Goodbyes are hard, especially when you're not ready. To help you keep your wheeled companion, we researched 60+ bike locks and tested the best 12 head-to-head. Our team of bike commuters and joy-riders cycled through each lock to test their relative strengths and weaknesses. From metropolitan bikeways to rural trails, we mounted and stowed the locks to test their portability. We challenged the locks with awkward structures to shackle up to and tested how much bike fits inside each lock. At the end of the review, we put ourselves in the shoes of a bike thief. Using hand and power tools, we systematically compromised each lock to see how long they resist defeat. Choosing the right lock for your bike and community increases your chances of finding your wheels where you left them, and this review helps you do just that.
The 12 Best Bike Locks
After locking and riding all summer, we wrapped up our tests and assessments of the best locks on the market in 2017. Some classic locks remain top performers, while a few new products made it to the award podium this year. A folding lock from ABUS is our Top Pick winner for low to mid-security needs, and a very affordable lock from Cocoweb surprised us with a strong performance all around. Our returning Top Pick for Bike Commuting from Hiplok is an updated version, and better than ever. For several years running, though, no lock tops the overall dominance of the Kryptonite New York Standard, our reigning Editors' Choice Award winner.
Best Overall Bike Lock
Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock
Years go by, and the Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock remains unbeatable. Our Editors' Choice champ scores well across the board, thanks to its simple, well thought out design. Kryptonite built a strong theft deterrent, with 16 mm of hardened steel that we could only destroy with two separate cuts from the powered angle grinder. A "Gold" rating from Sold Secure grants you some peace of mind when locking your bike in urban areas. It's pretty heavy, but the frame mount is lightweight and makes for convenient storage while cruising. The model is about as easy to use as any U-lock and broad enough to fit around both wheels, the frame, and a standard bike rack as long as you remove your front wheel. Kryptonite even offers theft protection policies and a key replacement program for this lock, should trouble arise. Kudos to Kryptonite for making a versatile, burly and user-friendly bike lock of such quality.
Read review: Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock
Best Bang for the Buck
Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 Standard U-Lock
Our Best Buy Award goes to a mid-security model with an entry-level price: the Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 Standard U-Lock. This classic U-lock comes with a four-foot cable that can reach around both wheels and is efficient to secure and un-secure. The frame mount works well enough and comes with the manufacturer's name that is a theft deterrent in and of itself. Although OnGuard makes this style of mid-security U-Lock with cable in their Bulldog DT, the Kryptonite product is an all-around better product. From the higher quality cable to the easy locking "bent foot" design, the KryptoLok gradually pulled ahead in points.
Read review: Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 Standard U-Lock
Best on a Tight Budget
Cocoweb Armbar Combo
There's a popular bike lock buying guideline that says you should spend at least 10% of your bike's value on a lock. Using this logic, the Cocoweb Armbar Combo is a good match for anyone with a bike under $300 (read: the vast majority of bike traffic out there). Price alone, though, only tells part of the story. This model offers moderate security with a dual locking mechanism, superior to the cable and folding locks we tested. The long, thick cable grants the versatility to also lock up your saddle and front wheel without removing anything. It's straightforward to use, too. To be clear, this model doesn't match the quality of manufacturers like ABUS, OnGuard, or Kryptonite. It won't last as long, and there isn't a key replacement or theft protection policy. We weren't thrilled with the mount, either, for transportation. It isn't the top choice for regular commuters or folks with expensive rides, but it's more than sufficient for light to moderate use, like running errands or happy hour hopping. If your bike didn't cost a bomb and you need a lock for occasional use, grab the Cocoweb.
