The Best Bike Lock

If I lived anywhere in the U.S. and rode a bike that cost less than about $1,000, I’d pick up the ~$42 Kryptonite Series 2 package, which comes with a U-lock and four-foot-long cable.

Last Updated: March 25, 2014
We removed the Masterlock Force 3 as a budget recommendation after long-term testing revealed persistent quality problems.
Expand Previous Updates
October 12, 2013: Added a video to the competition section showing the TiGr lock being easily cut with a bolt cutter.

Experts, users and the bike thieves that we interviewed agree that the Series 2 U-lock is strong enough to foil all foilable thieves.
This isn’t an exciting, novel pick for the best U-lock but it is savvy. Experts, users, and the bike thieves that we interviewed agree that the Series 2 U-lock is strong enough to foil all foilable thieves. It’s also light and comes with a stable, easy-to-mount carrying bracket that fits on virtually all bikes. Kryptonite’s accompanying “insurance”—costing $20 for three years—is the easiest to purchase, thanks to their rare online form. And it pays okay, too. In the event that some jerk destroys the U-lock and makes off with a bike, then Kryptonite pays the homeowners’ or renter’s insurance deductible or the replacement cost of the bike. The cable is just one more layer of security discouraging opportunists from nabbing a wheel or seat.

Why you should (maybe) read this long thing

In researching this guide, I heard surprising insights from bike shop owners, journalists, and longtime riders. I also happened to talk to one nameless thief, one penny-ante thief, and one power-tool-wielding professional—the man who very likely pinched my $5,000 custom-made road bike two years ago. So if you want to skip down to hear their take, beginning with Thief #1, I’ll understand. Then you can loop back here to what the other experts say.

It’s not about the lock (AKA how to use a lock properly)

The consensus among those in the know was that a U-lock is best for virtually everyone, offering the highest ratio of security to portability. Unconventional devices like folding locks are intriguing, but so far none offer the security of a good U-lock. Chains sometimes offer a slight bump in security, but they often weigh twice as much and still relent to power tools. Let masochists wear belts of hardened steel; all our experts said a good U-lock is the sensible solution.

But before we talked specific lock models, they also insisted we slow down. Most people don’t know how to use their locks, they said. Most people buy big, heavy expensive U-locks and then don’t secure their bike’s frame, or don’t lock to an immobile object, or worse. Videos like this and this drive the point home.

Both the professional and petty thieves we talked to suggested that if a cyclist couldn’t take his bike inside, he should lock his bike in a different spot each day, making it harder to case out. And they encouraged people to ride cheaper bikes. After all, the resale value of a bike—and its expensive components—is what makes the thing worth stealing.

Locking smart will allow you to stand out from the thief-tempting masses, and thankfully the proper lock method is straightforward.
Locking smart will allow you to stand out from the thief-tempting masses, and thankfully the proper lock method is straightforward. Known by many as the “Sheldon technique,” it involves placing a U-lock through the frame and rear wheel. When a bike is going to be left unattended for a long time or in a crime-ridden area, a cable lock can be added to grab the front wheel and seat, further discouraging a thief. If a person really wants to thumb his nose at the criminal set and doesn’t mind searching for smaller objects to lock to, then he can use the Sheldon technique with a small U-lock instead of the standard size. Small locks leave little room for thieves to insert crowbars or bottle jacks or any number of tools that can bust open a lock.

Hal Ruzal, the dreadlocked cofounder of the NYC bike shop Bicycle Habitat, uses the Sheldon technique to lock an $800 bike with a $100 lock. Using a lock that expensive on a bike that cheap is overkill, but his results are impressive. After putting some 350,000 miles under his tires, predominantly in New York City over the last 30 years, he has had only one bike stolen, when he used an un-hardened chain lock instead of a U-lock.

Indeed, just the sight of a properly used U-lock is usually enough to deter thieves, sending them down the street where they’ll find an equally nice bike locked with nothing but a chintzy cable, or a bike with a wheel that’s not secured, or a bike locked to a piece of scaffolding that can be unbolted, etc. In the words of Brad Quartuccio, editor of Urban Velo magazine: “Locking technique is more important than how much you spend on a lock.”

How we picked

locks_testing_lineupWhen shopping for a lock, the first thing to do is eliminate the horrible locks, ones such as this that cost $20 or less and are sold at Walmart, Target, or other big boxes. These have cheap, pickable lock mechanisms and are made of weak steel that can easily be easily compromised by a “leverage attack” (think inserting a pipe and twisting until the lock springs open). U-locks with combinations, which can often be easily deciphered, should be dustbinned as well. Finally, locks with barrel keys should also be passed over since an everyday Bic pen works as a key. We have no idea why anyone still makes or buys these locks.

Modern U-locks are where it’s at, and a half-dozen publications have conducted tests to determine “the best.” WIRED, Gizmodo, Men’s Journal, Popular Mechanics, Bike Radar, and Slate all attacked U-locks with a different blend of tools, cutting ‘em with grinders, clipping ‘em with bolt cutters, sawing ‘em with hacksaws, freezing ‘em with spray bottles, and beating ‘em with hammers. BikeRadar’s test seems the most up-to-date; Popular Mechanics’ appears the most rigorous. Unfortunately, these tests are often security theater, and their results split hairs. What does it mean that a “decent” lock takes 63 seconds to breach with an angle grinder whereas the “best” takes 117 seconds? Exactly what it sounds like: almost nothing. And who is to say the thief is going to use an angle grinder anyway?

Third-party testers use a wider, more representative array of tools and tactics. A small arm of the thief-plagued, data-loving Dutch government tests the most thoroughly. They specialize in bike locks and the tests are “performed by machines (tensile strength , torsion strength, cutting, corrosion, dust and freeze tests) and tests performed by test engineers (brute and intelligent attack tests).” Here’s a sneak peak inside their dorky little lab. They award locks Art ratings of one to five, with five going to the strongest. Unfortunately Art doesn’t test all locks sold in America, but their tests appear to be the best.

There is also VdS, a subsidiary of the German Insurance Association that mainly tests fire protection equipment. They don’t advertise their methodologies or test many locks, awarding the handful they do test either B+ or A+ certification. Oddly, B+ is the ranking for a better, tougher lock.

Sold Secure, a nonprofit operated by Britain’s Master Locksmiths Association, tests the largest number of locks sold in America and awards them Gold, Silver, or Bronze badges. They say their tests are developed based on advice from police, but reportedly they don’t test with bolt cutters or bottle jacks, which are supposedly popular among thieves.

So none of the testers are perfect, but taken altogether the ratings from these three organizations offer helpful feedback.

After brute strength, we found a few key criteria that every good lock should have. Here they are in order from most important to least important.

Size matters, not only for portability but for security as well.
Size matters, not only for portability but for security as well. The lock should be as small as possible while still fitting around everything you need it to fit around. This gives potential thieves less room to work with. Though a big lock can straddle a wider variety of lampposts, fences, and so on, if maximum security is your goal and all other things are equal, then the smaller lock will be harder to crack (and lighter to tote around).

Cost is important. If a cheap lock allows even just a rear wheel to get stolen, then you’re out $100 for the wheel, plus your dignity, the cost of the lock, and the money to buy another, better lock. On the other hand, a properly-used lock will probably never see active duty, so there’s no reason to empty your wallet. Some shop owners I spoke with said you simply need to spend $100 or more on a U-lock. Lock manufacturers commonly suggest you spend 10% of the cost of the bike. But none explained how they came to these rules of thumb, besides perhaps looking at their bottom lines, so we took that as no real advice.

