How to choose the best bike lock in 2016

Abus GRANIT X-Plus 540: the best bike lock for you?Finding the best bike lock for your bicycle can be difficult.

There’s lots to choose from. And the wrong decision can have disastrous consequences!

But if you keep reading, I will guide you through 3 simple steps to guarantee you find the perfect lock for both you and your bicycle.

Because the best bike lock won’t just protect your bike. It should also be easy for you to use on a daily basis.

Of course your individual circumstances are very important here. They include how expensive your bike is, where and how you use it, and how much money you can afford to spend.

And that’s a lot to think about! But if we work through these 3 steps it’s actually pretty straightforward:

  1. Choose the right level of security
  2. Choose the right type of lock
  3. Choose the right lock brand.

So in Step 1 we’ll work out what level of security you need and I’ll explain how to find locks that will give you the right amount of protection.

In Step 2 I’ll introduce the various different types of bike locks and show you how to choose one that suits your individual needs.

And in Step 3 I’ll explain how each of the lock brands offers something different so you’re able to choose the right one for you.

Now this is a long post, so I’ve added a table of contents to help you find your way through it. And I’ve also included a summary of the specific actions you should take at the start of each step.

Ready? OK, let’s get going!

Step 1: Choose the right level of security

The ultimate job of any lock is to stop your bike from being stolen. (Yeah OK, that’s pretty obvious right?!) So the first and most important step is to think about what level of protection you’ll need.

How can I know what strength lock I need?

There’s a whole load of factors that affect this. But answering the questions in the table below should give you a pretty good idea…

QuestionsHigh RiskLower Risk
Where do you live?Big town, city or university campusSmall town or village
Does your bike attract second looks?YesNo
How long do you leave your bike unattended?More than 1 hourLess than 1 hour

If two or more of your answers put you in the “High Risk” column, then you need a lock that will give you a higher level of protection.

While if two or more answers are in the “Lower Risk” column, you might be able to get away with a lower security lock.

How can I know how strong a lock is?

OK, so you’ve got a good idea what level of protection you need. But how can you know which locks will provide that protection? In short, how can you judge how secure a lock actually is?

The first thing to remember is that no bike lock is unbreakable. If a thief really wants to steal your bike, with the right tools and enough time, he can and he will. A bike lock just buys you time. And the better the lock, the more time you get.

Generally speaking, the thicker a lock is, the better it will resist the various tools a thief might use to attack it. For instance, top of their list of favorite tools are bolt cutters.

Bolt cutters vs Bike lock
Bike thieves love bolt cutters!

Chain links and U-lock shackles with diameters of less then 13 mm can be cut with medium sized bolt cutters which many bike thieves will use.

Locks with diameters between 13 and 15 mm can only be cropped by the very biggest bolt cutters. But there are thieves that use these tools too.

But at 16 mm thickness, chain links and U-lock shackles become impossible to cut with any manual bolt cutters.

Bike locks vs Bolt cutters

U-lock / Chain thicknessCan be cut by bolt cutters?
< 13 mmYes (medium size)
13 - 15 mmYes (only biggest 36 and 42")
16 mm and aboveNo

However, unfortunately it’s a bit more complicated than this. The type of steel, the shape and size of the lock, the locking mechanism and the overall build quality will all affect how strong a lock is.

And of course thieves don’t only use bolt cutters. Different tools will try to exploit weaknesses in locks that may be difficult for you to see.

So wouldn’t it be useful, if there were experts that could tell us how secure different locks are? Well, luckily there are:

  1. Online tests
  2. Lock brands themselves
  3. Independent security testers

Online tests are a bit rubbish!

There are tons of different cycling and review websites testing lots of different locks, in order to tell you which ones are the best.

Lock testing tools
Tools used to test bike locks

But they always test small samples and they all use different tools in different ways. So it’s difficult to compare the results. What’s more, they’re not necessarily attacking the locks in the same way a thief would.

In fact, beyond “all cable locks are rubbish” and “an angle grinder will cut through anything eventually” the conclusions they draw are neither certain nor particularly useful.

And there are actually some pretty dodgy recommendations made on some very high profile websites. So generally, I don’t trust them.

Lock brand ratings are confusing!

All the good brands provide their own rating systems for grading the security of their locks and these are useful for choosing a lock from that one manufacturer.

Different lock brand security ratings
Kryptonite, OnGuard and Abus all use different security ratings. Confused?

But they’re all very different so they’re no use if you want to compare locks from different brands.

Independent security ratings are best!

Luckily, there are also independent, third party experts that use standardized methods to test and then rate a wide range of different locks according to their security.

Sold Secure from the UK provide a Gold, Silver or Bronze rating based on how long a lock can withstand an attack. And of all the testers, they rate by far the biggest number of locks.

Sold Secure Ratings
Sold Secure rate locks from Gold to Bronze depending on how long they take to defeat.