Read review: Cocoweb Armbar Combo
Top Pick for Bike Commuting
Hiplok Original: Superbright
Want a lock that you'll love transporting? We do too. It is such a rarity to find one that answers the pesky question of how to efficiently lug it around between lockups, but our Top Pick for Commuting, the Hiplok Original: Superbright does it with ingenuity. Hiplok took a beefy 8mm hardened steel chain two feet long and put a nylon sheath around it. Next, Hiplok engineered a padlock (one quite tough to break, we might add) with an extra metal bar that serves as a buckle. A swath of Velcro goes through the buckle then folds back on itself, creating an adjustable and comfortable design that you wear like a low belt. Lastly, the Superbright lock has a large reflective strip on the outside of the nylon cover, because bikers can never be too visible. A simple yet genius design, it is burly and transports well. The everyday commuting cyclist, as well as anyone else wanting a quality product, will appreciate this product.
Read review: Hiplok Original: Superbright
Top Pick for Low Security Needs
ABUS uGrip Bordo 5700
The German-made ABUS uGrip Bordo 5700 fills the low to mid-range security niche well. As its name implies, it folds up to a small size for transportation, either carried in the included bike frame mount, your pack, and even some pockets. The lock, mount, and a key altogether weigh a hair over two pounds, considerably less than higher-security locks we reviewed. Let's face it; a lock is useless if you don't take it with you and use it. The Bordo is much less cumbersome than chains, and U-locks, so it's less of a chore to bring along. It isn't heavy duty, though, and if you live in a high-theft area like a city or campus, we don't recommend it. But if your community doesn't require that level of security, this lock could be an ideal match.
Read review: ABUS uGrip Bordo 5700
Notable for Extended Parking
Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock
Want the most intimidating lock to wrap around your wheels and frame? The Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock is it. This lock is designed with extended and overnight parking in mind. If you lock up in the same place on a daily basis, you can leave this lock on the rack while you're away. No lock is impervious to defeat, but this one should deter all but the most dedicated thieves. To be sure, you need to know what you're getting into here. It's expensive, huge, and weighs over 15 pounds, so you won't be eager to transport it around town. If you lock your bike anywhere outside of your housing for long periods of time, or overnight, this lock provides strong assurance that your wheels will be there when you return.
Analysis and Test Results
We started our testing process by learning how these different bike locks performed in-transit; we shoved them in our panniers, bungeed them on trailers, placed in backpacks, installed brackets to stow them on the bike frame, wore them around our waists, and carried them in bike baskets. Next, we rode around town trying out the various styles by attaching them to racks, trees, parking meters, and fences to assess each one's usability. During these test rides, we started the process of examining secured bikes from the eyes of a bike thief. Even if the frame was secured, could somebody steal the wheels or seat? In the last phase of testing, we went deep into the world of bike thievery. Using common hand tools, we attempted to compromise each lock by combining brute strength and technology. Last of all, we pulled out a power tool and cut through each model with an electric angle grinder to see how long it took and how many cuts were necessary to free the bike from the lock.
Selecting the right product is more complicated than choosing your desired level of security. Plus, the broad range of locks on the market complicates matters further! Read on to learn how each of these products compares across our metrics. We based our scoring of each lock on four criteria: security, ease of transportation, ease of use, and versatility. The importance of each metric, as well as standout products in each critical area, are discussed below.
Buying a bike lock is a lot like shopping around for insurance. Figure out what coverage you need, then look for the best rate. To make this simple, we include the visual aid below - each lock we tested, plotted by retail price on the vertical axis (increasing up) and overall score on the horizontal axis (increasing right). With this, getting the most for your money is a piece of cake. Way out right is the unbeatable Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock - not cheap at $103, but spending more won't get you anything better. For tighter budgets and/or less glamorous rides, one of our Best Buy award winners may fit the bill. The Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 Standard U-Lock and Cocoweb Armbar Combo come in at $50 and $29, respectively. Which policy do you need?
Bike manufacturers don't share the same security rating standards. Neither do independent security testing organizations, like Sold Secure, that are popular references here in the States. Sold Secure is an independent, not-for-profit trade association that employs a small army of professional locksmiths to assess the security of various locking devices and mechanisms. Products are then rated based on their performance during the lock-cracking tests. Other organizations, such as VdS (a German independent testing institution for security and fire protection) and the Foundation ART (a group of Dutch organizations teaming together to prevent theft of two-wheeled vehicles), also submit products to rigorous professional-grade tests and rate them according to their performance. These organizations have no ties to manufacturers and are well-respected as holding a high standard of testing on many products, including bike locks.
