With 8 years of practice securing and defeating the best bike locks, our experts have tested over 28 different models. For this update, we purchased 18 top contenders to send through extensive testing and side-by-side comparisons to evaluate and compare various performance qualities, such as design, functionality, and security. Testing for months, we used them daily through different weather conditions, from the city to the country. We also attempted to cut these bike locks loose using bolt cutters, hacksaws, tin snips, and angle grinders. Our in-depth and objective review offers unbiased advice and the best recommendation to provide extra bike security wherever you may ride.Editor's Note: Our bike lock review was updated on May 3, 2023, editing for clarity and ensuring our lineup is still current.
The 5 Best Bike Locks of 2023
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|Pros||Large and versatile, super burly||Wearable design, solid security, easy to use||Large and strong U-lock, relatively lightweight, beefy mount||Secure, includes 5 keys, price is nice||No need for keys, versatile|
|Cons||Too heavy to transport regularly, can be a pain to use||Not lightweight, uncomfortable with some backpacks, pricey||Not the highest security possible, expensive||Clunky mounting hardware, heavy||Heavy, wearability limited by waist size|
|Bottom Line||Too big and heavy to transport, this lock is best left stationed at a bike rack where you regularly lock up for an extended time||The innovative design of this wearable chain lock increases this heavy lock's portability, which is great news for regular bike commuters||If you prefer top-shelf quality, this German-made lock delivers a great product||This lock provides great security and versatility at an affordable price, and while not our absolute favorite, it's pretty close||This chain lock does a good job balancing moderate security and convenience with a 5 digit combination and a deadbolt style locking mechanism|
|Rating Categories||Kryptonite New York...||Hiplok Original: Su...||ABUS Granit X-Plus...||OnGuard Brute STD||Kryptonite KryptoLo...|
|Ease of Transport (25%)|
|Ease of Use (20%)|
|Specs||Kryptonite New York...||Hiplok Original: Su...||ABUS Granit X-Plus...||OnGuard Brute STD||Kryptonite KryptoLo...|
|Measured weight (lbs)||15.1 lbs||4.3 lbs||3.3 lbs||3.6 lbs||5.8 lbs|
|Type of lock||Chain with disc lock||Wearable chain||U-lock||U-Lock||Chain|
|Primary materials/thickness||14mm 3T hardened manganese steel(chain); 15mm steel shackle (disc lock); nylon sleeve||8mm hardened steel chain, 600D polyester sleeve||13mm hardened steel||16.8mm hardened steel||9.5mm 3T manganese steel|
|Locking dimension||60" circumference (chain); 4" x 5" (disc lock)||33.5" circumference, 2" width||4.3" x 9"||7.5" x 10.5"||35" circumference, 1.5" width|
|# of keys included||3 keys (one with HID light)||3 keys||2 keys (one with LED light)||5 keys||N/A|
|Bolt cutters, 36"||No||No||No||No||No|
|Number of cuts to free lock||2 cuts||1 cut||2 cuts||2 cuts||2 cuts|
Best Overall Bike Lock
Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock
As the competition mounts yearly, 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 performance metrics. With this U-Lock, Kryptonite provides a strong theft deterrent with 16 mm of hardened steel that we could only defeat with two different cuts from the powered angle grinder. It even withstood a car jack. Plus, it has a "Diamond" rating from Sold Secure, which adds peace of mind when locking your bike in urban areas.
Unsurprisingly, something that can withstand a car jack's force also carries a hefty weight. Fortunately, the New York lock includes a frame mount, making it convenient to carry on your bike while 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 offers theft protection policies if your lock is stolen; however, several tricky stipulations must apply, making us doubt its usefulness for most riders. They also offer a key replacement program for this lock, so register your keys after purchasing. Overall, we are impressed with Kryptonite for providing a burly, versatile, user-friendly, high-quality bike lock.
Read more: Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock review
Best Wearable Design
Hiplok Original: Superbright
Love the idea of an effective bike lock but loathe the reality of carrying one around with you? The Hiplok Original: Superbright presents a new way to transport a lock. Hiplok took a beefy, 8 mm hardened steel chain two feet long and put a nylon sheath around it (a detail we loved because it won't scratch the paint on your bike 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 appreciate this lock the most. One of our testers has been using this lock on daily bike commutes for over four years and has yet to experience any performance issues, like the locking mechanism sticking (it's still markedly smooth and easy) or the Velcro becoming less adherent.