They use a huge variety of tools and methods in their tests including screwdrivers, junior hacksaws, pliers, stilsons, steel tubes, ball-peign hammers, HSS hacksaws, punch sets, club hammers, TCT hacksaws, freezing agents, cold chisels, 24″ wrecking bars, scissor jacks, slide hammers and lock picking tools.

I’m not actually sure what some of those tools are to be honest!

And they also have close links with the police and insurers which means they get up to date information on the techniques used by thieves and can test the locks accordingly.

ART from Holland are the other big tester and they offer a 1-5 rating (5 being the strongest) based on a whole variety of tests performed by both machines (tensile strength, torsion strength, cutting, corrosion, dust and freeze tests) and by test engineers (brute and intelligent attack tests).

ART Security Ratings
ART use a 1-5 star system and are more strict but rate less locks than Sold Secure

Neither of these groups rate all the available locks and there has recently been criticism of some of their techniques. However, I think they remain the best comparative measure of security when choosing a lock.

What’s more, in the UK at least, most insurance companies will require that your bike is secured with a lock that is rated by Sold Secure and the level of cover you receive will depend whether the lock has a Bronze, Silver or Gold rating. If you don’t use a lock that is rated by Sold Secure, they won’t cover you.

So, considering this and the numbers of locks they test, as a general rule, I recommend that you use the Sold Secure ratings to judge how secure a lock is.

If you are “High Risk” according to the table above, choose a Sold Secure Gold lock. If you are “Lower Risk”, choose a Sold Secure Silver lock.

I don’t recommend locks that are Sold Secure Bronze under any circumstances. Sure, if you live in a very low risk area, you might be able to get away with a Bronze rated lock. But they provide very little real protection. And I don’t feel comfortable recommending locks to you that are so easy to defeat.

And really, there’s such a huge range of different types of locks at different weights and prices, you should be able to find one that’s rated Sold Secure Silver or better that will suit your needs.

So, the bottom line is:

If your risk level is:High RiskLower Risk
Your lock security rating should be:Sold Secure GoldSold Secure Silver

It’s worth noting that in order to receive a rating from Sold Secure, a lock must be submitted by the manufacturer. And since they don’t submit every lock, there are some that would be worthy of a Silver or Gold rating that aren’t currently rated.

This is where the in-house rating comes in handy. For example, if one OnGuard lock has a Sold Secure Silver rating and a 63/100 OnGuard rating, you can be pretty confident that all their locks with 63/100 are Sold Secure Silver standard.

Of course this is no use if your insurance policy specifies locks that have a Sold Secure rating. But if you don’t take out insurance, it’s a useful way to find a Sold Secure Silver or Gold standard lock even if it doesn’t have an official rating.

Step 2: Choose the right type of lock

This is almost as important as Step 1. Because the type of lock you choose will determine how easy it is to use. If it’s difficult, you’ll stop using it. And that’s when your bike will be stolen!

So it’s important you don’t choose a lock that’s too heavy or too small, that’s difficult to carry, complicated to secure or severely limits the places you’re able to lock your bike.

Obviously this will depend on your individual circumstances. But if we look at the advantages and disadvantages of each type of lock it should quickly become clear which is the best one for you.

There are four, well established types of bike lock to choose from:

1. U-locks2. Chain locks3. Folding locks4. Cable locks
Abus U-mini 40kryptonite-new-york-chainAbus Bordo 5700 folding lockKryptonite Cable lock

And each of these locks offers a compromise between three fundamental qualities:

  1. Price
  2. Practicality
  3. Security

The important qualities of bike locks

The main thing to notice here is that while U-locks, chain locks and folding locks all offer a reasonable balance of price, practicality and security, cable locks don’t. Yes, they might be cheap and they might be easy to use but they offer very little security…

Do not buy a cable lock!

But to work out which one of the others is best for your needs, let’s look at each one in more detail…

U-locks / D-locks

A U-lock (also known as a D-lock) is like a giant padlock that fastens around your bike.

Abus U-mini 40

U-locks: The pros and cons
Pros:Cons:

  • cheaper than chain locks

  • lighter than chain locks


  • complicated to transport

  • won't fasten around bigger objects

Good U-Locks provide a nice balance between price, practicality and security. They are generally cheaper, lighter and a bit easier to use than chain locks, while still offering a high level of protection.

Because of their rigidity they can be more challenging to transport than chain locks. And their limited size means you’ll find less things you can secure your bike to. However, in general, if you’re only going to buy one bike lock, these are the locks I would recommend.

They range in price from around $30 / £18 for a decent budget lock, up to $100 / £60 for the most secure models, so you should be able to find one to suit your wallet.

However, there are a number of things you need to think about carefully when buying a U-lock, including which size and thickness you need and how you’re going to carry it around.

I have selected and reviewed three of my favourite U-locks for you below. But you can also read lot’s more about the best U-locks here. Or compare the locks in a big table of the most popular U-locks here.

