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Bike Lock Buying Guide – How to Choose the Right Bike Lock

So you’re looking for a new bike lock, but with so many different makes and models to choose from it can easily become confusing!

By reading my bike lock buying guide, you’ll learn about the benefits that each type of bike lock offers, as well as the security ratings that you should look out for and what each of them means. 

The aim of this guide is to help you find the lock that works best for you and your bike.

Towards the end of this bike lock buying guide I recommend several top quality bike locks, each has a different set of features and are suitable for different scenarios.

Let’s get into it!

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    Types of Bike Lock & Their Uses

    There are so many different bike locks available on the market, and with new locks being released every month, it’s hard to keep up!

    Below I’ll talk you through the benefits that each lock provides as well as their weak points and what they’re suitable for.

    D/U Locks

    D locks (also know as U locks) are the most common type of bike locks. They get their name from their D/U shape and have become the go-to bike lock for most cyclists due to their simple design and ease of use.

    D locks come in many shapes and sizes. Some, such as Seatylock’s Mason 85 are lightweight and compact, whilst others offer a larger amount of room for securing multiple bikes.

    Mason 85/140 Sold Secure Gold Bike D Lock

    Their solid metal shackles mean they aren’t as versatile as a folding bike lock or chain lock. If you want an increased number of locking options but are happy to make a slight sacrifice on security, folding locks are a good choice for you.

    Best bike lock mount for kryptonite fahgettaboudit
    Not all D locks are supplied with a mounting system. The Fahgettaboudit Mini is one of those, but works well alongside the Huldit Universal Mount.

    D locks are normally supplied with a mount which allows you to attach them to the frame of your bike. When compared to other types of lock, D locks tend to offer better all-round security & usability.

    I’ve put together a review of the best D Locks on the market, have a look!

    Chain Locks

    Bicycle chain locks are another classic when it comes to bicycle security.

    Bike chain locks tend to weigh substantially more than all other types of lock, so if you’re looking for something portable and lightweight, a D lock or a folding bike lock will be a better option.

    Whilst they’re much heavier than your average bike lock, chain locks provide a large number of locking options due to their increased locking area.

    This makes most bike chains suitable for securing multiple bikes.

    (Click to enlarge)

    There are some bike chain locks that provide top tier security whilst remaining portable. I’ve recommended the Kryptonite New York Noose 1275 towards the bottom of this article, check it out.

    Otherwise, chunky chain locks tend to be too heavy to carry and are best used as stationary locks that are left at your destination.

    Also, chain locks don’t come with mounts like D locks or folding locks, so bear that in mind.

    I’ve reviewed the best bike chain locks here, have a read.

    Folding Bike Locks

    Folding bike locks are a relatively new addition to the market.

    There currently isn’t a huge range of folding locks to choose from, however there are a handful which have received respectable security ratings.

    If you want the increased locking options that a chain lock offers, with the portability and security of a D lock, a folding bike lock will be a great choice.

    Before After

    Folding locks are the most portable locks on the market, and fold away into a small package, making them super easy to transport.

    To remain compact and portable, the strongest folding bike locks use 5.5mm hardened steel plates.

    Due to their decreased thickness, these plates don’t provide as much security as the shackle of a D lock, but are resistant to most forms of attack thanks to their wide, flat shape.

    If you like to carry minimal weight whilst cycling and want a versatile lock that can secure your bike to almost any immovable object, check out the best folding bike locks.

    Cable Locks

    Cable locks are locks made from multiple strands of woven metal cable.

    Most cable locks provide very minimal levels of security and should only be used for short term lock-ups where you wont be leaving your bike un-attended (café stops etc).

    Alternatively, cable locks can be a good way to secure your bike’s components and work well alongside D locks and folding bike locks.

    I wouldn't recommend using a cable lock like the Zefal K-Traz C6 as your primary lock, instead use it to secure your bikes accessories.

    You should always aim to secure your bike’s most expensive components. Use a cable lock to secure your front wheel, whilst using a D lock or folding lock to secure your rear wheel and frame.

    I would strongly advise against using a cable lock as your only bike lock.

    Whilst they’re flexible and lightweight, the metal strands inside can be defeated in seconds with a cheap pair of wire cutters. See the video below!

    Accessory Locks

    Bike thieves are always on the look out for quick and easy targets. If you leave your bike lights attached to your bike, it wont be long before these are stolen.

    If you don’t secure your quick-release wheels, these will also be gone before you know it.

    Fortunately, there are several clever locking solutions designed to safely secure the accessories and components of your bike.

    Hexlox can be used to secure almost all of your bike's components, lock them or lose them!

    Hexlox is one of the most well know and trusted brands, they offer smart locking attachments that are inserted into your bikes hexagonal bolts.

