The Best Bike Locks of 2024 - Bike Lock Reviews

Whether you’re just ducking in for a coffee or leaving your bike out all day, there’s a lock to help keep it safe.

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The Best Bike Locks of 2024 - Bike Lock Reviews

In five minutes’ time, you can order a coffee, check your email, politely glance at the other café-goers, receive said coffee, and return to where you left your unlocked bike, which was stolen four minutes ago. Shouldn’t have asked for an extra shot. But hindsight is 20/20, and now your prized bicycle is listed on a neighboring city’s Craigslist for pennies of what you paid.

The FBI reported 125,136 bike thefts in 2019 (the most recent year it has full data on), although the actual number is likely higher because many property crimes go unreported. A study by 529 Garage found that less than 5 percent of stolen bikes make it back to their owners, which means yours is probably gone for good.

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Check out our favorite locks and keep reading for more information on various lock types and how to use them best.

Every lock here has been thoroughly evaluated and vetted by our team of test editors. We research the market, survey user reviews, speak with product managers and engineers, and use our own experience with these locks to determine the best options. For those we got hands on, we used these locks, weighed them, and evaluated their mechanisms. We even cut a few in individual tests. For those locks we haven’t tried, we researched testing and picking conducted by outlets like Wirecutter and Bike Radar and experts like LockPickingLawyer to identify the best locks in each category.

Check out these 13 options for securing your bike and shackling down some peace of mind. And scroll all the way down to read more info on features and aspects to consider when buying your own bike lock, a breakdown of the different types of locking mechanisms, and more.

All you need to know about the Kryptonite New-U New York Lock is in the fine print: The company will replace your bike (up to $4,000) if it’s stolen because the lock was compromised in the city, where thousands of bikes are stolen each year. This u-lock has a 16mm hardened steel shackle and uses a pass-through crossbar design to prevent twisting attacks, forcing thieves to cut the shackle twice to compromise the lock. From personal experience, the 4-pound lock works great as a mallet, too.

The included mounting bracket uses a nylon strap to affix to the frame rather than going through the bottle bosses, a design that increases your options for mounting positions. However, the design relies on friction to keep the lock in place, so user reviews are mixed on whether it works long-term. One crafty Amazon reviewer used their own hardware to screw the mount to the bottle bosses, which might prove sturdier than the friction mount.

The Abus Ultra is a great entry-level U-lock that works in various situations. It’s a bit longer than the typical U-lock, so it can be easier to fasten when a mini lock might not work. The inclusion of a cable makes this package even more appealing, as you can easily and quickly secure the wheels as well as the frame. You could even use it to lock up two bikes in a pinch if your friend forgot their lock at home. Although, we wouldn’t recommend it for long-term or overnight parking.

Urban cyclists have been stuffing mini U-locks into back pockets and beneath belts for years, which works fine but isn’t too comfortable. So Hiplok reimagined the U-lock with a crucial addition: a clip. With it, the lock slides onto your waistband and isn’t annoying to ride with, so long as you have a tight enough waistband. The rest of the lock is formidable, with a 14mm shackle that locks on both sides of the crossbar. In our test, the shackle defeated the blade on our hacksaw rather quickly but fell victim to a 5-inch cordless angle grinder in about 30 seconds—an average time for cutting a hardened steel shackle. And thieves will need two cuts to defeat this lock.

Altor’s Apex folding lock is an elegant device with a premium feel to match its price. At 2.4 pounds, it’s among the lighter folding locks. Its bottle mount held up; in testing, the Apex stayed put and didn’t rattle as we pedaled. Unfolded, it’s just big enough to secure your frame and front or rear wheel. Its hardened-steel construction should be formidable against hand tools; reviewers at Wirecutter were able to drill through the hinges of the previous version, the 560G. But the Apex has hardened-steel joint caps to protect the rivets from drilling attacks.

The Hendrix is one of the smallest non-cable locks you’ll find, and RockyMounts includes a holder that mounts on your frame’s bottle bosses for easy portaging. The 5mm steel links present a challenge for cutting tools, and hardened pins aim to resist power drills. Still, we wouldn’t consider this a high-security lock (RockyMounts rates it a 7 out of 10 on its own security scale). But if you’re looking for a medium-security option to fit in a jersey pocket, the Hendrix might be the best pick.

The Mastiff is an absolute brute of a lock, heavier than most cyclists want to carry (although we didn’t mind schlepping it around on an e-bike). The 3.5-foot-long chain uses 10mm-thick, titanium-reinforced steel links that are hexagonally shaped to make cutting even more difficult. (The Mastiff ran down the battery of our tester’s cordless angle grinder when we attempted to cut one in 2013.) The company’s tough Boxer U-lock secures the chain at each end. A nylon sheath keeps the chain from scratching your frame. For an extra $15, you can purchase the anti-theft protection program, which covers your bike (assuming you’ve locked it up properly) for three years.

The Hiplok Gold is a chain lock designed for you to wear it. Rather than locking to your waist—a potentially dangerous move if you crash—the chain has a patented nylon clip and hook-and-loop waist adjuster to close around your torso. It also features a burly 10mm-thick, hardened-steel chain and a 12mm hardened-steel shackle that’s encased in a nylon shell. The sleeve surrounding the chain is removable and washable, and its reflective coating increases your visibility at night.