Those riding for fitness or recreation might want something more lightweight. It feels much heavier stowed in a backpack or messenger bag than when worn on your person. It's also one of the more expensive models in our lineup, yet it still outpaces other contenders in the wearable lock category. If this type of lock sounds like something you'd like, remember 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 more: Hiplok Original: Superbright review
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. It omits fancier features while including the essential ones. Once properly locked to a secured bike rack, 16.8 mm of hardened steel stands between your two-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 five 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 thick steel, this U-lock is lighter than models offering the same level of security.
This U-lock is relatively bulky and lacks the slick appearance of some top-shelf competitors. Also, the mounting hardware is not our favorite. When mounted on the bike frame, the bike lock sits beside the top tube, not underneath, so the mount sits asymmetrically to the side of the main triangle instead of being streamlined inside the frame. A few more expensive models feature a keyhole cover that helps the lock's interior stay free of dirt and moisture for continuous smooth operation. We wish this contender included a keyhole cover, but for its cost, the OnGuard Brute STD packs more security into its price than any other model.
Read more: OnGuard Brute STD review
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. If needed, this U-lock has a cable to wrap around the front wheel or seat post. What caught our eye about this bike 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.
A drawback is that the locking mechanism gets sticky more easily than other locks. After some cleaning and lubrication, it works reliably but is 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. You'll want to give this lock a second look if you need the security of a U-lock without the hefty price.
Read more: Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard review
Best Low Security Lightweight Lock
ABUS Chain Lock 1200 Web
If you're seeking a bike lock suitable for use in high-risk areas, like a college campus, skip the ABUS Chain Lock 1200 Web. However, this simple chain lock may do the trick if you need a minimal deterrent that's easy to carry and use. At less than half a pound, it's easy to transport, whether in your jersey pocket, a backpack, or wrapped around your seat post. 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 a key around.
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 this ABUS Chain Lock might be all you need in low-security regions where there aren't tool-toting thieves around the corner. 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 more: ABUS Chain Lock 1200 Web review
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 for visual and physical security, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock is what you need. It's 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 in our lineup can be destroyed, but the Fahgettabouit Chain and Disc Lock require specialized tools and a lot of time to cut through. In other words, this contender 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 may not be eager to transport it around town. Because it lacks any nylon sheath, the chain can chip the paint off your frame. Look elsewhere if you like to keep your wheels looking shiny and somewhat new. Daily trips with an added 15 pounds aren't fun either, and we encourage you to look into lighter options that will make commuting less of a drag. However, if you lock your bike outside and leave it unattended for long periods, this lock provides an extra assurance that your wheels will be there when you return.
Read more: Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock review
Why You Should Trust Us
Our bike security experts have tested more than 28 locks over the past 8 years, and we've followed trends and innovations in the market. Between our knowledge and testing procedures, this review is comprehensive.
Each bike lock endures more than 11 individual tests to rate its performance. Security is the highest weighted metric, accounting for 40% of each lock's overall score. We used five different tools common to bike thieves, and we did our best to break or cut through each lock by combining ingenuity, brute strength, and, when that failed, technology — a.k.a. a power tool. We cut through each model using the eclectic-powered angle grinder to see how long it took and how many cuts were necessary to free the bike from the lock. We take bike security seriously, so we bought, used, and destroyed every lock in this review to leave no stone unturned.
To see which bike lock came out on the top of the pack, we created a challenging series of tests to evaluate their performance side-by-side. Our testers used these locks to visit practically every conceivable place you may want to use a bike lock, such as offices, libraries, bike shops, college campuses, local coffeehouses, watering holes, and grocery stores — essentially spending hundreds of hours transporting and securing them in various locations.Our bike lock testing uses four rating metrics:
- Security (40% of overall score weighting)
- Ease of Transportation (25% weighting)
- Ease of Use (20% weighting)
- Versatility (15% weighting)
We assembled a team of experts to pedal around with these bike locks and pick them apart. 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 the worst thing to happen to someone. 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 is interested 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 testing team. Rylee comes to us with a background in bike touring across the United States, where bike security is nearly as essential as food and water.
