engineered a padlock (a quite unbreakable one, we might add) with an extra metal bar that serves as a buckle. A swath of Velcro goes through the buckle then folds back on itself, creating an adjustable and comfortable design that you wear like a low belt. A simple yet genius design. It is burly and transports well. The everyday commuting cyclist, as well as anyone else wanting a quality product, will appreciate this product.
Full Review Coming
We are nearing the end of our test period with this product. While we finish up, we want to pass on some info about this intriguing lock. The complete review will be published September 2017, but here's a summary for the meantime.
The German-made ABUS Bordo 5700 Folding Lock fills the mid-range security niche well. As its name implies, it folds up to a small size for transportation, either carried in the included bike frame mount, your pack, and even some pockets. The lock, mount, and a key weigh just a hair over two pounds, considerably less than higher-security locks we reviewed. Let's face it; a lock is useless if you don't take it with you and use it. The Bordo is much less cumbersome than U-locks and chain locks, so it's less of a chore to bring along. It isn't heavy duty, though, and if you live in a high-theft area like a city or campus, we don't recommend it. But if your community doesn't require that level of security, this lock could be an ideal match.
Analysis and Test Results
We started our testing process by learning how these different bike locks performed in-transit; we shoved them in our panniers, bungeed them on trailers, placed in backpacks, installed brackets to stow them on the bike frame, wore them around our waists, and carried them in bike baskets. Next, we rode around town trying out the various styles by attaching them to racks, trees, parking meters, and fences to assess each one's usability. During these test rides, we started the process of examining secured bikes from the eyes of a bike thief. Even if the frame was secured, could somebody steal the wheels or seat? In the last phase of testing, we went deep into the world of bike thievery. We contacted an expert lock pick and used an assortment of tools, brute strength and happenstance to break each one.
Here are the bike locks we tested: (L to R) OnGuard's Bulldog, Kryptonite's KryptoLok Series 2, Krypotonite's Fahgettaboudit Mini, Hiplok's V1.50, OnGuard's Akita Cable, KryptoFlex Cable, and Kryptonites' New York Standard U-Lock.
Selecting the right product is more complicated than choosing your desired level of security. Plus, the broad range of locks on the market can complicate matters further! Read on to learn more specifically how each of these products compares across our metrics. We based our scoring of each lock on four criteria: security, ease of transportation, ease of use, and versatility. The importance of each metric, as well as standout products in each key area, are discussed below.
Every bike manufacturer has a different security scale, as do independent security testing organizations, like Sold Secure, that are popular references here in the States. Sold Secure is an independent, not-for-profit trade association that employs a small army of professional locksmiths to assess the security of various locking devices and mechanisms. Products are then rated based on their performance during the lock-cracking tests. Other organizations, such as VdS (a German independent testing institution for security and fire protection) and the Foundation ART (a group of Dutch organizations teaming together to prevent theft of two-wheeled vehicles), also submit products to rigorous professional-grade tests and rate them accordingly. These organizations have no ties to manufacturers and are well-respected as holding a high standard of testing on many products, including bike locks.
How We Tested Security
In general, we saw the same patterns in our tests as these organizations have reported. When conducting our security tests, we began with non-mechanized hand tools like wire snips and hammers that would be easy to conceal. We also let our expert lock pick have a go at cracking each lock with just a small kit. If models could not be broken with hand tools, we switched to power. A cheap electric angle grinder with a cut-off wheel was the tool of choice. We kept track of how long it took to "steal" each bike.
Ben uses a grinder to defeat a Kryptonite New York after all non-power tool attempts failed.
Cable Lock Security
The cable models that we tested were the Onguard Akita and Kryptonite's 1218. Both cables could be destroyed using hand tools in seconds. The Kryptonite's combination was sussed out by our blindfolded lock pick while the Akita's passcode remained elusive. We broke both locking mechanisms with a hammer: again, quite easily.