It should be easy to carry. A lock is useless if it’s so annoying to lug around that you leave it at home. If you prefer to carry it on your bike, it should come with a solid mounting bracket that doesn’t wiggle. A loose bracket isn’t just annoying, it can be dangerous if it allows the lock to fall out in the middle of a ride and get stuck in your spokes. If you carry the lock in a bag or around your belt or in your back pocket, it should be light.

Finally, there’s insurance, which sounds awesome, but is last on the list for good reason. While some manufacturers offer up to $4,500 if your bike is stolen while locked, this rarely amounts to much. New York residents are almost always excluded from the offer. Anyone who can’t send in the broken lock almost always can’t collect. And anyone who forgets to register a new lock within generally a week of purchase can’t collect. When a person does collect, the company doesn’t usually pay out big. They pay the deductible on the claimant’s home or renter’s insurance (assuming you have those, which of course you do since you’re not a moron). Off the record, one lock manufacturer told me he’s heard others in the industry brag about how they never pay this.

With all that in mind, I set to work compiling a list of possible contenders from the major manufacturers: Kryptonite, OnGuard, Abus, Blackburn, Masterlock, Knog, and Avenir.

I double-checked that third-party testers like Art didn’t score any new designs as highly as good U-locks, and unfortunately, they didn’t. Intriguing models such as the Abus Bordo scored lower. Despite scoring lower in Art, the creative TiGr was much touted elsewhere, so it passed muster. I eliminated models that didn’t come with carrying brackets, fared extremely poorly in editorial tests or that closely resembled their big or little brothers.

After all was said and done, I ended up with a pretty long list: the Kryptonite New York Standard; the Kryptonite Evolution Series 4Evolution Mini 7 package and Kryptolok Series 2; the Blackburn San Quentin and Folsom; the OnGuard Brute and Bulldog; the Masterlock Force 3; the Abus Granit X Plus; the Knog Strongman; and the TiGr. I tried at least one of these locks from each manufacturer.

But there was still one question that remained: If cutting through these myself wasn’t going to add anything to the already rich body of information on lock security, how should we go about figuring out which lock is best?

Testing

First, we focused on things like portability and ease of use.

Many reviewers overlook the bracket used to transport the lock. So we installed the carrying brackets on a vintage ten speed with slender tubes and a Trek Navigator 100 mountain bike with slightly oversized tubes. We checked the fit, then rode around the block and listened for annoying sounds, watched to see if it slipped down the tube or twisted, etc.

Then we used the lock, locking and unlocking them a handful of times, checking to see that the key inserted smoothly and the lock released and bolted without problems.

To figure out how much security we really need, we realized we needed to talk to some thieves.
Our tests produced some good information, but despite all the research, we remained haunted by the possibility that we would pick a lock that was overkill or undercooked; that we would end up either lugging around a needlessly heavy lock all our days or eventually surrender our prized steeds because we used a flimsy lock. To figure out how much security we really need, we realized we needed to talk to some thieves.

It takes a thief

Though nationwide statistics are far from comprehensive, research suggests that there are two types of thieves in America. The vast majority of bike nabbers are opportunists stealing cheap bikes, while a small minority are bona-fide, kitted-out pros targeting bikes that cost more than your first car. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a clear divide between the two.

“SFPD and Portland, Oregon police both told me 90% of thieves are addicts who divert to whatever is easier to steal,” said Patrick Symmes, author of this deep dive into the bike-thieving underworld.

“Here in Pittsburgh I’m a native and I’ve never heard of a U-lock being breached,” said Quartuccio, of Urban Velo. “Bikes are stolen left and right, but they’re all crimes of opportunity.”

In just one more example, the University of Minnesota police estimate that more than 90 percent of bikes reported stolen were locked with only cable locks, suggesting that most thieves weren’t exactly sophisticated.

Luckily, living a block from the projects in New York City, I was able to interview both types.

My fixer Ace set me up with small-time bike thief Bug Out; my other fixer Peanut introduced me to Jimmy. (Those are their nicknames.) Fascinating insights emerged from spending an evening with the thieves, but overall the experience of getting inside their criminal minds merely served to put a sharp point on what research already suggests: You can easily stop Bug Out from stealing your bike but you can only dissuade Jimmy.

Thief #1: Bug Out

Bug Out was short, tattooed, fidgety, and on welfare, or at least carrying a benefits card.
Ace, Bug Out, and I met on my stoop at 10 p.m. one weekday night. Bug Out was short, tattooed, fidgety, and on welfare, or at least carrying a benefits card. I wouldn’t have been inclined to trust him much, but he looked a lot like the guy my wife happened to see steal a bike the day after I started this assignment, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. “Others have been doing it for years—the ones who taught me the game,” he said, drawing a clear distinction between himself and the pros.

He used a limited tool set—generally just wirecutters, a wrench, and a screwdriver—and didn’t like bolt cutters. “You caught with bolt cutters, they charge you with burglary,” he claimed. Whatever the case, Bug Out was a padlocks and cable-lock guy, a people-incorrectly-locking-cheap-bikes guy.

For about a year, he’d been stealing two or three bikes a day, five days a week, he said. In a typical day, he walks around and cases out bikes and generally steals them in the afternoon or early evening. He snips the cable on a crappy bike and rides it to find the next. Then he ditches the first bike and snips another cable or cracks a hardware-store-sold padlock such as this, known as “the potato lock” for its round shape and potato-like ubiquity. Using the screwdriver as a chisel and the wrench as a hammer, he pops the cylinder of the potato lock with three elegant whacks (which he happily demonstrated). Then he rides off on the second bike, and might use the broken padlock as a hammer when stealing a third bike. Indeed, the palm of his right hand was ringed with calluses that were the exact diameter of a potato lock.

He doesn’t worry about passers-by stopping him. “People say, ‘That your bike?!’ I say ‘Yeah,’ then come back later,” he said.

Once he’s got a decent bike, he rides it around the ‘hood to sell it. He sometimes sells to restaurants but doesn’t like to because they offer too little money—the thief feels ripped off, in other words. He gets around $150 per bike on the street and up to $50 for “race wheels,” which I took to mean any skinny wheels that aren’t rusted. He rarely if ever steals a bike that costs more than $1,000, he says. Get caught stealing a bike that costs more than $1,000 and the crime switches from a misdemeanor to a felony, he explained. That means “real time” in “state” instead of 30 or 60 days in “county.” (The cutoff between misdemeanor and felony theft varies state to state, but $1,000 appears average.)

He was confident in his skills and considered his thefts something of a community service, important lessons imparted to bike owners who were a bit slow—locking their bikes with nothing more than wispy cables, locking them with expensive chains and the potato lock that everyone in the ‘hood knows how to crack, locking them around parking signs (Bug Out stands on the bike, uses his wrench to unscrew the two bolts attaching the sign to the post, then shimmies the bike over the top), locking bikes to each other (he borrows a pipecutter, cuts one frame, and rides off on the other), locking a bike to scaffolding crossbars (he uses his wrench to undo the crossbar). So many stupid people. At one point, he got so worked up that he took me down the street and offered to steal a road bike he’d been eyeing. It was attached to a sturdy rack with a heavy duty chain—and potato lock. While he didn’t like to steal from the ‘hood—“you don’t shit where you eat,” he explained—he was having a tough time resisting. He had even duct-taped a note on the bike’s top tube saying if the bike wasn’t removed, it would be removed.

I presented Bug Out with a handful of locks—chosen haphazardly, some not even in the running for best lock—and told him I didn’t care which locks worked and which didn’t, I just wanted his best effort and honest feedback.

BugOut

Bug Out struggling with the Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 Mini Integrated Chain.

“Okay,” he said. He asked if I had a pipe, and I retrieved a four-foot long, ¾-inch-thick pipe, as well as a hammer. At about 10 p.m., he began showing off his skills on locks attached to the wrought iron fence of my apartment building. Ace photographed. I took notes and timed. Bug Out started banging on the nearest lock.

