5 Good, Unbreakable Bike Locks for 2018: Lightweight Options & Tips
What’s the Best, Strongest Bike Lock for Theft-Proof Security? 5 Reviews
Bicycle theft is epidemic. In my city, I spend more time worrying about my bike getting stolen than my car. It’s true!
The ugly truth is that bike theft is common and difficult to combat. If your bike gets lifted, chances are you won’t see it again.
The best precaution against a theft is to be smart, and to buy a good lock. The best bike bike locks are secure, virtually unbreakable and simple to use.
Unfortunately, I mostly see two types on the street these days: flimsy cables and cheap U-locks.
You might as well put a big bow on it it.
So what’s the best bike lock to keep your ride secure? I wrote this article to review a handful of good, strong bicycle locks, and to explain how to most effectively use them.
For each, I’ll offer pros and cons, and hopefully point you towards some great, proven brands. Let’s look at what’s out there!
What Does a Top Rated, Strong Bike Lock Look Like?
If you’re hunting for a good quality bicycle lock that’s nigh unbreakable, there are a couple of essential features you absolutely need.
In a nutshell, it comes down to style and material.
What’s the most effective style?
In my opinion, the best, most secure & theft-proof bicycle locks on the market are U-locks and chains. Both can be made from nearly uncuttable metal, and both are fairly convenient to use.
The least effective is the cable lock. Why? They can be easily cut with brute force or bolt cutters. A thief can get through a cable lock in ten seconds. They’re vaguely useful for securing components (like your saddle, for instance), but even that is a risk.
What’s the most effective material?
In my experience, the best and strongest bicycle locks are made from hardened steel, or exotic materials like titanium.
Many cheap bicycle locks are constructed using softer alloys. Bolt cutters, hacksaws, and sawzalls cut cheap metal like butter.
The more expensive kind are made from hardened steel, and they’re impervious to hacksaw and bolt cutter attempts (unless the thief has 6 hours to spend cutting).
Really, the only way to get through hardened steel or titanium is by using an angle grinder. Unfortunately, thieves use those, but they’re noisy and cause a shower of sparks, so in the open they’re very conspicuous.
1) Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit: One of the strongest bicycle locks, with good reviews
Pros: Double deadbolt shackle, hacksaw proof, vinyl coating
Cons: Weighs about 4 pounds
The venerable Fahgettaboudit U-lock, by Kryptonite, is one of the most unbreakable bike locks you’re going to come across. It’s not the cheapest, but it will give you peace of mind.
The whole lock is made from hardened steel that’ll easily turn away bolt cutters and hacksaws.
True story: I was once hired (legally) by an apartment building to clear out a locker of old bikes from former tenants. With bolt cutters we made swift work of the cable locks, but when we came across a Fahgettaboudit, we were forced to admit defeat.
The lock has a double deadbolt design (the double shackles mean a thief would have to cut through both sides to compromise it). It uses a disc cylinder that’s difficult to pick.
This lock is pretty heavy at over 4 pounds, but it’s covered in a vinyl coating that prevents it from scratching up your bike. This coating lasts a long time too.
The weight is unfortunate, but hardened steel is heavy, and it’s worth it for the protection it adds.
A couple of notes: you may want to give the lock cylinder a little bit of grease if you frequently keep it in the rain. Also, this lock doesn’t come with frame mounting hardware.
Overall the Kryptonite Fahgeddaboudit reviews really well. It’s one of the toughest and strongest bicycle U-locks around, and therefore it’s on the top of my list.
2) TiGr Mini: A lightweight bike lock that’s also strong, secure and effective
Pros: Extremely light, quick to attach / detach, great as secondary lock
Cons: Small size makes it less useful for large frames
Many great bicycle locks will review well for security and ease of use, but they fall short in one key category: weight. Hardened steel is heavy stuff. Conversely, lightweight bicycle locks tend to be less secure. The lighter the steel, the deeper the compromise.
Unless you move away from steel. To titanium. Then magical things happen!
