Are combination bike locks a good choice of bike lock? Should I use a combination bike lock?
If you came here looking for the short and simple answer, I’ll give it to you. If you’re planning on using a combination bike lock (combi lock) as your main bike lock, think again, this might not be a smart move.
Combination bike locks can be used to increase the security of your bike. I would never advise anyone to use a combination cable style bike lock as their one and only lock.
I’ll explain below in a bit more detail why most combination locks should be avoided. I’ll also let you know the situations where using a combination bike lock would increase the security of your bike.
Overview - Should You Use a Combination Bike Lock?
Combination bike locks can be useful. No keys are required and they’re normally able to secure your bike to large immovable objects. Does this mean you should use one?
I’d strongly advise against the use of any sort of bike lock that features a cable instead of a chain or shackle. Many combination bike locks use a thin cable to secure your bike (seen above). Unless you’re using this cable to secure your bike’s accessories, avoid them.
There are a few combination bike locks that provide higher levels of security, I’ve displayed the best combination of bike locks in a table below and at the bottom of the page.
Last update on 2020-11-17 at 12:21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
What Is a Combination Bike Lock?
Combination bike locks are locks that require a correct combination to be entered before the lock can be opened. Normally, combination bike locks have three, four or five digits, but there are locks out there with more.
Most combination locks have a 10 sided wheel with a number on each side (0 to 9), but there are combination locks with letters or even symbols instead of numbers.
Most people that use combination bike locks do so because it means they don’t have to carry keys, which I’ll admit, is very handy!
You can also let others know the combination to your lock, which helps if you’re sharing the bike lock with family members or friends.
However, because most combination locks don’t have a key to override the locking system, if you forget the code to a combination bike lock, you’ll be in a sticky situation.
Later on in the article, I cover how to unlock a combination bike lock without keys/how to pick a combination bike lock. Take a look if you need a hand!
How to Use a Combination Bike Lock
As previously mentioned, combination locks require a correct code to be entered before the cylinders align and the lock can be opened.
Cheaper combination bike locks tend to come with pre-set code/combination. This will usually be displayed on some sort of tag or inside the box.
Normally on a cheap and cheerful combination lock, you won’t be able to change the code. However, on more “upmarket” combination locks the code can be changed to whatever the user desires.
Once you’ve memorised the code, to use your combination lock all you’ll have to do is enter the code and slide the lock open.
Some combination locks like the Onguard Combi require a latch to be pulled for the locking mechanism to release, but most will just slide open.
To lock a combination bike lock, the correct code will have to be entered, so don’t fiddle with the dials when the lock is open. If the correct code is entered, you should be able to slide the lock together.
Now that the lock is in position, you need to make sure you scramble the dials. If you leave the code entered into the dials, the combi lock isn’t locked.
It’s never a good idea to only turn one of the dials to secure your combination lock. Many cyclists do this because they think it will save them time when unlocking their bike. But it could also save a thief time!
Scramble those dials completely.
How to Change/Reset the Code on a Combination Bike Lock
Changing the code on a combination lock is fairly simple. To change the code on any combination lock, you’ll have to open it first.
If your combination bike lock is jammed or you’ve forgotten the code, you’ll want to read the section below that covers ‘how to pick a combination lock’.
Once you’ve got your lock open, take a look at the side with the dials/mechanism on it. Normally there is a knob on the open end of the lock that needs to be rotated 90 degrees from its default position.
Sometimes there may be a small switch that has to be rotated or moved into the open position. If you can’t find a switch or a turnable knob on your combi bike lock, you probably can’t change/reset the combination.
This switch/knob will be accessible, so don’t start poking around inside the locking mechanism. You run the risk of damaging the lock if you do.
Once you’ve turned the knob or moved the switch into the set position, twist the dials to form the combination you wish.
Before you begin using the lock, you’ll have to twist the knob or flick the switch back into its original position.
Congratulations, the code is now set and your lock is ready to use!
Are Combination Bike Locks Secure?
Most combination bike locks feature a flexible metal threaded cable. These are flexible because they are made from hundreds of thin metal strands, but really don’t provide much security for your bike at all.
I definitely wouldn’t recommend using a combination cable lock as your main bike lock. If you do it’s likely that your bike will be stolen within a week or two.
A small pair of wire cutters is all that’s needed to cut through one of these cable locks.
There isn’t a threaded cable lock that I know of that has gained a Sold Secure rating. This shows that these types of combination bike locks are not secure.
There are however a few combination bike locks that have a Sold Secure rating! The Squire Hammerhead Combi is a D lock that gained the Sold Secure Silver rating. This shows that some combination locks can provide reasonable security for your bicycle!
Towards the bottom of this article, I’ve built a table that shows the best Sold Secure rated combination bike locks.
Cheap Combination Bike Locks
All cyclists should be careful when purchasing a cheap bike lock. Cheaper locks are normally made from weaker, substandard materials and won’t provide enough security for your bike.
Police in the UK advise cyclists to spend 15% of their bike’s value on its security. Let’s say your bike cost $375 (£300), which is cheap for most pushbikes, you should look to spend around $56 (£44) on your bike lock.
If you value your bike, I advise you to stick to this rule. A good quality bike lock will last much longer than a cheap bike lock would and will provide much more security for your bike.
Using a Combination Bike Lock to Secure Your Bike
As I’ve already mentioned, it’s not a good idea to use most combination style locks to secure your bike. This is mainly because most combination locks use coiled metal cables, which can easily be cut.
However, if you wanted to increase the security of your bicycle whilst you’re out and about, a combination lock can be used as a secondary bike lock.
Wheels and saddles are easy targets for thieves, so it’s useful to have a combination bike lock with you to help secure your bike’s components.
