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.
Usability is something that’s often overlooked when it comes to testing and reviewing bike locks.
But 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 (including a quick quiz to determine your risk level), that will guarantee you find the perfect bike lock for your needs.
1. Litelok X1
The best all round bike lock in 2023 is the Litelok X1. Why? Because the Litelok X1 is one of the only bike locks that offers any kind of protection against thieves wielding cordless angle grinders!
Angle grinder attacks have become depressingly common in recent years, and in some towns and cities it feels like they’re the most common method of stealing the bikes that aren’t secured with flimsy cable locks.
Up until now, no bike lock could withstand more than a minute against an angle grinder. So locks like the Litelok X1 and the Hiplok D1000, which can resist such attacks, are very much needed.
So what makes the Litelok X1 different?
The Litelok X1 looks and works just like a regular u-lock. It’s slightly shorter than a standard size u-lock, but the difference is less than 2 cm, so this won’t make a practical difference when you’re using it.
The big difference to a regular lock is that the Litelok X1 has a ceramic composite material fused onto its 16 mm shackle. And this material will wear down angle grinder discs as they’re cutting through the lock.
3.7 lb (1.7 kg)
3.97 x 7.7"
Other Security Ratings:
In my tests, it took more than 4 times as long to cut through one side of the Litelok X1, as it did the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit, which was (until the launch of the X1 and D1000), the most secure bike lock on the market.
And in my first test, all the discs I had, actually wore out before I could cut through the other side of the Litelok X1! So I didn't manage to defeat it at all.
And it's not just me that was impressed by the Litelok X1's performance. Apart from the Hiplok D1000 and the upcoming Litelok X3, it's the only bike lock awarded a Sold Secure Motorcycle Diamond rating!
Is it perfect? No. My Litelok X1 was initially tricky to lock (although this was quickly fixed with an easy DIY hack). And it’s not as secure as the Hiplok D1000, which took nearly 2.5 times as long to cut once in my tests.
So why isn’t the Hiplok D1000 my top pick this year? Well, it’s a great lock. And it’s undoubtedly the strongest bike lock on the market at the moment.
But it’s eye-wateringly expensive. It’s also a lot heaver than the Litelok X1, it doesn’t come with a frame mount for easy transport, and it’s significantly smaller, which means it may not be suitable for many cyclists.
The Litelok just feels like it has a better balance between security, usability and price. See my comparison of the Litelok X1 vs Hiplok D1000 for more details.
For me, the practical size, clever frame mount, and competitive price (it's only slightly more expensive than the Abus Granit X Plus 540 and almost half the price of the Hiplok D1000!), means the Litelok X1 will be the sensible choice for most cyclists looking for an angle grinder resistant bike lock.
For more details, read my full Litelok X1 review (which includes a video of an angle grinder attack comparison with the Fahgettaboudit).
2. Kryptonite Kryptolok New-U
Not everyone needs an angle grinder resistant bike lock! And I urge you again: take my quick 3 question quiz to determine your risk level and help you decide whether you do need one, or not!
And for those that don’t, the Kryptonite Kryptolok New-U (which is an upgraded version of the famous Kryptolok Series 2), is a great, inexpensive alternative.
By improving the shackle so that it locks on both sides rather than just one, Kryptolok has lifted its Sold Secure rating from Silver to Gold. However, the fact that it keeps it’s 2/5 star rating from ART means it remains very much a mid-security lock.
The great thing about the Kryptolok though, 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 New U
2.9 lb (1.32 kg)
4 x 9"
(10.2 x 22.9 cm)
Other Security Ratings:
To be honest, I do prefer the keyhole covers you get with OnGuard locks, which seem to lessen disc misalignment. But that’s a small complaint (and the OnGuard mechanisms are less secure anyway).
And 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. And they still won’t stand up to an angle grinder attack.
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.
3. Foldylock Compact
Folding locks are an increasingly popular alternative to traditional bike locks, and provide more flexibility than a u-lock and better portability than a chain. However, choice is more limited, and most of them are simply not secure enough to recommend.
However, there are some that are worth looking at...
The Foldylock Compact is the lightest folding lock that still offers a reasonable level of protection (Sold Secure Silver). What’s more, it’s also the easiest folding lock to use, of all those I’ve tested!
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.
At 2.2 lb (1 kg), it doesn't weigh much more than 2.5 cans of Coke. And if you want even lighter, there is a slightly shorter (75 cm) version, that is also available with a belt clip, so you don’t have to bother with a frame mount at all!
2.2 lb (1 kg)
33" (85 cm)
Other Security Ratings:
Compared to the Abus Bordo 6000 which was its nearest rival (until the Abus lost its Sold Secure Silver rating), 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! [Amazon]
So, if your circumstances are lower risk and you’re looking for a compact, flexible and lightweight alternative to a u-lock, this is a great choice.