For most bikers, this is the most critical criterion to consider when choosing a lock, so we went full tilt in our testing. We first assessed each lock's apparent weak point and then attacked it. We used tools commonly employed by bike thieves in an attempt to compromise each lock and make away with the bicycle. We started with hand tools, including wire snips, a hammer, a hacksaw, and bolt cutters, then switched to an electric angle grinder. News flash: With the right tools and enough time, all locks can be defeated, and it doesn't take a genius or a little to do it. A high security score represents the level of theft deterrence, but it's not a guarantee of safety for your bike.
The Kryptonite New York models took the highest scores in this metric. The Standard U-lock, Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock, and Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock Mini proved the toughest cookies to crack. These models have hardened steel bars ranging 14 mm to 18 mm that resisted attack from all our hand-powered tools without flinching, including a 36" bolt cutter. When it came to the angle grinder, each of these locks took the longest to slice through completely. However, for these locks, one cut wasn't enough. Due to their well-designed dual locking mechanisms, they required two separate cuts of their U bars to free the bike, doubling the getaway time. Extrapolating from our test results, it would take thief at least one and a half minutes of sparks a-flying to compromise one of these locks. The ABUS Granit X-Plus 540 also required two cuts of the angle grinder before releasing the bike frame. It received a lower security score due to our ability to cut through its 13 mm U bar in approximately ten fewer seconds than the above models from Kryptonite.
The other U-locks reviewed also withstood all hand tool attacks but only required a single cut from the electric angle grinder to become compromised, hence a lower security score. Each of these locks took approximately 25-40 seconds to cut. No amount of hammer slamming, hacksawing, or bolt cutting was able to beat them. The same goes for the Hiplok chain and locking mechanism. Of course, the cables accompanying the Cocoweb Armbar Combo, Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2, and OnGuard Bulldog DT locks were defeated by every hand tool in our tool arsenal. These cables do not increase a lock's level of security but do improve their versatility.
The folding locks were a significant step down in security in comparison to the chain and U-locks. The ABUS uGrip Bordo fared better than the INBIKE model, which was defeated in a single hammer blow. The obvious weak points of folding locks are the rotating rivets. The bolt cutters couldn't bite through the metal plates, but working the blades around the rivets, it took only 10-15 seconds to bust the locks.
As expected, the poorest performers in this metric were the cable locks, such as the cable-only OnGuard Akita and Kryptonite KryptoFlex 1218 Combo Lock. Each weapon in our toolbox of thievery was able to open these locks, from wire snips to hammers to hacksaws to the angle grinder. A thief with nearly any tool can defeat these locks, making them a perilous choice in urban and suburban settings. They are best reserved for short periods of time when unsupervised in low crime areas.
The security metric held the most weight in our review, but not everyone requires the same level of security out of their product. For example, someone leaving a mid-priced bike outside her or his college town workplace may not need as much security as someone securing the same bike up outside their urban apartment overnight. No matter how much you spend on a product, however, it won't do you any good if you don't know how to use it properly, so be sure to research the best ways to use your lock to maximize security.
Ease of Transport
How simple a lock is to transport plays a part in the likelihood of always having it with you. We examined the transport options for each different lock, then rode around to determine if that carrying the product with us was a habit we could form. Of course, there are many upgrades that people make to their bikes that create more carrying options like installing a basket or buying a quality messenger bag that make it pleasant to ride with a load. While those options were in our minds, we focused on the features of the product and any included hardware.
The folding locks we reviewed proved to be the easiest models to transport, with the ABUS uGrip Bordo being the most convenient. It folds up into a compact shape that slides into a backpack or messenger bag without taking up much space, or even in generously sized pant pockets. It weighs under two pounds, less than every chain and U-lock we analyzed. Lastly, its frame mount was a favorite of ours. It fits onto nearly any cylindrical bike frame and, while easy to slide into and remove from the mount, it remained in place without rattling or ever coming close to falling out.