As a result of these tests, we don't recommend using this product in suburban or urban areas with medium to high crime levels, and especially not overnight.
Chain Lock Security
The Hiplok V1.50 Chain Lock is rumored to resist all prybar attack, and it held up quite well to that expectation. We tried a hacksaw to no avail (it would have taken at least 45 minutes). We used a grinder on the chain links, which took longer and had to be done twice, and then we hit its weakness: 17 seconds to cut through the padlock shackle.
The U-Locks were a bit harder to judge. We had heard tales of pry bar experts taking to mid-range models like the Series 2 Standard U-Lock and the Bulldog DT. Although the cables that come with these products were snipped in seconds, the "U-s" themselves withstood our hand tool assault and had to be cut with the grinder. These two products were disabled after a single cut on the "U," although the Series 2 took more time to cut through. Lastly, we got to the New York Series: the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit U-Lock Mini and the New York Standard. These were our burliest models, and they performed well, but all succumbed in the end to the grinder. Both New York Series models have a dual locking mechanism and therefore required two separate cuts by the angle grinder before they were defeated.
Security Bottom Line
The security metric held the most weight in our review, but not everyone requires the same level of security out of their product. For example, someone leaving a mid-priced bike outside their college town workplace may not need as much security as someone securing the same bike up outside their urban apartment overnight. We tested products that are more bike theft deterrent and those that are burly enough to protect a motorcycle. However, no matter how much you spend on a product it won't do you any good if you don't know how to use it properly, so be sure to research the best ways to use your lock to maximize security.
For a very in-depth discussion about how much security you need, check out our Buying Advice article.
Amanda and Rylee try different hand tools to break the cable. The bolt cutters worked better than the shears.
Ease of Transport
How easy a lock is to transport largely determines the likelihood of always having it with you. We examined the transport options for each different lock, then rode around that way to make certain that carrying the product in that style was a habit we could form. Of course, there are many upgrades that people make to their bikes that create more carrying options like installing a basket or buying a quality messenger bag that make it pleasant to ride with a load. While those options were in our minds, we focused on the features of the product and any included hardware.
Cable models, because of their flexibility and lightweight nature, are super easy to transport. The coiled cable we tested, the Kryptonite KryptoFlex 1218 Combo Lock, outperformed the non-coiled cable, OnGuard's Akita, with its ability to hold its compact shape. The Hiplok V1.50 Chain Lock has an innovative wearable design that allows you to attach the chain around your waist like a belt and was given our Top Pick for Commuting award largely due to this feature. The U-locks that included a mounting bracket (the Bulldog DT, Series 2 Standard, and New York Standard) all received decent points since it is far more convenient to clip onto you lock to the bike frame while riding instead of lugging it in a backpack. The Onguard Bulldog DT U-Lock and Series 2 both have cables that have to be stowed elsewhere, however. Kryptonite's Fahgettaboudit Mini lost points here because although it is compact, it weighs over 4 lbs and doesn't come with a mounting bracket.
Sommer showing off the wearable chain design bike lock that Hiplok invented. The belt is secured with velcro and distributes the 4 lbs. around your center of gravity.
Ease of Use
How quick could we secure and un-secure a bike with the different models tested? What design features made the securing up process that much easier? What styles were inherently easier to use and what styles are more difficult? If we were a bike messenger with 20 different stops on our route, which piece would perform the best? These were some of the questions we sought to answer when looking at the usability of each contender.
For more on the proper use of your security device, check out our recommendations on how to use your lock.
A shout out to the manufacturer's here: all the products we tested ran smoothly through the gauntlet of opening and closing countless times. The styles we found easiest to use were the cable designs, especially the non-coiled OnGuard Akita 8041 that could be wound through frame and wheels in a blink of an eye. Out of the U-Lock variety, Kryptonite's Series 2 Standard U-Lock had a feature they call the "bent foot" which allows you to insert one end of the "U" then leverage that side to insert the remaining end. This feature is awesome for usability but decreases the product's security, so we understand why the burly New York series U-Locks have dual locking mechanisms within their crossbars.