The best budget U-lock

The Kryptonite Kryptolok Series 2 is a brilliant budget lock. It’s a practical size and weight and offers mid-level (Sold Secure Silver) security for a very reasonable price.
Kryptonite Kryptolok Series 2 with cable best budget lock

Kryptonite Kryptolok Series 2 Summary
Overall Score:4 Stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Bar Thickness:13 mm
Weight:2.85 lb (1.29 kg)
Size (internal):4 x 9" (10.2 x 22.9 cm)
Kryptonite Rating:6/10
Other Security Ratings:Sold Secure Silver

It won’t provide you with the very highest level of protection, but the 13 mm shackle should withstand all but the biggest bolt cutters. It’s very easy to use, comes with a reasonable frame mount and benefits from Kryptonite’s outstanding after sales service.

So if you’re “Lower Risk” according to the table further up the page, this could well be the best lock for you!

You can read a full review of the Kryptolok which includes the best alternatives should it not be right for you. You can also compare it to other budget U-locks here.

The most secure U-lock

The New York Fahgettaboudit Mini is quite simply the most secure (Sold Secure Gold) portable bike lock available today.
Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini

New York Fahgettaboudit Mini Summary
Overall Score:4 Stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Bar Thickness:18 mm
Weight:4.55 lb (2.06 kg)
Size (internal):3.25 x 6" (8.3 x 15.3 cm)
Kryptonite Rating:10/10
Other Security Ratings:Sold Secure GoldSold Secure Motorcycle GoldART 4 Stars

It’s small. It’s heavy. And it doesn’t come with a frame mount. But the 18 mm shackle means this lock cannot be defeated by hand tools. Even power tools will take a good long while to get through this lock!

So if all three of your answers were in the “High Risk” category in the table further up the page and you’re looking for the very highest level of protection, this could well be the best bike lock for you.

It’s not for everyone though. You can read my full review of the New York Fahgettaboudit Mini here, including several alternatives if it’s not right for you. And you can also see how it compares to other mini U-locks here.

The best all-round bike lock

For me, the Abus Granit X Plus 540 is probably the best all round bike lock, of any type available today.
Abus GRANIT X-Plus 540

Abus GRANIT X Plus 540 Summary
Overall Score:5 Stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Bar Thickness:13 mm
Weight:3.20 lb (1.45 kg)
Size (internal):4.25 x 9" (10.8 x 23 cm)
Abus Rating:15/15
Other Security
Ratings:
Sold Secure Gold ART 3 Stars

It provides a very high level of security (Sold Secure Gold) and despite being a decent, practical size, it’s still comparatively light. The 13 mm shackle is cast in a patented parabolic square shape from a special type of steel that’s as strong as the much thicker shackles on much heavier locks.

In fact, the Granit X Plus 540 is the lightest, high security, standard sized U-lock available at the moment.

So if you’re “High Risk” according to the table up the page and looking for a light weight lock without sacrificing either practicality or security, this could be the best lock for you.

It’s not cheap but you can read a full review of the Abus Granit X Plus 540 here that includes some alternatives if it’s not quite right for you. You can also see how it compares to other standard size U-locks here.

Chain locks

Chain locks usually consist of a long metal chain (covered by a sleeve to protect your paintwork) and a big lock.

Kryptonite New York Chain

Chain locks: The pros and cons
Pros:Cons:

  • easier to transport than U-locks

  • fasten around more objects than U-locks


  • very heavy

  • expensive

We can divide chain locks into two broad groups:

  1. those that are light enough to be portable (< 12 mm)
  2. those that are so heavy they are best as stationary security (> 12 mm).

Portable chains are easy to transport wrapped around your seat post and their relative length means you can secure your bike to a wide range of objects. However these chains will generally be no more than 12 mm thick and are not as secure as good U-locks. And they are still much heavier than U-locks.

A super thick, core hardened steel chain with a heavy, top quality lock is perhaps the most secure way to lock your bike. However these chains are so heavy and cumbersome, that they generally work best as a second, stationary lock which you leave wherever your bike is regularly secured for long periods of time.

Chain locks range in price from around $45 / £26 for a short, budget model up to $500 / £200 for the thickest, heaviest monsters. So they’re also a bit more expensive than U-locks.

As with U-locks you should think carefully about what size and thickness you need and how you will carry it about if you need a portable chain.

I have selected and reviewed three great chain locks for you to look at below. And you can read more about the best chain locks here. Or compare the locks in a table of the most popular chain locks here.

The best budget chain lock

The Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 955 Mini is a short, cheap chain and is relatively light and easy to carry wrapped around your seat post.
Kryptonite Krptolock Series 2 955 Mini

KryptoLok Series 2 955 Mini Summary
Overall Score:3 Stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Chain thickness:9 mm
Weight:3.90 lb (1.77 kg)
Length:21.5”" (55 cm)
Kryptonite Rating:6/10
Other Security Ratings:Sold Secure Silver

With 9 mm links, it’s not the most secure bike lock (Sold Secure Silver), but it offers far more protection than any cable lock.

