163

Best Bike Lock of 2021: Strong and Practical

Finding the best lock for your bicycle can be tricky. There’s loads to choose from. And the wrong decision can have disastrous consequences!

The secret to success is choosing a lock that’s both secure enough to protect your bike and easy enough to use on a daily basis.

I'd say that this balance between strength and practicality is essential. And I've been testing bike locks and writing about bicycle security since 2015, so I know what I'm talking about!

With that in mind, I recommend 6 of the best bike locks below, based on their security level and my user tests.

But if none of them seem quite right for you, don’t worry! After these picks I’ll show you the three simple steps that will guarantee you find the perfect bike lock for your needs.

1. Abus Granit X-Plus 540

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

That's because it's very secure and despite being a practical size, (which doesn't limit where or how you lock your bike), it’s still comparatively light.

Abus GRANIT X-Plus 540 best high-security lock

Abus GRANIT X Plus 540

My score:

Check price:

Shackle 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 Diamond & ART 3 Stars

It owes its relative lightness to a 13 mm thick shackle, which is cast in a patented shape from a very strong steel. This makes it as strong as much thicker shackles on much heavier bike locks.

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

It's even the lightest Sold Secure Diamond rated lock, which is a new category reserved for the very strongest bike locks.

Don't get me wrong: it's not lightweight (it weighs about the same as 3.5 cans of Coke). No high security bike locks are. But it's much lighter than the competition!

Abus Granit X-Plus 540: the best all round bike lock

Abus Granit X-Plus 540: the best all round bike lock

Abus locks also tend to have much higher levels of reliability than other brands. This means that jammed mechanisms, failing keys and stuck shackles are almost unheard of in the X Plus 540.

Plus, it comes with a choice of two very robust and reliable frame mounts. Which means carrying it around should be a breeze.

So, if you’re looking for high security bike lock, that doesn't weigh a ton but still gives you plenty of places to lock your bike up. One that's easy to carry around and won't jam up in the cold and the rain...

Then this is a fantastic choice!

For sure: it’s not cheap. And in my full, hands-on review of the Abus Granit X Plus 540 I suggest some great alternatives if it’s not quite right for you.

2. Kryptonite Kryptolok New-U

The Kryptonite Kryptolok New-U is a new version of the famous Kryptolok Series 2, and a great choice if you don’t need the very highest levels of security that bike locks like the Abus Granit X Plus 540 provide.

Kryptonite Kryptolok New-U best mid-security lock

Kryptonite Kryptolok New U

My score:

Check price:

Shackle thickness:

12.7 mm

Weight:

2.9 lb (1.32 kg)

Size (internal):

4 x 9"

(10.2 x 22.9 cm)

Kryptonite rating:

6/10

Other Security Ratings:

Sold Secure Gold & ART 2 Stars

It still gives you a decent level of protection though. And by improving the shackle so that it locks on both sides rather than just one, Kryptolok has lifted it’s security rating from Sold Secure Silver to Gold.

The fact that it keeps it’s 2/5 star rating from ART means it remains a mid-security lock. However, the great thing about the Kryptolok is that it's so painless to use…

It's quite light (weighing about the same as 3.5 cans of Coke). And if you attach the frame mount correctly, it's easy to carry while you're riding around.

Plus the generous size means you won't struggle to find places or ways to secure your bike when you get where you're going!

Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard: best medium security bike lock

Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard: best medium security bike lock

Kryptonite's customer service is undoubtedly the best of all the bike lock brands. This means a whole load of benefits from free keys to reduced price (or even free) lock replacements in some circumstances.

If you want a Kryptonite lock that's more secure, then you should take a look at their Evolution range. But those locks will be heavier or smaller.

However, if your circumstances are lower risk, then the Kryptonite Kryptolok will provide you with an easy to use bike lock and adequate protection for a very reasonable price.

Read my full, hands-on review of the Kryptolok which includes the best alternatives if it’s not right for you. Or compare it to other u-locks.

3. Kryptonite Kryptolok 955 Mini

The Kryptonite Kryptolok Series 2 955 Mini is a short, mid-security chain lock designed for mobile security.