He was pretty sure the Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 Mini Integrated Chain wasn’t going to give, and after just 1:24 of pounding the key slot with the hammer and screwdriver, he surrendered. “What you do with that is use a machine,” he said. “I like padlocks.”

BugOut2

A twisted Schwinn u-lock.

He turned to an easier target, a cheap old Schwinn U-lock with a barrel key. He didn’t use a Bic pen to spring the lock—he didn’t even know that trick—but instead placed the pipe inside the U and jerked to one side. The lock twisted up like spaghetti around a fork until the lock cylinder fell onto the ground. At 3:37 he popped the shackle free with the butt of his hand. “This is the first time I done this,” he said. “It’s too much work.”

He switched to something more up his alley, pulling the wirecutters out of his pocket and snipping at the Kryptonite KryptoFlex cable, which took a full 4:20 of grunting and snipping. “My shit is dull,” he complained, referring to the wirecutters.

BugOut3

Bug Out snipping through a Kryptoflex cable.

How would he lock a bike he just bought his own mother? “A U-lock,” he said. “Done.”

I handed him the Knog Kabana. “I can’t even fathom that,” he said, looking at the thick coating of silicone that covered the cable. I urged him on. He snipped at the silicon and it peeled away. “Oh,” he said, “it’s a cable!” Roughly four minutes later he was through.

The TiGr lock he pounded at all angles, starting with a screwdriver straight into the lock slit, but gave up after 2:57. “I don’t fuck with this thing,” he said, “it’s too much trouble.”

Ditto the Kryptonite Evolution Mini, the Knog Bouncer, and the OnGuard Pitbull. “U-locks—I walk by, they’re not worth my time.”

How would he lock a bike he just bought his own mother?

“A U-lock,” he said. “Done.”

Thief #2: Jimmy

Soon after, Peanut came by with Jimmy, a healthy-looking older man with a barbershop haircut.
Soon after, Peanut came by with Jimmy, a healthy-looking older man with a barbershop haircut. Jimmy was a pro. I know this because while he never said that he was the one who stole my $5,000 custom-made Landshark, left on the sidewalk in front of my apartment for one night two years ago, he very much remembered it, including the owner’s small signature (mine!) clear-coated under the blue paint (mine!) just in front of the seatpost (mine!). He also rattled off the rough prices of the current Cannondale road bike line and was later vouched for by a trustworthy mutual friend. “Let me put it this way,” our friend said. “If you ever need an expensive bike removed from the premises, Jimmy is your man.”

Jimmy thought there were maybe eight bike thieves living below 14th street, but that most of them were small time. “This is my line of work,” he said. “The typical guy comes with clippers in his pocket and maybe a wrench.”

He’d been stealing bikes regularly for a decade. Like Bug Out, he claimed to steal maybe two or three bikes daily, but usually at night and only during “the season.” Between April and August, people in the neighborhood request bikes, Jimmy quotes a price around $900 for a bike that costs a couple grand, and then he goes hunting. Sometimes it works in reverse, with Jimmy eyeing an expensive bike and offering essentially a futures contract.

He often works north of 14th Street. “They lock up titanium bikes with cables,” he said of folks in Gramercy and other high-rent neighborhoods. “They think ‘cause they’re there they can do that.” He scopes out targets, gets a guy to act as lookout, and returns a day later. “Every job has a tool,” he said. His primary tool was the battery-powered grinder. Since my fashion designer neighbor had just exited the building, stepped over a pile of mangled locks, and looked at us sideways, I declined Joe’s offer to fire up his grinder and asked that he simply talk me through a few locks.

“This,” Jimmy said, holding the Kryptonite Evolution—“easy.” He would cut the shackle leg closest to the keyhole, the only leg that locks. Then the J-shaped foot of the leg that doesn’t lock would fall away and he would remove the lock from the bike with no more difficulty than running a comb through his hair. “One minute,” he said.

He doesn’t do it with a fireworks display of sparks and loud noise, as many writers have imagined. No, he wraps the grinder motor in a bath towel and covers the blade with even just a grocery bag to deflect the sparks.

“This one here,” he said, pointing to the Kryptonite New York Standard, “you need the grinder for both sides.” He smirked when I said it would take four minutes and attract attention, as BikeRadar claims. With the New York, he’d bring a stone-grinding wheel. “It’s only good for four hits,” he said, but it works quicker.

“But you’d probably run out of batteries between legs,” I said, repeating what other editorial testers had suggested.

“Bullshit,” he said. “One minute each side.” Ditto the OnGuard and Evolution chain.

Men’s Journal claimed that the silicon coating on the Knog Strongman caused their blade to buck enough to “send most thieves scrambling.” Jimmy disagreed. “See this,” he said, pulling the lock apart and revealing a thin space between the shackle and crossbar, “you cut that with the 1/16-inch-thick cut-off disc]. It takes more tries, but it ain’t gonna buck.”

Jimmy2

Jimmy pointing out the best place to cut through the Knog Strongman.

He uses wirecutters on any cables and of course knows how to spring potato locks.

The only lock he really wanted to get at was the TiGr, which he’d never seen and whose price tag he found offensive and whose design he was sure would yield to nothing more than the simplest tools. “This shit cost $175?” he asked. Though he said he’d never spend more than a couple minutes on a job, he spent the next seven minutes and twenty seconds beating it with a hammer, prying at it with the screw driver, bending the bow in every direction, cursing titanium as junk, and not causing the thing to budge. I got the impression he was personally offended by a lock he couldn’t figure—well, couldn’t figure without his angle grinder, of course.

Jimmy1

Jimmy working on the TiGr lock.

What would he recommend for his mother?

A GPS embedded in the frame, he said. Apparently the NYPD uses them on bait bikes, and pros like him shake a frame, listening for a rattle, to identify them. He didn’t mention GPS like the Spybike that replaces the headset, but the ones people tape under a seat, such as the $120 Garmin GTU 10, with the $50 a year subscription fee? He tears those off and throws ‘em away.

“What if I’m not gonna get a GPS?” I asked.

“A little U-lock, one that you need to cut both legs, those are good,” he said.

What we learned from them

Above all, Bug Out and Jimmy taught us two things. You can get nerdy about what makes a lock strong, geeking out over the quality of the steel or thickness of the shackle or whether the lock is single-bolted (meaning one side of the shackle fastens to the crossbar) or double-bolted (meaning both sides fasten to the crossbar) but you’re wasting your time. If you ride the kind of bike that one of Jimmy’s clients might request, you’re probably screwed. But if you don’t, and you lock your bike correctly with a moderately strong U-lock, then your bike is virtually guaranteed to be safe.

Our pick

The $32 Kryptonite Series 2 package tops pretty much every criteria for a great lock.
The $32 Kryptonite Series 2 package tops pretty much every criteria for a great lock. It’s not a double-bolted lock, which is kind of lame, but it can be bought in a mini version (here, with this cable) and the standard size weighs a mere 2.8 pounds. While neither Art nor VdS nor other reviewers have tested it (they tend to stick to the top-of-the-line stuff or require payment for testing), the Brits at Sold Secure gave it a Silver rating. And 221 Amazon reviewers gave it 4.3 out of five stars, making it one of the best-reviewed U-locks on Amazon.

It comes with the second-best carrying bracket in the biz (after Knog’s). You wrap a strap around the frame, hold the plastic bracket in place with one hand, fasten a hex screw with the other, and that’s it. Thus secured, a metal tab on the lock slides into the hard-plastic bracket. Pressing a lever releases the lock. The bracket fit securely on both bikes and didn’t shift when riding around. The lock was quiet, too.