So if you’re “Lower Risk” according to the table at the top of the page and looking for something practical and reasonably priced to protect a cheaper bike, this could be the best bike lock for you.

You can see how it compares to other budget bike chains here.

The most secure portable chain lock

The Kryptonite New York Noose 1275 is great because the noose system almost doubles the usable length of the chain.
Kryptonite New York Noose 1275

New York Noose 1275 Summary
Overall Score:4 Stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Chain thickness:12 mm
Weight:6.95 lb (3.15 kg)
Length:30" (75 cm)
Kryptonite Rating:9/10
Other Security Ratings:Sold Secure GoldART 4 Stars

This means it can be quite short which is important since the 12 mm links put this chain at the top limit of what is practical to carry around daily.

However, these 12mm hardened steel links alos make it very secure for a portable chain lock (Sold Secure Gold).

So if you’re “High Risk” in the table in Step 1, and looking for a high security, portable chain that you can use every day, this could be the best lock for you.

You can read my full review of the New York Noose 1275 here which includes a couple of alternatives if it’s not quite the right lock for you.

You can also check how it measures up to other 12 mm chains here.

The strongest static chain lock

Really, Pragmasis and Almax make the strongest chain locks available today. But since they are not easily available worldwide, the Kryptonite New York Legend Chain 1515 is probably the most secure bike chain that is.
Kryptonite New York Legend 1515

New York Legend 1515 Summary
Overall Score:4-half-stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Chain thickness:15 mm
Weight:15.95 lb (7.23 kg)
Length:60" (150 cm)
Kryptonite Rating:10/10
Other Security Ratings:ART 5 Stars

With 15 mm links it’s certainly not portable. This is a lock that stays wherever you lock your bike all day or overnight.

But if you’re “High Risk” and looking for the most secure chain from a recognizable brand, this may be the best bike lock for you.

Read my full review of the New York Legend Chain 1515 here where I also compare it to the alternatives. You can also see how it compares to other heavy duty bike chains here.

Folding Locks

Folding locks are made up of a series of metal plates linked together by rivets. The rivets allow the plates to rotate so they can be folded into a tight package and then folded out to make a stiff shape that you can fasten around your bike.

Abus Bordo 5700 folding lock

Folding locks: The pros and cons
Pros:Cons:

  • very easy to transport

  • practical length


  • limited choice

  • doubts over durability

Folding locks are generally a little bit lighter than U-locks that offer similar levels of security. And their length and flexibility mean that you’ll usually have more options than you’d get with a standard sized U-lock when you’re looking for somewhere to lock your bike.

But the best thing about these locks is the way they fold down to make a very compact package that’s super easy to transport. The carrying holster can either velcro around your frame or even better, screw into your bottle holder holes.

Abus Bordo attached to bike frame
Folding locks are really compact and easy to transport!

And because it’s so compact it won’t work loose, swing about or generally interfere with your ride in the way that U-locks sometimes do.

I don’t think they’re as easy to use as a U-lock or chain: unfolding them and then getting them around your bike and the object you’re securing it to can sometimes be a bit of a pain.

And because of their comparatively complex build, I have some doubts about how well they’ll continue to perform after a thief has tried (and failed) to defeat them.

But if you’re fed up of under performing U-lock frame mounts, folding locks are a fantastic alternative.

Abus invented these locks although some of the other lock manufacturers are also now offering them, their quality is very dodgy. For this reason, I only recommend the Abus folding locks.

I have selected two for you below, one for lower risk ad one for high risk cyclists.

The Mid-Security Folding Lock

The Abus Bordo 6000 is a made up of a series of 5 mm folding steel plates and has been awarded a Sold Secure Silver security rating.

Abus Bordo 6000 folding lock

Abus Bordo 6000 Summary
Overall Score:3 Stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Plate thickness:5 mm
Weight:2.27 lb (1.03 kg)
Length:29”.5" (75 cm)
Abus Rating:10/15
Other Security Ratings:Sold Secure Silver

It’s available in two lengths: 29”.5″ (75 cm) and 35.5″ (90 cm), both of which will give you loads more options than a standard sized U-lock when you’re looking for somewhere to lock your bike.

It’s also lighter than most other Sold Secure Silver U-locks, with the 75 cm one weighing 2.27 lb (1.03 kg) and the 90 cm one weighing 2.76 lb (1.25 kg).

There are quite a few mini U- that are lighter than the Bordo 6000. But the Abus GRANIT Plus 640 150 and 230 are the only reasonably sized U-locks that offer a similar level of protection while also being lighter.

So, if you’re “Lower Risk” in the table at the top of the page and you’re looking for a compact and lightweight alternative to a U-lock, this could be a good look for you. You can see how it compares to other folding locks here.

The High-Security Folding Lock

The Abus Bordo GRANIT 6500 is the stronger, heavier brother of the 6000. The folding steel plates are just a fraction thicker at 5.5 mm. But it’s significantly more secure with a Gold award from Sold Secure and 2/5 stars from ART.

