Updated: May 29, 2015
Bike Lock Reviews:I used to ride my bike to grammar school, middle school, and a few years at high school. Back then we used chains with either a combination or key lock to secure our bikes to bike racks or poles. Thefts did happen, but because the bikes were on school grounds it was hard for any thief to steal the bikes without someone seeing something. When I would ride my bike to a store I would lock it up to a pole or chain it to a bench or something similar. Locks weren't that sophisticated back then and no one put out big bucks to buy the Kryptonite locks that cost over $100. It was hard to justify spending so much money when the bike wasn't worth more than $200. There are currently 3 forms that bicycle security locks take - cable, chain and armoured locks, shackle locks, and loop locks. The Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock ($75) is probably the best of the lot, but it may not be what you need. Cable locks are the least effective since a bolt cutter can simply snip through them in seconds leaving you without a bike. Some chain locks can work if you will only be in the store for a few minutes or leaving the bike unattended briefly.
As with any theft, most are based on opportunity. If a thief is walking around a college campus looking for a bike to steal, they are certainly going to try and take the one with the worst locking mechanism to make things easy on themselves. Opportunity is how most bike thefts happen so you can make it so your bike looks less enticing with not a lot of money out of pocket. Back to the types of bike locks and which ones work the best. The cable locks are not rated very well in any reviews we found and experts (bike shop owners) don't recommend them although they do carry them in their stores (go figure). If you do go with a cable lock (they are affordable), find one that has a thicker diameter so if a thief were to try and cut or saw through it, it might take longer and either deter them or give you time to get back to your bike before they are done taking it. Cable locks are definitely convenient in terms of being able to wrap around virtually any object making locking up your bike easy. They also transport well since they can be coiled up when not in use. The OnGuard Akita and Kryptonite Gorgon both which sell for around $40 are top selling cable locks but neither offers up theft protection which is a sure sign they won't hold up against a good bike thief. Chain locks aren't bad, but they can be heavy and a burden to carry around. The Kryptonite New York Chain With EV Disc Lock ($75) rates well by owners but it weighs a little over 6 pounds making it a strain to carry around. Look for a chain lock with the highest grade of steel and for ones with the least amount of space between the links. The more space between the chain links, the larger the area to put in a tool to separate and break them open. Chain locks are good for when you have multiple bikes to lock up and don't want to carry around multiple bicycle locks. Armoured locks are a variation on the cable lock and are more secure since sawing through them is not as easy as with a traditional cable lock. Do you go with key locks or combination locks? Cable and armoured locks tend to be held together with a locking mechanism which is secured with a clasp pin and a key. Chain locks often include a padlock or combination lock. People tend to lose keys more often than they forget a combination, so keep that in mind when choosing your type of locking mechanism. Also, some people are fearful of the round key holes in locks after a huge 2004 recall of Kryptonite locks which were able to be picked open using the barrel of a Bic pen. Today, you will find more flat key locks than round keys, but there is no evidence that one is better than the other. U locks, or shackle locks, are the most secure and the New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock (NYFU) rates near the top. U locks are comprised of the U shaped round bar and the mechanism that it goes into. Those made of hardened steel are the best at keeping thiefs away. There are both single and double mechanisms for these shackle type locks. The double mechanisms are definitely better, but most single mechanism options perform fairly well. The biggest problem with U shaped bike locks are that they are small and hard to get around some poles or fixed objects. Also, you will not be able to get more than the frame inside the lock which means you are leaving your seat and wheels open for theft. Some people choose both a U-lock and a cable to help secure their bikes. Lastly, the U-locks which rate the best are also the heaviest of the bunch and are hard to transport around even with a mounting bracket that fits on your bike. Loop locks are more often seen in Europe where bike usage far outweighs that in the United States. A loop lock is meant more as a way to prevent someone from riding off on your bike, since it can immobilize things like the wheels. Some high tech devices are being developed (like the Lo Jack for cars) where you can track the whereabouts of your bike frame long after it has been stolen. Hopefully this means you will catch the thiefs with it in their possession. The most important message of this article is that you should ALWAYS lock up your bike, even if you are just going into a store for a minute. Most bikes that get stolen every year aren't the ones with the newest locking devices on them, they are the ones with no lock at all. As for expert reviews and owner feedback and recommendations on bike locks, we found several online opinions worth looking at. The article on Slate.com by Scott Elder about bike locks was the most comprehensive in terms of testings all types of locks and putting them up against tools like crowbars, bolt cutters, a hacksaw, and a claw hammer. He literally tried to steal his own bike by breaking the locks that were attached to the frame. Some were no match while others held up just fine. You can also find consumer ratings on Amazon.com and in Bike forums for the latest bicycle locks on the market. The top brands are Kryptonite, OnGuard, Master Lock, Bell, and Thule. Some of the cheaper locks are priced below $20, but the advice of police on protecting your bike is that you should spend roughly 10% of the price of the bike on a lock ($1000 bike = $100 lock). In reading reviews and researching the various types of locks, we have come up with a list of the top rated bike locks on the market. You can browse the top selling bike locks online here.