The $1,500 insurance comes with typical restrictions and costs $20 for three years, but being able to register online, unlike others that force you to mail receipts, means you might actually try to take advantage of it. And while it doesn’t cover New York City, it does cover the rest of the U.S., which some don’t.

It’s also sold as a rare package, combining the U-lock and a four-foot-long cable that is probably long enough to grab your front wheel and maybe even seat. At $36, the package is a…you knew this was coming…steal.

Friends or shop owners might say that you should spend more, say for the step-up Evolution, which costs $50 with a cable. The U-lock has a thicker shackle and supposedly slightly tougher metal and $15 insurance for three years, but ranks no better in Sold Secure ratings (Silver). Resist the temptation. Just buy the Series 2 in a small size. Or hand over a couple bucks for a second lock that’s better than a cable—a cable with its own lock mechanism like the Knog Kabana, another U-lock like our Step Down pick, a chain that you leave at home or work, or skewer locks for your wheels. Just don’t be seduced by a burly looking potato lock. Whatever you do, just make sure you have at least a U-lock. While the Kabana cable survived Bug Out’s dull wirecutters, Amazon reviewers report that bolt cutters can dispatch them in one snip.

Our pick for a bike worth more than about $1,000

Also Great
It's too expensive for a bike that's cheaper than $1,000, but it locks on both sides of the U so thieves have to cut through twice to get at your bike.
If you’re going to tempt Jimmy and aren’t worried about crackheads stealing your fancy seat, seatpost, stem, handlebars, brake levers, brakes, pedals, cranks, or fork, then opt for Kryptonite’s ~$80 New York Lock. It’s unique in many ways.

Crucially, it comes in a small size that will foil potential leverage-based methods of theft. It’s also the only lock on the market that offers insurance to residents of New York City (free for the first year, then $15 for another two).

Not surprisingly, testers love it. Slate, Popular Science, and Men’s Journal all named it their pick for safest U-lock. Bike Radar gave it 5 out of 5. Sold Secure ranked it Gold. VdS gave it their best ranking of (weirdly) B+. Amazon’s reviews dispel any lingering doubt. 234 reviewers gave it 4.3 out of five stars, making it one of the best-reviewed locks around.

At 4.3 pounds for the standard version, it’s one of the heaviest U-locks, but it’s a good value relative to more expensive, heavier chains, for example.

It’s not without its shortcomings. The mini version actually weighs .2 pounds more than the standard size, thanks to a thicker shackle that we think is unnecessary. Also, I tested the carrying bracket for days, riding fast to and from work over potholed roads. Because the lock is heavier than the Series 2, and because NYC’s roads wouldn’t be a shame in rural Egypt, the bracket shimmied off to the side after a couple days. So the lock isn’t perfect. But none are.

The competition

We initially had recommended the double-bolted Masterlock Force 3 as a budget option because it cost just $21, plus it came with insurance and had some strong editorial reviews. But after some long-term testing revealed persistent problems, and an increasing number of bad reviews popped up on Amazon, we can’t recommend the Force 3 anymore.

The $57 Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 is Sold Secure Gold-rated like the New York Standard but doesn’t come in a small size or pay insurance in NYC. And while it’s .75 pounds lighter than the New York, it still ticks a hefty 3.75 lbs. If you’re going to lug around a hefty lock, we say get the best hefty lock, the New York.

The Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 package is Sold Secure Silver, like the Series 2, but almost $20 more expensive—too much to pay for a half-pound weight savings and a more fun orange color scheme.

The Abus Granit X-Plus, part of the popular German company’s recent foray into the American market, is a FANTASTIC lock. It weighs a scant 3.2 pounds, in part thanks to what appears to be the strongest steel per pound on any U-lock. It has the best professional ratings of any lock available in America at this time. Art: 3. Vds: A+. Sold Secure: Gold. Bike Radar: 5 of 5, calling it “the best portable U-lock on the market.” British Ride On magazine, which calls U-locks D-locks, says it’s “the best D lock money can buy.” It can also be keyed to match other Abus locks, so if you buy two Abus locks you only need to carry one key. Drawbacks: It doesn’t come with insurance, the all-plastic carrying bracket miffs, and it costs $119. If you wouldn’t miss $119, then get it. Stat. And then get back to your insider trading.

The OnGuard Brute, Gizmodo’s favorite lock, looks good. But three aspects left us wanting. The all-plastic bracket, which mates to an all-plastic tab on the lock, didn’t sit flush to the oversized tubes of the mountain bike, threatening to dent them. While it’s relatively light compared to the New York (just 3.8 pounds) the lock cylinder is as big around as a woman’s wrist. And, uniquely, the insurance is void if a thief uses power tools, which means it’s effectively useless.

We really wanted to like the Knog Strongman. This was honest, purpose-driven design. Unlike other locks, Knog listed the actual width of the metal shackle (13 mm) in the tech specs instead of the width of the shackle plus the soft outer coating (22 mm). And the bracket, our favorite, was a smart piece of design in its own right, not an afterthought. A grippy, rubberized band looped around the frame, clicked back onto the bracket, and then fastened tight with a metal ratchet. Easy and steadfast. Third-party testers have praised the lock with a Sold Secure Gold ranking and an Art 3 score, but unfortunately we couldn’t get behind it. Our sample froze up during testing. We would assume our model was a lemon, but Amazonians also complain about being unable to bang, push, or pull it open. And even if it worked, it’d be a tad expensive. Great design isn’t free.

The junior version, the Sold Secure Bronze Knog Bouncer, weighs a mere 1.75 pounds, except it’s so small, 5 inches by 7.25 inches, that we couldn’t even use it to attach the front wheel of the vintage bike to the frame. For some bikes, it’d be an ideal second lock, but we can’t recommend it as a primary.

The 1.25-inch-wide, double-bolted $200 TiGr is a great but expensive option for someone securing a topnotch bike at a rural stop midway through a group ride. It’s incredibly light—a pound or less depending on the length—and because it can catch both wheels, it essentially replaces two locks. Even better, Jimmy discovered it’s pretty much leverage-proof. It’s also a breeze to carry, Velcro-ing onto a bike’s top tube. Alas, a pro with an angle grinder can kill it in a matter of minutes at which point it can be bent away and opened as easily as a single-bolted lock. Art scored it 2. Not surprisingly, TiGr’s skinnier, non-ART-certified versions are easier to breach, as this video makes clear.

The double-bolted $35 Blackburn Folsom could be great, but we can’t say with confidence. Blackburn has asked no third parties to test it. No magazines have tested it. We asked for a sample three times and were told Blackburn “can’t or wouldn’t” send one. The distributor told us that none of the dozens of bike shops in Manhattan carried it. It might well be our pick in the future—it’s one of the cheapest double-bolted locks around—but Gizmodo found its big brother, the Leavenworth, piggish, ungainly, and soft. We’ll hold off until someone gives it a vote of confidence.

The Blackburn San Quentin tests well—earning an extremely rare 4 from Art, for example—and weighs just three pounds, more than a pound less than the Kryptonite New York Standard. But it has two drawbacks. First, the chintzy bracket is worsted only by the Masterlock’s. It requires two hex wrenches (not included) to install, pieces must be attached to the bike and the lock shackle, and the piece on the lock shackle slipped no matter how tight we fastened it. Second, the insurance requires trips to USPS and New York state isn’t covered.

The OnGuard Bulldog package would be a close competitor to the Series 2, primarily because it’s also Sold Secure Silver. But again, we weren’t red hot on the plastic bracket or restrictive insurance. 11 Amazonians rank it 3.8.

The $21 Avenir Standard U-lock and Cable is popular, with 121 reviewers giving it 3.6 stars, but it’s not made of sprung steel so it’s susceptible to even the lowest-tech 2×4 or pipe-based leverage attacks. One purchaser even posted a photo of the shackle all twisted up.