Analysis and Test Results
To help you select the right bike lock for your needs, goals, and budget, we used four key performance metrics in our testing process that define a quality bike lock: security, ease of transportation, ease of use, and versatility. Security is the most important of these metrics. But will you use a lock that weighs a lot or is inconvenient to carry? That's where the rest of the criteria come into play. A product's rating in these individual test metrics makes up its overall performance score and ranking, which we use to compare the competition.
We hate to say it, but the price of a bike lock usually correlates directly with its quality. In this case, quality means the overall security a lock provides and the time a thief will take to cut through or, in the best-case scenario, question their attempt 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 with a heftier price tag. 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 than the New York Standard, but the savings mitigates these issues without sacrificing security for many folks. 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's a step down in bike security. While we usually recommend exploring more inexpensive options in other gear categories, your lock is not where you should cut corners. Spending more on a quality lock now will prevent you from spending much more on a new bike later.
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 security? Therefore, we invested a lot of time in testing the security of each contender. Results from this test metric make up 40% of a product's overall score.
Interestingly, different lock manufacturers don't share the same security rating standards, and neither do independent security testing organizations, like Sold Secure, which 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 testing standard on many products, including bike locks.
Our testing process began with assessing each lock's weak point and attacking it. Then, we tried alternative attacks on a lock's integrity to ensure we were not missing any vital weaknesses. We used common tools 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, an angle grinder, a cordless drill, and even a car jack (because 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 brawny 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?" However, 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 expect from a bike lock.
Among the competition, the Kryptonite New York models score the highest. The Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit U-Lock Mini was one of the hardest locks to crack, followed by the Kryptonite New York Standard U-Lock, Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock, and the OnGuard Brute STD. These models have hardened steel bars ranging from 14 mm to 18 mm in diameter that resist attacks from all our hand-powered tools, including a 36" bolt cutter. Regarding 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 two different cuts on the U-bar of each lock to free the bike, doubling the necessary getaway time. It would take a thief at least one and a half minutes of sparks a-flying to compromise one of these locks. The ABUS Granit X-Plus 540 U-Lock also required two cuts from the angle grinder before releasing the bike frame, as did the Kryptonite Evolution Mini-7 U-Lock, Hiplok DX Wearable U-lock, and Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard.
The budget-friendly Kryptonite Kryptolok Standard performed exceptionally well in this area. Most products at this price point sacrifice security by not adding durable materials to the lock's shackles. The Kryptolok shone in this metric; it's remarkably more robust than the OnGuard Bulldog DT U-lock. We also like that it required two cuts at any point on the lock to defeat it. A dual-lock mechanism such as this is less common in this price range.
The other U-locks 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 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 compared to the chain and U-locks. The ABUS uGrip Bordo 5700 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 it took only 10-15 seconds to bust the ABUS model by working the blades around the rivets. Surprisingly, the FoldyLock resisted this attack.
Conversely, we were disappointed by the security offered by the OTTO Design Works Ottolock Cinch. After reading all the hype about this lightweight lock, we were excited when the Ottolock survived a few common tools (wire snips and hacksaw) during our first trial of destruction. However, upon further inspection, the Ottolock doesn't provide much protection at all — it cuts in less than a few seconds with a pair of very inexpensive and inconspicuous tin snips. Despite the hype, this lock doesn't protect you from a thief with a basic set of tools. The TiGr mini, which initially appears more secure, also surprised us with its lack of protection. The bolt cutters defeated the TiGr mini in just a few seconds. With 10 minutes of dedication, you can cut through the lock with a cheap hacksaw. Because the Ottolock can be defeated by tools 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. 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 leaving your bike out of sight.
It's important 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. For example, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain and Disc Lock offers great security yet weighs 15 lbs. There's no way any commuter will want to carry that around (unless you have a great electric commuter bike). Typically, cyclists who use this lock leave the lock where they will park and secure their bike. It's 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 around town on.
Ease of Transport
What is the likelihood that you will carry around a bulky, heavy lock, particularly if your bike is your daily commute vehicle? This is precisely 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 we could realistically keep. Of course, there are many bike upgrades and accessories that create more carrying options, such as installing a basket or buying a top-rated messenger bag or one of our favorite bike panniers, which will make it easier to ride with a bulky or heavy load. Although those options were in our minds, we focused on the product's existing features and any included hardware. Results from this test metric make up 25% of a product's overall score.