The wearable design of the Hiplok Original is a great innovation that makes transporting the lock a breeze, despite weighing over four pounds. It allows you to attach the chain around your waist like a belt. Weight worn on your body is less noticeable than weight worn in a bag, pack, and even on the frame. Initially, we didn't expect this design to be comfortable around our midsection, but we were wrong. It's surprisingly comfortable, confirmed by our male and female testers. The Superbright version of this lock (which is the version we tested) comes with a large reflective stripe on the exterior of the nylon sheath which is positioned on the lower back when worn correctly. We like this attention to riding safety by adding another way to be visible on the streets in low light. No other model reviewed had reflective material. These reasons, coupled with its robust security, primarily influenced our decision to award it as our Top Pick for Commuting.
The lightweight nature of cable locks makes them easy to transport. The KryptoFlex 1218 comes with a frame mount, but you'll need to carry the Akita 8041 in your bag or pack. Our testers weren't huge fans of coiling the cables around their top tubes of a bike frame, which is time-consuming and not very stable. The heavy U-locks are more cumbersome to carry in a bag, and also take up a lot of space on a bike frame. Each U-lock came with a frame mount, though some are better than others. The most secure U-lock mount comes with the ABUS Granit X-Plus. Be aware that the large size of this lock might be too big to fit into the main triangle of small bike frames, such as kids bikes and some adult models. We also like the Transit FlexFrame that ship with the Kryptonite New York Standard and Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2, although these too can be difficult on small frames. The Cocoweb mount provides the most frustration, which isn't our idea of a useful mo
Kryptonite's Fahgettaboudit Mini lost points here because although it is compact, it weighs over 4 lbs and doesn't come with a mounting bracket. Lastly, the Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock is enormous and weighs over 15 pounds. Due to its great size and weight, you won't be carrying this one with you on a regular basis, but that's not its purpose. It's meant to stay where you want to lock up your bike, and you leave it on the rack when you pedal away.
Ease of Use
How quick could we secure and un-secure a bike with the different models tested? What design features made the securing up process that much easier? What styles were easier to use and what styles are more difficult? If we were a bike messenger with 20 different stops on our route, which piece performs the best? These were some of the questions we sought to answer when looking at the usability of each contender.
A shout out to the manufacturer's here: all the products we tested ran smoothly through the gauntlet of opening and closing countless times. We experienced no jams or stuck keys throughout our three months of testing. Still, some were easier to use than others. The cable locks are straightforward and easy to weave through wheels and frames at bike racks, and their flexibility was convenient when faced with awkward structures, such as trees or lampposts. Likewise, the Hiplok model was simple to guide the chain around irregular structures and our bikes. The Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain, on the other hand, is hard to control its links when wrapping up our bikes to immovable structures. We lived in constant fear of chipping the paint on our bikes as the huge links clunked around. If you're picky about the appearance of your bike, be wary of this chain model. In a similar vein, the folding locks tended to spring open when turning the key, which sometimes sent the exposed steel plates flying into our frames.
When it comes to standard bike racks, U-locks are simple enough to use. The Fahgettaboudit Mini is easy to manage due to its small size. The Kryptonite Series 2 Standard U-Lock has a feature they call the "bent foot" which allows you to insert one end of the "U" then leverage that side to insert the remaining end. This feature is excellent for usability but decreases the product's security, so we understand why the burly New York series U-Locks have dual locking mechanisms within their crossbars. When it comes to abnormal sizes and shapes to lock your bike to, though, the inflexible U-locks struggle. Consider where you want to lock up your wheels, and if there are secure bike racks nearby, before selecting a lock.
Bike locks aren't known as feature-laden devices, yet there are a few that stand out. The three Kryptonite New York locks, as well as the ABUS Granit X-Plus 540, come with a small light (either LED or HID) on one of the included keys, which is convenient when fiddling with your lock in the dark. We also appreciated the dust covers that were featured on every U-lock, plus the disc lock of the Fahgettaboudit Chain. The best one, though, belongs to the Granit X-Plus which is an automatic cover that is pushed out of the way by the key as you insert it. Keeping precipitation and sediment out of the locking mechanism reduces friction within the locking mechanism and prolongs its lifespan, and we appreciate that ABUS doesn't leave that protection up to our forgetfulness.
