Best Bike Lock of 2021
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|Pros||Versatile, light (for a U-Lock), easy to use, value||Relatively lightweight, portable||Wearable, lightweight, security, very convenient||Lightweight, easily portable, quality construction and design, flexible||Inexpensive, more secure than many in its price range, high quality|
|Cons||Slightly less secure than other U-Lock models, bulky||Small, not very versatile, struggles to lock to large structures||Not confidently secure around waist, not adjustable fit||Less secure than U-locks, rotating plates pesky at times||Locking mechanism stuck a few times, lackluster frame mount|
|Bottom Line||A versatile U-lock and cable combo that provides strong security at a favorable price point||If portability and convenience are your priority, this model fits the bill while offering good security||This lightweight lock can feel insecure while riding, but offers a wearable option if you don't mind the price tag||A nice balance of moderate security and ease of transportation||This inexpensive U-lock offers versatility and security that is likely to fit the needs and budgets of many cyclists and commuters|
|Rating Categories||Kryptonite Evolutio...||Hiplok DX Wearable...||Litelok Gold Wearable||ABUS uGrip Bordo 5700||Kryptonite Kryptolo...|
|Ease Of Transport (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (20%)|
|Specs||Kryptonite Evolutio...||Hiplok DX Wearable...||Litelok Gold Wearable||ABUS uGrip Bordo 5700||Kryptonite Kryptolo...|
|Measured weight (lbs)||3.5 lbs||2.6 lbs||2.4 lbs||2.2 lbs||3.2 lbs|
|Type of lock||U-Lock + cable||U-Lock||Wearable belt||Folding||U-Lock + cable|
|Primary materials/thickness||13mm hardened steel; braided steel cable||14mm hardened steel||Boaflexicore and hardened steel||5mm steel bars||12.7mm hardened steel; braided steel cable|
|Locking dimension||U-lock: 5.6" x 9.4"; Cable: 4'||5" x 8.5"||Size Medium: 37.9" circumference, 1.9" strap width||31" circumference||U-lock: 4" x 9"; Cable: 4'|
|# of keys included||3 keys (one with HID light)||2 Keys||3 keys||2 keys||2 keys|
|Tin snips||Cable: Yes; U-lock: No||No||No||No||No|
|Hacksaw||No||Yes, eventually||Yes, but unrealistic||Yes, eventually||No|
|Bolt cutters, 36"||Cable: Yes, U-lock: No||No||No||Yes, 2 seconds||No|
|Number of cuts to free lock||2 cuts||2 cuts||1 cut||1 cut||2 cuts|
Best Overall Bike Lock
Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock
As the competition mounts year after year, we still cannot find a better lock than the Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock. This burly lock is as tough as its namesake city and earned high scores across all our performance metrics. With this U-Lock, Kryptonite provides a strong theft deterrent with 16 mm of hardened steel that we could only manage to defeat with two separate cuts from the powered angle grinder. It even withstood a car jack. A "Diamond" rating from Sold Secure grants you some peace of mind when locking your bike in urban areas.
It should be no surprise that something that can withstand a car jack's force also carries a hefty weight. However, the New York does come with a frame mount, making it convenient to carry on your bike while you're cruising or commuting. 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 if your lock is stolen (though there are many tricky stipulations that must apply to make us doubt its usefulness for most riders) and a key replacement program for this lock (be sure to register your keys after purchasing). We are impressed with Kryptonite for providing a burly, versatile, user-friendly, and high-quality bike lock.
Read review: Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock
Best Wearable Design
Hiplok Original: Superbright
Love the idea of an effective bike lock but hate the reality of carrying one around with you? The Hiplok Original: Superbright offers an innovative new way to transport a lock. Hiplok took a beefy, 8mm hardened steel chain two feet long and put a nylon sheath around it (a detail we loved because that means the lock won't scratch up the paint job on your frame.) Next, they engineered a padlock with an extra metal bar that serves as a buckle. A swath of Velcro goes through the buckle and then folds back on itself, creating an adjustable and comfortable design that you can wear like a low belt. The Superbright lock also has a thick reflective strip on the outside of the nylon cover because when you're riding, you can never be too visible to motorists. The everyday commuting cyclist will probably appreciate this lock the most. One of our testers has been using this lock on daily bike commutes for over four years now. They have never had an issue with the locking mechanism sticking (it's still markedly smooth and easy), the Velcro becoming less adherent, or any real performance loss.
