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The 6 Best Bike Locks in 2020

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.

With that in mind, here are 6 fantastic bike locks that aim to do just that…

But if none of them seem quite right for you, don’t worry, below 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 Abus Granit X Plus 540 is probably the best all round bike lock, of any type, available today.

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:

It provides a very high level of security (Sold Secure Gold and 3/5 from ART) and despite being a practical size that won't limit where or how you can lock your bike, it’s still comparatively light.

This is because the 13 mm shackle is cast in a special, patented shape from a high quality steel. Which 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.

Don't get me wrong: it's still quite heavy (around the same weight as 3.5 cans of coke). All high security bike locks are. It's just much lighter than the competition!

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 a very 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 [Amazon]. 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. Or see how it compares to other u-locks.

2. Kryptonite Kryptolok New-U

The Kryptonite Kryptolok Series 2 is probably the most famous bike lock in the world and a great mid-security choice.

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:

However recently, Kryptonite have launched a newer version of the Kryptolok called the New-U.

It looks exactly the same as the Series 2 but the shackle locks into the crossbar on both sides, which provides extra protection from twisting and leverage attacks.

This revision has earned it an upgrade from Sold Secure Silver to Gold (although it still gets 2/5 from ART). But I would say it remains a mid-security bike lock!

However, the great thing about the Kryptolok (whether the Series 2 or the New-U) is that it's so painless to use...

It's not too heavy and if you attach the frame mount correctly, it's easy to carry while you're riding. And 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'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.

For sure: the Kryptolok is not a super high security lock. If you want a Kryptonite lock that's more secure then you should take a look at their Evolution range. But they 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 reasonable price [Amazon]

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 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:

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 ou can lock your bike.

Like all chains it's much heavier than a u-lock of comparable security. But this one is still light and short enough to easily carry wrapped around your seat post.

And when it comes to actually locking your bike up, the integrated locking mechanism makes the whole process that much smoother than a separate padlock. 

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.

Just keep it as far from the ground as possible so it's safe from bolt cutters. In fact, I recommend you wrap 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 [Amazon] and reliable option.

But 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

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 won't fit at all!

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

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.

But 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. 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 (Sold Secure Silver). 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), the only Sold Secure Silver bike locks that are lighter than the Foldylock are mini u-locks!

Compared to it’s nearest rival (the Abus Bordo 6000), 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.

6. Abus Bordo Granit 6500

The Abus Bordo GRANIT 6500 is the most high 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:

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.

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 is not 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. So 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 lock won’t just protect your bike. It will 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 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.

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…

Questions

High Risk

Lower Risk

Where do you live?

Big town, city or university campus

Small town or village

Does your bike attract second looks?

Yes

No

How long do you leave your bike unattended?

More than 1 hour

Less 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 bike 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. And some thieves 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

Lock Thickness

Can be cut by bolt cutters?

< 13 mm

Yes (medium size)

13 - 15 mm

Yes (only biggest 36 and 42")

16 mm and above

No

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 tend to test small samples. And they all use different tools in different ways. So it’s difficult to compare the results. What’s more, they don't necessarily attack 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” the conclusions they draw are neither certain nor particularly useful.

And there are actually some pretty dodgy recommendations made on some high profile websites. For example the top rated lock on bicycling.com is one of the worst bike locks I’ve ever seen.

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 Bronze, Silver Gold or (new!) Diamond 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 rate locks from Bronze to Diamond 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 even 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 produce 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’s rated by Sold Secure and the level of cover you receive will depend whether the lock has a Bronze, Silver, Gold or Diamond 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 or Sold Secure Diamond 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 Risk

Lower Risk

Your lock security rating should be:

Sold Secure Gold and Diamond
Sold 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 have 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.

It's also worth noting that the Diamond rating is new for 2020. And since locks are only rated once they're submitted for testing, there are many locks that are still rated Gold, that will in fact be bumped up to Diamond when they've next submitted (over the next 12 months).

So, for the next year at least, don't assume that every Diamond lock is more secure than every Gold rated lock. They're not. All we can really say is that Diamond rated locks are very secure!

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 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 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. So...

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!

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 most popular...

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:

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 that 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 Kryptoloks. And it's lighter than the Granit X-Plus 540 (and many other Gold rated locks).

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 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 long around your wheel, your frame and the rack.

However, if you're prepared to be flexible and change your locking technique you can 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 lock that will work for everyone else.

I've written much more about how to choose a u-lock. And if you just want data you can compare the size and weights of tons of different u-locks as well.