Abus Bordo Granit X-Plus 6500 folding lock

Abus Bordo GRANIT X Plus 6500 Summary
Overall Score:4 Stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Panel thickness:5.5 mm
Weight:3.48 lb (1.58 kg)
Length:33.5”" (85 cm)
Abus Rating:15/15
Other Security Ratings:Sold Secure Gold

It’s 33.5”” (85 cm), which again should give you loads of options when you’re looking for somewhere to lock your bike. And at 3.48 lb (1.58 kg) it’s heavy, but not too heavy.

Sure, it’s heavier and less secure than the Abus GRANIT X Plus 540 230 which I think is the best all-round bike lock available today. But it’s much lighter than any Sold Secure Gold chain lock.

So if you’re “High Risk” according to the table further up the page, and you need more locking options than a U-lock can give you but don’t want to lug around a massive heavy chain, the Abus Bordo GRANIT 6500 could be a very good choice. See how it compares to other folding locks here.

Cable locks (are rubbish!)

Cable locks are normally made up of many strands of long, thin steel, braided together inside a plastic tube.

Kryptonite cable lock

Cable locks: The pros and cons
Pros:Cons:

  • long
  • light
  • cheap


  • your bike is not safe!

They are light, flexible and generally cheap. However, this flexibility means that they are also soft and almost all cable locks can be cut with a pair of hand held cable or bolt cutters in a matter of seconds.
And since the one tool that every every bike thief carries is a pair of cable cutters, cable locks offer very little practical security.

Bike thieves specifically target these locks and in fact, some reports suggest than 90% of all stolen bikes were secured with cable locks.

So by not buying a cable lock you are already massively reducing the chances of your bike being stolen!

You can now buy armoured cable locks which protect the cable by surrounding it with a series of articulated steel barrels. These do offer a higher level of security than regular cable locks.

But they are much less flexible and are often as heavy and expensive as chain locks. And what’s more, they are still not as secure as a good U-lock or chain lock.

The Abus Steel-O-Flex 1025 for example, is probably the best armoured cable lock available today. But it weighs 4.3 lb (1.9 Kg), is really expensive and there are numerous reports of it being cut.

Some people recommend cable locks as a supplementary lock to secure your wheels or saddle. However there are much better ways to secure your wheels and saddle and I really would not recommend any cable locks in any circumstances.

In fact, we can find all the advantages of cable locks in other, much more secure locks. Admittedly not all at once, but at least these other locks will protect your bike!

To illustrate this I have selected three locks below that compete well with cable locks in terms of weight, length and price. The first is a great lightweight U-lock. The second is a lengthy, but not too heavy chain. And the third is a small, lightweight and super cheap U-lock.

The lightweight alternative

The great thing about the Kryptonite Messenger Mini is that it’s small and very light, while still remaining reasonably secure.

Kryptonite Messenger Mini

 

Kryptonite Messenger Mini Summary
Overall Score:4-half-stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Bar Thickness:11 mm
Weight:1.83 lb (0.83 kg)
Size (internal):3.75 x 6.5"” (9.5 x 16.5 cm)
Kryptonite Rating:7/10

Although the shackle is just 11 mm thick, it’s made from a special “Max Performance” steel which makes it as strong as Kryptonites other 13 mm shackle U-locks.

And this thin shackle means it weighs just 1.83 lb (0.83 kg) which is about the same as two cans of coke.

While Sold Secure have not yet rated it, Kryptonite give it a 7/10 which is the same rating as it’s highly regarded (Sold Secure Silver) Evolution range of U-locks.

It’s not actually the lightest Sold Secure Silver standard U-lock available. The lightest is the Kryptonite Evolution LITE Mini-6, but the Messenger is slightly bigger making it a bit more practical.

So, if you’re a “Lower Risk” according to the table in Step 1, and attracted to cable locks because they’re so light, then maybe this mini U-lock could be the lock you’re looking for!

You check out how it compares to other small, light U-locks here.

The practical alternative

The Abus Iven Chain 8210 85 is the closest you can get to a cable lock in terms of form and function while still offering a reasonable level of security.

Abus Iven chain 8210 85

Abus Iven Chain 8210 85 Summary
Overall Score:3-half-stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Chain thickness:8 mm
Weight:4.26 lb (1.934 kg)
Length:33.0”" (85 cm)
Abus Rating:10/15
Other Security Ratings:Sold Secure SilverART 2 Stars

It’s 33.0”” (85 cm) long which will give you loads of options when you’re looking for somewhere to lock your bike.

And while at 4.26 lb (1.934 kg) it’s not super light (that’s about the same as 5 cans of coke), it’s still one of the lightest Sold Secure Silver chain locks available. (The other being the Hiplok v1.50). You can see how it compares to other chain locks here.

So, if you’re “Lower Risk” in the table at the top of the page and attracted to cable locks by their practical length, maybe this chain lock will suit your needs while also actually protecting your bike!