    The Hexlox then prevents thieves from being able to loosen the hex bolt, safely securing your accessories.

    There are several other brands on the market that offer similar solutions, but Hexlox is the most popular.

    As stated above, cable locks are a good way to secure your bike’s accessories, but you’ll have to carry them around with you whilst cycling. Hexlox stay attached to your bike’s components and keep them locked, safely in place.

    Combination Bike Locks

    If you constantly find yourself losing your keys, a combination bike lock may suit you well. Combi locks don’t use keys; they’re operated by entering a passcode using a number of spinning dials.

    Most combination bike locks you find nowadays use a length of spiralled cable to secure your bike.

    I’d only recommend you to use one of these if you’re using it to secure accessories. As stated above cables provide extremely minimal security.

    Cheap Cable Combination Bike Lock

    Otherwise, there are a few combination D locks on the market that achieved the Sold Secure Silver rating.

    Unfortunately, most combination locks don’t last as long as a D lock or chain lock and are often made using low-quality materials.

    I’ve put together a review which covers the best combination locks on the market. If you want a keyless bike lock, have a read.

    Bike Lock Security Ratings

    It’s important when looking for a new bike lock, to keep an eye out for official security ratings. Sold Secure are one of the most well-known security rating organisations.

    If you’ve paid attention when shopping for bike locks before, you’ve probably seen their rating badges.

    If not, then take a look at their rating badges below and have a read of what each badge means.

    • Sold Secure Bronze – Bronze-rated products offer theft resistance against a basic tool list (aimed at preventing opportunist crime)
    • Sold Secure Silver – Silver-rated products offer theft resistance against an enhanced tool list (aimed at preventing more determined attacks)
    • Sold Secure Gold – Gold-rated products offer theft resistance against a higher selected tool list (aimed at preventing dedicated attacks)
    • Sold Secure Diamond – Diamond-rated products offer attack resistance against a higher complete tool list (aimed at preventing the highest motivated attacks)

    If you’ve had a look through our site already, you’ll see that we don’t recommend any Sold Secure Bronze bike locks for use as a primary lock. This is simply because testing has shown the provide a minimal level of security and only protect your bike from opportunist thieves.

    Instead, use Bronze rated locks as a secondary bike lock for your bike’s components and then use a more secure lock alongside it.

    If you can’t decide what security rating you require, you can use the flow diagram below. The Sold Secure Diamond rating was recently introduced, before then Sold Secure Gold locks provided the highest level of security.

    Which bike lock rating do i need bike lock buying guide
    (Click to enlarge)

    Personally, when buying a new bike lock, I look for the most secure lock I can afford. If the flow diagram advises a Silver-rated lock, there’s no harm upgrading to a Gold lock for extra peace of mind.

    Another popular security rating foundation is ART. ART is a Dutch foundation which, like Sold Secure, test and award security ratings to different bike locks.

    ART don’t have separate rating systems like Sold Secure, which can help to avoid confusion, but it does mean that their ratings cover a large number of products.

    ART Level 2 certified products are suitable for use with bicycles, so keep an eye out for that rating, or higher!

    What Kind Of Bike Lock Should I Get?

    So in this bike lock buying guide, we’ve now covered the different types of locks and their advantages/disadvantages as well as the security ratings you should look out for.

    Bike lock buying guide

    Using the information in this buying guide, pick the type of lock that works best for you, then have a browse of my suggestions below, otherwise at the bottom of the page you’ll find some other great recommendations!

    Now we’ll take a look at some of the best bike locks from each category and the advantages they offer.

    If you want to get straight into one of my in-depth reviews, why not check out the 8 best bike locks on the market? Or if you’re on a tighter budget, read about the best cheap bike locks!

    The Best D Lock

    The best all-round D lock available at the moment is the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Mini.

    This D lock uses an 18mm Max Performance hardened steel shackle, which is completely immune to even the largest hand powered bolt cutters.

    I’ve used the Fahgettaboudit Mini as my primary bike lock for the last two years with two of my bikes and have never had an issue with it.

    Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini locked to rear wheel and frame of bicycle
    I use the Fahgettaboudit Mini (as my primary bike lock) alongside an extension cable that I use to secure my front wheel.

    No thief has attempted to remove the Fahgettaboudit from my bike, which shows that just the sight of this lock is enough to prevent theft.

    The Fahgettaboudit is Sold Secure Gold Bicycle & Motorcycle rated, it’s arguably the strongest portable bike lock on the market, so if you’re looking for a combination of portability and strength, look no further.

    I found the most up to date and competitive price for the Fahgettaboudit on Amazon, here.

    The Best Chain Lock

    The Kryptonite New York Cinch Ring 1275 is currently the best bike chain lock on the market. The 1275 is another Sold Secure Gold rated bike lock, which offers increased usability when compared to standard chains.