Those riding for fitness or recreation might want something more lightweight. It feels much heavier stowed in a backpack or messenger bag than it does when worn on your person. It is also one of the more expensive models, yet it still outpaces other contenders in the wearable lock category. If this type of lock sounds like something you might like to try out, keep in mind that wearing something around your waist while riding might feel constrictive to some. But, for a lock this burly, it's our testers' favorite wearable lock for daily commutes.
Read review: Hiplok Original: Superbright
Best Bang for Your Buck
OnGuard Brute STD
The Onguard Brute STD offers security (receiving a Diamond rating by Sold Secure) comparable to the highest-scoring models in our review but at a lower price. This is achieved by omitting so fancier features while including the essential ones. Once properly locked to a secured bike rack, 16.8 mm of hardened steel stands between your 2-wheeled baby and thieves. Two cuts with an angle grinder are required to free the bike, a time-consuming and noisy operation that also broadcasts a thief’s unlawful intentions. Generously included with this model are 5 replaceable keys, one of which has a helpful LED light for finding the keyhole in the dark. The included mounting hardware is easy to install, fits a wide range of frame sizes, and keeps the lock from rattling much when underway in the city. Despite being made of such thick steel, this U-lock is lighter weight than models that offer the same level of security.
This U-lock is fairly bulky and lacks the slick appearance of some top-shelf competitors. The mounting hardware also is not our favorite. When mounted on the bike frame, the lock sits beside the top tube, not underneath. So, the mount sits asymmetrically to the side of the main triangle instead of streamlined inside the frame. A few more expensive models feature a cover for the keyhole that helps the interior of the lock free of dirt and moisture for continuous smooth operation. We wish a keyhole cover was included on this lock, but for the price, the OnGuard Brute STD packs more security into its price than any other model.
Read review: OnGuard Brute STD
Best on a Tight Budget
Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard
For those looking for a quality U-Lock with a tighter budget, we recommend the Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard. This U-lock comes with a cable you can wrap around the front wheel or seat post if needed. What caught our eye about this lock was its security. Compared to other locks at this price point, the Kryptolok blew the competition out of the water. Our hand tool armada could not defeat the 13 mm of hardened steel of the U and the shackle. At this price point, other U-locks focus on the U part of the lock, leaving the shackle vulnerable to a thief cutting through with a single cut. However, the Kryptolok is strong in both components, meaning it would take a thief at least two cuts to defeat this lock.
The drawback we found is the locking mechanism gets sticky more easily than other locks. It works reliably after some cleaning and lubrication, but it's not as smooth as other, higher-end locks. Our testers also wish Kryptonite would commit to designing a more user-friendly frame mount for their U-locks. We think you'll want to give this lock a second look if you need the security of a U-lock without the hefty price.
Read review: Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard
Best Low Security Lightweight Lock
ABUS Chain Lock 1200 Web
If you're on the market for a bike lock that is more suitable to use in high-risk areas, like a college campus, skip the ABUS Chain Lock 1200 Web. However, if you need a minimal deterrent that's easy to carry and use, then there's something to be said for this simple chain lock. Whether in your jersey pocket, in a bag, or wrapped around your seat post, at less than half a pound, you'll hardly notice it. We wrapped it around the seat posts of both adult and children's bikes, and in both cases, our testers barely noticed it was there. Its simple, combo-opening feature means you don't need to carry around a key, either.