I use the ABUS Web 1200 (a three-digit combination chain) to secure my bike’s saddle whilst I leave it locked up.
This chain doesn’t provide much security at all, but it acts as a deterrent to chancers with a set of Allen keys.
Otherwise, check the combination locks shown in the table below. Some of these locks are suitable for securing your bike, make sure to check the security rating works for you before purchasing though!
Forgotten the Code to Your Combination Bike Lock/Combination Bike Lock Stuck?
If your combination bike lock has jammed or you forgot the code to your combi bike lock, you’ll need to find a way to remove it.
Fortunately, I’ve written a detailed article that explains exactly what to do if your bike lock is jammed.
If your combi bike lock has jammed it might be because you’ve entered the wrong code. Make sure that you’re entering the correct code and make sure the dials are aligned properly.
Some combination locks won’t open unless the dials are perfectly aligned, so give this a go before attempting anything drastic.
It could also be worth trying memorable numbers, you might have set it to a birthday or another number that is special to you.
Combination locks that can be reset, often have a very generic code set at the time of purchase. Try codes like 0000, 1111, 1234 etc.
You may have accidentally reset the combination without knowing, so it’s worth trying a few other combinations. If your code was 1234 it might be worth entering a few similar codes e.g. 1235, 2234 etc.
If you purchased a cheap and cheerful combination bike lock, it may have jammed due to corrosion of the inner metal parts.
WD-40 is your best bet here, spray it inside the lock and allow it to penetrate and loosen the jammed parts.
If this works, make sure to re-lubricate the locking mechanism and any moving parts with a Teflon based lubricant. This will prevent your lock jamming in the future.
Otherwise, you may have to cut the lock off, if it’s attached to your bike. If you’re using a cable combination bike lock, hopefully this step will put you off using one in the future, as you’ll find out just how easy these locks are to cut!
Be careful when attempting to remove any bike lock, only do so if you have the confidence and correct tools and protective equipment to do so.
If you end up having to remove your combination bike lock with force, you’ll need a new bike lock. Take a look at the 8 best bike locks for some super high-security recommendations!
How to Pick/Crack a Combination Bike Lock
I chose to cover this subject to help people who couldn’t remember the code to their combination bike lock, or found an old one and didn’t know the code to it.
If you’ve come here to find ways to steal other people’s hard-earned property, get out of here.
The most obvious way to pick or crack a combination bike lock is to go through every combination. This method is time-consuming and takes concentration.
If your combination bike lock has three dials (0-9) it has 999 possible combinations and you’ll probably be able to remove it within ten minutes.
Starting from 001, scroll through the numbers until the lock pops open.
If your combination bike lock has four dials (0-9) it has 9999 possibilities. This will take some time to crack, but could probably be done in an hour or so.
If your combi lock has any more than four digits you’ll be best off saving your time and trying another picking method.
How to Pick a Combination Bike Lock With the Gap Method?
Before we get started with the gap method, this method will only work on low-end combination locks, more expensive combi locks won’t show gaps like these cheaper locks will.
To begin, set all of the numbers on your combination lock to 0000 or 1111. We are going to work on cracking the code one number at a time.
Pull reasonably hard on either side of the cable/chain and watch very closely just after the first dial. If you don’t see any gap in between the first and second numbers rotate the first dial to number 2.
Your combination should now read 2111. Now give the chain a pull on either side, close to the locking mechanism and keep an eye out for the gap. Keep repeating this, changing the number until you see the tiny gap.
When you’ve spotted the gap, it means the digit that is lined up is correct. The locking gate for that dial is now open and when you pull on the chain/cable it leaves a gap because the dial isn’t being pulled on.
Work your way down the chain repeating this process, number by number. After five or ten minutes you should have the lock open!
How to Pick a Combination Bike Lock With the Scroll and Pull Method?
The scroll and pull method uses tension to determine which digit is correct on the combination bike lock.
Pull hard on either side of the combination lock and keep either side under tension. Now begin slowly scrolling through the digits, feeling for any change in tension or stiffness of the dial.
If you align one of the gates to the open position while the lock is under tension, you’ll likely feel a click or small release of tension. If you feel anything like this, move onto the next digit and work your way down the dials. Hopefully, the lock pops open.
If one of the dials becomes strangely stiff while turning it under tension, this most likely means your dial is very close to or is in the open position. Repeat this step as you move down the dials.
You may have to do a small bit of fiddling with each dial, trying numbers/letters on either side of the digit it gets stiff on.
How to Pick a Combination Bike Lock? – Summary
If you forgot the code, hopefully, you’ve now managed to open your combination bike lock. Remember that these steps will most likely only work on cheap and cheerful combination locks.
If you still haven’t managed to get your lock open, this article teaches you how to remove a jammed bike lock.
The Best Sold Secure Combination Bike Locks
Most combination locks are less secure than keyed locks, but this doesn’t mean that they are all useless. If really wanted a combination bike lock, it’s worth investing a bit of money and getting a decent one.
Sold Secure Silver provides a compromise between security and price, these locks are suitable for use in lower-risk areas, or short term lock-ups in high-risk areas.
Last update on 2020-11-17 at 12:21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Are Combination Bike Locks Worth Your Money? – Summary
The answer to this question depends what you are planning on using the lock for. I wouldn’t use a combination bike lock as my main bike lock because you can get a more secure lock at a similar price.
For people with cheaper bikes, combination bike locks may be more suitable. If your bike is old and unlikely to catch a second glance from people passing by, then you may be fine to use one.
I use a combination bike lock myself, but only to secure my saddle. If you’re after a lock that provides top tier security, check out the 8 best bike locks or the best cheap bike locks for some budget-friendly options!