4. Foldylock Forever
Foldylock also offer a high security folding lock called the Foldylock Forever, which is basically a beefed up, heavy-duty version of their standard folding locks (the Classic, Compact, Mini etc)
Measuring 35.4" (90 cm), it’s slightly longer than the Foldylock Compact, and that will give you loads of locking opportunities (in the photo above it easily fits around a traffic light, which would be impossible with a u-lock).
But more significantly, the arms are 6.5 mm thick (as opposed 5 mm thick on their standard folding locks). And the extra 1.5 mm helps give it a Sold Secure Gold rating (rather than Silver).
This extra thickness is complimented by a patented rivet protection feature to deter an attack by nut splitters. Although this type of attack is unlikely in the street, it is a known weakness of locks like the Abus Bordo 6500.
All in all, this probably makes the Foldylock Forever the most secure folding lock currently available. Read my full, hands on Foldylock Forever review.
3.88 lb (1.76 kg)
35.4" (90 cm)
Other Security Ratings:
The high security level comes at a cost in weight, though. At 3.88 lb (1.76 kg), it’s a heavy lock, weighing slightly more than 4.5 cans of Coke. And as it’s just heavier than the Abus Bordo 6500, it’s the heaviest of the folding locks.
However, like the Classic, it beats the Abus in terms of usability. It’s easier to unlock, smoother to unfold and refold, you get a bit more internal locking space, and although I’ve read some reviews that suggest that the lock sits either too tightly or too loosely in the mount, I found neither…
In fact, just like the Classic, the Forever slides in an out of the plastic mount very smoothly but sits very snugly and safely while in there.
Moreover, although it’s not cheap, if you check the prices [Amazon], it’s usually cheaper than the Abus Bordo 6500.
5. Kryptonite Kryptolok 955 Mini
For those looking for a more traditional bike lock, the Kryptonite Kryptolok Series 2 955 Mini is a short, mid-security chain lock, designed for mobile security.
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.
KryptoLok Series 2 955 Mini
3.90 lb (1.77 kg)
21.5" (55 cm)
Other Security Ratings:
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.
If you’re looking for something similar but more secure, try the Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 1055 Mini, which has 10 mm links, a beefier body and is the Lock Picking Lawyer’s lock of choice!
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.
6. Litelok Core
One of the biggest problems with bike locks is how to best carry them around. Locks are bulky and heavy. Frame mounts are often ugly and unreliable. And if you need a bigger lock for more locking options, these issues are compounded.
Enter “wearable” bike locks.
Liteloks are made from something they call "Boaflexicore", which is a complex cable composite (although nothing like a typical cable lock). And the Litelok Core uses an upgraded Boaflexicore Plus, which has been specifically designed to defeat the most advanced cable cutters.
In fact, it’s highly unlikely that anything but an angle grinder will be able to cut through the Litelok Core.
What I like most about the Litelok though, is that when it’s not securing your bike, you can carry it around on your waist like a belt! It’s not the first bike lock to provide this type of functionality; the Hiplok Gold chain can be worn around your waist too.
However, I think the Litelok Core is a better lock than the Hiplok chain for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it’s more secure. The Hiplok has a lower, Sold Secure Gold rating, and can be defeated by bolt cutters (which won't trouble the Litelok Core). And secondly, the Litelok is lighter and sits much more comfortably on the waist.
22" - 42"
4.1 lb (1.9 kg)
29" (75 cm)
Other Security Ratings:
It’s not perfect....
It can be tricky to get the end of the Litelok through your wheel spokes in some situations. And although it’s available in two lengths, if you want to wear it like a belt, you're limited to the one that fits your waist.
However, I can’t think of another Diamond rated lock that’s as easy to carry around. And even the smallest Litelok Core has a generous locking circumference that gives you loads of options when you're looking for somewhere to secure your bike.
Not everyone will want to wear their bike lock around their waist (and you can also strap it to your frame if you don't). But if it works for you, then the
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 what type of bike you ride, how expensive it 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:
- Choose the right level of security
- Choose the right type of lock
- 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.
But 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!
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 still 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...
And you may now be thinking “who or what are Sold Secure???”!
Who are Sold Secure?
Sold Secure are an independent organization that tests and rates bike locks and other security products according to the levels of protection they provide.
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.
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 organization 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 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 a 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.
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 standardized 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.
This is a really important point: it doesn't matter if you defeated a lock with a tool that thieves don't use. Thieves carry a limited tool set (cable cutters, medium size bolt cutters, pry bars and angle grinders).
They don't use nut splitters, they don't use drills (anymore). And they don't pick locks!
Plus these tests 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.
And while these are useful for choosing a lock from that one manufacturer, because the rating systems are 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:
Your lock security rating should be:
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:
And each of these locks offers a compromise between three fundamental qualities:
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.
U-locks: pros and cons
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 fewer 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 take 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
3.55 lb (1.61 kg)
3.25 x 7"
(8.3 x 17.8 cm)
Other Security Ratings:
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).
But there are 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.
It certainly won't put up any kind of resistance against an angle grinder.
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 usually consist of a long metal chain (covered by a sleeve to protect your paintwork) and a big lock.