In testing, we confirmed that the adjustable belt doesn’t fit riders with waists narrower than about 30 inches (Hiplok notes this on its website). And even riders with 32-inch waists might experience slippage. Our main tester has a 34-inch waist, and although the belt cinched tight enough, the heavy chain became uncomfortable after an hour in the saddle. For shorter commutes, though, we loved its convenience and high security.

The Hiplok Spin is the Gold’s little brother, and we found it significantly more comfortable to wear while riding. It also fits smaller waists, down to 26 inches, and bigger waists up to 44 inches. Its 6mm hardened-steel chain and hardened shackle are narrower than heavier chains, but it’s hefty enough to scare off casual plunderers. Similar to the Gold, an adjustable hook-and-loop closure allows you to don the lock without unlocking it.

The integrated Evolution combines the locking mechanism with the chain, forgoing the need for a connecting U-lock and therefore saving weight. The 10mm, six-sided chain links are hard for blades to bear down on, and the disc detainer locking mechanism resists picks and drills. Kryptonite doesn’t consider the design as secure as its U-lock-equipped chains, but the company still offers $3,000 of anti-theft protection if you register your bike (the coverage is free for the first year, after that it’s $10 per year or $25 for five years).

The Ottolock Cinch offers solid security for quick trips into the store (the company indicates it’s not for long lockups or high-risk areas). The 0.5-pound lock has a Kevlar and steel band to prevent cuts, and the whole thing coils up to a 3-inch-diameter package that stows away beneath your saddle rails. Although not a replacement for a traditional U-lock, it’s smaller and more durable than a cable, making it a convenient upgrade. And the company sells a mount for your frame or seatpost for an additional $25.

If you use a U-lock as your primary security, adding a cable to your setup is a lightweight solution for quickly locking both wheels and your frame. The downside of cables is that they’re essentially deterrents and can be surprisingly easy to cut. Still, this is a relatively cheap and lightweight solution for keeping someone from simply walking away with one of your wheels while you’re running a quick errand. It comes in four sizes, the longest of which is 30 feet, while its standard 7-foot length is great for locking up a saddle, rear wheel, and frame.

These Bell zip tie-type locks are available at Target and Amazon, and you can have two for less than half the price of the Cinch above. The lightweight locks use a three-digit combination. We found that the number wheels were a little stiff. But its core—a thin metal band—withstood cutting attempts from household scissors. Still, it failed immediately when faced with a decent pair of wire cutters or metal shears.

The good news is bike thieves are criminals of opportunity, so you can decrease your risk by locking up more intelligently than the next cyclist. Let’s run through the pros and cons of each genre to help you pick the best lock for your situation.

A thief with the right tools can defeat any bike lock in five minutes, but that doesn’t mean all locks are created equal: The crook will raise hell cutting through a hardened-steel U-lock or chain with an angle grinder, so they're more likely to go after a cheaper, lightweight cable lock with a set of bolt cutters. To decide how much security you need, consider your location and duration of lockup.

All-day lockups on college campuses and in major metro areas where thefts are common require more security, says Kryptonite brand manager Daryl Slater, and anything left out overnight necessitates paranoia-level countermeasures (using multiple locks that the same bolt cutters can’t defeat is a good start). Here’s how the basic lock types differ in order of most to least secure.

Most U-locks (D-locks in the U.K.) require power tools to cut. They’re heavier and more expensive than most other varieties, but you’ll want the hardened steel when a misguided thief attempts to defeat one with hand tools. High-security models like Kryptonite’s New York STD use double dead bolts, which means two cuts are needed to open the lock—all but the most daring thieves see them and keep moving.

Folding locks are increasingly popular alternatives to chain and cable locks, and their low profile when folded makes them great for commuters. Some are susceptible to bolt cutters, a Wirecutter test found, and power drills can quietly compromise their connecting joints. Like chains, they enable you to lock up to objects too big for U-locks or D-locks.

Chain locks can be as secure as U-locks if the chain is hardened steel and the shackle is equally durable. A hardware store chain matched with your old gym class combo lock, though, is losing to a pair of bolt cutters. A large chain can lock up a bike’s frame and both wheels while increasing the diameter of the tree, post, etc. to which you’re able to lock your bike, and models like the Hiplok Spin are designed to fit comfortably around your waist for portability.

Lightweight locks come in a variety of designs, such as the zip tie of the Ottolock Cinch and Hiplok Z Lok or simple cables. Most of these locks can be defeated by hand tools like bolt cutters and tin snips, so reserve them for light security situations like popping into a store.

Just like all bike locks are eventually susceptible to cutting attacks, all bike locks can also be picked. But most modern locks can’t be defeated by amateurs, says competitive lock picker Schuyler Towne. Disc detainer locks, which use a series of rotating discs, are considered the most difficult to pick. Slider locks, like those from OnGuard, have keys with laser-cut slots and flat sides and can provide high security. “The more cuts on the key, the more secure it is,” Towne says of slider locks.

