Every year in North America over 2 million bikes are stolen. That’s a staggering one bike every 30 seconds and 7% of the people who’ve had their bike stolen quit cycling altogether.
With statistics like these it’s essential to invest in a good quality bike lock and use it to secure your bike whenever you leave it unattended. That way you get peace-of-mind knowing that your bike will be there waiting for you when you return.
When you start researching locks it can quickly become very confusing as there are so many makes, models, and styles to choose from. Of course, they all say that they’re the best, but which ones actually are?
Today we’re going to take a look at how to pick the best bike lock and I’ll add in a few of my recommended locks. I’ve also got some other great methods for preventing bike theft in another article I wrote and you can take a look here.
How to choose a bike lock
There are a number of factors to consider when you’re choosing the right bike lock for you and your bike. The most important is the lock style and here the options include chain, U-lock, folding, and cable. The second is the type of locking mechanism – key lock or combination lock. Let’s go through each of these now.
Pros – Tough to break open, easy to wrap around bike for storage and locking
Cons – the best ones can be heavy to carry
A heavy-duty chain lock is one of my favorite styles of lock. Look for chains that have ½”/12mm links as these are tough enough to deter the most persistent thief. Also look for chains that have a protective cover as this will stop any scratches or other surface damage on your bike frame.
One of the features that I particularly like about chain locks is that they are inherently flexible. That means you can wrap the chain around any part of your bike frame (making sure you include the wheel where possible) and attach it onto all sorts of immovable objects like lampposts or bike racks. Then, when you unlock your bike you can either wind this around the handlebars or seatpost (or over your shoulder) and away you go.
Pros – U-locks with an extra cable are very versatile, light to carry
Cons – Not as tough as chain locks
U-locks are another good deterrent. Choose one that has a ½”/12mm thick steel u-bracket and ideally one that comes with an additional steel cable. A package like this gives you multiple options for securing your bike frame, wheels, and saddle to any object you can find.
This style of lock will often be quite a lot lighter to carry than a chain lock. That makes it more likely that you’ll take it with you and that’s good, because a bike lock that gets left at home is no use at all! You can either pop the lock in a backpack or grab a mounting bracket to secure it to your bike frame. https://amzn.to/31OF4CW
Pros – pack up light and small for carrying
Cons – not as sturdy as the best chain locks and u-locks
Next on the list are folding locks. These are tough although not as tough as top-quality chain and u-locks. That being said they’re a great deterrent against bike theft and are excellent for transport – packing up small and light so that they can be slipped into a pocket or bag.
They’re not a recommendation for inner all-day city use but, if you’re taking a quick trip to the grocery store and don’t want to drag a chain lock, then these are a fantastic option.
Cable locks tend to be at the cheapest end of the price scale. They’re budget-friendly and light to carry but are they any good? Unfortunately they wouldn’t be something that I’d trust my bike with. Any bike thief with a decent set of bolt cutters would be through this lock cable in no time…and away with your pride and joy. Don’t risk it.
Locking mechanism – key or combination
There are two types of locking mech that you’ll see on bike locks – keyed and combination. It’s a matter of personal choice as to which works best for you.
Key locks will generally come with two keys and the best ones will normally have a service where you can get extra replacement keys. If you know that you’re good at keeping track of keys, then this type might be the best one for you.
On the other hand, if you can’t remember where you left your keys, but you can recall a 4-digit PIN, then a combination lock might be best. These have the advantage that the advantage that you don’t need to remember the key when you take your bike and lock out for a ride.
Bike theft is horrible and, as we’ve seen, many people just give up on cycling altogether if they’ve had their bike stolen. It’s worth spending as much as you can afford on a top quality bike lock. It’s likely to be a small fraction of what your bike’s worth and will ensure that those thieves leave emptyhanded.
Have fun and stay safe.
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