We installed each mount onto multiple bikes and found that they were not created equally regarding user-friendliness. While the Cocoweb and ABUS U-lock mounts proved annoying to install, the mount for the folding ABUS lock was a cinch to install and adjust. It either attaches to the screw holes of a water bottle cage or anywhere on the frame using two heavy duty hook and loop straps, which takes seconds to install. The zip ties included with the INBIKE folding model were all but useless, which was frustrating.
A bike isn't rideable with its front wheel stolen. In this testing category, we wanted to explore how much of a bicycle could be secured. The most common components stolen off bikes are front wheels with quick release skewers (the most common theft, and also happens even if owners don't have quick release wheels), saddles, bike lights, and rear wheels. If bikes are left out long enough, the entire bike might get stripped down to the locked frame, component by component.
The most versatile models we tested are the U-locks that come with cables (although there is always the option to buy two U-locks, of course). The OnGuard Bulldog DT and Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 come with a four-foot long rubberized cable to secure both wheels and seat (through the stays). The Cocoweb Armbar Combo comes with a thicker 5-foot cable, which makes it even easier to lock up both wheels, the frame, and saddle to a bike rack. Cable models also cover your whole bike (except that the ends are often too large to secure seats), yet we don't consider leaving your entire bike security up to a single cable to be a brilliant idea in most environments. The long chain of the Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock is long enough to secure both wheels and the frame to an immovable structure, but don't expect to feed the hefty links through your saddle stays.
For shorter locks, it's a good practice to remove the front wheel and position it to lock up with the rear wheel and frame. The U-locks and folding locks can lock up a wheel and the frame, but depending on your tire size, they might not handle two wheels in the method described. The Hiplok is more flexible and provides a larger internal area for fitting even fat tires, the frame, and the structure you are using as an anchor.
Two locks made it all but impossible to lock both wheels and the frame to a structure. The INBIKE and Fahgettaboudit Mini were too small to even fit two thin road tires along with the frame to most bike racks. They could, at least, lock a wheel and the frame together, although the mini struggles with fat tires.
Other Uses for Your Lock
Throughout the review, we found many other uses for these products, especially the bigger U-locks and the chain models. We locked the back tire of a dirt bike to its brake rotor, tire of a trailer to its frame so it couldn't move, a mountain board to a bike trailer, and some random items in our gear garage when traveling. All this is to say: keep your mind open to other things a lock can secure. The bigger the lock, the more options for locking things. However, if the lock were too big and cumbersome, we wouldn't bring it. So for the dirt bike and mountain board, we liked the medium sizes (6-8 inches in total length).
To prolong the life of your security device, regular maintenance is key. How frequently you do this is largely dependent upon your climate. If you live in a harsh climate with high amounts of rain and snow or an area near salt water, monthly maintenance may be necessary. In other climates or regions, though, a little lock love every two to three months should suffice.
Focus your cleaning and lubrication efforts on any moving parts and areas where parts attach, such as keyholes, deadbolts, the ends of u-lock shackles, and cylinders. Clean these parts first with a rag, using a spray product like WD40 if there is any visible corrosion or heavy grime. After cleansing, apply a lubricant. Dry, Teflon-based lubricants are typically recommended for use on locks. Lubricate as directed on the bottle/box. Make sure to insert your key and turn it several times to spread the lubricant around. Your local bike shop can help you select products for cleaning and lubricating. Otherwise, most hardware stores carry the products you need.
Choosing a bike lock can be overwhelming yet necessary for most bikers out there. Protection is the top priority for all of us when purchasing this product. Your decision depends on a handful of factors varying from whether you are looking for the strongest lock on the market, or you may want a lock that is easy to carry around. We hope our process has helped you choose the best product for your needs. Still undecided? Try our Buying Advice article.
— Ross Robinson