The TiGr Mini is an amazing little all-titanium lock that’s extremely lightweight. Despite that, it’s one of the strongest U-locks in this category. Titanium is an extremely strong and durable material. They make jet planes out of the stuff.
The flat shape of the lock body and the ductile qualities of titanium makes it resistant to traditional attacks. Here’s how:
- Bolt cutters aren’t super effective against it. The flat material means cutters hit their stop before compromising the lock. Check it out yourself.
- The small size of the TiGr mini gives thieves no room to work.
- Titanium’s natural hardness makes an attack by hacksaw incredibly labour intensive.
- The hardened, stainless steel lock cylinder is difficult to pick.
The TiGr is dead easy to use. You turn your custom key until the cylinder pops, squeeze the attaching rivets, and it opens. To close, pop the cylinder back into place.
Titanium is also flexible. You can stretch the TiGr mini to get around your frame and whatever you’re locking to, then squeeze it closed to attach the cylinder. That’s super useful.
The total weight is a featherlight 490 grams (0.9 pounds) and it comes with a frame mount. It’s a wonderful auxiliary lock, good for securing wheel to frame, for example.
The TiGr Mini 4 inches (10cm) at its widest point, and 10.5 inches (or 26cm) in total length. Comparable to a U-lock. If you have fat tires or a beefy frame, you’ll probably want to opt for the larger version, called the Mini+.
Small and lightweight, this is one of the best bike locks; it reviews really well and I love using it.
Thanks to TiGr for sending me a review unit to check out!
3) Evolution Chain: A nigh unbreakable bicycle chain lock, among the best around
Pros: Probably the most secure lock you can find, easy to attach
Cons: It’s very heavy
No, I’m not a Kryptonite rep, I’m just a fan! But I’m really into chain locks in general, for a few good reasons.
- Chains are flexible like a cable, and easy to attach, even around oddly-shaped items. That’s super handy.
- They’re durable, if made from hardened steel. A lock like this will probably outlast your bike.
- They’re very difficult for a thief to cut, even with an angle grinder. The links move around and shift and it’s just not fun to cut through.
The outstanding Kryptonite Evolution chain lock ticks all three of those boxes. Each chain link is thick and strong, made from six sided (hex style) manganese reinforced steel. Good luck getting through one with a hacksaw!
You’ll be impressed by the size and durability of the links, the pictures just don’t do it justice.
It’s latched by a small Kryptonite shackle that’s also reinforced, with a complex, four-cylinder design that mimics their bigger U-locks.
The chain is smartly covered with a nylon fabric material. That keeps the links protected, but more importantly it prevents your frame from being scratched.
This lock is heavy! It comes in at around seven pounds. Good protection has its price, I suppose. Weight notwithstanding, I’d swear by a hardened chain like this one. There’s a reason why professional bike messengers use them.
I’ve heard reports that the lock cylinder can get sticky if it gets wet; I’d just give it some oil if that’s the case.
The Kryptonite Evolution chain lock reviews really nicely. It’s a very good bike lock with secure, strong features. Not exactly lightweight, but your bike is ultra-secure, so who cares?
4) Bordo Granit: A foldable bicycle lock with great features, strong and light weight
Pros: Very light, folds up to become extremely portable, unique design
Cons: You need to use the key while locked and unlocking, a bit expensive
Sometimes a great strategy is to throw something at a thief that they aren’t use to seeing. The unique, foldable Abus Bordo Granit is an interesting lock design that’s efficient for the user but also effective and light in weight.
The lock works similarly to a chain or cable re: locking flexibility. It consists of 6 metal bars that fold out, chain-like. Each bar is riveted to the next, but because they’re flat you can fold it up into a very small size.
It’s one of the best bike locks for both weight and portability. It weighs in at 2.6 pounds, and when folded it is more compact than any U-lock.
It’s coated in a rubberized material that prevents it from scratching the hell out of your frame.
The lock cylinder is high quality and difficult to pick. The metal bars are made from hardened steel, and like other high-end bicycle locks the only real way to break it would be using a grinder.