The cheap alternative

Finally, the Bulldog Mini from OnGuard is small, light and incredibly cheap!

OnGuard Bulldog Mini

 

OnGuard Bulldog Mini Summary
Overall Score:3-half-stars
Check Price:Check Amazon Price
Bar Thickness:13 mm
Weight:2.15 lb (0.98 kg)
Size (internal):3.55 x 5.52" (9 x 14 cm)
OnGuard Rating:63/100

It is essentially a smaller version of the OnGuard Bulldog DT which is one of the best standard sized budget bike locks around.

While Sold Secure haven’t tested the Mini, it’s bigger brother gets a very respectable Silver rating and since it has the same 63/100 in house rating from OnGuard, it’s safe to assume it offers the same level of protection.

And what’s great about these Bulldog locks is the price. Usually less than $30 / £20 it offers good protection at an exceptional price.

So, if you’re “Lower Risk” and attracted to the low prices of cable locks, you’ve got no excuse: the OnGuard Bulldog Mini is also really cheap, but will protect you bike much, much better.

Check out how it fares against other mini U-locks here.

U-locks vs Chain locks vs Folding locks

So if we all agree that cable locks are rubbish, how do we choose between a U-lock a chain lock and a folding lock?

U-lock vs Chain lock vs Folding lock

I talk about the pros and cons of U-locks and chains in much more detail in the U-lock vs chain lock page.

But to summarize here: if you’re looking for a lock that you can carry around with you every day, then a U-lock is generally the better choice. U-locks provide the nicest balance between security, practicality and price. So they are usually lighter, cheaper and more secure than portable chains.

Of course, there may be good reasons to choose a chain over a U-lock. For instance, maybe you need the greater locking options that a long chain offers. Or maybe you don’t like the frame mounts that come with U-locks and prefer the ease of wrapping a chain round your seat post. But in most cases, U-locks are the best option for portable security.

If on the other hand you’re looking for a lock that stays in one place, at home or at work, then a big, heavy chain is the better choice. A thick chain with a strong lock provides the highest possible level of security for your bike.

They are more difficult to attack with power tools, impossible to bolt crop and immune to bottle jack attacks. You can secure multiple bikes with one chain. And they also work well with good ground anchors. Just don’t try to take them with you when you nip to the shops!

But what about folding locks? Just like U-locks, folding locks are best suited to mobile security. And they address two of the main problems that we can face with U-locks: their limited size and how difficult they can be to carry around on your bike.

Because they are longer and more flexible you will find more places you can lock you bike up. And because they are so compact when folded up, they are much easier to transport. They also compete well with U-locks in terms of weight.

Since only Abus make decent quality folding locks you’re very limited in your choice. But if you have specific needs that U-locks don’t meet then consider a folding lock before a chain lock.

Step 3: Choose the right lock brand

So, by now you should know what level of security you’re going to need and have a good idea which type of lock is most appropriate. The final step is to decide which lock brand suits you best.

There are obviously many, many bike lock brands. But the big three are Abus, Kryptonite and OnGuard. And not only do these three generally provide the best quality, I think that between them they also cover most peoples needs.

To give some of the others honorable mentions, Squire make some good quality locks. I like the U-locks from Hiplok. And I’m looking forward to the forthcoming LiteLok.

However, here I’m going to concentrate on the big three: Abus, Kryptonite and OnGuard.

Abus vs Kryptonite vs OnGuard

I look at the three brands in much more detail in the Abus vs Kryptonite vs OnGuard page (which includes a very detailed review of the different “Anti-theft Protection” schemes). But I’ll also provide a quick summary here.

Abus vs Kryptonite vs OnGuard

Abus produce the best quality locks. They are well made, endlessly tested, very reliable (even in poor weather conditions) and will last a long time. They also have the best strength to weight ratio. However, they’re the most expensive of the three brands.

Kryptonite also produce high quality locks. While not quite up to the standard of Abus, they make up for this with exceptional customer service. This includes free key and lock replacement in certain circumstances and the best of the anti-theft protection schemes.

OnGuard have had a slightly poorer reputation for both quality and particularly customer service. However, in recent years they have significantly improved the build quality of their locks. And they beat both Abus and Kryptonite in terms of price. OnGuard locks are nearly always the cheapest of any locks at the same level of security.

So if you want the very best quality go for Abus, if your looking for the best price go for OnGuard and if your looking for the best customer service go for Kryptonite!

The best bike lock: A summary

OK, this is a very long guide. A quick summary might be useful. Follow this simple 3 step process to find the best bike lock for your circumstances:

Step #1: Choose the right level of security

The best way to judge the security level of a lock is to look for a Sold Secure rating. Sold Secure award locks Gold, Silver or Bronze ratings, based on how long they take to defeat.

How do you know which rating you need? Just answer the questions in the table below.