Kryptonite Krptolock Series 2 955 Mini best mid-security chain

KryptoLok Series 2 955 Mini

My score:

Check 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 Gold & ART 2 Stars

When locked, it has slightly less internal space than a standard u-lock. But the difference is: it's flexible, so you'll find loads more places you can lock your bike.

Like all chains, it's much heavier than a u-lock of comparable security (it weighs about the same as 4.5 cans of Coke). But it's still light and short enough to carry wrapped around your seat post or thrown in a bag.

And when it comes to actually locking your bike up, the integrated locking mechanism makes the whole process that much smoother than the separate padlock you get with most other chains.

With 9 mm links, it’s not the most secure bike lock, but it is rated Sold Secure Gold and it offers far more protection than any cable lock.

Kryptonite Kryptolok 955 Mini: best medium security chain lock

Kryptonite Kryptolok 955 Mini: best medium security chain lock

Just keep it as far from the ground as possible, so it's safe from bolt cutters. I recommend you wrap it around your seat stays, as in the photo above.

Or you could even secure it around your top tube and then use other methods to protect your wheels.

So, if you're looking for something that's easy to carry and prefer the extra locking options of a chain lock, as long as your circumstances aren't high risk, this is a cheap and reliable option.

Read my hands-on review of the Kryptonite Kryptolok Series 2 955 Mini. And if you're not sure this is the right one for you, I’ve written a lot more about chain locks.

4. Hiplok Gold Chain

Unlike other bike chain locks, the Hiplok Gold is strong enough to use in high risk circumstances whilst also remaining truly portable.

Hiplok Gold Chain Lock

Hiplok Gold

My score:

Check price:

Chain thickness:

10 mm

Weight:

4.85 lb (2.2 kg)

Length:

33.5" (85 cm)

Other Security Ratings:

Sold Secure Gold

That's not because it's somehow lighter than other chain locks. It's not! At 4.85 lb (2.2 kg), like all chains it's pretty heavy. That's around the same weight as 5.5 cans of Coke.

But Hiplok chains are unique because you can wear them around your waist like a belt! This makes them much easier to carry than normal chain locks, which you generally have to wrap around your seat post.

Carrying them round your seat post is fine for shorter, thinner (and less secure) chains. But when they get longer or thicker it can be a bit of a pain. Or sometimes they just won't fit at all!

Wearing the Hiplok as a belt distributes the weight and bulk around your body so that it's much more manageable.

Hiplok Gold: strongest bike chain lock

Hiplok Gold: strongest bike chain lock

With the Hiplok Gold, you get a generous 85 cm locking circumference which will give you loads more locking opportunities than any u-lock and many other chains.

And the belt system will fit waists from 28 - 44". So it can accommodate the vast majority of body sizes.

In terms of security, the hardened steel 10 mm chain links and 12 mm shackle make it a pretty tough customer and this is reflected in the Sold Secure Gold rating.

However, I still recommend you keep it away from the ground by wrapping it around your seat stays (like the photo above) or even around the top tube. This will keep it safe from bolt cutters.

And if you need a little bit more security, check out my previous choice the New York Noose 1275. With 12 mm chain links it's more secure but it's just not as portable as the Hiplok Gold.

For more details, read my full, hands-on review of the Hiplok Gold chain. You can also compare it to other chain locks.

5. Foldylock Compact

The Foldylock Compact is the lightest folding lock that still offers a reasonable level of protection. What’s more, it’s also the most usable folding lock I’ve ever tested!

Foldylock Compact

Foldylock Compact

My score:

Check price:

Plate thickness:

5 mm

Weight:

2.2 lb (1 kg)

Length:

33" (85 cm)

Foldylock rating:

14/18

Other Security Ratings:

Sold Secure Silver

The Foldylock Compact is 33″ (85 cm) long, which means it has around the same amount of internal locking space as a standard sized u-lock.

But because it’s flexible, it should actually give you loads more options when you’re looking for somewhere to lock your bike.

