While no bike lock is impenetrable, a top-rated lock can net you a lot of protection. A hard-to-crack bicycle lock might be seen as too much trouble for a thief. And thieves read reviews, too -- chances are they have a good idea which locks are more trouble than they're worth.
If you live in an urban area and need serious security for your bike, the top-rated bicycle lock in reviews is the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock (*Est. $63) . The New York Fahgettaboudit is the performance leader in a test conducted by Men's Journal. Out of three U-locks, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit lasted the longest against power tools, and a professional safecracker couldn't pick it. In tests at Slate.com, Scott Elder writes that it would have taken almost 45 minutes with a hacksaw to crack the 18 mm steel shackle on the New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock; he couldn't say that about any other lock he tested.
The downside is that the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock weighs 4.5 pounds and is smaller than other locks. A few owners comment that its size makes securing anything but the frame difficult and that an additional lock is required (which most experts recommend anyhow) for the wheels. Other reviews praise the small design, saying that it's easier to transport and reasoning that it makes it difficult for a would-be thief to get a tool between it and what it's attached to.
The Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit bicycle lock comes with three keys (one is lighted), and you can register for up to $4,500 of anti-theft protection by sending in copies of your receipt within 15 days of purchase. Many reviewers find this process cumbersome, with some feeling it's practically useless considering you will need to send pieces of the broken lock to Kryptonite as "proof of lock failure." Since many thieves may not leave evidence (like pieces of a broken lock) behind, you may not have the proof required to take advantage of the insurance offer. The company states on its website that they use these broken pieces to determine how the lock was broken and to improve upon the design of their locks.
Kryptonite's New York Lock STD U-lock (*Est. $60) also gets good reviews, and it weighs slightly less at 3.9 pounds. The New York Lock STD U-lock, sometimes referred to as the New York 3000 because of its $3,000 anti-theft protection, has a longer shackle which measures 4 inches by 8 inches on the inside, compared to 3.25 inches by 6 inches for the New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock. As a result, the New York Lock STD can be locked around thicker poles and bike frames than the New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock. This makes the Kryptonite New York STD a favorite for many reviewers who feel that they need more space.
Kryptonite's New York Lock STD gets a perfect 5-star rating from Simon Withers at BikeRadar.com, where he calls it "superb, tough and highly recommended." In their test, two men were unable to pry the shackle off using a leverage bar, but they did manage to cut through the shackle after some serious effort. The New York Lock STD comes with three keys and an EZ Mount bracket for transporting the lock.
Other U-locks also performed well in testing, including the OnGuard Brute STD 5001 (*Est. $70) performing nearly as well as the New York Fahgettaboudit lock in Slate.com's test. Scott Elder says it's the "toughest-looking lock in the bunch and one of the toughest-acting." It gets great marks for security; Elder was unable to saw through the 16.8 mm shackle or dislodge the lock with a hammer, but the transportation bracket doesn't seem sturdy enough for the 4.3-pound lock.
In fact, owners of the OnGuard Brute STD 5001 complain that it easily falls from its mounting attachment, requiring transport in a backpack or basket and that it's heavy. Still, most give it high ratings based on its toughness. Testers for The New York Times like the long shackle, which allows you to lock the frame and rear wheel to a stationary object. However, they also note that the OnGuard Brute STD 5001 is large and difficult to carry. The OnGuard Brute STD 5001 comes with a very high $5,000 one-year theft protection plan, but the plan is not available for customers in the state of New York.
If you don't live in a high-theft area, the OnGuard Pitbull STD 5003 U-lock (Est. $33) will save you some money. However, this bike lock is not as tough as the OnGuard Brute STD 5001 or the Kryptonite New York U-locks – power tools easily cut through the OnGuard Pitbull STD 5003 during Warren Rossiter's test for BikeRadar.com. Still, most thieves don't walk around with power tools, and this U-lock was very resistant to attacks inflicted by hand tools. In fact it holds up just as well as the pricier OnGuard Brute STD 5001 in BikeRadar.com's test. Owners frequently complain, however, about having difficulty with the locking mechanism. A few others have had trouble with it breaking easily, or cracking after less than a year of use. The 3.2-pound OnGuard Pitbull STD 5003 bicycle lock has a 13 mm shackle, and you can register for up to $2,250 in anti-theft protection if you live outside New York State.
We also found good reviews for the similar OnGuard Bulldog DT 5012 (*Est. $35) , another U-lock with a 13 mm shackle (thinner than OnGuard's Brute and Pitbull series) that comes with an additional cable lock. One downside of a U-lock is that while you can fit the lock around your bike frame and rear wheel, your front wheel and bike seat are vulnerable. The OnGuard Bulldog DT 5012 U-lock adds a separate cable lock for securing these components, which gives you some additional security. As with most bike locks it comes with anti-theft protection-- up to $1,500. On BikeRadar.com, Warren Rossiter from Cycling Plus states that "after ﬁve minutes of abuse from our hammer, saw and bolt croppers it was still operating, albeit with a slightly stiffer lock mechanism." Not all owners are pleased with it; the most common complaint is the key gets stuck in the locking mechanism or breaks off. Like all OnGuard locks, the anti-theft program is not available in New York State.