Chain locks: pros and cons
We can divide chain locks into two broad groups:
- those that are light enough to be portable (< 12 mm)
- those that are so heavy, they are best as stationary security (> 12 mm).
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.
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 (the Kryptolok and Evolution), will work as portable security. So let's take 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!
New York Legend 1515
15.95 lb (7.23 kg)
60" (150 cm)
Other Security Ratings:
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.
Folding locks are made up of a series of metal plates linked together by rivets. They fold down into a tight package for carrying and then unfold out to make a flexible shape that fastens around your bike.
Chain locks: pros and cons
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.
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 quite 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 with 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.
Cable locks: pros and cons
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 virtually every bike thief carries is a pair of cable cutters, cable locks offer very little practical security.
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!
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
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.
Bear in mind though, that these innovative locks tend to be more expensive than their security levels warrant, so should only really be considered if there is a specific usability issue that they address that other locks don't!
U-locks vs Chain locks vs Folding locks
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 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.
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.
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.
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 better with 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 your 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.
However, high security folding locks aren't as secure as high security u-locks. They’re more expensive too. Plus, since only Abus, Seatylock, Trelock and Kryptonite make decent quality folding locks, your 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 size lock
Once you know how secure your bike lock needs to be, and which type of lock will suit you best, it’s time to think about what size it should be. Because the size of your bike lock has the biggest influence on how you’ll be able to use it.
Or if you'll be able to use it at all!
In an ideal world, we’d all use the smallest, lightest bike lock possible. And that might be fine if you ride a skinny road bike or single speed, in a city that’s full of slim bike racks.
But what if you ride a bulky ebike, or a big framed mountain bike or cruiser? And what if there are no bike racks where you live, and you have to use lampposts, railings or other street furniture.
Then you’ll need a bigger bike lock!
How you lock your bike is also a factor here. Widely accepted wisdom says that your bike lock should secure both your frame and your rear wheel. And that means you'll need a lock that fits around both.
But in reality, there are other ways to secure your wheels. And if your lock can just go around your frame, you can use a smaller lock on a bigger bike! So it’s a good idea to think about how you’re going to lock your bike before you buy the lock.
As a general rule, I would say that bigger bikes (including ebikes, mountain bikes, cruiser bikes, city bikes, comfort bikes, tandems and even BMXs), are likely to need a lock that has a locking circumference that’s at least as big as a standard size u-lock (around 85 cm).
While slimmer bikes (including road bikes, hybrid bikes, and fixies/single speed), are more likely to get away with the mini u-locks and smaller folding locks.
But it will depend very much on your personal circumstances, so I recommend you think about this carefully.
Which company makes the best bike locks?
Once you've decided on the security level you need, and which type and size of bike lock suits you best, your search will likely lead you to many similar bike locks from many different brands.
So how do you choose between them? Let's take a look at three of the most popular brands...
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 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.
So if you want the very best quality look at Abus, if you want the best price look at OnGuard and if you want the best customer service look at 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.
And in fact, this year (2023), for the first time ever, my top 6 picks include more niche brands than well established brands, with two locks each from Litelok and Seatylock (Foldylocks).
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.
It's interesting that all the important innovation is coming from these smaller brands, but I expect the bigger brands will make efforts to catch up.
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...
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!
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?
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 specialized, bespoke tool sets. 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 characterized 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?
The strongest bike lock, is either the Hiplok D1000 or the soon-to-be released Litelok X3. Both of these locks provide such incredible resistance to angle grinder attacks, that in most real world scenarios, we can almost consider them angle grinder proof.
However, both of these locks are very heavy and incredibly expensive. For many cyclists, a more practical option will be the Litelok X1, which, while slightly less resistant to angle grinder attack, is still far stronger than any of the other locks on the market.
It’s also lighter, better sized, and much cheaper than the other two angle grinder resistant locks. Plus, it’s the only one that come with a frame mount! Check out my Litelok X1 review for all the details and my angle grinder test video!
I’ve written a whole article about the strongest bike locks. One important thing to remember is that as bike locks get stronger, they also get heavier or smaller. Often they get heavier and smaller.
What’s the lightest bike lock?
The lightest bike lock that I recommend ts the TiGr Mini. However, that doesn't mean it's a good choice for you. 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!
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.
I’ve also written a whole article about the lightest bike locks to help you out here!
How can I protect my bike wheels and seat?
You can protect your bike wheels and seat with a range of different security device including extra locks, cable lassos, security skewers, hex bolt blockers and plenty of great DIY methods too!
Again, I’ve written a long article about the best ways to secure your bike wheels and seat that considers all the options that are currently available.
What’s the best way to lock my bike?
There is no one best way to lock your bike. However, there are a number of very bad ways to lock your bike that are guaranteed to get it stolen.
I’ve written a pretty exhaustive article on how to lock a bike where I go over all the acceptable ways and all the ways you should never lock your bike. If possible, you should read this before you make a final decision on a lock.
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: The List
Win a Free Bike!
How to lock you bike (properly)