Unfortunately, this lock won't stop a determined thief. Its use is limited to a minute or two out of eyesight in urban areas. But in low-security regions where there aren't tools-toting thieves around the corner, this ABUS Chain Lock might be all you need. It's not super burly, but if you're looking for a lightweight lock that doesn't break the bank and is easy to carry around, the ABUS 1200 is just for you and your (hopefully inexpensive) bike.
Read review: ABUS Chain Lock 1200 Web
Notable for Extended Parking
Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock
"Enough with the fluff," you say, "show me the big guns." If you're looking for a no-nonsense lock that is all about visual and physical security, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock is what you need. It is the lock you want if you're parking your bike overnight or for an extended time in certain higher-risk areas. If you lock up in the same place daily, you can leave this lock on the rack while you're away (as allowed). Every bike lock out there can be destroyed, but the Fahgettabouit Chain and Disc Lock require specialized tools and quite a bit of time to cut through. In other words, this lock stands up to only the most dedicated thieves.
Before you run to your nearest outdoor retailer, let's be clear about the reality of this lock: it's bulky, expensive, and weighs over 15 pounds, so you won't be eager to transport it around town. Because it lacks any nylon sheath, the chain can chip the paint off your frame. If you like to keep your wheels looking shiny and somewhat new, you should probably find another lock to use. Daily trips with an extra 15 pounds aren't fun either, and we encourage you to check into lighter-weight options that will make commuting with the lock less of a drag. However, if you lock your bike outside and leave it unattended for long periods, this lock provides more robust assurance than most other locks that your wheels will be there when you return.
Why You Should Trust Us
We assembled a team of experts to peddle around with and pick apart these locks. Our lead tester, Rebecca Eckland is a former USAC Cat 3 Road bike racer, winner of the 600-mile California Triple Crown Stage race, and is a longtime cyclist doing everything from racing to commuting. She's passionate about her bikes and believes that having a bike stolen is about the worst thing that can happen to a person. She's worked in bike shops and has seen all kinds of locks firsthand. Based out of Reno, NV, Rebecca practically lives on her bike for training, commuting, and fun.
Our team also includes Ross Robinson, a dedicated bike commuter who has been locking up with chains, folding models, cables (as a secondary lock), and U-locks for over 12 years. Ross has an interest in testing gear to its limit and has spent over 200 hours researching bike locks (and bike thieves) with hands-on assessment and directly experimenting with ways to defeat them. Rylee Sweeney rounds out our primary testing team. Rylee comes to us with a background in bike touring across the US, where bike security is nearly as essential as food and water. We've had our collective hands on over 50 different models of locks between these three testers and have followed trends and innovations in the market throughout the last 20 years.
We started our testing process by learning how these different bike locks perform in transit. We shoved them in panniers, carried them in backpacks, bike baskets, or camera bags, stuffed them into saddlebags, bungeed them on trailers, installed brackets to stow them on the frame, and wore them around our waists. We rode to all the places you would--offices, libraries, bike shops, college campuses, our local coffeehouses and watering holes, and a grocery store in a strip mall.
Related: How We Tested Bike Locks
In the last phase of our testing process, we became the bike thieves. Using tools common to bike thieves, we did our best to break or cut through each lock by combining ingenuity, brute strength, and when that failed, technology. Last, 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. Bike security is no joke, so we bought, used, and destroyed every single lock in this review to leave no corner unturned.
Analysis and Test Results
We designed this review around four central performance metrics that best define a quality bike lock: security, ease of transportation, ease of use, and versatility. Security is the most important of these four, but if a lock weighs a lot or is inconvenient to carry, will you use it? That's where the rest of the criteria come into play. Each performance metric's score is weighted according to its relative importance.
Related: Buying Advice for Bike Locks
We hate to say it, but the price of a bike lock price usually correlates directly with its quality. In this case, quality means the overall security a lock provides and the amount of time it will take a thief to, in the worst-case scenario, cut through, or in the best-case scenario, question their return on investment in attempting to steal your bike. As it turns out, bike thieves have something in common with the rest of us: none want to go to jail. Many bike thefts are crimes of opportunity, and most thieves are inspired to steal bikes that: 1) are not locked correctly, or 2) are worth the risk.
The Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock is not cheap, yet it outperformed every other contender, including locks that cost much more. We consider it a good value for those looking for robust protection. The OnGuard Brute STD offers comparable security at a lower price. It's a little less convenient and streamlined compared to the New York Standard, but for many folks, the money savings mitigate these issues without needing to sacrifice security. For tighter budgets and those in less risky neighborhoods or with less glamorous or costly rides, the Kryptolok Standard is even more budget-friendly, but it is a step down in bike security. While we usually recommend that our friends explore more inexpensive options in other gear categories, we firmly believe that your lock is not where you should look to save money or cut corners. If you spend a little more on a lock now, you will hopefully prevent spending a lot more on a new bike later.
Different lock 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 United States. The fact that these security standards aren't standardized can make it difficult to weed out precisely what a particular rating means. 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, submit products to rigorous professional-grade tests and rate them according to performance. These organizations have no ties to manufacturers and are well-respected for holding a high standard of testing on many products, including bike locks.
For most cyclists, security is the most critical consideration when choosing a lock (which makes sense--why else would you be buying a bike lock if you weren't concerned about your bike's security?). We invested a lot of time in testing the security of each lock included in this review. We first assessed each lock's weak point and then attacked it. Then, we tried alternative attacks on a lock's integrity to ensure we were not missing any vital weaknesses. We used tools commonly employed by bike thieves to compromise each lock and make away with the bicycle. We started with hand tools, including tin snips, a hammer, a hacksaw, and bolt cutters. We then switched to an electric hacksaw, angle grinder, a cordless drill, and even a car jack (because, yes, thieves also use those).
With the right tools and enough time, all locks can be defeated, and it doesn't take a genius or a big burly human to do it. A high score for security represents only a higher level of theft deterrence. In the words of a skeptical cyclist: "if you think this lock is so great, why don't you take your race bike down to the college campus, lock it up, leave it overnight and see if it's there in the morning?" That's never a good idea because even the highest security locks can be broken within minutes, not hours. The hope is that those extra minutes are long enough that someone nearby will notice the sparks flying and the evil smell of burning metal and will stop the theft from happening. However, in a world where car alarms don't cause much panic, let's be realistic about what you can hope for out of a bike lock.
The Kryptonite New York models scored the highest in the security metric of all the locks we tested. The Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock, Standard U-lock, OnGuard Brute STD, and Fahgettaboudit Mini proved to be some of the hardest locks to crack. These models have hardened steel bars ranging from 14 mm to 18 mm in diameter that resisted attacks from all our hand-powered tools, including a 36" bolt cutter. When it came to the angle grinder, each of these locks took the longest to slice through completely (nearly a minute of hard-core, sparks-flying slicing). Moreover, for these locks, one cut wasn't enough. Due to their well-designed dual-locking mechanisms, they required us to do two separate cuts on the U-bar of each lock to free the bike, doubling the necessary getaway time. 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 from the angle grinder before releasing the bike frame, as did the Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7, The Hiplok DX Wearable U-lock and the Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard.
The less expensive Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard performed exceptionally well in this arena for a budget U-lock. Most products at this price point sacrifice security by not adding durable materials to the shackles of the locks. The Kryptolok shone in this metric; it is remarkably more robust than OnGuard Bulldog U-lock. We also like that it required two cuts at any point on the lock to defeat it. A dual-lock mechanism like this is less common in this price range.
The other U-locks that we reviewed also withstood all hand tool attacks but only required a single cut from the electric angle grinder to become compromised, so they earned lower security scores. Each of these locks took approximately 25-40 seconds to cut. No amount of hammer slamming, hacksawing, or bolt cutting could beat them. The same goes for the Hiplok Original: Superbright chain and locking mechanism. Of course, the cables accompanying some of the U-locks, like the Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard were defeated by most hand tools in our arsenal. As a rule of thumb, cable locks should never be used on their own to secure a frame, but when they are paired with another lock (like a U-Lock), they improve a lock's versatility by securing more components.