The Abus Facilo package looks like a worthy rival to the Series 2 but costs a few bucks more and scores lower, with a Sold Secure Bronze.

The Abus Sinero also scores Sold Secure Bronze but costs even more than the Facilo.

The Abus U-lock Mini was even smaller than the Bouncer, just 5.6 by 3.1 inches. Too small.

A bunch of Bell, Avenir, Masterlock, and X Factor locks on Amazon don’t make the $20 cut-off or merit independent, third-party rankings. Same goes for the few locks sold at Walmart, Sears, Target, and Performance Bike.

And that’s about it.

Thief #3: nameless (AKA even lucky you ain’t gettin’ your bike back)

A couple weeks after testing, I ran into Ace and a friend of his I didn’t know at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Ace, with pliers, and his friend, riding a stolen beach cruiser, were hanging out on my stoop, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee before they got down to work stealing bikes locked up outside bars the previous night.

“How do I know you guys weren’t recommending shitty locks so everyone would buy shitty locks and bikes would be easier to steal?” I asked.

“Yeah, U-locks are everywhere now,” Ace deadpanned, pointing to my bike, locked nearby with about three dozen of the locks we’d tested.

“Seriously,” I said. “How do I know you weren’t fucking with us?”

“No, man, U-locks—they’re tough. See this?” he asked, pointing to a bike locked with nothing more than a cable. “Snip snip.”

We rich folks can be pretty lazy, even willfully naive. And the thieves certainly aren’t afraid.

The bike, I’m embarrassed to admit, belonged to my wife, who had a good U-lock at home but had been tired the night before and figured, well, the cable would suffice for one night, especially with her cheap bike locked just below our window. And that’s when it struck me. Ace and Bug Out, Peanut and Jimmy, they didn’t care about sharing their trade secrets. They knew many of us wouldn’t follow their advice anyway. After all, bike shops sell a bunch of good U-locks, the Sheldon technique has been known for decades, and yet easily stealable bikes abound. We rich folks can be pretty lazy, even willfully naive.

And the thieves certainly aren’t afraid. Less than two minutes later, the owner of the beach cruiser appeared out of nowhere. Thirty-something and slender, he veered across the street toward us.

“That’s my bike!” he said, pointing to the cruiser that Ace’s friend was sitting on.

Ace and the friend looked at him, half interested.

“That’s my bike!” the guy repeated.

“Yeah, sure man,” Ace’s friend said, taking a sip of his coffee. “You wanna take it up with the owner?”

The guy was confused. Wasn’t he himself the owner? And if he wasn’t the owner, then wasn’t this guy sitting on his bike the temporary “owner”? “Okay,” he said.

“He lives on Avenue D,” Ace’s friend said, motioning toward the projects.

“He’s coming this way?” the guy asked.

“No, you wanna go see him?” Ace’s friend asked.

The guy paused. Things were clearly not going as planned. “Uhhhh, okay,” he said.

Then the two of them headed off down the block, Ace’s friend riding the stolen bike, the bike’s rightful owner trotting behind on foot.

I should have followed, should’ve found out how the bike was locked, should’ve met the “owner” on Avenue D. But I didn’t feel particularly compelled. I wasn’t eager to witness an early morning confrontation in the projects, so instead, I hung back.

“Think he’s going to get his bike back?” I asked Ace, who was nursing the last of his coffee.

“He’s not gonna get the bike back,” Ace said. “Dude that stole that bike—he’s just outta prison. Thick. Tattoos all over.”

Wrapping it up

There are many good U-locks out there. Based on feedback from experts, users, and thieves, the Kryptonite Series 2 is a great one, especially when bought as a package including a cable. It’s strong, light, easily transportable and comes with insurance you might actually use. Deployed correctly, it’ll keep you rolling for years to come and prevent any unnecessary debates with thick, tattooed ex-cons.

To send this guide via email, fill out the fields below:
Message Sent!
Oops! Please try again
Send

Sources

  1. Brad Quartuccio, Editor of Urban Velo
    “Locking technique is more important than how much you spend on a lock.”
  2. Bug Out, Smalltime Bike Thief, Interview
  3. Jimmy, Professional Bike Thief, Interview
  4. Unnamed Bike Thief, Interview
  5. Will Palmer, Bike Locks for the Theft-Averse, Wired, January 31, 2011
  6. Mario Aguilar, The Best Bike Lock, Gizmodo, June 28, 2012
  7. Stan Horaczek, Torture Test: Bike Locks, Men's Journal
  8. Steve Rousseau, Abusive Lab Test: Brawny Bike Locks, Popular Mechanics
  • http://www.lazyprogrammers.com Eugene Kim

    I gotta say it. You guys are crazy. Crazy awesome.

  • http://www.HQubed.com MechMykl

    Gotta say, this is my favorite review to date. The inside stories of the thieves (and the standoff with the owner at the end) brought a whole other dimension to the article. Keep up the awesome work.

  • http://sr105.com/ Harvey

    What a great piece, thanks. I would like to emphasize the good points you made about the TiGr, my lock of choice. It weighs 1/4 of the weight of two u-locks, my old locking method. Once mounted to the top tube, the lock effectively disappears. I don’t notice it in any way. It also doesn’t use up any space on my person or my bike that could or would be used in any other way. I can still mount two water bottles or an extra seat post light. It’s definitely harder to lock. It takes practice and some creativity mostly because the design is so different than what we’ve all grown up with.

    Most crucial thing about the TiGr: I *always* have a bike lock with me. If I want to strip my bike down and go for a really long ride, I can. If I get tired or want to stop somewhere, I have a lock. Most recreational distance riders don’t carry locks. I never used to. That’s why I wouldn’t part with my TiGr.

    • Vin

      Tigr has downsides:

      • http://sr105.com/ Harvey

        Holy cow! I’ll definitely be following up on this.

  • Aaron Black

    How do you guys feel about skewer locks and a chain through the seat stays and seat rails as a way to avoid carrying a cable in addition to the U-lock?

    Ive been using that combo for about 5 years on the same nice looking 80s road bike in bad neighborhoods in philly and now in boston without issue. It just seems like a different option with less to carry.

    • http://sr105.com/ Harvey

      In one of the videos they linked to, the guy mentioned that the chain method was good. He derides the unlocked quick-releases, but doesn’t mention the alternatives.

      • Aaron Black

        When it comes down to it, as this article makes very clear, the most important thing is not making your bike un-stealable. Rather, the most important thing is making it less appealing both in model and in accessibility than another bike within eyeshot.

        My supposition is that my locking skewers make it harder to steal my wheels, the U-lock makes it harder to steal my frame, and the chain makes it at least somewhat of a pain to steal my (awesome two-tone 80s selle) saddle. It’s worked so far, but I suppose if someone else liked it as much as I do and wanted to they could certainly figure out a way.

        I bought the bike for $250 precisely so I could stomach it being stolen instead of my 8K roadie…

      • Mike Johnston

        Used a big chain and a thick lock, stolen in one day, used a u-lock, never stolen after a year and a half in Oakland, CA.

    • Ganda Suthivarakom

      Mini-7 + Pinheads was my combo on a $400 bike in Brooklyn. Didn’t have any problems for the 5 years I lived there, but my bike was also as heavy as a tank and not that cute. Still, I loved that bike and I parked it outside for half the year.

    • Alex Rudinski

      I actually still live in Philly (go Phillies!) and I had a very bad experience with locking skewers. I thought that they would work as a crackhead deterant, but it turns out a crack addiction is more motivating than one might imagine: the wheels were stolen within a week, with what looked like the above hammer-and-chisel method. Now, I remove my front (quick-release) wheel, lay it against my back wheel and lock both to a sturdy object using the above Sheldon Method (RIP Sheldon) and I’ve not had a problem.

