The Best Way to Lock Your Bike (And The Top 10 Best Bike Locks)

 

Bikes are simultaneously the coolest thing about being human and at times the most frustrating. Did you remember your lock, your lights…your rain gear? These are things cyclists are constantly forgetting or worrying about.

In this article I am going to give you the best ideas for protecting your bike from all the would be bike thieves and some of them don’t even involve locks!

Thief cutting a bike lock with cutter

Bike Theft Strategies

I want to talk about a few strategies that bike thieves use to separate you from your baby. Hopefully arming you with a little more knowledge will help you prevent bike theft against you. So, the most brash and drastic form of theft is taking the bike directly from you. More often than not, bikes are not registered and most thieves bank on this fact.

Desperate thieves may try to corner you or threaten you with violence so you hand over the bike. This is pretty rare as most local law enforcement would be aware of a thief who operates multiple times in the same area.

Another popular strategy is casing and locking. This is when a bike thief knows a certain area and the regular patterns of the bike riders in it. They may know where you work, how long you take to get coffee or shop for groceries. Once they are aware of these things they will simply take one of their locks and lock your bike up.

This will prevent you from taking the bike once you have removed your lock. They will then come back at a time when no one is there and use a power tool to remove your lock because you did not want to leave it unlocked obviously.

This method is actually very common especially in big metro areas like New York, London, Chicago, Tokyo, and Los Angeles. The best way to prevent this is to register the bike and call the police if this happens. With the registration you will be able to prove to the police it is in fact your bike and then they should help you cut the lock.

If you do not register the bike then you will end up having to cut the lock yourself and you will likely be met with hostility from bystanders and local police. Bike theft is often not the main concern of local law folks.

Once a thief has stolen your bike it will be on the move pretty quick. They know it is dangerous to hold on to so it will often change hands to other thieves or they will try to unload it using craigslist or other public sales forums. If your bike is not registered then your best chance at tracking it down is checking these forums religiously. Portland (my city) has an independently operated forum where people can get the word out on stolen bikes and rely on the community to help return them.

Bicycle thief wearing a mask

Protecting Your Bikes

The absolute best way to protect your bike is to keep it in your sight at all times. Even if it is locked up you will know if someone tries to mess with it. I know this may not work for you in every case but it might be something people forget from time to time. Take it inside your work with you, take it inside your home with you, and it will put your mind at ease if you just get a window seat at your favorite burger joint.

The second easiest way to protect your bike is to get an insurance policy on it. This is so simple. I have renter’s insurance which covers my bike even if I am not in my home, and just to be sure I set up a single article policy with $1200 of coverage. My insurance payments are $20 dollars a month. Not so bad for a little peace of mind. My bike may get stolen but at least it can be replaced.

Nice bike at sunset

Leave the Nice Bike at Home

Now, if you commute by bike like me and inevitably have to get a lock and lock up your bike in various places at least be smart about it. I think it goes without saying that you should leave your Trek Speed Concept 9.9 at home.

Bike thieves, at least those who have been in the business for a while recognize nice things just like the rest of us bike nerds do. You have to remember that not only are the frame and wheels expensive but the components are very nice and sometimes easier to remove because no one locks up their handlebars.

Just the other week I was in my local bike shop listening to a guy complain about how he went in for coffee and came out to his handlebars being gone. Someone had removed the face plate on his stem, cut his cables, and stole his bars and the Shimano 105 shifters he had on there. These things are not cheap to replace.

Be Aware

The next thing you should be aware of is your surroundings. If you know an area is primed for bike theft then perhaps lock somewhere else. I live in an area with a pretty good sized downtown area where many bikes are stolen. Sometimes it is just a matter of parking on the right block or next to the wrong bike. Bike thieves don’t always go out looking for the nicest bike, sometimes it is just a matter of which bike is easier to steal.

Where I live there is high population of vagrants and homeless people. I hate to single out one community especially based on economic circumstances but to be realistic they are usually good candidates for bike thieves here so I make sure to be aware of the types of people hanging around my bike. That is not to say they are the only bike thieves or that there aren’t some extenuating circumstances but just be aware of where you park your bike.

Bikes locked on the roof of car

Roof Racks

Another thing to be aware of is when your bike is on your roof or trunk rack. Just because it is mounted up there does not make it impervious to theft. When you make a quick stop at the grocery store on the way to a ride, make sure someone is in the car or that the bikes are locked. You would hate to be on the way to some gnarly single track and have your bike get stolen when you run in to pay for your gas. It has happened.

So far these have all been pretty logical things. Now let’s talk about locks specifically. Even though companies design and make cable locks, they should never be your main line of defense. I have personally cut through a half inch cable lock with a pocket knife just to show it can be done. Most bike thieves carry around bolt cutters which are meant to cut through tensile strength steel and these make short work of feeble cables.