And in fact, at 2.2 lb (1 kg), it doesn't weigh much more than 2.5 cans of Coke. The only Sold Secure Silver bike locks that are lighter than the Foldylock are mini u-locks!

Foldylock Compact: lightest folding lock

Foldylock Compact: lightest folding bike lock

Compared to the Abus Bordo 6000 which is it's nearest rival, the Foldylock Compact is lighter and easier to use...

It’s easier to unlock, easier to unfold, easier to get around your bike and comes with a better frame mount. Plus it’s cheaper!

So, if your circumstances are lower risk and you’re looking for a compact and lightweight alternative to a u-lock, this is a great choice.

Read my hands on review of the Foldylock Compact where I also suggest some alternatives if it's not the right bike lock for you. Or check out more of the best lightweight bike locks.

6. Abus Bordo Granit 6500

The Abus Bordo GRANIT 6500 is the highest security folding lock currently available. In fact, it's the only high security folding lock currently available!

Abus Bordo Granit X-Plus 6500 folding lock

Abus Bordo GRANIT X Plus 6500

My score:

Check price:

Plate 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 & ART 2 Stars

At 5.5 mm, it's folding steel plates are just a fraction thicker than those of the 6000 (it's smaller brother).

But this bike lock is significantly more secure, with a Gold rating from Sold Secure and 2/5 stars from ART.

It’s 33.5" (85 cm) long, which should give you loads of places to lock your bike. And at 3.48 lb (1.58 kg), it’s heavy, but not too heavy for daily use. That's slightly heavier than 4 cans of Coke.

Abus Bordo 6500: strongest folding bike lock

Abus Bordo 6500: strongest folding bike lock

Sure, it’s heavier and less secure than the Abus Granit X Plus 540 230! But it’s much lighter than any Sold Secure Gold chain lock.

And the beauty of folding locks isn't just the extra locking options that their flexibility gives you.

They're also the easiest bike locks to carry, in a case that screws into your water bottle holster. Which means you won't notice the weight at all!

So if your circumstances are high risk 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 [Amazon].

Read my full, hands-on review of the 6500 or compare it to other folding locks.

How to choose a bike lock

How to choose the right bike lock for you

If none of my top 6 picks seem quite right for you, don’t worry! If you keep reading, I'll guide you through 3 simple steps that guarantee you’ll find the perfect lock for both you and your bicycle.

As I’ve already said, the best bike locks won’t just protect your bike. They'll also be easy for you to use on a daily basis.

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 the next 3 steps it’s actually pretty simple:

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

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 to choose the right size lock for the type of bike you ride and how you like to secure it.

Ready? OK, let’s get going!

Step 1: Choose the right level of security

The ultimate job of any lock is to prevent the theft of your bike. So the first and most important step is to work out what level of protection you’ll need.

And it’s not simply a case of picking the strongest lock. Because with bike locks, extra strength means greater weight or smaller size. Or usually, both!

Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini

Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini: very strong, but also very small and very heavy

So if you choose a lock that isn’t secure enough, your bike will obviously be stolen pretty quickly.

But if you choose a bike that’s more secure than your circumstances require, the extra weight or limited size of that lock will make it much less practical, for no good reason. So you might use it less, or wrongly, or even not at all! And then your bike gets stolen!

So it’s important that you match the strength of your lock to your actual risk level. The easiest way to do that is to answer the 3 questions in this quiz...

If you’ve just completed the quiz, then you'll have been recommended a Sold Secure Silver, Gold or Diamond rated bike lock.

And you may now be thinking “who or what are Sold Secure???”!

Who are Sold Secure?

Sold Secure are an independent organisation that tests and rates bike locks and other security products according to the levels of protection they provide.

Sold Secure bike ratings

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

Bike locks are rated Bronze (least secure), Silver, Gold or Diamond (most secure), depending on how long they can withstand an attack in the Sold Secure workshop...

  • Diamond locks: "provide the highest level of security ... aimed at very high value bicycles and e-bikes."
  • Gold locks: "offer the next highest level of security, aimed at mid-to-high value bicycles."
  • Silver locks: "offer a compromise between security and cost."
  • Bronze locks: "typically offer defence against the opportunist thief."