Notice the "bent foot" design that the KryptoLok offers. This end of the shackle is inserted into the crossbar first, and then you can use the leverage of the first end to insert the other side.
A bike isn't rideable with its front wheel stolen. In this testing category, we wanted to explore how much of a bicycle could be secured. Each individual product review goes over the manufacturer's suggested best practices for maximum security. The most common components stolen off bikes are front wheels with quick release skewers (the most common theft, and also happens even if owners don't have quick release wheels), saddles, bike lights, and rear wheels. If bikes are left out long enough, you'll commonly see the entire bike get stripped down to the locked frame, component by component.
The most versatile and secure models we tested are the U-locks that come with cables (although there is always the option to just buy two U-locks, of course). The OnGuard Bulldog DT and Kryptonite's Series 2 both come with a four-foot long rubberized cable to secure both wheels and seat (through the stays). Cable models also cover your whole bike (except that the ends are sometimes too large to secure saddles), but due their low security scores made us ponder how secure any part of the bike was. The Hiplok and New York Standard could be used to secure both wheels and the frame, but they require users to remove the front wheel. Surprisingly, even the Fahgettaboudit Mini could handle including the rear wheel (provided that it was a skinny tire).
Even the Fahgettaboudit Mini fit around the frame and a wheel of our road bike with skinny tires.
Other Uses for Your Lock
Throughout the review, we found many other uses for these products, especially the bigger U-Lock style. We locked the back tire of a dirt bike to its brake rotor, tire of a trailer to its frame so it couldn't move, a mountain board to a bike trailer, and a number of random items in our gear garage when traveling. All this is to say: keep your mind open to other items a U-Lock can secure. The bigger the lock, the more options for locking things. However, we found that if the lock were too big and cumbersome, we wouldn't bring it. So for the dirt bike and mountain board, we liked the medium sizes (6-8 inches in total length).
How to Use Your New Lock
First things first. Once you decide on the product that's right for you, check to see if your new lock comes with an insurance policy. Some manufacturers offer insurance to reimburse customers in case of theft. However, you usually have a limited amount of time (sometimes just a week!) to sign up, so be sure to register it immediately. Also, if this is an important factor in your decision making, be sure to read the insurance policy thoroughly. The stipulations tend to be rather strict, for example, some exclude customers living in New York and some require you to send in the busted lock for inspection before any compensation is doled out. Furthermore, check to see how much money you would receive if your wheels get jacked — it might not be all that much. Once you've taken this step, file away your receipt and your registration info some place where you'll be able to find it again in case of the unfortunate event of a theft.
Rylee securing her bike with the Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock just in time for yoga class. Our Editors' Choice award winner earned top marks in our security metric.
Once you're ready to ride and use your new gear, be sure to do all your research on how to lock it up properly! Many bicycle thefts happen simply due to lock user error. It's important to know how to use your lock properly in order to maximize security. The most secure lock won't protect your biciclette if you use a poor locking technique. Furthermore, an improper locking technique might void your insurance policy in the case of theft. Here are some basic pointers to get you started on your quest to make your bike a tougher target:
Where to Lock Your Bike
Always secure your bicycle to immovable objects or structures. Bike racks, lamp posts, and trees are good examples, as they are securely fixed in the ground or concrete. Some bicycle roof racks are also considered immovable objects when used properly. Avoid using structures that are held in place by only a few bolts, such as "No Parking" signs. With a few quick turns of a ratchet wrench, the sign can easily be removed, allowing the thief to slide the bike up and over the post relatively easily.
The New York Standard U-Lock protecting both wheels and the bike frame.
Seek out areas where other bikes are locked up, and make sure that the area is well-lit if it will be out past dark. We also recommend choosing to lock up your bike on streets with a high volume of foot traffic. A lonely set of wheels on a quiet, dark street might attract the wrong kind of attention. Also, don't park your ride in the same spot every day, but keep changing it up. Moving targets are much harder to hit!