      However, some jerk stole my handlebars the other day. My. Freakin. Handlebars. See photo, and note: the frame pump, which is only velcro’d to the frame, was not stolen. The handlebars, which were actually pounded into the stem (wrong size, dumb person) were laborious removed in the middle of the night. I can’t even think of a way I might have secured those bars – anyone have any ideas?

      • Daniel Winks

        You can fill the screw heads with glue/solder, so it’s not possible to put an allen wrench in them.

  • http://scorcher.org/ Jym Dyer

    • I can’t say I agree with your recommendation: http://flic.kr/p/86kCZF
    The heavier “New York” version at least takes an angle grinder: http://flic.kr/p/86oNJU

    Bike racks are too scarce in NYC, and there’s not a lot of street furniture you can use with a U-lock. I’ve always used the thick “New York” chains, worn like a belt.

  • smileman

    Great review that needs one correction to the image caption “Jimmy pointing out the best place to cut through the Knog Strongman.” – the photo looks like it’s of a Kryptonite, not the Strongman.

    I personally own the Strongman, which I initially wasn’t happy with due to difficulty unlocking it. However, the issue was with a bent key, not the lock, so I’m very happy with it now.

    • Michael Zhao

      Yeah, he’s pointing to the Kryptonite, but the location is the same on the Strongman. Good catch though!

      • CanAmSteve

        You might tweak the caption, as it “seems” a mistake and lowers credibility from there on

    • Felix Hofmann

      Same here. The Strongman was hard to open starting after only days of use. It’s somewhat better now that I found a technique but I cannot recommend it.

  • x3notif

    Vulcan Supreme 2000 is the second best D lock I’ve seen tested among a wide array of locks, it’s also one of the cheapest locks available.

    Yet the TiGr lock is interesting.

  • Martin Grimes

    I am obsessed with bike locks, and I own about 30 of them, including most of the ones in the article, which is terrific and well researched and accurate. The most important point to remember is to use the Sheldon method. And buy the New York fahgeddaboutit if you are really serious.

    • Johnyradio

      Better than the sheldon method: the johny radio 1-lock method:

      option 1: remove the front wheel, and lock the front wheel, rear wheel, frame, and lamppost together, with a single U-lock. Take the seat (still attached to the seatpost) with you.

      option 2: remove the front wheel. lock the rear wheel, frame, and
      lamppost together. Take the front wheel and seat (still attached to the seatpost) with you.

  • lakawak

    I love all the pretentious idiots who scoff at a mere $800 bike but who probably put less than $1000 miles a year on their $5000 bike.
    Gee…I have a $600 bike. I’ve put 4000 miles on it since May alone. Working on about 9000 miles since I bought it, with no replacement parts needed, other that tires and tubes. I guess I am an IDIOT.

    • legalnola

      Any real bike owner doesn’t scoff at any else’s decision for a bike, it’s all personal preference. I have an expensive bike only compared to some, but all I have to do is ride along a bike path for 30 minutes to be passed up by someone riding an $8,000 pro-style road bike to put mine to shame. It’s all just based on what you want to do with it. For the point of the article, he’s making it clear that for the more expensive bikes, it’s more of a justification to plunk down stupid money on a lock since you stand to take a harder financial hit, not that there’s any quality difference in the bike.

    • orly?

      You needed a new chain a few thousand miles ago. Now you need a new cassette too.

      Or, you greatly overestimate your milage.

      Either way, the miles you ride don’t have anything to do with whether you are or are not an idiot.

      • CanAmSteve

        Friend of mine, riding in Canada (i.e. some ugly weather) did over 10K miles last year and another 5K this year – several chains replaced but still on original Dura-Ace cassette and just replacing chainwheels.

        • orly?

          Your friend (or his mechanic) was mindful of chain wear and replaced it when needed, that makes all the difference in the life you can get out of the rest of the drivetrain.

  • Skeptic7

    Interesting that no one talked about defeating the lock by picking. I have been able to pick every bike lock confronted, most in under two minutes. Curious why that was not a consideration.

    • badphairy

      Lockpicking is a skill.

  • http://www.josiahsprague.com/ Josiah Sprague

    Way more than I ever wanted to know about locking a bike.

  • djbtak

    Great review, though I do wonder about the effects of showing identifying tattoos of your informants.

  • danblondell

    I have the smaller, stronger New York Lock. I’ve used it for several years without any theft. The lock now has a shallow groove in it where someone tried to file through it and appears to have given up.

  • jlbraun

    To prevent component theft, get locking wheel skewers and use axle grease to stick ball bearings in the hex bolts on your derailer, light, etc. Much better than a cable.

  • tommychheng

    I used the Master Cuff Lock which look like hand cuffs for 10 ten years without a stolen bike living in college and san francisco.

  • Josef Davies-Coates

    Great review.

    I’m in London UK and very nearly purchased a Kryptonite Series 2 including cable for £19.99 ($31.79) on ebay (bargain!) but ended up getting the OnGuard Pitbull with cable for £24.99 (about $39.74) because it is Sold Secure Gold (which my seperate bike insurance requires). Both prices included delivery and from top rated sellers :)

    I need another lock for another bike though, so will likely get the Kryptonite Series 2 next time :)

  • NotJimCarrey

    I don’t even currently own a bike and I enjoyed this article. Well writtena dn thought out. Bookmarking this for next time I get a bike.

  • krunkosaurus

    Just a heads up that my friend had his $2,000 bike stolen and his Kryptonite lock broken by a thief. Looked like he had just hit it with a hammer a few times or something (the thief left the lock). Unfortunately, my friend had not registered the bike on Kryptonite’s site so he got $0 back. So don’t forget to register on the site. I’m assuming 90% don’t do this and that’s how Kryptonite saves all their money.

  • dgtlfnk

    What a load of CRAP! I had a Kryptonite Evolution series 4 on my bike, which was PROPERLY used, and locked to the bars (that were part of the building!) in my underground garage when I lived in LA. My bike was stolen as if I never had a lock on it at all.

    Clearly these locks are easy to pick, or people have skeleton keys… because there was nary a bit of evidence that the lock was cut, sawed or otherwise tampered with. Not even a single scratch or dent on the bars it was locked to. The best part? Because there was no evidence at all left behind (yes, they took the lock as well), that “insurance” is also a load of crap.

    Lesson learned. Locks are purely a facade. If someone wants your bike, they’ll have your bike. And yet the bike lock industry sucks millions (if not billions) out of our pockets forever more.

    Now? I share my bed with my bike. It’s the only sure way to keep it from being stolen. /pissed-off-saddened sarcasm

    • http://sr105.com/ Harvey

      I’m sorry about your bike, but as a general rule, no one should leave a bike outside overnight, locked or otherwise.

      • dgtlfnk

        Well, I guess if you consider the gated and locked and iron-barred basement garage to my building “outside”, then point taken. :/ Either way, my point was that the lock was basically pointless. It’s more expensive than the one recommended in this article, and was picked without difficulty, apparently. And yeah, I’m still fucking bitter about it. :P

        • http://sr105.com/ Harvey

          Sorry, I missed the part about it being in the garage. I guess I should’ve said left anywhere public. My first experience with locking a bike was West Philadelphia, so I developed a more paranoid set of habits.

          • dgtlfnk

            Yeah, I was living in LA at the time. Hence my comment about storing it in my bed. Lol. That’s about the only safe place in that town, where bike thieves RUN the place. :/

  • Corey

    I think it’s disingenuous to put TiGr at the bottom of the list simply because it’s expensive. I understand not everybody has the money to buy one, but if you’re going to secure an $800 bike and you have a $500 insurance deductible, it makes more sense to spend $150 up front and substantially reduce the risk of having to pay the deductible. Besides, one TiGr locks both tires and the frame, versus needing at least 2 locks to do so otherwise.