Why should we trust Sold Secure?

Sold Secure test and rate more bike locks than anyone else. They use standardized tools, and methods that are informed by what real thieves are using in the street. This includes both brute force and picking techniques.

They maintain close relationships with both the police and insurance companies to keep their methods up to date. And the locks must be resubmitted for testing every year, or they lose their rating.

The Sold Secure Lab

Inside the Sold Secure workshop

Most insurance companies require you to use a Sold Secure rated lock before they’ll insure you, (with the level of cover dependent on which rating your lock has). If you don’t use a Sold Secure rated lock, they won’t cover you.

All this means that we should trust the Sold Secure ratings. They know whet they're doing!

However, there are other ways to measure the strength of bike locks and we should at least consider these too…

Other Independent Testers

Sold Secure are not the only independent organisation that tests and rates bike locks. In Holland, ART provide the same service. They rate locks from 1 to 5 (with 5 being the strongest), according to how well they endure attack.

ART Security Ratings

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

ART employ both machine tests (tensile strength, torsion strength, cutting, corrosion, dust and freeze tests), and tests by engineers (brute and intelligent attack tests) to produce their ratings:

  • 1 star is minimum security (“take away security”)
  • 2 stars for bicycles
  • 3 stars for mopeds and mopeds
  • 4 stars for motorcycles (on the road)
  • 5 stars for motorcycles (parked at home)

Sold Secure vs ART

ART test and rate far fewer locks than Sold Secure and their classification is narrower. However, we can use their ratings in conjunction with Sold Secure to get a more granular idea of a lock’s security.

For example, if two locks both have a Sold Secure Gold rating, but one's been awarded 2/5 stars from ART while the has 3/5 stars from ART, then the second lock is obviously the most secure.

This is actually a really common situation, and is useful way to filter locks further by security.

Online Tests (are a bit rubbish)

There are tons of different cycling and product review websites which publish articles describing how they attacked a few bike locks with different tools, in order to tell you which one is the best.

Lock testing tools

Tools used to test bike locks

They make entertaining reading. But there are a few reasons to be wary of these articles...

They don’t test many locks. They don’t use standardised tools or methods. And without inside info, they don't necessarily attack the locks in the same way a thief would. So it’s difficult to be sure of the results.

Plus they tend to largely ignore, issues around practicality such as how easy the locks are to carry and use, which are really important, because there is no "one size fits all" solution.

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

And there are so many recommendations, on high profile websites, that are clearly wrong, that I just don’t trust them!

Lock Brand Ratings (are confusing)

All the top brands have created their own rating systems to help us compare the different security levels of their own locks.

Different lock brand security ratings

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

And while these are useful for choosing a lock from that one manufacturer, because the rating systems all different, they’re no good when you want to compare different brands.

How I use the Sold Secure Ratings

So the bottom line is this: establish your risk level by answering the questions in the quiz above. If you’re “high risk” you’ll need a Gold or Diamond rated lock. If you’re “lower risk”, you’ll probably be OK with a Silver rated lock.

If your risk level is:

High Risk

Lower Risk

Your lock security rating should be:

Sold Secure Gold and Diamond
Sold Secure Silver

I don’t recommend Sold Secure Bronze locks for any circumstances because they offer very little practical protection.

You might be OK with a Bronze rated lock in a really low risk area, but I don’t feel comfortable recommending locks that can be so easily defeated.

And there’s such a huge variety of locks at different sizes, weights and prices, that you should be able to find one that’s rated Sold Secure Silver or better, that suits your specific circumstances.

Step 2: Choose the right type of bike 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. Or one that’s difficult to carry, complicated to secure or that 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:

U-lock

1. U-locks

Chain lock

2. Chain locks

Folding lock

3. Folding locks

Kryptonite Cable lock

4. Cable locks

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 in the chart above, 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. So please...

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

U-locks (also known as a D-locks) are like giant padlocks that fasten around our bikes and whatever we're trying to secure them to.