Pin-tumbler locks are a classic design that can sometimes be foiled by brute force attacks, although others require more skill. And wafer locks are considered the least secure—more vulnerable to entry-level picking—but individual wafer locks may prove more secure than others.

Bike lock manufacturers use a few popular mechanisms with varying levels of security. Lock-picking is an acquired skill, and anecdotal evidence indicates that destructive attacks are much more common. Likewise, an expert with the right tools can get through any bike lock pretty quickly—see LockPickingLawyer or Bosnianbill for a master class in advanced bike lock-picking. Thankfully, most thieves aren’t expert locksmiths with custom tools, but amateurs can still foil a couple of prominent lock designs with fairly basic attacks. We consulted lock-picking expert, Schuyler Towne, to break down the prominent locking mechanisms in order of most to least secure.

Also called disc-tumbler locks, these locking mechanisms use a series of slotted rotating discs separated by washers. Each disc has a cutout; when locked, the cutouts don’t line up, but inserting and turning the key rotates them into alignment to form a channel. A sidebar rests against the discs, preventing you from turning the lock when there’s no channel for it to drop into. Therefore, opening a disc-detainer lock means aligning each individual disc to a relatively precise position, which usually proves more difficult than picking other lock designs. Disc-detainer mechanisms are popular on bike locks because they’re fairly secure and because they don’t contain springs and can be manufactured to low tolerances, two factors that mean they continue to work after years of use.

In a slider lock, inserting a key actuates a series of springless sliders within a plug that corresponds to a slot on the outside of the plug. Riding atop the sliders in the slot is a sidebar, which must fall into the slot before the lock can turn. With the key inserted and the sliders in their correct position, the sidebar falls into the slot and the plug turns within the cylinder. These locks can be high or low security, depending on their construction and the number of sliders.

This lock has a plug that sits within a cylindrical housing. The plug and housing contain long pin chambers that allow a series of pins that are spring-loaded to move back and forth between the plug and the housing. While locked, pins sit right in between the plug and the housing, preventing the plug from turning. When the key goes into the plug, it lifts up the spring-loaded pins so that they move completely into the plug or housing, leaving a gap between the two that allows the plug to turn. These locks are susceptible to skilled pickers who can depress each individual pin, but they can also be raked, which requires less skill. A “rake” is a pick with a specially designed tip that, when raked across the wafers or pins rapidly, can set them and turn a lock without a key.

This is generally considered the least-secure design. It’s similar to a pin-tumbler lock, but instead of using spring-loaded pins, it uses spring-loaded rectangular wafers. Like a pin-tumbler lock, these locks are susceptible to individual pin picking and raking, but many can be opened using jiggers or model keys, one of which may be close enough to the authentic key.

Once you’ve bought a lock, you must put it to work. “Make sure you lock according to value,” Slater says. “The frame (being most expensive), the rear wheel, then the front wheel.” Unlocked frames and wheels will likely be stolen eventually, so your best bet is to lock both wheels to the frame with a chain or cable lock (or another U-lock, in high-risk areas). Aim for well-lit places and never leave a lock against the ground, as thieves might get the necessary leverage to pry it open.

Ensure your bike can’t be lifted over a poll or tree. Slater says he’s encountered victims whose bikes were locked to street signs, over which a bike can easily be hoisted, or small trees, which were promptly cut down. Generally, the thing you’re locking to should be more robust than your lock. Lastly, take down your bike’s serial number (under the bottom bracket) and register it with your local police department in case the worst happens.

Having a bike stolen is the worst, and unfortunately, there isn’t much help available to victims of bike theft. If you’re tapped into your local cycling community, putting the word out on social media can often be your best bet for recovering your stolen bike. At least it was, until portable trackers like Apple’s AirTag were introduced. They’re far from perfect because they need to be near someone with an updated iPhone to give you a location, so they likely won’t work for riders in rural places. If you live in a more densely populated area with many iPhone users, an AirTag and a compatible bike mount could significantly increase your chances of recovering a stolen bike.

Kevin Cortez is an editor for Runner's World, Bicycling, and Popular Mechanics covering reviews. A culture and product journalist for over ten years, he’s an expert in men’s style, technology, gaming, coffee, e-bikes, hiking, gear, and all things outdoors. He most recently worked as the Style Editor for Reviewed, a top product recommendation site owned by USA TODAY. He also helped with the launch of WSJ's Buy Side commerce vertical, and has covered the music and podcast industries for Mass Appeal, Genius, Vulture, Leafly, Input, and The A.V. Club. Equally passionate about leisure as he is his penmanship, Kevin dedicates his spare time to graphic novels, birding, making cold brew, and taking long, meandering walks.

Test Editor Dan Chabanov got his start in cycling as a New York City bike messenger but quickly found his way into road and cyclocross racing, competing in professional cyclocross races from 2009 to 2019 and winning a Master’s National Championship title in 2018. Prior to joining Bicycling in 2021, Dan worked as part of the race organization for the Red Hook Crit, as a coach with EnduranceWERX, as well as a freelance writer and photographer. 

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