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

Portable chains are easy to carry wrapped around your seat post. 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 are still much heavier than U-locks.

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 / £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.

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 suitable for 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 [Amazon]) 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 folded into a tight package for carrying and then unfolded 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

Folding locks are 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 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.

Up until recently, Abus have dominated the market in folding locks. Indeed, many of the folding locks from other manufacturers offer dubious levels of security.

However, Seatylock now produce folding locks that have been rated by Sold Secure too.

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!

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

To illustrate this I've 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, practical chain. And the third is a super cheap u-lock.

Lightweight alternative to a Cable Lock: Kryptonite New-U Evolution Lite Mini-6

The great thing about the Kryptonite New-U Evolution Mini-6 is that it’s small and very light, while still remaining reasonably secure.

Kryptonite New-U Evolution Lite Mini-6

Kryptonite New-U Evolution Lite Mini-6

My score:

Check price:

Shackle thickness:

11 mm

Weight:

1.6 lb (0.73 kg)

Size (internal):

2.75 x 6"

(7 x 15.2 cm)

Kryptonite rating:

7/10

Other Security Ratings:

Sold Secure Silver

The shackle is only 11 mm thick but it's cast from Kryptonite's top of the range max performance steel which makes it as stronger as much thicker shackles. Plus it locks into the crossbar on both sides.

So the Sold Secure Silver rating is well deserved. And it weighs less than two cans of coke! In fact the New-U Lite Mini-6 [Amazon] is Kryptonite's lightest ever u-lock.

For sure: it's really small. So you'll be limited to bike racks. And you might have to work out another way to secure your wheels.

But if you were thinking about a cable lock because they're so lightweight, then this is great alternative that will actually protect your bike!

Practical alternative to a Cable Lock: Hiplok Original

The length of flexibility of Hiplok Original chain gives you a wide range of locking options and the fact that you can wrap it round your waist makes it pretty easy to carry too!

Hiplok Original

Hiplok Original

My score:

Check price:

Chain thickness:

8 mm

Weight:

4.0 lb (1.8 kg)

Length:

33.5" (85 cm)

Hiplok rating:

4/5

Other Security Ratings:

Sold Secure Silver

It's true: it's much heavier than a cable lock. But the 8 mm chain links provide a decent level of protection. And it's actually the lightest Sold Secure Silver chain available.

You could wrap it around your seat post and carry around pretty easily like that. However the great thing about the Hiplok is that it has an integrated strap that lets you to wear it like a belt around your waist.

So it's supper easy to carry and gives you loads of flexible locking options. Just like a cable lock. Except this lock will actually protect your bike!

Cheap alternative to a Cable Lock: OnGuard Bulldog

The great thing about OnGuard locks is that you can usually pick them up them at really cheap prices! 

OnGuard Bulldog

OnGuard Bulldog

My score:

Check price:

Shackle thickness:

13 mm

Weight:

2.43 lb (1.10 kg)

Size (internal):

4.53 x 9.06"

(11.5 x 23 cm)

OnGuard rating:

63/100

Other Security Ratings:

Sold Secure Silver

But that's not to say they're cheap rubbish. The OnGuard Bulldog range of u-locks provides very respectable mid-security levels of protection.

This standard size version has a Sold Secure Silver rating. And although some of the other sizes don't have the rating, they're just as secure. It's worth shopping around: you'll always find one of the models on special offer!

The standard version is big enough to give you plenty of locking options: you won't be limited to bike racks. It's pretty light. And it comes with a decent frame mount.

They may cost a little more than the cheapest cable locks. But not much [Amazon]. And if you compare it with the cost of replacing the bike that will be stolen when you secure it with a cable lock, it's a bargain!

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. And this makes it a Sold Secure Silver standard lock at the very least.

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

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

It’s not a lock for super high risk circumstances. But if weight and pure elegance is a priority, then this is 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 a special material they call “Boaflexicore” which is both very strong and very light. And the two piece, 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.

In fact, the only Sold Secure Gold lock that’s lighter than the Litelok is the Abus 401, a mini u-lock which will offer far fewer options when you’re looking for somewhere to lock your bike.

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!

It’s quite stiff so it’s not as easy to get round your bike as you might think and it’s a bit bulky if you want to carry it in a bag rather than strapped to your frame. It’s not cheap either [Amazon]!

But the Litelok is a great choice if you want a light weight 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 that 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 long 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 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 very highest level of security for your bike.

They're 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!

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.

However high security folding locks are not as secure as high security u-locks.