    • imAwildman

      Watch the ^above^ german video dude TiGr is shit.

    • Johnyradio

      too bad Tigr can be cut with bolt cutters.

      • http://www.tigrlock.com/ TiGr Lock

        The 125 TiGr used in this article can not be cut with bolt cutters, at least not with any of the cutters we tested. The 075 TiGr in that German video can be cut with bolt cutters.

        As we said on Kickstarter back in 2011 “The Titanium shackle will be available in two widths; 0.75” and 1.25”. The 0.75” provides good security and light weight and is appropriate for moderate threat scenarios. The 1.25“ version provides a superior level of bike security. … Testing in our workshop demonstrates that the 1.25” titanium bow survives a 48” bolt cutter attack and that sawing is extremely difficult and time consuming due to the ‘springy’ nature of the titanium bow at a third the weight of a common U-lock. Yes, these preliminary tests were done by us with our equipment, your pledge dollars will help fund testing and certification from an accredited third party.” Source: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1051734209/tigr-titanium-lock-as-cool-as-your-bike

        We used pledge dollars to fund testing of both 125 and 075 TiGr width variations by the ART Foundation – an accredited 3rd party lock testing organization in the Netherlands. The 125 TiGr Locks meet/exceed all ART 2-star certification standards.

        We offer the TiGr in two widths (075 and 125) to give folks a choice in the weight, cost and level of cutting resistance of their TiGr. The 125 TiGr bows are light; the 075 TiGr bows are even lighter. The 125 TiGr bows provide more protection from bolt cutter attack than the 075 TiGr bows.

        At the end of the day, your bike lock choice comes down to balancing your wants as a rider with your needs for security. You always want to enjoy the ride. Sometimes you need a good lock. At TiGr Lock we want to protect both your bike and your bike riding enjoyment.

        Our shop is in New Jersey. Please send a note to info@tigrlock.com if you’d like to stop by some time talk locks and do your own testing.

  • Mark Walley

    Can add some confirmation to all this (as if it’s needed). I work with young people in central London some of whom would be the casual thief type. They ignore any good u-locked bike and steal something easier. They do all swear by using two locks (or a lock and a supporting chain) though, as it prevents someone rotating the bike against the lock and using the weight of the bike to pop it off. A good u-lock closely bolted should prevent that anyway, but having a lock at two points stops it completely.
    And they also agree if someone who makes it their job to nick bikes wants your bike, you’re going to lose it.

  • dobbsy

    I also think it’s lame to low-rate the TiGr based on price. You should just list best to worst and people would obviously by the highest rated lock they can afford. Further, your links to TiGr go to dead Amazone page. The lock’s page is http://tigrlock.com/

    I have one and it’s awesome.

  • Matthew Burnett

    I have recently moved to Cambridge (England) which is a hotspot for bike theft and was looking for a decent bike lock, but couldn’t wait for the Wirecutter/Sweethome to publish this piece. Luckily I went ahead and bought the Kryptonite lock that is recommended in this review! Glad to read the confirmation of my choice = ]
    You should note that the lock comes with instructions on how to lock the bike correctly (the Sheldon technique), if you are inclined to read the instructions that is…

    • Lumi

      A rusty frame and a D(U?) lock lasted me 3 years in Cambridge, and probably is still working fine for the new owner. Don’t worry about the rust, it will come naturally!

  • carl myhill

    I think the Sheldon technique is very clever. Unfortunately I dont think many bike thieves are very clever. I think a stupid thief, seeing a bike locked (only by the back wheel) would be tempted to have a go at removing it – perhaps trying to cut the wheel. Whilst sheldon pointed out this is supremely difficult to do, I think many a stupid bike thief would mess up a bike whilst trying to do it.

    • Michael Zhao

      I lock through the triangle as well.

      • badphairy

        You have to, that’s kinda the point.

    • Martin Grimes

      This is a very common criticism of the Sheldon method. But in practice it doesn’t happen.

    • stahlvogel

      Criticism of the Sheldon technique needs more attention because it is easily dispatched of.

      Thieves have made it clear that they don’t mind limping the bike away with one wheel, maybe even no wheels.

      Check out this video to see how easily the Sheldon technique is foiled:

  • James Millsaps

    This is a great advertisement, not a review.

  • http://sr105.com/ Harvey

    Just another tip that I never would have guessed on my own: someone put superglue in my friend’s u-lock’s keyhole. The thief came back later in the night to steal the bike knowing it would still be there.

    • Johnyradio

      i’ve read superglue can be dissolved with nail polish remover.

      • badphairy

        It can. Also most hardware stores sell acetone.

  • Nic

    When the Bic scandal hit, Kryptonite replaced my 8 year old New York Lock with a brand new one, free of charge. Magnum Lock, a another big brand at the time chose that moment to rebrand their new, modified locks as OnGuard, and offered no replacement or any statement on the issue. Make of that what you will.

    The ‘relative value theory’ doesn’t hold much water either. While a $60-$120 lock seems extreme, that is the price you pay in a big city to enjoy the convenience of a bicycle. Cheap bike/cheap lock i what enables thieves to operate. There is an ecosystem of low end thieves who steal cheap bikes in volume, selling them to restaurants for delivery bikes etc. By running with the idea an inexpensive commuter bike is somehow less desirable, so can make do with a less secure lock, you keep thieves in business. Those are the bikes that are most targeted and are the easiest to sell.

    Fact is, every city has a minimum level of lock that you need to secure your bike in the city. Whether your bike is $50 or $5000, there is no escaping the fact that in a place like New York, you are going to have to spend money. That one lock will last you many years, and many bikes though.

    • Johnyradio

      absolutely– the advice to spend less money on a lock if the bike is not expensive makes no sense.

  • Gideon Wycke

    Puleeze
    A scissorsjack defeats any hardened u lock so long asitfits in there andthere are no yellow braces!
    Hello?

    • Johnyradio

      what are yellow braces? pardon my ignorance.

  • Shirley B. Stone

    IMHO, the best bike lock is the New York Fahgettaboudit U-Lock.

    I have been using this lock in New York City for the last three years. The test that kryptonite originally did on this lock was only one block from where I live now.

    More info: http://ibookmarkedit.com/kryptonite-black-18mm-new-york-fahgettaboudit-u-lock-997986/

  • CanAmSteve

    Good article in its comprehensive comments and overview. I live in London and ride bikes in Europe, the US (including NYC) and South Africa as well.

    I say first consider location. Then consider what you are riding. A $5000 bike in NYC is going to be recognized by thieves and stalked. So you need a great lock, a good technique and ideally it needs to go inside your actual home (AND be locked there) and never leave your sight. Otherwise, you are “asking for it”. That means if you do lock it on the street, you should be able to see it from where you are having your coffee. We all like to show off, but who needs a $5000 bike to go get the paper?

    In NYC I ride a friend’s 25-yr-old steel bike and use a Kryptonite U-lock and cable. The quick releases are semi-secured with hose clamps. It ain’t that pretty, but it rides well.

    In London, I ride a cheap steel singlespeed. I bought it used and I use a D-lock (that’s a U-lock in Brit-speak :-) It’s got nutted wheels, so I don’t bother with the cable, since anyone with a wrench (OK – spanner) will probably have a cable cutter too. Lots of people in London ride expensive bikes to work, lock them in the same place each day, then marvel they are stolen. Really.

    With both my city rides, the bikes are reasonably unattractive but functional. I lock them to foil the spur-of-the-moment thief; I doubt any “pro” would be interested.

