Our biking gurus have tested an exhaustive list of bikes, bike gear essentials, and accessories over the years. To find the best bike lock on the market, we started by examining the literature. Utilizing our knowledge on the different bike lock types and reasons why a cyclist might purchase one, we scoured the market to find the highest performing and most popular models from over a dozen manufacturers. We bought the best models and sent them to our testers, who regularly commute on two wheels to work, community league nights, compete in cycling events, and generally find happiness on a bike. After receiving the locks, our testers rotated through the contenders daily for several months. We locked and unlocked each model countless times to various racks, poles, trees, fences, and posts. We also installed each mount more times than we wanted to count. To receive a diverse range of opinions, we passed out the locks to fellow cyclists, too.
We assessed all models across four pertinent yet mutually exclusive performance metrics, each weighted according to significance. Security was weighted the most at 40% of the total score. Although security is the underlying point of these products, "security" doesn't measure how the extra weight feels on your lower back or legs after long commutes or when fiddling with the locking mechanism at the bike rack while wind, rain, or snow is spitting in your face. Therefore, besides security, we assessed each model for ease of portability (25%), ease of use (20%), and versatility (15%). Below we describe how we approached each metric.
In this metric, we first considered the security rating of each lock earned from independent security rating agencies such as Sold Secure and Foundation ART. These agencies have experts investigate the integrity of each lock and how easy they are to compromise. These scores weren't revered as golden but served as a launch point.
Our next step (although we completed this at the very end of the testing period, for obvious reasons) was systematically destroying every lock. After assessing the estimated weak points of each model, we started with inexpensive hand tools that are commonly used among bike thieves. First up were wire and tin snips, and then a three-pound hammer; essentially, devices that are easy for bike thieves to carry and conceal. Next, we upped the ante with bigger and more destructive hand tools that are also popular among bike thieves, namely a pair of 36" bolt cutters and a 12" hacksaw. If models could not be broken with hand tools, we switched to power. A cheap electric angle grinder with a cut-off wheel was the tool of choice. We kept track of how long it took to "steal" each bike with an angle grinder.
Ease of Transport
For each bike lock in the competition, we recorded their weights on our scales for some quantitative data. The weight measurement is that of a lock and one key. Because not everyone opts for mounting the lock on their bike frame and because the frame mounts all weighed within a few ounces of each other, we didn't include those weights in our measurement. Other considerations within this metric include how well they can be carried on your person and in a saddle back, jersey pocket, backpack or messenger bag. Lastly, we judged the included frame mount, if any, assessing its ability to adapt to different bikes and frame placements. We docked points if the mount caused the lock to rub against our legs, impede pedaling, or allow the lock to rattle.
Ease of Use
How easy a lock is to use may influence your willingness to use it when you need it. We opened and closed each model repeatedly to check for sticky locking mechanisms. Our testers tested bike locks on many different bike racks and other immovable structures to see how easily they secure to various lockup points. We investigated helpful and annoying features, such as keyhole covers, keys with integrated lights, and key shape. Finally, we also valued how easy it is to install the frame mount.
We wanted to see how much of a bike could be secured using the lock to test versatility. Some models are only large enough to lock up the frame and one wheel. Other locks could secure the bike saddle, both wheels, and frame to an immovable structure. We also removed the front wheel and positioned it next to the rear wheel to see if securing both wheels was possible in this manner. We also considered different bike sizes and wheel widths, from skinny road bikes with skinny tires to robust mountain bike frames (yes, we've tested many!) with mountain bike tires. The more parts of the bike a lock could secure, the higher the score in this metric. We also considered how well a lock performs when locking up other items, such as dirt bikes, motorcycles, bike cargo trailers, and other expensive items found in a garage or backyard shed.