Abus U-mini 40

U-locks: pros and cons

  • Cheaper than chain locks
  • Lighter than chain locks
  • More secure than folding locks
  • Difficult to carry
  • Won't go around bigger objects

Good u-locks provide a nice balance between price, practicality and security. They're generally cheaper, lighter and a little bit easier to use than chain locks, while still providing a high level of protection.

Because of their rigidity they can be more challenging to carry than chain locks. And their limited size and shape 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, then I would recommend you get a u-lock.

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

However, there are a number of things you should think about carefully before you buy a u-lock, including which size you'll need and how you’re going to carry it around.

The two u-locks I recommend at the top of this page are standard size. This means they're big enough to fit around a whole load of objects and are therefore suitable for almost everyone, no matter what type of bike they ride and where they lock it!

That's why I recommend them.

However, there are other sizes of u-lock and smaller sizes are increasingly popular. So let's have a quick look at one of the best...

Kryptonite New-U Evolution Mini-7

The Evolution Mini-7 is the Wirecutter's best lock recommendation and it is a fantastic lock. But it won't be suitable for everyone...

Kryptonite New-U Evolution Mini-7

Kryptonite New-U Evolution Mini-7

My score:

Check price:

Shackle thickness:

13 mm

Weight:

3.55 lb (1.61 kg)

Size (internal):

3.25 x 7"

(8.3 x 17.8 cm)

Kryptonite rating:

7/10

Other Security Ratings:

Sold Secure Gold & ART 2 Stars

There's a lot to like about the Mini-7. The 13 mm shackle is cast from Kryptonite's strongest "max performance" steel and it locks into the crossbar on both sides.

This makes it more resistant to both cutting and leverage attacks. And it's reflected in the Gold rating from Sold Secure.

It also comes with a cable which you can use to protect the wheel that the u-lock doesn't secure. And a decent enough frame mount (if you install it correctly).

It's much more secure than the Kryptonite Kryptolok. And it's lighter than the Granit X-Plus 540 and many other Gold rated locks (it weighs less than 3 cans of Coke without the cable).

Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7

Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7: it won't be for everyone

But there's a couple of things you need to remember before you rush out and buy it...

Firstly, although it's Sold Secure Gold, it was only giver 2/5 from ART. This puts it at the lower end of the Gold scale. Don't get me wrong: it's still a very secure lock. It's just not up there with the very best.

Secondly, it's a mini u-lock. This makes it significantly narrower than a standard u-lock, which means you're pretty much limited to using it at bike racks. And depending on your bike, you may not be able to lock your bike in the way you want to...

For example if you have fatter wheels and/or a thicker frame, you may not be able to get this lock around your wheel, your frame and the rack.

However, if you're prepared to be flexible and change your locking technique you should be able to use this lock to properly secure any type of bike on a rack.

Now I love this lock. It works really well for my circumstances. But the fact that it restricts you to bike racks makes it difficult to recommend unequivocally as a lock that works for everyone else.

Read my full review of the Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7.

Chain locks

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

Chain locks: pros and cons

  • Easier to carry 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

These are easy to carry wrapped around your seat post or thrown in a bag. And their length and flexibility mean you can lock your bike to a wide range of different objects.

However these chains will generally be no more than 12 mm thick and are not as secure as good u-locks. Plus they're still much heavier.

Stationary Chains

A super thick, core hardened steel chain with a heavy, top quality padlock 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 / £40 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.

The two chains I recommend at the top of this page will work as portable security. So let's have a quick look at the best stationary chain lock...

The Strongest Static Chain Lock: Kryptonite New York Legend 1515

Pragmasis probably make the strongest chain locks. But they're not available worldwide. So the Kryptonite New York Legend Chain 1515 is the most secure bike chain that is!

Kryptonite New York Legend 1515 best high-security chain

New York Legend 1515

My score:

Check 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.

It's been awarded 5/5 from ART. Which is pretty unique! And with two lengths available (5' and 3') it can be used with just one or multiple bikes.

So if you're looking for the ultimate security for your bike shed or other bike storage solution, then this is a fantastic, albeit pricey choice.