The folding style locks were a significant step down in security in comparison to the chain and U-locks. The ABUS uGrip Bordo was comparable to the FoldyLock Compact, which had a superior locking mechanism and joints, but was defeated much quicker by the angle grinder. The weak points of folding locks are the rotating rivets. The bolt cutters couldn't bite through the metal plates, but by working the blades around the rivets it took only 10-15 seconds to bust the ABUS model. Surprisingly, the FoldyLock resisted this attack.
Conversely, we were disappointed by the security offered by the Ottolock Cinch. After reading all the hype about this lightweight lock, we were excited when the Ottolock survived a few common tools (wire snips, hacksaw) during our first trial of destruction. However, upon further inspection, this lock doesn't provide much protection at all — in less than a few seconds, it can be cut with a pair of very inexpensive and easy-to-hide tin snips. Despite the hype, this lock doesn't protect you from a thief with a basic set of tools. The TiGr mini, which mostly only appears more secure, also surprised us with its lack of protection. The mini was defeated in just a few seconds by the bolt cutters. With 10 minutes of dedication, you can cut through the lock with a cheap hacksaw. Because the Ottolock can be defeated by tools that are much easier to conceal than the TiGr mini, we give the scoring nod to the TiGr.
As expected, the weakest performer is the locking zip-tie Hiplok Z Lok. A thief with almost any tool can defeat this lock, including a hammer, making it a poor choice in urban and most suburban settings. This lock is best reserved for short periods when the bike is unsupervised in low-crime areas. We certainly don't recommend it when you leave your bike out of sight for any length of time.
The security metric held the most weight in our review, but not everyone requires the same security level out of their product. It is essential to remember that security comes at the cost of other attributes, including ease of use and weight. The more secure a lock, the heavier it likely will be. The most secure lock in our lineup, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock weighs a whopping 15 lbs. There's no way any commuter will want to carry that around (typically, cyclists who use this lock leave the lock where they will park and secure their bike). It is also worth a little cost-benefit analysis, as some of the most secure locks likely cost more than the single-speed beater you may be rolling down to the coffee shop or parking in front of the library.
Ease of Transport
If a bike lock is heavy and bulky, how likely is it that you will carry it around with you (especially if your bike is your daily commute vehicle)? If a lock is so inconvenient to carry around with you--say, if it's fifteen pounds and makes you sweat like crazy on the climb, chances are you're probably not going to use it. This is why we examined each lock's portability by riding around with them (mounted to the bike frame if a mount is provided), carrying them in a jersey pocket, or shoving them in a bag (backpack, pannier, camera bags). These tests helped us determine whether or not carrying the lock around was a habit that we could realistically keep. Of course, there are many bike upgrades and accessories that create more carrying options --like installing a basket or buying a pannier or quality messenger bag-- that make it easier to ride with a bulky or heavy load. While those options were in our minds, we focused on the product's existing features and any included hardware.
The folding locks are some of the easiest models to transport. Both the ABUS uGrip Bordo and FoldyLock Compact fold into a compact shape that easily slides into a backpack or messenger bag without taking up much space. They could even fit inside generously sized pant pockets. They also come with easy-to-use frame mounts that can be strapped onto the bike and were among our favorite mount designs. Both fit onto nearly any tubular bike frame, and while easy to slide into and remove from the mount, remained in place without rattling or ever coming close to falling out. It's also worth mentioning that both weigh considerably less than all the chain and U-locks that we analyzed.
Likewise, we were impressed by the 0.46-pound ABUS 1200 Chain that easily wraps around the seat post of basically any bike. And due to its nylon sheath, that chain wasn't going to scratch up the paint job on our sweet ride. We also took note of the one-pound TiGr mini, which is also convenient to transport, either with its frame mount or stuffed in a pack.
