Whenever your bike is out of your sight, it needs protecting by a lock – either a locked door or a good bike lock. This month's kit round up looks at some of the best bike locks on the market.
Updated July 2019
Lock it or lose it. That's the sad truth when you own a bike, particularly a commuter bike that might be locked up for hours in plain view, or in a thief-accessible bike store at work.
Unfortunately, with enough time and the right tools, any lock is breakable. The job of a bike lock is to make your bike too much trouble for a thief to steal - in other words, to act as a deterrent.
How much deterrence you need depends on the value of your bike and the number of potential thieves who might come across it. The police recommend that you spend at least 10% of the value of your bike on security for it. Any bicycle lock is better than none, but unless you're only after an ultra-lightweight immobiliser for rural café stops, a lock that isn't rated at least Sold Secure Bronze will give you a false sense of security. A weak bicycle lock can be broken in seconds. Good bike security costs more. It also weighs a lot…
Bike Lock Security Ratings
Sold Secure is a not-for-profit UK company administered by the Master Locksmiths Association. It tests locks and rates them Bronze, Silver or Gold, in ascending order of security. The locks should hold out for one, three and five minutes respectively against progressively more determined and tooled-up attacks. Some thieves will be able to break the locks in less time than this, but it's not a bad guide to quality. If you've got a gold-standard bike, you want a gold-standard lock.
Types of Bike Locks
When you're looking for good, portable bike security, the choice is between a D-shaped shackle lock, also known as a U-lock or a D-lock, or a heavyweight chain-and-padlock combination.
In high crime areas, you might want both.
That's because different tools are needed to break different types of lock.
D-locks are lighter and more compact, but are still one of the strongest bicycle locks, while chains can be locked to street furniture that won't fit in a D-lock's shackle.
Carrying a Bike Lock
D-locks often have a bracket to fix the lock to your bike frame in transit, preventing you from rummaging in your bag. Chains can be carried looped over your neck and shoulder, like a sash. Avoid getting chain oil on your lock, especially if it will be carried next to clothing or loose in a bag with other gear.
It may be practical to keep a lock at work, locked to its anchor point, so that you don't have to carry it in every day.
When and How to Use a Bike Lock
Lock your bike whenever you leave it - even if it's for less than a minute.
Lock through the frame to a solid, immovable object, which the bike can't be lifted over the top of. Try to 'fill the lock' with bike and street furniture, as this will give a thief less room (and leverage) to attack it. Note that quick release parts such as wheels and the seatpost are easily stolen. Either replace the quick releases with allen bolts or security skewers or use an additional lock to secure them to the bike.
Looking After a Bike Lock
Keep a spare key separate from your day-to-day key, just in case you lose it.
Lubricate the lock periodically to prevent it seizing by squirting a bit of oil into any holes and working it in by repeatedly opening and closing the lock. If your lock freezes solid in winter, pour hot water over it and oil it afterwards.
To replace or fix equipment can be extremely costly - and having to subsequently change your preferred method of travel, such as switching to driving or having to catch public transport, creates further expense. And this doesn’t even take into account the emotional cost of losing a method of de-stressing for some.
We created this comprehensive guide on how best to protect your bike and what to do when it is stolen. Check it out for our top tips!
Here are some of the best bicycle locks you can buy:
OnGuard Pitbull Mini DT
RRP £39.99 | Cyclescheme price: £28.39
OnGuard’s Pit Bull Mini DT combines a mini U-lock (with a 140mm shackle) with a 122cm hardened steel flexible cable to deliver the best of both worlds, and the ability to lock your bike and wheels to most bicycle-specific locking points. The lock comes with five coded keys, useful for stashing spares if you’re prone to losing them, one of which has an integrated light. An integrated frame mount and quick release bracket means you can carry it on your bike easily. todayscyclist.co.uk
Squire Mako Combi 18/900 Plus
RRP: £39.99 | Cyclescheme price: £28.39
The advantage of compact coil locks like this Mako Combi from Squire is their versatility and their ability to be carried easily. The flexible steel cable allows easy locking of a variety of bike frame shapes to a variety of secure locations, which can sometimes foil a fixed shape U-lock. The Mako Combi uses a numeric dial combination in place of a key, which is handy if you’re prone to losing them – though not so good if you’re forgetful! raleigh.co.uk
RRP: £79.99 | Cyclescheme price: £56.79
Hip by name and hip by function, the Sold Secure Gold-rated DXC uses an integrated carry clip (with reflective detail), designed to let you attach the lock to the waistband of your jeans – ideal for bag-free commuting. The nylon cover on the 14mm hardened steel shackle protects your frame’s paintwork, and should you need extra capacity the lock comes with a metre-long hardened steel cable to thread through wheels, other bikes, or anything else you need to secure. hiplok.com
Masterlock Integrated Combination Chain Lock
RRP: £19.99 | Cyclescheme price: £14.19
While not quite as easily portable or light as a coil or U-lock, when it comes to securing multiple bikes together at home or if travelling, the extra length and flexibility of a nylon sleeved chain comes into its own. Thread the 900mm chain through the frames and wheels and secure with the integrated combination lock. The 8mm diameter chain is hardened steel to resist cutting – the only problem you should have is remembering your chosen combination. fisheroutdoor.co.uk
RRP: £79.99 | Cyclescheme price: £56.79
Aussie brand Knog makes some quality locks and the Strongman is its best-selling U-lock. It’s made using an investment cast process for a strong and secure shackle closed with a double deadlock – it works too, as the Strongman gains the Sold Secure Gold rating. The Strongman is covered with a soft but durable rubberised coating, so your paintwork is protected as well as the bike. The lock comes with a neat frame mount that is fast to fit and rattle-free. silverfish-uk.com
Oxford Alarm-D Mini
RRP: £64.99 | Cyclescheme price: £46.14
The name’s a bit of a giveaway… yes, this lock will belt out a 120-decibel alarm if it’s tampered with. It’s rated Sold Secure Silver, and has a 14mm hardened steel shackle. The alarm is powered by a long-lasting lithium battery, and the lock comes with three keys. This mini size is 205mm long, or
there’s a bigger (Midi) option that’s 260mmfor £69.99. Both sizes have brackets so you can carry it on your bike rather than in a bag. oxfordproducts.com
Abus U-Grip Plus 501
RRP: £79.99 | Cyclescheme price: £56.79
So you’ve invested a bunch in a brand new bike, complete with a swanky paint job… the last thing you want to do is ruin the paint by chipping it with a metal U-lock. The Abus U-Grip Plus uses a soft-touch rubberised covering to ensure that your paint finish is as safe as the bike is when you leave this key-activated lock in charge. Rating 13/15 in Abus’s own guide, it gains the company’s ‘maximum’ security rating for complete assurance. zyro.co.uk
Pinhead Bubble Lock
RRP: £74.89 | Cyclescheme price: £53.18
Pinhead, from Canada, has a different take on locks. Its Sold Secure Gold-rated rubber-covered, toughened steel shackle presents a rounded bracket that fits neatly around commonly found bike parking furniture. Key, literally, to Pinhead’s design, is a coded key that uses push pins to make an extremely secure, hard-to-pick lock. The same key can be used with Pinhead’s saddle and wheel quick releases (available separately) to foil opportunist component theft. The pack it comes in has adjustable straps for carrying it on your bike. raleigh.co.uk