I've written a full review of the New York Legend Chain 1515. And I also compare it to other chain locks too.

Folding Locks

Folding locks are made up of a series of metal plates linked together by rivets. They're fold down into a tight package for carrying and then unfold out to make a flexible shape that fastens around your bike.

Abus Bordo 5700 folding lock

Chain locks: pros and cons

  • Easiest to carry
  • Fasten around more objects than u-locks
  • Quite light
  • Limited choice
  • Doubts over durability

They're generally lighter than u-locks that offer similar levels of security. And their length and flexibility give you 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 them 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.

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: pros and cons

  • Long
  • Light
  • Cheap
  • Practical
  • Your bike will be stolen

They’re light, flexible and generally cheap. However, this flexibility means that they’re 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!

Some people recommend cable locks as a secondary lock to secure your wheels or saddle. However there are much better ways to secure your wheels and saddle and I really wouldn’t recommend any cable locks in any circumstances!

Innovative Locks

There is one other type of bike lock. And these locks tend to be born in the minds of maverick individuals and initially funded through the pages of crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter.

Innovative locks: pros and cons

  • Address known issues with other types of lock
  • Use new technology
  • Expensive
  • Largely untested

Unfortunately many of them have neglected to prove their security credentials (which should really be a priority if you’re trying to sell us a new form of security) and have consequently not been tested and rated by Sold Secure or ART.

However, there are some that have been tested and rated very highly by third parties. So here’s a couple of the best, which I’ve also tested and reviewed myself…

Lightest Mid-Security Lock: TiGr Mini

The TiGr mini is something completely different. It’s made from a single strip of titanium, shaped into a bow and secured with a clever steel cylinder.

TiGr mini: Lightest mid-security bike lock

TiGr Mini

My score:

Check price:

Plate width:

1.25" (32 mm)

Plate thickness:

0.125" (3.2 mm)

Weight:

0.9 lb (0.4 kg)

Size (internal):

4 x 7"

(10 x 18 cm)

Other Security Ratings:

ART 2 Stars

It’s an incredibly elegant design, which uses the natural flexibility of titanium to produce a single piece of metal that’s able to spring open and then close around your bike.

It’s also probably the best looking bike lock I’ve ever seen!

ART have awarded it 2/5 stars. Which would usually make it a Sold Secure Silver standard lock at the very least.

It’s not cheap. But at 0.9 lb (0.4 kg), it’s 50% lighter than the next lightest lock offering similar levels of protection!

And the frame mount attaches in the same way as your water bottle cradle, so it’s really easy to carry too.

The TiGr Mini is not a lock for super high risk circumstances. But if weight and pure elegance is a priority, then it's a great choice for a lower risk area. Read my hands-on review of the TiGr mini.

Lightest High-Security Lock: Litelok

The Litelok looks (and works) like a big belt. The strap is made from an advanced kind of cabling they call “Boaflexicore” which is both very strong and very light. And the plastic covered buckle is held together by a 9 mm bolt.

Litelok: lightest high-security lock

Litelok Gold

My score:

Check price:

Weight:

2.47 lb (1.12 kg)

Length:

29" (74 cm)

Width:

2.5" (6.5 cm)

Keys:

3

Other Security Ratings:

ART 2 Stars

It's rated Sold Secure Gold. And since the Litelok weighs just 2.5 lb (1115 g), this makes it one of the lightest high security locks currently available.

At 29″ (74 cm) in length, the Litelok actually gives you more internal space than a standard sized u-lock. So you’ll be able to lock your bike in places where you might otherwise struggle even with a normal u-lock!

There are actually two versions of the Litelok: the shorter, straight one which I tested, and a circular one that's available in three longer lengths, which can be worn around the waist like a belt.

I recommend you go for the wearable version as it’s not only much easier to carry around, the circular shape also makes it easier to get around your bike too.

Liteloks aren’t cheap. But they’re a great choice if you want a lightweight lock but are not prepared to sacrifice either security or locking options when you’re out and about. Read my full review of the Litelok.