For very small and light U-locks, the OnGuard Bulldog Mini TC 5013TC (*Est. $30) gets good reviews. It's not as tough or durable as OnGuard U-locks in the Pitbull or Brute series, but it's a good choice if you live in a low-crime area and want an easily transportable lock for a low price. The Bulldog Mini TC 5013TC bicycle lock weighs less than 2 pounds, has a 13 mm shackle and measures approximately 3.5 inches by 5.5 inches. It has an anti-theft protection offer of $1,500 (not available in New York), and it comes with five laser-cut keys and a mounting bracket. The OnGuard Bulldog Mini TC 5013TC gets excellent ratings in owner-written reviews compiled by Buzzillions.com and at Amazon.com. Owners praise the value, and say it's easy to carry.
On a negative note, at least two owners mention that the bike lock can rust after being out in the elements. A few more user reviews indicate that keys have broken in the locks and other users suggest occasionally lubricating the locking mechanism to help keys turn smoothly. BikeRadar.com also gives high marks to the OnGuard Bulldog Mini LS 5014TC (*Est. $22) , which is nearly identical except it has a larger interior size of approximately 3.5 inches by 9.5 inches. In its test, the Bulldog Mini LS 5014TC resists hammering and chiseling, but it was cut with power tools. Still, Warren Rossiter says "at this price, the Bulldog is one of the best mini U-locks out there." Based on reviews found, most owners seem to agree.
In addition to U-locks, reviews focus on chain locks. Generally, bicycle chains don't fend off attacks as well as U-locks, and they are heavier and bulkier to carry. However, they look imposing and tough, and experts say that chain locks are a good option for securing several bikes together. While inconvenient to ride with, they work well if you can leave the lock at one destination. Since none of the top-rated chains are particularly convenient to ride with, many reviewers feel that if you're getting a chain for situations where it doesn't need to be carried, it ought to be the toughest.
Chain locks certainly look tough, though many chain locks can be broken with a pair of bolt cutters. Among them, the OnGuard Beast 5016 chain bike lock (*Est. $70) garners the best reviews, even though the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain is a popular choice, The OnGuard Beast is burlier and extremely heavy. At nearly 10 pounds, the OnGuard Beast 5016 chain lock is not one you're likely to want to ride with, but it's good security for home use or to leave someplace you'll be visiting often.
In the Men's Journal test, the OnGuard Beast 5016 receives the only perfect score for security, but it scores pretty poorly for usability because of its weight. Still, it took their tester 25 minutes to break just one of the chain's links with a power tool; even huge cutters borrowed from a nearby firehouse made little progress in breaking this chain. It's also the top-rated bike lock on Buzzillions.com, where owners say it's extremely strong and durable, but again, heavy. Reviews on Amazon.com and REI.com are equally positive, with the same single complaint.
While the 5016 model of this lock is just over 3.5 feet, the OnGuard Beast is available in three different lengths. The longer chains are generally sold to motorcycle owners, but a bike owner with more than one bike to secure or thicker objects to wrap around might consider the 5-foot chain, which is otherwise identical to the shorter one. The OnGuard Beast chain has an advantage over some standard chains in that the links are 6-sided rather than tubular, which makes it harder for thieves with bolt cutters to get a good grip. OnGuard also offers a $5,001 anti-theft protection plan with this lock.
The Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain (*Est. $90) is slightly less burly than the OnGuard Beast chain lock at 3.25 feet long (a 5-foot length is also available), and weighs 8.5 pounds. Kryptonite offers up to $3,500 in anti-theft protection with this bicycle lock. Many reviewers say that it's hard to beat the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit chain lock. Warren Rossiter at BikeRadar.com says "strength-wise, it's simply one of the best." Even with power tools, it took Rossiter's testers nearly two minutes to get through one of the chain's links. In similar tests at Cycling Plus, the New York Fahgettaboudit chain held up for about a minute when attacked with power tools. The majority of reviewers indicate, however, that the heftier OnGuard Beast, which boasts a lower price, is more bang for your buck.
If you like the toughness and flexibility of a chain, but want to spend less than $70, the Kryptonite New York Chain with Evolution series 4-Disc Lock (*Est. $60) is another option. It's cheaper than either the New York Fahgettaboudit or OnGuard Beast locks, and not surprisingly, offers less protection based on thickness of its links. The Kryptonite New York Chain with Evolution series 4-Disc Lock has 10 mm links, secured with a small 14 mm disc lock. Like most Kryptonite bicycle locks, it comes with three keys; it also has up to $3,250 of anti-theft protection and comes in 3.25-foot or 5-foot lengths. Scott Elder at Slate.com gives the Kryptonite New York Chain with Evolution series 4-Disc Lock high marks for security, but he still thinks "it's a load to carry" at just over 6 pounds. Still, a tester for The New York Times thinks the lock is "pick-proof," and New York magazine calls it "nearly indestructible." One owner, however, claims that a thief got away with both his bike and this lock. Like most chain locks, the biggest downside is portability.
In stores, you might see "street cuff" bicycle locks, or O-locks, which are designed like handcuffs. The New York Times' reviewer was skeptical about the Master Lock Street Cuff after finding that the chain linking the two cuffs broke easily, and Wired's tests found them easily destroyed with a hammer. They also get poor ratings on many user-review sites, so this bicycle lock isn't recommended for high-theft areas.