QuestionsHigh RiskLower Risk
Where do you live?Big town, city or university campusSmall town or village
Does your bike attract second looks?YesNo
How long do you leave your bike unattended?More than 1 hourLess than 1 hour
Your lock security rating should be:Sold Secure GoldSold Secure Silver

If two or more answers put you in the “High Risk” column you should probably look for a lock that’s Sold Secure Gold or equivalent.

If two or more answers put you in the “Lower Risk” column then you can probably get away with a lock that’s Sold Secure Silver or equivalent.

Step #2: Choose the right type of lock

There are four main types of bike lock:

1. U-locks2. Chain locks3. Folding locks4. Cable locks
Abus U-mini 40kryptonite-new-york-chainAbus Bordo 5700 folding lockKryptonite Cable lock

Cable locks are utter rubbish. Whatever you do, don’t buy a cable lock, it won’t protect your bike! One last time:

Do not buy a cable lock!

If you’re looking for a portable lock that you’ll carry around on your bike every day, you’re probably best off with a U-lock or a folding lock.

U-locks offer a great balance of price, practicality and security. And there’s a huge variety of sizes, weights, security levels and prices and to choose from, so you’ll nearly always find one that meets your requirements.

However, in some circumstances, the limited size and rigid shape of U-locks can make it difficult to find places to lock your bike. And the frame mounts that come with U-locks are often frustrating to use.

In these cases, a folding lock is a good alternative. The extra length and flexibility will give you more options when you’re looking for somewhere to secure your bike.

And because they fold up to such a compact size, they’re easy to attach to your frame and don’t interfere with your ride. They’re also much lighter than chains!

However, since Abus are the only company making decent folding locks you’re pretty much limited to the two locks I review above!

If you don’t think U-locks or folding locks will meet your needs, then a portable chain could be the answer. But be aware, chains that offer a decent level of security are much heavier than U-locks or folding locks.

However, if you’re just looking for a stationary lock to keep wherever you leave your bike for long periods of time, then a thick chain is the best choice.

Not only are the very thickest chains the most secure way to protect your bike, they also work better with ground anchors in shed and garages.

Step #3: Choose the right lock brand

There are so many lock brands to choose from these days. And a lot of the locks are of both poor build quality and low security.

To keep it simple, I like to stick to the big three: Abus, Kryptonite and OnGuard. And I honestly think that between them, they can provide something for everyone.

If you want the very highest quality then go for Abus. Just be aware that you’ll pay a little bit more.

If you’re on a tight budget, then OnGuard locks are usually the most competitively priced. Just bear in mind that their customer service is not always so hot!

And If you want the very best customer service go for Kryptonite. The quality is not quite as high as Abus and the prices are not quite as low as OnGuard but the after sales service is second to none.

Making the final decision

If you’ve followed the three simple steps you should now be well equipped to choose the best lock for both you and your bicycle. But in case you’re still not sure…

If you’re thinking that a U-lock is the way to go, but you’re not sure about sizes, check out this guide. Once you’ve got a better idea which is appropriate, you can compare loads of different U-locks in this table.

If you’re leaning towards a folding lock, then it’s probably just a case of choosing between the different Abus models above.

And if you’re thinking a chain lock is the best option, then I have a more detailed guide here and a huge comparison table here.

How much money should I spend on a bike lock?

It’s the same as anything else really. Generally, the more money you spend, the better quality the lock and the more difficult your bike will be to steal.

How much money should I spend?

Many lock brands suggest spending 10% of the value of your bike on your lock. But if you have a $200 bike and you only spend $20 on the lock, you’re asking for trouble.

So I recommend you spend as much as you can. This will give you the best protection you can afford. And it will also give you the peace of mind that you’ve done the best you can to protect your bike.

And don’t forget a good bike lock can last many years and many bikes. Maybe you’ve got a cheap bike now but if you upgrade to a better bike in a couple of years, you wont need to shell out again for a better lock as well!

I know that buying a bike lock is not very exciting. And it’s galling that you have to spend so much money to protect your stuff. But a cheap lock is a false economy. Because when you bike is stolen, you will have to buy a new bike and a new, better lock.

I learned the hard way, but surely it’s better to get it right first time!

Do I need more than one lock?

Possibly. In most cases one lock is only going to secure the frame and one wheel. What about the other wheel? What about your seat? Ideally, these should be secured too.

There are a number of options for securing wheels and seats. However, a second lock will provide the highest level of protection for the other wheel and depending on how you use it, further protection for the frame.

There’s also an argument that having a second lock that’s a different type to the first will further deter a thief because they would need to carry two different types of lock breaking equipment.

Whether you decide you need two locks or not will depend on how high you judge the risk in your area. But you can find out more about using two locks to protect your bike here.

What next?

Once you’ve bought a lock, don’t forget to look after it! Clean it with WD-40 and lubricate it with TriFlow or Finish Line every few months, and it will last many years and maybe many bikes too!

But if it does get stuck, check out my guide to fixing a jammed lock here.

And, please check out the rest of the site…

I have tips on how to prevent your wheels and seat being stolen including both DIY techniques and secure skewer reviews.