How to Lock Your Bike
Secure as much of the bicycle as you can to the immovable object. If possible, you should secure both wheels and the frame. One option is to remove the front wheel and secure it along with the back wheel and frame to an immovable structure. However, if your lock doesn't allow this level of security, consider the value of each part of your bike, and lock the highest valued parts first. Always secure the frame first, then the rear wheel, then the front wheel. Never be satisfied by just locking up a wheel to a rack, as they can be quickly removed, and could leave you aggressively googling "how to convert bike wheel into a unicycle."
Lock it and Fahgettaboudit! Here is the Mini in a simple frame lock up.
Be sure to get a tight fit, filling up the inside of the chain, cable, or U-lock with as much of your bicycle as possible. This will minimize the amount of space that potential thieves have to use their tools, making it more difficult to break open. Also, if your security device has a keyhole, make sure it faces down toward the ground. This will make it more difficult to pick. Furthermore, take any removable items with you that want to return to, such as lights, saddle bags, water bottles, and even your seat if it isn't incorporated into the lock.
When to Lock Your Bike
Anytime you leave your bike unattended, lock it up. Whether you're just dropping into a shop for something quick, or leaving it in your backyard or shared storage area, it's time to secure your wheels. Even when mounted on a roof/car rack, we still believe locking up is the best way to ensure your bicycle stays where you want it. In general, we don't recommend leaving your bike outside overnight, especially if you live in a metropolitan area. If you can help it, bring it inside to store it during dark hours.
For more insight on proper bicycle security, check out this video from Art's Cyclery on the topic:
To prolong the life of your security device, we recommend regular maintenance. How frequently you do this is largely dependent upon your climate. If you live in a harsh climate with high amounts of rain and snow or an area near saltwater, monthly maintenance may be necessary. In other climates or regions, though, a little lock love every two to three months should suffice.
Focus your cleaning and lubrication efforts on any moving parts and areas where parts attach, such as keyholes, deadbolts, the ends of u-lock shackles, and cylinders. Clean these parts first with a rag, using a spray product like WD40 if there is any visible corrosion or heavy grime. After cleaning, you should apply a lubricant. Dry, Teflon-based lubricants are typically recommended for use on locks. Lubricate as directed on the bottle/box. Make sure to insert your key and turn it several times to spread the lubricant around. Your local bike shop will most likely be able to help you select the right products for cleaning and lubricating. Otherwise, most hardware stores should carry the products you need.
Unlocking the Standard with one of the three keys provided.
Other Types of Security
No bike lock can ensure complete security. However, modern technology has helped develop products to give you a chance at getting your bicycle back. To give yourself greater peace of mind when securing your wheels outside, several companies produce GPS tracking devices to help you find your bike after it's been stolen (or, for when you just can't remember where you parked). Most of these devices attach discretely to your bike, under the seat or even in the steerer tube. They utilize GPS and SIM card technology to link up to an app on a smartphone, allowing you to track the location of your ride with the click of a button. These products tend to be more expensive, with a price tag over $100, and some have additional fees (such as adding credit to the SIM card). Of course, we don't recommend that you chase off after your stolen wheels all alone. Rather, it should be seen as a helpful tool to assist law enforcement in tracking down your bicycle.
The KryptoFlex's 6' length make it easy to secure any and all parts of your bike. The locking mechanism is too big to fit through some saddle stays, but worked on others.
Choosing a bike lock can be overwhelming, yet necessary for most bikers out there. Protection is the top priority for all of us when purchasing this product. Your decision will depend on options varying from whether you are looking for the strongest lock on the market, or you may want a lock that is easy to carry around. We hope our process has helped you choose the best product for your needs. Still undecided? Try our Buying Advice article.
The Editors' Choice winning Kryptonite New York Standard is well-designed and offers super burly security. We're trusting it here to lock up our Litespeed Titanium.