Bike theft is, unfortunately, very common. Thankfully, you can guard against theft and protect your property with a secure bike lock. These anti-theft devices range from lightweight cable locks to heavy-duty U-locks, suitable for securing your bike in different situations. Risk level is a key factor in choosing a suitable bike lock.
This guide outlines essential guidance about bike security, the basic types of bike locks, and how to select the most appropriate kind. Read on for recommendations that reflect some of the best bike lock options available on the market today.
- BEST OVERALL: Via Velo Heavy Duty Bike U Lock with Cable
- RUNNER UP: Hiplok DX Bicycle U Lock
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Kryptonite Keeper 785 Integrated Bicycle Lock Chain
- BEST CHAIN LOCK: Hiplok Gold Wearable Chain Lock
- BEST U-LOCK: ABUS Granit XPlus 540/160 HB 230mm Shackle
- BEST CABLE LOCK: NDakter 5 Digit Resettable Combination Coiling Lock
- BEST FOLDING LOCK: FOLDYLOCK Compact Bike Lock
- BEST HEAVY DUTY: Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit 1415 Chain & Lock
Types of Bike Locks
There are four basic types of bike locks, each of which offers a different level of security. From least to most secure: cable locks, chain locks, folding locks, and U-locks.
Cable locks, also called “lightweight locks,” offer the lightest amount of security. They’re typically secured using a cord and either a lock and key, or a combination tumbler, which unlocks the cable with a three- or four-digit code. This low-tech protection means that cable locks are easier marks for bike thieves—some can be picked open with a ballpoint pin or cut through with common household cutters and shears. For this reason, cable locks are best used in low-risk areas and for quick lockups, such as a short trip into the corner coffee shop.
Chain locks offer a higher level of security, consisting of a durable hardened steel chain link and shackle. They’re long enough to wrap around the frame and wheels of the bike and the structure to which you’ll secure it. One disadvantage is that these locks can be a bit bulky to tote around, though many brands are increasing their portability by designing chains to fit around the biker’s waist during cycling.
Folding locks are similar to chain locks in that they allow cyclists to lock bikes to bigger objects, like trees, with the benefit of being more compact. Consider, however, that the connecting joints where these locks fold are seen as weak points that bike thieves can dismantle fairly quickly with power drills.
Named for their horseshoe shape, U-locks (also called “D-locks” internationally) are the most theft-resistant type of lock. Not only are they heavier than other locks, but their unique shape leaves little room for thieves to insert their tools and get the leverage needed to use them.
U-locks come in a range of sizes. You should use the smallest size needed to fit around your bike frame, a single wheel, and the bike rack (or around whatever object you’ll use to mount your bike). Since U-locks are the most durable type, they’re typically the most expensive as well.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Bike Lock
Now that you’re up to speed on the types of bike locks available and the pros and cons of each, here are some considerations to help you narrow down which type might be best for your cycling scenarios.
The most important thing to consider when choosing the best bike lock is the risk level. Three criteria determine whether your bike is at a high or low risk for theft: lockup location, lockup duration, as well as the model and monetary value of your bike.
If you have a modest bike, which you plan to lock up at a familiar place where it remains in eyesight, or when you will only be away for mere minutes, the risk for theft is generally low. If the intent is to lock up your bike all day or overnight in an area where thefts are common, such as a college campus or major metro area, expect an increased risk for theft and prepare for it with the highest level of security possible.
Strength of Lock
All bike locks are susceptible to “picking” or cutting, some are just more resistant to it than others. A lock’s strength is determined by its lock mechanism. Typically, the more technology a locking mechanism uses to operate, the stronger and more secure it will be. For example, disc-tumblers feature some of the most robust locking mechanisms, whereas wafer and pin-tumbler mechanisms can be considered relatively weak.
The weight of a lock also affects how secure it is. Generally, the heavier the lock, the more challenging it is to cut, but heavier locks are more cumbersome for bikers to transport.
Bike locks range in price from tens to hundreds of dollars. And as is to be expected, the more heavy-duty the lock type, the more expensive its price. Figure out how much you’d like to spend on a bike lock and then choose the most secure lock option your budget will buy.
Our Top Picks
Based on the above features and considerations, these are some of the best bike lock devices on the market.
This 3.2-pound, key-operated lock from Via Velo provides the security benefits of a U-lock plus a cable lock. Its 14mm hardened steel shackle protects against cutting and leveraging, while a double bolt crossbar locking mechanism offers double the security against prying and jacking.
The Heavy Duty Bike U Lock with Cable features a flexible and nearly 6-foot long woven steel cable that can secure both wheels and any accessories, such as a helmet. A PVC coating protects both locks from the elements, while a lock debris cover keeps the keyway free of dirt and grime. This Via Velo bike lock also includes a mounting bracket for compact storage of both locks.