I have the ultimate guide on how to lock your bike properly, where I talk about street, work and home security as well as recommending some good ground anchors.

And let me know what you think of the site. What do you think of the locks I recommend? What locks do you currently use? Do you have any tips or tricks I haven’t mentioned? Let me know below…

 

19 thoughts on “How to choose the best bike lock in 2016

  • March 7, 2016 at 4:11 pm
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    This was so helpful! Thank you.

    I’ve now ordered an abus bike lock. You made it much easier to decide what I needed.

    Reply
    • March 7, 2016 at 10:03 pm
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      Great stuff Gina! It’s hard to go wrong with an Abus…

      Reply
  • March 14, 2016 at 8:52 pm
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    Thanks for the clarification! It’s difficult to decide if you have no experience with bike locks.

    Just bought two different Abus locks . The bordo Granit 6500 and the Granit X plus 540/30.

    And thinking of getting a theft insurance as well.

    Reply
    • March 15, 2016 at 6:01 pm
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      Great choices Marcel! They’re both very tough locks. Theft insurance is also a very good idea. I’ll be covering insurance in a further update.

      Reply
  • March 22, 2016 at 12:57 am
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    Seriously GREAT info here. Thanks for all the outstanding research, and guidance! I can now put down the bottle of Excedrin… and pick up a bottle of AleSmith X. Cheers to you, Carl!

    Reply
  • March 24, 2016 at 2:02 pm
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    Hello! What are your thoughts about the Illumilock U Lock? It seems like a very handy idea but not sure in terms of security?

    Reply
    • March 25, 2016 at 10:02 am
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      Hi Fran

      I think it’s a really nice idea! But I’m very dubious about the security level (and durability) this lock offers. Especially at such a cheap price. My advice: go for a more traditional U-lock from a reputable brand and separate lights.

      I hope that’s helpful.

      Carl

      Reply
  • April 7, 2016 at 8:04 am
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    Why no mention of “armored” cable locks such as the onguard rotweiler series? I own the 8024 25mm by 4 feet. This lock feels very strong with the hardened steel. Im thinking this must be as strong, if not stronger than the whimpy 9mm chain locks you mention on this page.

    Reply
    • April 7, 2016 at 9:41 am
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      Hi Brad,

      These “armored cable locks” might look and feel very strong, but beneath the outer shell there’s a very weak cable.

      And getting past the armored links isn’t that difficult as they move about leaving slight gaps that can be exploited. In fact, I think they can be bolt cropped pretty easily.

      All the OnGuard Rottweiler locks are Sold Secure Bronze. And to me, this indicates they don’t offer enough protection.

      Sorry.

      Reply
  • April 11, 2016 at 12:34 pm
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    Hi, thanks for a great guide, really helpful!

    Do you have any experience with the Knog Strongman? It also have a Sold Secure Gold rating, weights just above 1 kg, and is cheaper than the Abus Granit X 540..seems like a good choice?

    Christoffer

    Reply
    • April 11, 2016 at 8:10 pm
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      Hi Christoffer,

      No I haven’t had any experience of the Knog. It looks good though. As you say: Sold Secure Gold. And 3/5 from ART which is also very impressive. There seems to be some concerns about the weather proofing though. I’ll check it out and try to write something about it in the coming weeks.

      Thanks!

      Reply
      • April 29, 2016 at 2:52 am
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        i would also be interested to hear your thoughts on this lock

        Reply
  • April 23, 2016 at 7:58 am
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    Hi Carl,

    I’m trying to choose between a Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 and an Abus Granit 460 – the longer version of either. The Evolution has a higher Sold Secure rating, however I’m wondering about the holder for either one… does the holder last and is it not wobbly? Thankful for any tips.

    Best,
    Paul

    Reply
    • April 23, 2016 at 9:54 am
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      Hi Paul,

      I’ve used both the Transit FlexFrame-U holder that comes with the Kryptonite and the USH holder that comes with the Abus. Personally I found the Abus holder to be much better. It’s more robust and the lock actually locks into it. So as result everything is more stable.

      They’re two very different locks though. The Abus is only Sold Secure Bronze so I wouldn’t recommend it at all. If you don’t mind me asking, why are choosing between a Gold and a Bronze rated lock?

      Thanks,
      Carl

      Reply
      • April 23, 2016 at 4:57 pm
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        I’m worried that whichever lock I get, the holder is eventually going to end up failing, and that perhaps the holder by itself is not easily replaceable. Perhaps I worry too much!

        Reply
        • April 23, 2016 at 5:03 pm
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          You can buy both holders separately.

          Reply
      • April 24, 2016 at 1:49 pm
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        I was looking at those two because here in Hungary, the Long Shackle models are priced similarly in certain webshops. I think I will try the Kryptonite and see how the holder fares.

        Reply
        • April 24, 2016 at 6:15 pm
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          Ahh OK, well the Kryptonite is certainly the better lock of the two!

          Reply

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