The Best Bike Lock for Every Scenario
If you own a bike, you need a good lock. These are the best.
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Bike thefts are on the rise. In October, New York Times reported that bike thefts were up 27% year over year. Thefts in Denver are even worse. The rise in thefts is mostly attributed to a surge in cycling—more bikes on the streets means more bikes that can be stolen. With more people buying bikes, it’s a good reminder that you also need to buy a good bike lock.
The Four Types of Bike Locks
Bike locks come in all shapes, sizes and variations. Some fold and some roll-up, some are glorified zip ties and others weigh 14 pounds. Despite their differences, most locks fall into four categories: U-locks, folding locks, chain locks, and lightweight locks. We’ve spent years using every type of lock and provided the best options for each category in this review.
Unfortunately, there are no standard regulations on bike locks, so there’s no way to really tell how secure a lock is without reading reviews or testing it yourself. After all, keeping your $6,000 bike safe is a big responsibility for a small chunk of metal.
How We Chose
I spent years working in a bike shop and have consistently bike-commuted while living in cities like Boston, San Francisco, and Santa Fe. Thankfully, I’ve never had a bike stolen, which I attribute to always using a lock. The best locks, unfortunately, are usually the heaviest and the bulkiest, which makes them annoying to lug around. While a heavy lock is always a safe bet if you live in a safe area or only lock your bike for short grocery runs, a less secure but lighter weight lock might be more appropriate for you.
Here are my favorite locks for various situations. I have used every lock on this list and think all of them are worth buying, depending on what you need.
Best Bike Lock: Kryponite New York Lock
U-locks are easily the strongest and most protective locks you can buy. I purchased the New York Lock the first day I moved to Boston in 2013 and seven years later, I still use it regularly. It’s made from 16mm hardened steel and has a unique locking design, which doesn’t let the lock twist if it’s cut, forcing thieves to cut both sides of the U before accessing your bike. It comes with a set of traditional keys and a mounting bracket so you can attach it to your bike frame when you’re riding. I found the mounting bracket works okay for a few months, but ultimately I ended up removing it from my bike and carrying the lock in my backpack. It weighs four pounds so this is slightly annoying but a small price to pay for the ultimate security.
Best Wearable Bike Lock: Hiplok Spin
The Hiplok Spin is designed to be worn around your waist when you’re riding. Instead of locking around your waist, the lock has a patented Velcro strap that keeps it close to your torso but can easily fall away in the instance of a crash. It features a fairly burly 6mm chain and a combination lock. The sleeve surrounding the chain is removable and washable, and its reflective coating increases your visibility at night. It’s actually quite comfortable to wear—I recently rode six miles across town and barely noticed it. This lock isn’t quite as robust as a U-lock, but it does provide solid protection against theft.
Best Chain Bike Lock: Onguard Mastiff
I’ve never been a big fan of chain locks. I find them bulky and heavy and I don’t think they provide much more protection than a U-Lock. That said, many people really like them so they’re worth discussing. The general consensus is that the OnGuard Mastiff is the best chain lock available. It’s big and heavy — heavier than most cyclists would want to carry. The 3.5-foot-long chain uses 10mm-thick, titanium-reinforced steel links that are hexagonally shaped to make cutting even more difficult. It’s secured with a burly U-lock and has a nylon sheath, which keeps the chain from scratching your frame. For an extra $15, you can purchase the anti-theft protection program, which covers your bike for three years.
Best Lightweight Bike Lock: Ottolock Cinch
The Ottolock Cinch is one of my favorite locks and the one I use most frequently now. It weighs only half a pound and coils nicely into a three-inch diameter package that easily fits in a backpack. The lock uses one-inch wide bands of Kevlar and steel to prevent cuts and features a metal combination lock. While it can be snipped with bolt cutters, it takes a while. I wouldn’t use this as my main lock in New York City, but if you live in a fairly safe area and want good protection without carrying around a U-lock, the Cinch lock is a great option.
Best Last Resort Bike Lock: Hiplok Z Lock Combo
This minimalist lock acts like a big zip-tie, locking in place with a three-digit combination. The tie has a steel core sheathed in plastic that offers only the bare minimum of security. I used this lock mostly while living in a small town in Colorado, where theft was nonexistent but I still wanted a little security. Think of the Z Lock as a peace-of-mind option for areas where you probably don’t need to lock your bike at all.
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