There is a market for cable locks that is why manufacturers continue to make them. Every manufacturer specifically warns against their own products saying that cable locks are not the safest way to lock your bikes. They rate their locks 3/10 on average and admit that they are easily cut. I repeat, do not use only a cable lock when locking your bike.

Sometimes it is a good idea to use a cable lock to lock your wheels while using a u lock to lock your frame. I do this whenever I leave my bike at the airport when I travel. The area is well lit, I lock my frame, my wheels, and my seatpost. The airport is pretty far away from downtown and it has pretty high security presence. I would prefer a bike locker but unfortunately there are none available.

Let’s take look at the top 10 best bike locks:

Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit U-Lock

Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit U-Lock

U –Locks are the standard in high security. With one end of the U being curved and fitting into the top portion of the lock it prevents thieves from being able to use leverage to get it out.

The sheer thickness of this lock makes it impossible to cut with bolt cutters. A thief would need on average 20 minutes to cut through it using an angle grinder of some sort. By this time someone would notice what was going on or you would come back out from whatever you were doing.

Available from: REI

Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock

Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock

A few dollars cheaper than the Fahgettaboudit, the New York Standard is still amazing in terms of security. Slightly thinner and longer, this lock can be used to lock both your frame and either one of your wheels.

It would take a while to cut through using power tools and is small enough to carry with you. Most locks will often come with frame mounting hardware.

Available from: REI

Kryptonite New York 1210 Chain Lock

Kryptonite New York 1210 Chain Lock

This New York Chain Lock made number 3 simply because of its weight and awkwardness to carry. Otherwise it is a very good option and can easily lock a frame and one of your wheels.

Available from: REI

Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 U-Lock

Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 U-Lock

The Series 4 is 4mm thinner than the New York Series but is perfectly fine for daily use. Kryptonite rates it at 8/10 on their security scale. It is long enough to lock your frame and one of your wheels.

Available from: REI

Kryptonite Evolution Lite Mini-6 U-Lock

Kryptonite Evolution Lite Mini-6 U-Lock

The Evo Lite Mini is my personal favorite and the only lock I use. It is small lightweight and has high enough security to deter the average thief. It is small enough to fit in my belt if I don’t want to carry a bag where I am going.

It only has enough room to lock your frame but if you don’t stay in one place too long like me and bring your bike into places when you stay longer, it is perfectly fine.

Available from: REI

Kryptonite Messenger Mini+ U-Lock

Kryptonite Messenger Mini+ U-Lock

This is a newer design I have not seen out in the real world yet but I think I like it already. It adds an extra measure of security for your wheel that will be stronger than a cable which is your other option. It made number 6 because of the extra time it takes to use when it really isn’t super necessary if you follow the other tips I have given you.

Available from: REI

Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 U-Lock with 4' Flex Cable

Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 U-Lock

Similar to number 6 but it uses a cable that is long enough to lock the frame and both wheels. The thinking is that a thief won’t be able to remove the quick release and take the wheel. However, the cable only needs to be cut to make this possible anyway.

Still a great security lock and I would definitely recommend it.

Available from: REI

TiGr Lock Titanium Lock - 1.25" x 24"

TiGr Lock Titanium Lock

I have seen this lock out around town a few times and I am really just not a fan of the design. That being said I have not used it. I think its length would make it awkward to mount to your frame or carry in a bag even though the product spec says it is easy to mount.

Titanium is lighter than steel but has the same strength. As a material Titanium is harder to work with and harder to mine. Mining practices for titanium aren’t particularly friendly to the environment if that affects your decision.

Available from: REI

Kryptonite Chain Lock with Moly Padlock

Kryptonite Chain Lock with Moly Padlock

Great security and flexibility with this chain lock. Often heavier than a u lock though and that is why it makes number 9 on the list.

Available from: REI

OnGuard PitBull DT U-Lock with Cable

OnGuard PitBull DT U-Lock

Differing from my brand loyalty for number 10, I went with the Onguard Pitbull. Although they say their locks work great against prying I don’t think the design works as well as the kryptonite u lock.

Available from: REI

So, there are the 10 best locks you can buy. I posted the links to REI’s web store but you can certainly fine them anywhere. It is important to remember to be smart when locking your bike. Although you may have the best lock on the market that won’t stop a thief if you give him enough time and the right tools.

Above all else, do not leave your biked locked up in an unfamiliar area overnight, if it were me I would always take my bike inside anyway.

Happy cyclist

Technology

Now that we are well into the 21st century, technology is making leaps and bounds in the form of bike security. I just wanted to give you a few examples that might be worth researching on your own. There are some great gps tracking devices out there now. A chip is places in the seat tube under the seat post and as long as a thief doesn’t know how to remove it or turn it off then they have a very high success rate of returning your bike to you.

Gps devices are coming standard in aftermarket electronic front wheels like the Copenhagen wheel and smart devices like Smart Halo. These devices help you navigate, plan, and go up steep hills with little problem.

That isn’t all, companies have even created a digital app that lets you use your smartphone as your key. Isn’t the future wonderful?

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