Types of Bike Locks
Chain locks have tough steel links that are typically connected to a small disc lock that requires a key to open. They can be quite heavy, with heavier, thicker chains generally offering better security. Because chain locks can be quite long -- some are 6 feet or more -- they're especially good for keeping multiple bikes safe or securing bikes to larger anchors such as lampposts or benches. But because of their weight, they're probably best suited for keeping a bike safe near home or another place where the lock won't often have to be moved.
There are numerous cable locks on the market, but you won't find many experts who recommend them if you really want to protect your bike from thieves. Cable locks use steel cables attached to a combination lock, key lock or padlock; you simply thread the cable around your bike frame and through both wheels (and around the seat, if you have enough cable). Unfortunately, they can be broken in seconds using a simple tool such as a bolt cutter. Still, they can be a decent secondary option when used in combination with a tougher chain or U-lock. Many riders also love cable locks because they're lightweight and easy to carry, saying they're convenient for warding off an opportunistic thief or for use in very low-crime areas.
In general, experts say u-locks provide the best protection against bike theft. U-locks have a thick steel shackle attached to a crossbar with a keyed lock. Sized properly, they don't leave much space for someone to insert a crowbar or other tool between the bike and anchor, helping minimize leverage that can be used in a theft. They are generally lighter and more portable than chain locks, and their smaller size makes them easy to put in a backpack or mount on your bike frame for travel. However, u-locks aren't large enough to protect your whole bike. Urban bicyclists often use a u-lock to secure the frame and back wheel of their bike to an anchor like a lamppost or bike rack, and use a secondary U-lock, chain lock or cable lock to secure the front wheel.
Finding The Best Bike Locks
"The Best Bike Lock"
"The Best Bike Locks of 2017"
"The Best Bike Lock Review"
There are a lot of good expert tests of bike locks, though many of them
are several years old. Some of the more updated, in-depth tests are from
outlets including TheSweethome.com, SportsIllustrated.com, and
OutdoorGearLab.com. We also considered expert roundups from sites including CyclingWeekly.com,
IceBike.org, and BikeSmarts.com.
To find out how the bike locks these experts recommended hold up under
real-world use, we evaluated hundreds -- sometimes thousands -- of owner
reviews from sites such as Amazon.com, REI.com and PerformanceBike.com. The
result is our recommendations for bike locks with the best combination of security, ease of use and durability.
chain bike locks
If you don't mind paying for a top-notch chain lock -- and you won't
need to tote it around -- reviewers say the (Est. $130) is your best bet. The Sweethome.com's Duncan
Niederlitz says it's "the best chain for the money for high-security
situations," and only two other chain locks took longer to cut through in his
tests – but both cost significantly more money, too.
Make no mistake: the manganese-link
Fahgettaboudit is massive and heavy. The lock is available in 3.25- and 5-foot
lengths. The shorter chain weighs 10.8 pounds, while the longer chain weighs a
whopping 15.25 pounds. Reviewers say it's ideal for securing
a bike at a permanent location like your home where you won't often need to
move the lock, or for securing multiple bikes together. But they're unanimous
on this point: It's not a lightweight lock you'll want to ride with.
The Fahgettaboudit comes with a disc lock that has a 15mm steel shackle
and a hardened double deadbolt. It includes a dust cover to keep the lock
cylinder clear of dust and debris. A nylon cover prevents the chain from
scratching or nicking bikes. Three stainless steel keys are included, and one
has an LED light. However, reviewers warn that this light is flimsy the lock
mechanism isn't the smoothest sometimes. The lock comes with one year of theft
protection up to $5,000, which is generous; however, you'll need to present
proof of the broken lock to be eligible.
If the price or weight of the Fahgettaboudit
is too hefty for you, the (Est. $60) also
offers solid protection at a more reasonable price point, many reviewers say. The
10mm square links are made of reinforced titanium. One of Bicycling.com's "top
performers," the lock resisted bolt cutters and a hacksaw, and even outlasted
an angle grinder. However, note that experts with The Sweethome say OnGuard
locks are vulnerable to picking, though this isn't a complaint we saw
The Mastiff is available in 3.5- and 6-foot
lengths that weigh about 8 and 11 pounds, respectively. Though that makes it
lighter than the Fahgettaboudit, the Mastiff is still more ideal for deterring
thieves in high-crime locations where it won't often have to be moved,
reviewers say. The longer lock is particularly good for securing multiple
The OnGuard Mastiff comes with an integrated
double-bolt lock that has a rubber cover to protect both the lock cylinder from
debris and the bike from scratches. A water- and heat-resistant nylon chain
cover also helps minimize paint damage. Five laser-cut keys are included; one
has a micro light. The lock
comes with a $2,000 one-year theft protection plan that isn't available to
customers in the state of New York. Like Kryptonite, OnGuard requires you to
send in the broken lock to receive coverage.
If you're willing to sacrifice some security
in the name of portability, the wearable (Est. $60) chain lock could be the answer. Its 6mm hardened steel chain isn't
as hefty as the chains on the Fahgettaboudit or the Mastiff, so it might not
foil the most determined bike thieves. Still, many reviewers say it's still
tough enough for all but high-crime areas.
Designed to be worn like a belt, Hiplok Lite
adjusts to fit waists from 26 to 44 inches. It also weighs only 2.2 pounds -- a
far cry from the much heavier Fahgettaboudit and Mastiff. If you're less
concerned with weight and want a portable, wearable lock that might withstand
more than opportunists, the 5.3-pound (Est. $90) has a 10mm hardened steel chain. Some reviewers grouse that Hiplok
Lite, which is about 2 feet long, is a bit too short for anyone who may need to
lock a bike to a lamppost or something other than a bike rack or slender pole.
The disc lock on Hiplok Lite has a 10mm
hardened steel shackle and a molded nylon case that comes with three keys. The
chain has a protective black sleeve to protect bikes from paint damage and make
the lock more comfortable to wear, though as experts at SportsIllustrated.com
note, it may still feel a bit cumbersome for some riders. One version, (Est. $55) has a reflective white sleeve for
The best cable locks
While experts caution that you shouldn't make
a cable lock your bike's sole means of protection, they do recommend them in
combination with heftier locks. Reviewers say the 12mm braided steel (Est. $25) is one easy-to-use cable option that has
a lot of plusses. Remember, however, that top-notch security isn't one of them:
in tests conducted by OutdoorGearLab.com, the cable fell victim to "a variety
of inexpensive household items," such as garden shears. Most owners caution that
this cable lock is just like any other cable lock in that it may work for quick
stops or very low-crime areas, but little else.
Weighing in at just 1.2 pounds, the Akita is
lightweight, but OutdoorGearLab.com's Rylee Sweeney and Ross
Robinson say it's not as easy to
transport as a coiled cable lock that's designed to wrap up into a smaller,
neater package. Still, wrapping the 6-foot cable "isn't too much of a hassle,"
and it's easy to secure with the included Velcro strap. The cable is also easier
to thread through a bike's frame and wheel than a coiled version, they note. If
you just have to have a coiled version, check out the similar (Est. $25).
The Akita comes with a steel ball combination
lock that wasn't easily picked in OutdoorGearLab.com's tests, though as we
noted above, testers with The Sweethome disagree, saying all OnGuard locks may
be at risk of picking. Still, owners say it's easy to set. The rubber-coated
lock head helps prevent paint damage to bikes. If you prefer to forgo the
combination lock, the (Est. $20) comes with an integrated double-bolted key lock and is available
in more lengths.