The wearable designs of the Hiplok Original and the LiteLok are examples of a great innovation that makes transporting a lock relatively easy. Both of these models allow you to attach the chain around your waist like a belt--something that other locks of a similar weight (read: U-Locks) don't do. Weight worn on your body is less noticeable while riding than weight worn in a bag, pack, or even on the bike frame. Initially, we didn't expect this design to be comfortable around our midsection, but we were wrong. It's surprisingly comfortable and was confirmed by both our male and female testers. In the end, however, we prefer the Hiplok over the LiteLok for two reasons. The mechanism that secures the LiteLok around your waist (so you don't have to lock it to yourself) comes undone while riding, which is a definite drawback. Also, the LiteLok only bends on one plane, which makes it less versatile than the Hiplok (and a bit more of a pain to use). Without these two drawbacks, we would be head over heels for its lighter weight and the ability to lock it up without a key.
The Superbright version of the Hiplok (which is the version we tested) comes with a large reflective stripe on the exterior of the nylon sheath. When worn correctly, this reflective stripe is positioned on the rider's lower back. The LiteLok is also reflective. We appreciate this attention to riding safety adding another way to be visible on the streets in low light. No other models reviewed have reflective material that helps promote the rider's visibility.
Next up are the U-locks. These heavy-hitters are secure and rigid, which is great when you're talking about security, but not-so-great when you want to ride a bike with them. U-locks are by far more cumbersome to carry than most other locks, no matter if you bring them in a bag or on your bike frame. Each U-lock tested, except for the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini, comes 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, like bikes for someone 5'2" and shorter. We also like the Transit FlexFrame that ships with the New York Standard and Kryptonite Evolution Mini, although these too can be difficult on small frames. The compact Hiplok DX Wearable U-Lock has a plastic clip attached to it that allows you to clip it to your belt or back pocket, but be prepared to tighten your belt, because it weighs 2.4 lbs and it’ll pull your pants down. While convenient for short commutes, its small size is limiting.
It's worth mentioning that the most comfortable product to carry in this review is the Hiplok Z Lok, which, at 1.3 ounces, weighs next to nothing. We hardly noticed this zip-tie model, whether it was attached to the frame of the bike, under the saddle, or on our wrist--making a cycling-fashion forward statement our testers didn't mind so much (it was so light, we couldn't notice it was there). While it's not much of a deterrent for even a clumsy thief — and scored extremely low in the security metric — this inexpensive lock may be enough to prevent the theft of a saddle or pannier.
Kryptonite's Fahgettaboudit Mini lost points here because although it is compact, it weighs the most of all U-locks tested and doesn't come with a mounting bracket. Even though it's small in size, it tended to beat up the loose papers and other contents in our backpacks. Lastly, the Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock weighs over 15 pounds and is the ultimate heavyweight bike lock. Large, burly, and no-nonsense, this large lock isn't something you will probably ever want to carry around with you. This land-bound bike anchor is meant to stay put on a bike rack, which means this lock scored terribly in the transportation category to offset its top score in security.
Ease of Use
While a bike lock seems like it would be a pretty simple and straightforward piece of equipment to help keep your wheels secure, you may be surprised that some of today's models can have a bit of a learning curve. It can take practice getting used to the mechanics of taking off the front wheel of the bike and threading a lock through two sets of spokes and a bike rack to get comfortable and efficient with it. This metric tested the added difficulty each lock imposed on this process, whether due to its size, shape, weight, or design. Specifically, we asked how quickly it was to secure and take off each lock, and which design features specifically made that process more natural or more difficult?
Most of 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 each product. 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 is convenient when faced with awkward structures, such as trees or lamp posts.
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. The nylon sheath on the ABUS 1200 Chain assured us that it wouldn't nick or damage our paint jobs and prized brewery stickers.
The U-locks tend to be less accommodating when it comes to locking a bike to anything but a bike rack, especially if you have wider wheels on a mountain bike or fat bike. These locks serve cyclists best when there is a specific bike rack present at their destination. A U-lock for the frame and another lock (cable or otherwise) for the wheels would work nicely, but this arrangement also increases the amount of time spent locking up. However, when it comes to standard bike racks, U-locks are simple enough to use. The New York Standard U-Lock is easy to manage due to its reasonable size.