It comes with a frame bag and mounting bracket that prevents rattling.
Notes: it does require the lock itself to be turned when both unlocking and securing, which is a bit of a hassle compare to others that just ‘click’ in place. Also, the rivets will loosen as you use it. According to Abus, that doesn’t affect the security of the device.
This is a fantastic bicycle lock for a rider who wants a nearly unbreakable system with portability and light weight.
5) Master Lock Street Cuffs: An inexpensive, lightweight bike lock with great utility
Pros: Unique design, easy to use, great for tight spaces, inexpensive
Cons: You might get strange looks
As mentioned, it’s an advantage to use a unique lock thieves don’t often see. These awesome ‘street cuffs’, by Master Lock, are a fantastic bicycle lock with some nearly theft-proof features.
They are essentially regular handcuffs, which seems weird until you realize that it totally isn’t. They have a single link chain that pivots on both cuffs. For that reason, it’s really quick and easy to secure your ride in a pinch. Just attach one end to your bike, and the other to a convenient bike rack or signpost.
One small caveat: if someone digs through your backpack and finds them, you might have some explaining to do.
The cuffs are pretty small, and they can be folded over one another to save space in your pack. It’s probably the most portable lock on this list.
They work great on their own, or they make a wonderful “secondary” lock to augment your existing setup. I like to use them to secure my wheels.
The whole works are made from a hardened steel, both the cuffs and the links. They’re only really vulnerable to a grinder attack. Their small size makes them difficult to cut off a frame without damaging it. The unique cylinder is very difficult for a thief to pick.
They’re a very lightweight bicycle lock at 2.9 pounds, and have a reach of about 12 inches. If you need more reach, opt for the 9 link version, which is 22 inches long.
Convenient and inexpensive, these cuffs will get you tons of comments. They’re one of my top bike locks, with positive reviews, good strength and nearly unbreakable construction. Check them out!
Beyond The Lock: Making It Secure and Safe
I’m surprised by how often I see a poorly locked bike. I have even seen bikes with nothing more than a lock securing the rear wheel to the frame (as though a thief couldn’t simply pick it up). The largest and most unbreakable bike lock in the world won’t save your bike if it’s not secured properly.
Don’t lock it up in an alley
If you don’t want your bike to be stolen, don’t leave it somewhere where it can be easily tampered with. Choose a busy place with lots of foot traffic and it will be much safer. People tend to notice things like angle grinder sparks.
Leaving it somewhere tucked away is trouble. It gives a potential thief time and space.
Don’t give thieves room to work
As a rule of thumb, don’t give thieves a lot of room to work on your lock. You want the smallest possible lock that works. That way, they can’t reposition it to make things easier to cut.
Make it more trouble than it’s worth
A thief is going to go for low hanging fruit first. If you make your bike seem like a lot of trouble to steal, they’ll probably move on to easier pickings.
How can you do this? Use a small, effective, hardened lock that’s difficult to cut. Secure all your removable components (like the wheels). Lock it up in a conspicuous area. All these things will help.
Learn how to lock it up properly
A lot of people don’t know how to properly lock up their bicycle. I see cables looped around the wrong places, or nothing but the wheel secured.
Ever see a rusty bike lock with just a wheel attached? The thief simply detached the front wheel and made off with the rest of the frame!
Here’s the proper way to do it:
- Find a post to lock around.
- Remove your front wheel, and place it beside your rear wheel.
- Run your lock through your rear wheel, around one of your chainstays or seatstays, then around the post.
- This works best with a chain, or a larger U-lock.
That’s all you need to do! In one go, this secures your frame and wheels, with one lock. It allows you to make the most of one lock. If that all sounds like gibberish, check out these awesome diagrams. I prefer the middle technique.
(If you don’t have a removable front wheel, consider a secondary lock to secure it to the frame.)
It’s actually really quick to attach your bike lock in this way, and it’s very effective!
Have a bike theft story to share? I’d love to hear about your experiences, feel free to comment below. Thanks for reading!