Folding locks are some of the easiest models to transport. The ABUS uGrip Bordo and FoldyLock Compact fold into a compact shape that fits easily into a backpack or messenger bag without taking up much space and 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 are easy to slide into and remove from the mount, yet remain in place without rattling or ever coming close to falling out. It's also worth mentioning that both weigh considerably less than all the chains 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 wouldn't 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 One Wearable are great innovations that make transporting a lock relatively easy. Both models allow you to attach the chain around your waist like a belt, something 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 to both our male and female testers. However, in the end, 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, making it less versatile than the Hiplok (and a bit less user-friendly). If not for these two shortcomings, 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 (the version we tested) comes with a large reflective stripe on the exterior of the nylon sheath. This reflective stripe is positioned on the rider's lower back when worn correctly. 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 discussing security but not so much when riding a bike with them. Unlike other locks, U-locks are far more cumbersome, regardless of whether you bring them in a bag or on your bike frame. Each U-lock tested, except 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. However, due to its size, it's most likely too bulky to fit into the main triangle of small bike frames, such as kids' bikes or 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 can also 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 will 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 attached to the bike's frame, 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 barely noticed we were wearing it). 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 compact, it weighs the most of all U-locks tested and doesn't come with a mounting bracket. Despite its small 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 is straightforward, 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 removing the bike's front wheel and threading a lock through two sets of spokes and a bike rack to get comfortable and efficient. We tested each contender's added difficulty imposed on this process for this test metric, whether due to its size, shape, weight, or design. Specifically, we asked some critical questions: how quickly was it to secure and remove each lock, and which design features made that process more natural or difficult? Results from this test metric make up 20% of a product's overall score.
Most tested products 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 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 constantly feared 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. Similarly, the folding locks tended to spring open when turning the key, sometimes sending the exposed steel plates flying into our frames. The nylon sheath on the ABUS 1200 Chain assured us it wouldn't nick or damage our paint jobs and prized brewery stickers.
The U-locks tend to be less accommodating when locking a bike to anything but a bike rack, especially if you have wider wheels on a mountain bike or fat bike. These locks best serve cyclists when a specific bike rack is 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 time spent locking up. However, U-locks are simple enough to use for standard bike racks. 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 make them easier to use. Four Kryptonite locks, as well as the ABUS Granit X-Plus, the OnGuard Brute STD, and OnGuard Bulldog 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 featured on every U-lock, plus the disc lock of the Fahgettaboudit Chain. The best one, though, belongs to the Granit X-Plus, 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. We also 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 regarding 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.
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 result in dehydration and could be a deal-breaker for some.
A bike won't be rideable without its front wheel unless you have serious wheelie or unicycle skills. We encourage you to stay on two wheels and 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 thieves 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. Results from this test metric make up 15% of a product's overall score.
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 a relief because it meant we didn't have to take the front wheel off, making it much easier to use.
Cable-only models also can cover 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, removing the front wheel and positioning it to lock up with the rear wheel and frame is a good practice. The U-locks and folding locks can lock up a wheel and the frame, but they might not handle two wheels in the method described depending on your tire size. 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 use as an anchor in ways a U-lock cannot compete.
Despite recent additions to our bike lock roster, three locks still made it nearly impossible to lock both wheels and the frame to a structure. The TiGr mini and Fahgettaboudit Mini were too small to 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.
We found many other uses for these products throughout our testing, especially the bigger U-locks and chain models. We locked the back tire of a dirt bike to its brake rotor, a trailer tire 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.
A bike lock is critical for almost every cyclist, especially those who use their bikes as their primary or only method of transportation. Losing your bike to a faulty or insufficient bike lock is beyond a bummer, so please find the perfect lock that suits your needs and is easy to use. Before purchasing, consider the level of security you need and the inconvenience you are willing to tolerate. Whether you need robust security, convenience for quick stops, or a lightweight lock that's easy to transit, this review will help you make the best decision for you and your bike.Looking for more high-quality bike reviews? We've tested an expansive selection of bikes and bike-related gear over the years, from biking essentials, like the best mountain bike helmets to accessories like the top-ranked bike pumps, the best bike computers, bike phone mounts, or our favorite messenger bags. If you're in the market for useful bike-related gear to make your commute or trail riding more enjoyable, we have the insider details. And, once you're home from racking up the miles on your two wheels, check out our review of some top-ranking bike storage options.
— Ross Robinson and Rebecca Eckland
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