With the Hiplok DX U-lock, there’s no worry of lugging a cumbersome lock around. Designed with an integrated clip and weighing in at less than 3 pounds, this lock easily slips onto backpacks, pockets, or the waistband of your pants. Its 14mm hardened steel shackle with dual-locking, anti-twist shackle tabs can withstand attacks; it requires two cuts to destroy.
If you plan to lock anything more than just the bike frame, note that this lock has a relatively small shackle diameter, so it may be best to pair it with a lightweight cable lock.
The Kryptonite Keeper 785 is equipped with some very secure features, including a 3.5-pound 3T manganese steel chain, a hardened deadbolt, and an end link design that secures the chain to the deadbolt without the vulnerability of a “weak” link. Its weather-resistant nylon sleeve is designed to keep the chain from rusting and your bike from being scratched. Its keyed lock uses a disc-tumbler mechanism, which makes both picking and drilling it out more difficult.
The Hiplok Gold is a lock designed for riding and built for security with a 10mm hardened steel chain with a 12mm hardened steel shackle. At 5.3 pounds, the lock is easily wearable and can accommodate waist sizes from 24 to 44 inches.
Hiplok’s patented speed buckle fastening mechanism means you can easily adjust the fit without the chain being locked to the body. Another feature that adds to this lock’s versatility is its removable and washable cover.
The Granit XPlus 540 U-lock boasts the highest security level by the ABUS brand. Its 13mm shackle is composed of hardened steel and a double-bolting lock body that offers the highest protection against hitting, pulling, and picking attacks. One of the two keys provided with the lock includes an LED light as an added safety measure.
While the Granit XPlus lock model is available in multiple sizes, most cyclists opt for the 230mm (9-inch) option for its just-right size and 3.43-pound weight.
Made of a 1/2-inch thick, 4-foot long braided steel cable, this NDakter cable lock is lengthy enough to lock your bike’s frame and wheels—or even multiple bikes—in low-risk settings. Its vinyl PVC coating helps the cable resist rain, and also keeps your bike safe from scratches. The self-coiling design and lightweight mounting bracket make the lock easy to carry while in transit.
Perhaps best of all, the lock is secured by a 5-digit resettable combination lock giving riders the ability to set up to 100,000 unique codes and the convenience of going keyless. It’s also available in a variety of colors to complement your bike frame.
The Foldylock Compact lock by Seatylock is a compact yet strong lock that is designed with high security in mind. Its hardened steel links and drill-resistant cylinder provide increased security at vulnerable spots found on folding type locks. This lock’s connecting rivets are designed with VSR technology to withstand sawing and cutting.
Not only is the Foldylock Compact designed to resist bike theft, but also the elements: its metal components are rust-resistant and its plastic coating is UV protected. When not in use, the 2.2-pound lock easily slides into a case that mounts inconspicuously to your bike frame.
Weighing over 15 pounds, this lock ranks as one of Kryptonite’s most secure allowing for greater peace of mind during longer periods away from your bike. The 5-foot long chain uses 14mm-thick, 3T hardened manganese steel links that are reinforced with anti-drill, anti-pull protection. A 15mm steel U-lock shackle with a hardened double deadbolt design secures the chain at each end. While this lock is effective against theft, it’s not very portable, especially not for use on a daily basis.
FAQs About Bike Locks
Below are fundamental questions and answers about bike locks to help you make an informed purchase decision.
Q. Is there a type of bike lock that cannot be cut?
All bike locks are susceptible to being cut, either with hand or power tools such as bolt cutters and angle grinders. However, the sturdier the lock you use, the less likely your bike will be targeted by thieves.
Q. Are U-locks better than cable locks?
Yes, U-locks are considered to be a more secure type of bike lock than lightweight cable locks. In fact, out of the four lock types (cable, chain, folding, and U-lock), U-locks are recognized as the most secure.
Q. How do I know which strength of lock I need?
To determine the level of strength you’ll need in a lock, consider the location and duration of lockup. The higher-risk the area and the longer the bike will be unattended, the more secure the lock should be.
Q. Do I need more than one lock?
Using multiple locks that can’t be destroyed by the same bolt cutter is an effective way to deter bike thieves. Even if a thief is equipped with the various tools needed to break each lock, having multiple locks prolongs the time it will take him to steal your bike, which means there’s more time for someone to notice the criminal act and to seek help, report, or stop the crime altogether.
Q. Can my bike lock be picked?
All bike locks are susceptible to being “picked.” However, the more advanced the locking mechanism, the more difficult it is to pick. Some of the most secure mechanisms include disc-tumblers, while wafer and pin-tumbler mechanisms are considered to be the least secure.