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...

Portable Security

If you’re looking for a lock to carry around with you every day, then a u-lock is generally the best choice.

Since they are usually lighter, cheaper and more secure than portable chains, they provide the nicest balance between security, practicality and price.

Kryptonite Evolution Standard

U-locks are generally the best choice for portable security

Of course, there could be good reasons to choose a chain over a u-lock. Maybe you need the greater locking options that a chain offers. Or maybe you don’t like the frame mounts that come with u-locks.

But in most cases, u-locks are the best option for portable security.

Stationary Security

If 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 very highest level of security for your bike.

High security chains are the best choice for stationary security at home or work.

They're more difficult to attack with power tools, impossible to bolt crop (when 16 mm or more), 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!

What about Folding Locks?

Just like u-locks, folding locks are best suited to mobile security. And they address two of the main problems with u-locks: their rigid shape and how difficult they can be to carry around on your bike.

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

Folding locks: more expensive and not as secure but more portable than u-locks

However high security folding locks aren't as secure as high security u-locks. And they’re more expensive too. Plus, since only Abus, Seatylock and Trelock make decent quality folding locks, you’re choice is very limited!

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 bike lock brand

So, by now you should know what level of security you 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.

Abus vs Kryptonite vs OnGuard

I cover this 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 OnGuard vs Kryptonite

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

Kryptonite also produce high quality locks. Not quite to the standard of Abus, but 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 a slightly poorer reputation for both quality and customer service. However, in recent years they've significantly improved the build quality of their locks. And they beat both Abus and Kryptonite in terms of price (OnGuard locks are always the cheapest!).

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!

Other good bike lock brands

While the big three are the best known, there are actually plenty of other lock brands that are worthy of your consideration.

Seatylock make great folding locks. Their Foldylock is one of the only folding locks with a Sold Secure Silver rating (most languish on Bronze). And their locks are actually easier to use than their rivals from Abus.

Litelok make locks that are incredibly lightweight considering their large locking circumference and their level of security. You can wear most of them round your waist so they’re easy to carry too.

The Hiplok attached to my belt

The Hiplok attached to my belt

Hiplok are another brand that focuses on wearable bike locks. Whether it’s chains that you fasten around your waist or u-locks that you clip onto your belt, they take the stress out of carrying your lock around.

TiGr make elegant locks out of titanium. And Squire make really good quality padlocks and some beefy chains.

Making the Final Decision

If you’ve followed my three simple steps, you should now have a good idea of the security level, lock type and brand that best suits your circumstances.

If none of my 6 recommendations are for you, then I suggest you browse one of the complete lists of Sold Secure Silver, Gold or Diamond bike locks, according to your risk level, comparing the sizes, weights and prices until you find the perfect match!

How much money should I spend?

It's just like anything else: the more money you spend, the better quality lock you get. But what does quality mean here?

What a good quality lock gives you first and foremost is reliability. And this is super important when it comes to bike locks.

You don't want a lock with a key that suddenly stops working, a mechanism that gets jammed or a shackle that gets stuck. Locks that stop working properly can cause all sorts of problems...

Cheap u-lock

Cheap u-locks can be secure but are often unreliable: check the reviews

If it stops working while it's secured around your bike, your bike becomes unusable until the lock is somehow removed (which can be a nightmare). If it stops working before you secure your bike, your bike may be stolen.

These problems are less likely to occur if you buy a better quality lock.

But what about price and security? It's true: there are some cheap, high security locks. And there are plenty of expensive low security locks too!

But in general, high security locks cost more. And reliable, high security locks always cost more!

How much money should I spend?

Spend as much as you can afford: it will be cheaper in the long run

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 probably asking for trouble.

I recommend you spend as much as you can. This will give you the best reliability and security 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 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 frustrating that you have to spend so much money to protect your stuff. But a cheap lock is a false economy...

Because when your lock gets stuck to your bike, you'll have to pay someone to cut it off and pay for a new lock. Or when your bike is stolen, you’ll 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!