    I’ve got some good bikes I ride in the countryside. I have serious U-locks for them in storage (which is inside the house or inside my locked garage) and I lock them to each other and a floor anchor. So nothing can be “walked” or carried off. The garage is alarmed (as is the house). What I’m saying is “Try somewhere else – it’ll be a lot easier”.

    I don’t carry a huge lock on country rides. I have a small Abus chain lock that could probably be cut with wire cutters. I use it to lock the bike when I stop for a rest but rarely leave the bike out of sight. Country people tend to be both less thieving and more attentive than city folk and – as they say – any lock is better than no lock.

    One final point – in really disadvantaged urban areas, any bicycle has value. The guy who “needs” it probably doesn’t know the difference between a $50 bike and a $5000 one, but he may want it. Probably best to be on one that you are OK parting with if necessary.

  • Johnyradio

    Great article! But, why did you recommend kryptonite new york over Abus x-plus, when you and everybody else says it’s a fantastic lock?

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      It’s listed in the guide:

      Drawbacks: It (Abus X-Plus) doesn’t come with insurance, the all-plastic carrying bracket miffs, and it costs $119. If you wouldn’t miss $119, then get it. Stat. And then get back to your insider trading.

      • Johnyradio

        You’re right.

        But I guess those seem like lower-priority to me, than the actual effectiveness of the lock. He says the Abus has “the best professional ratings of any lock available in America at this time.”

        True, cost is important, but the article is called “the best bike lock”, not “the best affordable bike lock”, or “the best locks that have a good carrying bracket”.

        Since as he notes, the Abus is very light, one has the option to stash it in a backpack, pocket, or make your own carrying bracket with some velcro or whatever.

        True, the insurance is a factor, but he even says insurance is the lowest-priority factor, and lists several reasons why.

        • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

          But that’s more than double the price. And he said if you have the extra cash to drop, by all means grab one. However, most people that visit our site want something that is top notch and cost effective. That’s the whole thing – best for most people. Just like audiophiles might not like our picks for headphones and coffee snobs might not like our brewing picks. Plain and simple.

          • Johnyradio

            That makes total sense, and i do appreciate the quality information, solid comprehensive research, and a highly entertaining, street-wise narrative.

  • John M. Hammer

    Great article. Really one of the best I’ve read on this subject.

    Isn’t the Master Lock 8195D a better value than the Kryptonite Series 2 for bikes under $1000? I understand that the author feels that the mounting bracket on the Master Lock is very poor while the mounting bracket on the Kryptonite is fairly good. However, many of us don’t mount our locks on a bracket; we use our backpacks, a loop on our belts, or our rear racks – I have often carried U-locks by wedging them into and locking them around some portion of the bike (method varies depending on the bike’s and lock’s size and geometries), sometimes with a velcro strap or two to snug them down.

    The Master Lock’s shank is a little thicker. Just a little, but that can mean a lot when resisting leverage attacks. Assuming the steel is the same strength (perhaps not a fair assumption but I don’t see any evidence to the contrary), this should argue in favor of the Master Lock.

    More important than the slight difference in thickness of the steel, the Master Lock is double-bolted while the Kryptonite is single-bolted. The author himself calls this “lame” and in practice can be a decisive difference between the bike being boosted or being left completely unmolested because thieves in the know will avoid the double-bolted locks when possible because they take twice as long to defeat.

    Admittedly, thieves like Bug Out will ignore a bike with pretty much any U-lock so maybe it’s not that much of a difference. But even at Amazon’s current prices, $25 and $42, the $17 difference is enough to buy a cable with its own integrated lock instead of a cable which needs to be secured by the U-lock itself; or to purchase a longer/tougher cable than the one supplied in the recommended Kryptonite package. There’s at least a $10 difference between the Master Lock and the non-package”naked” Kryptonite, which given the (admittedly on-paper) superiority of the Master Lock would seem to argue for that instead of the Kryptonite.

    If the price was the deciding factor between these two locks when naming a “best”, I think the Master Lock wins. If the mounting bracket was the deciding factor, I don’t think that should be given anywhere near as much weight as the other factors given how many different ways (and I think, better ways) a U-lock can be carried.

  • Billy

    I had an old beater in college in southern California–not worth $20. One day it got stolen (as did thousands of other bikes in that college town.) Later that week I happened upon it at the library, locked to itself with a u-lock. I picked it up and carried it home, a half-mile away. I had a buddy who was a welder. Neither of us liked bike thieves, so not only did he cut off the thief’s lock for me, he welded it to the frame of my bike, so in case the thief ever saw my bike again, he could see where his lock had gone. :)

  • Dindin

    Did you ever test or try Artago secure locks?

  • Ben

    You didn’t try the ABUS mini – At $55 on amazon, this is a decent deal. It’s double-bolted, rubber coated, comes with plenty of spare keys, and is only 2.2 lbs. Light, Strong, and Effective.

    • Ben

      I’ve also had issues with both of my kryptonite evolution locks, the keys wear down quickly, making it difficult to open the lock after about a year of daily use.

      • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

        Can you get spare keys made for it locally? Just curious.

        • Ben

          I don’t know about that, I know you can send the serial number from the key to kryptonite and they will replace it for about 6 bucks.

          http://www.kryptonitelock.com/Pages/OrderKeys.aspx

          • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

            Good to know. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Ryan Cragg

    Had my bike stolen a few days ago while I was buying breakfast at Subway. Fortunately I had taken note of the guy casing me out, and found him shortly afterwards. Called the police, who came and grabbed him. Police did a quick look through the security camera footage at Subway, and confirmed this was the guy who took my bike. They put the screws to the guy, who eventually cracked and took the cops to where he had stashed my bike. I got my bike back, and they took the guy to jail. Cops mentioned they were going to “breach” him, which I guess means he was on parole, so off to prison he goes. That made my day.

    If you end up finding the guy who stole your bike, don’t even talk to him. Just call the cops. “just outta prison. Thick. Tattoos all over” is even better–he’s going right back to prison.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Glad you got your bike back!

  • k2theiely

    Wondering if you considered at Pinhead locks in your review?
    https://www.pinheadlocks.com/store/en/frame-and-headset-locks/2-bubble-lock.html

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      No I don’t believe we did.

  • Deo Yeates

    Owner of stolen bike at the end most likek
    ly got robbed of rest of his stuff…if i see dudes with my bike i’d call bros for backup depending how many and how big the fkrs were. But going for a stroll to ‘meet the owner’ stands for “walk down here with me so i can take the rest of your stuff

  • Deo Yeates

    IF THIEVES WANT UR BIKE THEY’LE GET IT END OF STORY IF YOU DONT WANT TO CARRY A COUPLE HEEAVY LOCKS JUST LEAVE THEM WHERE YUO USUAKLY PARK AND JUST CARRY A ULOCK I CANT DECIDE BETWEEN THE ABUS OR KRYPTONITE OF SIMULAR VALUES / 60 EURO ANY ADVICE??!

  • n3dsd

    Just a note …not had a bike stolen …yet but have been annoyed by poor lock brackets…I have taken to using 2 or 3 strips of Velcro tape wrapping them round the u lock and the frame…it doesn’t clank around now and its easy to remove and replace…hope that helps

  • badphairy

    I got here from Atlantic, saved the URL!

  • evilapa

    This is the best review I’ve ever read about anything. Very useful and intriguing. Wow.

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Cody P

    This article is amazing. Thanks for the fantastic great research. I just bought a series 2 myself.

  • Igor

    Now that’s why i call the power of HYPE. We’ve seen so much great talk about the 0.75″ TIGR and in the end it is CRAP! It took 5 seconds to defeat with bolt cutters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kb8YoT9Q9VA

    Now i’d be interested in seeing bolt cutters vs TIGR 1.25″