    The 1275 uses a large final link on one end of the chain, this allows you to lasso your bike by threading the chain back through itself and locking the free end to an immovable object.

    Weighing 6.95 lb (3.15kg) the Cinch Ring 1275 isn’t the lightest chain lock on the market, but it also isn’t uncomfortable to use as a portable chain.

    If you cycle with a partner or frequently find yourself I need of extra locking room, the 1275 is a great choice.

    I found a great price for the 1275 on Amazon here.

    The Best Folding Bike Lock

    Those who opt for a folding bike lock are obviously after something that’s super compact, lightweight and offers a large range of locking possibilities. This is where the Foldylock Compact comes in.

    The Foldylock Compact is the lightest Sold Secure Silver folding lock on the market, and when I reviewed it I struggled to find any faults.

    Deliveroo with Foldylock Compact
    I still use the Foldylock Compact when I want a lightweight bike lock to use whilst I'm out and about.

    Whilst I was a cycle courier I used the Foldylock Compact as my primary bike lock and it was perfect for short stops and securing my bike in busier areas.

    As I’ve already stated, folding locks don’t offer the same security as a D lock or a chain lock, but they make up for it in how portable and convenient they are.

    You can read my detailed review of the Foldylock Comapct here.

    The Best Lightweight Bike Lock

    In my review which covered the best lightweight bike locks, the Foldylock Compact came out on top.

    Instead of writing about how good this lock is twice, I thought I’d include another incredibly lightweight bike lock.

    The TiGr Mini is the first bike lock that I’ve used which is made from titanium. This featherweight bike lock weighs just 0.9lb (0.4kg) which also makes it the lightest bike lock I’ve ever used.

    This locking setup weighs less than 2.2lb (1kg)! This makes the TiGr mini perfect for those who don't want to carry much weight.

    You might think that such a lightweight bike lock can’t provide any protection for your bike, but you’d be wrong.

    The TiGr Mini received ART level 2 certification which means it provides enough security for use with bicycles.

    It’s pretty vague to say that the TiGr Mini is “it’s suitable for bicycles”, so I’d recommend you take the value of your bike into account.

    If you ride an expensive bike, you need a lock which offers top-quality security, do a D lock might be more suited to your needs.

    Otherwise, the TiGr Mini is a super lightweight, versatile bike lock that will do you proud. Read my review of it here.

    The Best Budget Bike Lock

    If you’re shopping on a budget and are after a good all-rounder, look no further than the OnGuard Brute.

    The Brute is easily one of my favourite bike locks, not only is its 16.8mm quad bolted X4P shackle completely bolt cutter proof, but it’s also one of the cheapest bike locks available.

    The OnGuard Brute is also on of a handful of locks that received the Sold Secure Diamond rating, which puts it alongside the best bike locks on the market.

    If you can't afford the Fahgettaboudit Mini the OnGuard Brute. isa great alternative option, sold at a budget friendly price!

    With cheap bike locks there are a few drawbacks, the accessories supplied with them normally aren’t fantastic quality and cheaper locks tend to shows signs of wear and tear faster than more premium locks.

    Fortunately, the Brute comes with a lifetime warranty, which will keep it functioning smoothly and free from manufacturing & workmanship defects.

    Read my complete review before buying the Brute.

    Conclusion - Bike Lock Buying Guide

    When buying a new bike lock it’s important to assess your own situation and choose the lock that works best for you.

    If you ride a cheap bike, that has no real value to you, it doesn’t make a huge amount of sense to buy the most expensive lock on the market.

    Instead, you might be better off going for a cheaper lock that will still offer good protection for your bike.

    If you’re stuck between two different security ratings and don’t know which one to choose, I’d always recommend you to choose the more secure rating.

    a bike thief using a set of bolt cutters to steal a bike that's locked up

    Having my first bike stolen was not an enjoyable experience, so if you are able to afford a more secure lock, it’ll be worth it for the peace of mind you’ll receive.

    If you have the budget to cover it, I’d always recommend using two different locks to secure your bike. 

    If you’d like some different suggestions, read about the best bike locks on the market or if you’re on a tighter budget, look at the best cheap bike locks

    Otherwise, thanks for reading.

    And as always, lock it or lose it!

    Ciao for now.

    Author of This Post:
    Picture of James Grear (Lead Editor)
    James Grear (Lead Editor)

    Understanding how devastating it is to have a bike stolen, I've researched & immersed myself in the world of bicycle security since 2013.

    I then built BikeLockWiki in 2019 to share everything I'd learned with the worldwide cycling community so that cyclists can improve their bike security skills and make informed decisions when purchasing new products and services.

    Learn More about Me & BikeLockWiki here.

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