Plus, since only Abus and Seatylock 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 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. For example Squire make some good quality locks. And I love the innovations from HiplokLitelok and Foldylock.

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 fulfill most peoples needs.

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!

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!

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? If you don’t want to lose them, these should be secured too.

The safest way to protect your second wheel is a second lock. A second lock that's a different type to the first may also deter a thief because they’d need to carry two different types of lock breaking equipment.

However even a small, decent second lock will significantly increase the weight you’re carrying around and you’ve also got to find space in your bag or on your frame for that extra lock. And this can be a real pain!

What about Looped Cables?

Many u-locks now come with these additional lengths of cable with loops at each end. The idea is that you use the cable with the u-lock to secure the second wheel (or even your seat).

U-lock and cable lock

A looped cable used with a u-lock to secure the front wheel

The problem is that these cables can be cut through in seconds with the one tool that every bike thief is carrying with them. So they're only really protecting your stuff from opportunistic thieves.

Another problem is that there not very nice to use. They're a real pain to carry (you have to loop them up and somehow keep them from un-looping). And they can be a pain to get through your u-lock shackle and round your wheels.

So why bother with the inconvenience of using something that's not even protecting your bike?

Security Bolts and Skewers are the Answer!

So in most cases I recommend that you use secure skewers or bolts rather than a second lock. Whereas not quite as secure as another u-lock, security skewers and bolts have a whole load of other advantages…

IXOW gravity based Wheel Skewers use a regular hex key

First of all they’re much, much lighter. And because they’re already attached to your bike, you don’t have to worry about how you’ll carry them around!

Secondly, you don’t have to go through any extra locking up steps. They’re always securing your stuff. This makes locking your bike much quicker and easier. 

And thirdly, because you don’t have to worry about your wheels, you can get a smaller, lighter primary lock and actually keep it further from the ground where it’s much safer from attacks. So your whole bike may actually be more secure.

This is especially useful if you’re using a chain as your primary lock. If you only have to secure your frame, you can use a much shorter chain, which will be much lighter. And wrapped tightly around your top tube it will far enough from the ground to be safe from bolt cutters.

My favorite are the Hexlox. These are tiny hexagonal nuts that will slot into all the hex fittings on your bike to prevent them from being unscrewed (and therefore prevent your wheels, seat etc from being stolen).

It's a very elegant solution that avoids you having to replace any of your existing skewers or bolts.

4 mm, 5 mm and 6 mm Hexlox

4 mm, 5 mm and 6 mm Hexlox

You can get secure skewers and bolts for pretty much every component on your bike. They’re not super cheap but they’re no more expensive then a decent mini u-lock.

And they’ll make your life so much easier. Read much more about wheel and seat protection here.

Wrapping Up

This is a very long guide! So 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

Answer the questions in the table below...

Questions

High Risk

Lower Risk

Where do you live?

Big town, city or university campus

Small town or village

Does your bike attract second looks?

Yes

No

How long do you leave your bike unattended?

More than 1 hour

Less than 1 hour

Cell
Cell
Cell

Your lock should be:

Sold Secure Gold
Sold Secure Silver

If two or more answers put you in the “High Risk” column, go 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

U-locks offer the nicest balance of price, practicality and security. And there's loads to choose from. They're usually the best choice for portable security.

But if you need more flexible locking options, go for a more flexible lock! Folding locks will offer you more places to lock your bike and are easier to carry than u-locks. But they're not as secure.

Chain locks are best for stationary security in bike sheds and other bike storage places. They're generally too heavy to be carrying around on a daily basis.

Step 3: Choose the right lock brand

If you want the very highest quality and reliability 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 you'll need to lubricate the lock more often.

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 those three simple steps, you should be well equipped to choose the very best lock for your circumstances.

I suggest you browse the lists of Gold and Silver rated locks to find a size and weight that meets your requirements exactly.

What next?

Please check out the information on wheel and seat security to find better ways to protect your components

Don't forget to clean and lubricate your lock now and again to reduce the chance it will become jammed and stop working.

And make sure you understand how to lock your bike properly. Because even if you've got the best lock in the world, if you don't use correctly your bike will be stolen!

Finally, please find and record your bike serial number and then sign up (for free) with a bicycle registration scheme (such as Bike Index)...

Along with 6 other things, this is probably the most significant action you can take right now to make sure you get your bike back if it is stolen in the future! 

And please tell me what you think of the site. Do you rate the locks I recommend? Which locks do you currently use? Do you have any tips or tricks that I haven’t mentioned?

Let me know in the comments below…

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