Frequently Asked Questions

In this final section I’m going to address some of the most common questions I get asked about bike locks. I wanted to keep this information out of the main article so it doesn’t get too bloated.

But it’s worth reading and may help you make a choice...

Do bike thieves use lock picking techniques?

Not really, no. The vast majority of bike thieves wouldn't know how to pick even the most basic locks. And they don’t need to, because most basic bike locks are so easy to defeat with brute force!

For sure, a few bike thieves will have some knowledge and may be carrying basic lock raking tools. But it’s such a tiny percentage, and their skills will usually be so limited, that it’s not worth worrying about if you have a half decent lock.

Celebrity lock pickers like Bosnian Bill and the Lock Picking Lawyer are highly skilled experts who use specialised, bespoke toolsets. And they film in laboratory conditions. So just because they can open a lock in seconds, it doesn’t mean anyone else can.

Yes, in the video below, the Lock Picking Lawyer opens up my top pick in a minute and a half. But listen to what he says: "it has enough pick resistance to use in the street". That's because no-one in the street has the tools or the skills that he has!

However, it is worth knowing about the different types of lock mechanisms when you’re choosing a bike lock. And there are four widely used types: disc detainer, slider, pin tumbler and wafer.

Disc detainer mechanisms were pioneered by Abloy but are increasingly used in high quality bike locks such as Abus and Kryptonite, as they’re hard wearing and generally quite difficult to pick.

Slider mechanisms are usually characterised by keys that have straight edges with internal teeth. Increasingly used by budget locks like OnGuard and Zefal, depending how they’re implemented, they may be easier or harder to pick.

Finally, pin tumbler and wafer mechanisms are generally the least secure because they’re more susceptible to raking attacks which don’t require much skill. Wafer mechanisms are particularly easy to open and are best avoided.

What’s the strongest bike lock?

I’ve written a whole article about the strongest bike locks. The important thing to remember is that as bike locks get stronger, they also get heavier or smaller. Often they get heavier and smaller.

Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini

Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini is the strongest bike lock 

So while the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit is undoubtedly the strongest portable bike lock you can buy, that doesn’t mean it’s the best lock for you. Especially if your risk level doesn’t warrant that level of security.

What’s the lightest bike lock?

I’ve also written a whole article about the lightest bike locks! The thing with lightweight locks is that they tend to be either insecure or small! Or very expensive. And “lightweight” can be quite subjective when it comes to bike locks!

Kryptonite Evolution LITE Mini-6

Kryptonite Evolution LITE Mini-6: weighs less than 2 cans of Coke

Since you’re obviously not going to buy an insecure lock, make sure you carefully compare the weight, size and price of any lock claiming to be lightweight to make sure the trade-offs work for you.

How can I protect my bike wheels and seat?

Most bike locks will protect your frame and one wheel (usually the rear wheel as it’s the most expensive to replace). But what about the other wheel? And what about your seat? If they’re attached with quick release levers, you need to take action.

Hexlox wheel skewer

Hexlox are one way to protect your wheels

Again, I’ve written a long article about the best ways to secure your bike wheels and seat. It considers extra locks, cable lassos, security skewers, hex bolt blockers and plenty of great DIY methods too!

What’s the best way to lock my bike?

There’s no point buying the best bike lock if you don’t use it properly! So I’ve also written a pretty exhaustive article on how to lock a bike. If possible you should read this before you make a final decision on a lock.

There are several perfectly secure ways to lock a bike (and many insecure methods too)

There are secure locking methods that you probably didn't know existed or thought weren't valid ways to keep your bike safe.

Knowing all the appropriate techniques could help you choose a more user friendly lock as there may be valid locking methods that allow you to use a smaller and lighter model!

This page contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase. You will not pay any extra. More details here.


More Good Stuff:

Sold Secure Gold Bike Locks

Sold Secure Gold Bike Locks: The List

Win a Free Bike!

Win a Free Bike!

How to lock your bike

How to lock you bike (properly)

Last Updated on August 8, 2021 by Carl Ellis

Carl Ellis
Latest posts by Carl Ellis (see all)
Share:

Comments are closed