Even though bike locks aren't known for their fancy features, some extra touches do make these easier to use. Four Kryptonite locks, as well as the ABUS Granit X-Plus, the OnGuard Brute STD, and OnGuard Bulldogcome 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 frame mount onto multiple bikes and found that each mount is not created equally when it comes to user-friendliness. While the ABUS U-lock mount was annoying to install, the mount for the folding ABUS lock was much easier 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 take seconds to install. The frame mount for the OnGuard Bulldog U-lock is easy to install, whereas the mount for the Kryptonite U-locks received mixed reviews. The bike mount for the FoldyLock Compact also has a neat feature, where it attaches to the water bottle holder, but you don't have to remove your bottle cage to snap it into place.
It's also worth noting that the size of your bike will impact the ease of installing a frame mount. While you could probably attach a whole handful of lock mounts to a 60cm+ bicycle frame, if you're petite and riding a 48cm (think: 5'2 and under riders), then mounting a lock to the bike might mean you lose your capacity to carry a water bottle or (sometimes) that the mount won't work at all. This isn't a huge deal if your commute is short, and you don't mind carrying your water in your backpack, but not having water within easy reach on longer rides can get you dehydrated and could be a deal-breaker for some.
A bike won't be rideable without its front wheel unless you have some serious wheelie or unicycle skills. We encourage you to stay on two wheels, though, and to consider getting a lock that also secures that front wheel. While more bikes nowadays offer disc brakes, making front tires a little more difficult to remove (but not much), securing that front wheel creates an extra deterrent for a thief looking to make a quick grab. Other components thieves like to snatch include: saddles, bike lights, and rear wheels. If bikes are left out long enough, the entire bike might get stripped down to the bare locked frame.
The most versatile models we tested are the U-locks that also come with cables (although there is always the option to buy two U-locks, of course). The OnGuard Bulldog DT, Kryptolok Standard, and the Evolution Mini-7 come with a four-foot-long rubberized cable to secure both wheels and the seat (through the seat stays). Some of us found this cable to be a relief because it meant we didn't have to take the front wheel off, which made it a lot easier to use.
Cable-only models also are capable of covering your whole bike (except that the ends are often too large to secure seats), yet we don't recommend leaving your entire bike security up to a single cable in most environments. The long chain of the Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock is long enough to secure both wheels and the frame to a solid structure, but don't expect to feed the hefty chain links through your saddle stays.
Even though it's not always easy or convenient, 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 larger U-locks are the OnGuard Brute STD and the ABUS Granit X-Plus, which accommodate more bike parts inside the U. The steel chains have an advantage here, especially when locking up to irregular or awkward structures. The Hiplok Original: Superbright is flexible and provides a larger internal area for fitting even fat tires, the frame, and the structure you are using as an anchor in ways that a U-lock cannot compete.
Even with recent additions to our bike lock roster, three locks still made it all but impossible to lock both wheels and the frame to a structure. The TiGr mini 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 our testing, we found many other uses for these products, especially the bigger U-locks and chain models. We locked the back tire of a dirt bike to its brake rotor, a tire of a trailer to its frame so it couldn't move, and some random items in our gear garage when traveling. Keep your mind open to other uses for your lock--the bigger the lock, the more options for locking things.
Purchasing a lock is critical for pretty much every cyclist, especially those who use their bikes as their primary (or only) method of transportation. Losing your bike to a faulty or insufficient lock is probably about the worst thing that can happen, so we want you to find the lock that suits your needs and is easy to use. Think about what you want, where you lock your bike, and what level of inconvenience you are prepared to deal with, and pair those considerations with the locks outlined here. Your decision depends on a handful of factors varying from whether you are looking for the most robust lock on the market, the most convenient for quick stops, or if you want a lock that is light and easy to carry around. We hope this review sheds light on this sometimes complicated product so that you can make the decision that's the best for you and your bike.
— Ross Robinson and Rebecca Eckland
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