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How to Unlock a Bike Lock Without Keys

So you’ve managed to lose the keys to your bike lock, and you’re now wondering how to unlock a bike lock without a key.

Without a key, you’re left with a few fiddly options, but by reading through this short guide and attempting the options within, you’ll have your bike lock removed pretty quickly. 

To state the obvious, the best way to unlock any bike lock is with its keys, so if you haven’t already read these simple steps, as you may be able to find/replace your missing keys.

The first steps for removing your bike lock are ones you can attempt yourself. Then if unsuccessful, there are several steps in the latter half of the article you can take to get help unlocking your lock. 

If you’ve managed to snap a key in the cylinder of your bike lock, read my 5-step broken key removal guide, before returning here. 

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    Please note:

    The methods stated below should only be used as a last resort. If you attempt any of the steps below, you’ll be doing so at your own risk and may unintentionally or intentionally break your lock. 

    If you have lost the keys to your bike lock, check out the simple steps of how to find your lost bike keys. These steps should be attempted first as they aren’t as likely to damage your lock!

    If none of the steps in the above article worked for you, the steps below will show you some great methods of how to unlock a bike lock without a key.

    Minors and children shouldn’t attempt these steps; instead, ask for the help of an adult. 

    How to Remove a Bike Lock Yourself

    Getting someone else to come and remove your lock will take time and cost money (in most cases).

    With this in mind, below are several steps you can attempt to unlock/remove your bike lock without keys.

    If you’re in a rush and would rather not try to remove the lock yourself, these are the best steps for getting help when removing a bike lock without keys.

    1. Check to See if You Have Spare Keys or a Key Code

    Most bike locks are supplied with multiple sets of keys. 

    If you can’t unlock your bike lock because you lost your keys, look and see if you have a spare anywhere. 

    In addition, many bike locks are supplied with key codes, which are sometimes printed on a key code card or a fob attached to the keyring.

    If you cannot locate a spare key or a key code card, proceed to the steps below. 

    2. Make and use a Shim to open your bike lock

    If you couldn’t locate a spare key or a key code, making and using a shim is a non-destructive way to open a bike lock without keys. 

    This method is unlikely to work on more expensive bike locks as they have features that protect them from shimming attacks. 

    But if you know the lock you’re using is pretty cheap and flimsy, this is worth a try. 

    We advise wearing protective gloves when making your shim. Cutting metal cans creates very sharp edges which can easily cut you.

    To make your lock shim, you’ll need:

    • An empty aluminum drink can
    • A pair of sharp scissors
    • Protective gloves 

    Shims are inserted into a lock and are used to detach the locking bolt from the lock’s shackle, subsequently opening the lock. 

    The video above shows how to make a shim.

    Now that you’ve made your shim insert it into the shackle hole and attempt to override the deadbolt.

    If your lock is double-bolted, you may need to use two shims (one on either side of the shackle) to unlock your bike lock.

    2. Use a Plastic Pen (BIC/Biro Style Pen)

    Tubular bike locks are the only type you should try picking with a pen.

    Using a pen without keys to unlock a bike lock is an old-school method of lockpicking.

    Most modern bike locks use disc detainer cylinders, so if the keyhole of your bike lock isn’t circular (as shown in the image below), click here and proceed to the next step. 

    If your bike lock’s cylinder is tubular, as shown, you’re in luck and may be able to unlock it without keys. 

    tubular bike lock key and cylidner
    1. Find a plastic pen the same width as your bike lock’s keyhole.
    2. Remove the ink tube inside your BIC/Biro pen and the plastic cap from the end. Now, you should have a hollow plastic pen body, which can be inserted into the tubular cylinder.
    3. Insert the pen into the cylinder. You may have to give the pen a little encouragement; doing so should force the plastic into the shape of the key.
    4. Once inserted, gently wiggle the pen tube backwards and forwards in the keyhole while still applying pressure into the lock.
    5. Keep twisting the pen as if you were opening the lock with a key, and if you’re lucky (and your lock is flimsy enough), the locking pins will align, and you should be able to fully rotate the pen shaft, opening the lock. 

    3. Pick The Bike Lock Using a Lock Picking Set

    While this may sound like a secret services mission, lock picking is one of your best options when attempting to unlock a bike lock without keys.

    Lock-picking is not easy. Many newer locks feature complex locking cylinders with anti-pick features, which make them very difficult to pick.

    Since you’re reading this guide, the chances are you probably don’t have a lock-picking kit to hand, in which case, you’ll most likely want to proceed to the next step

    However, if you want to open your lock using non-destructive methods, using a lock-picking set is the best way to open a bike lock without keys.  

    To pick a lock, you’ll need a few tools:

    • A lock pick
    • A tension wrench
    • A disc detainer pick (preferable for disc detainer bike locks) 

    Wafer and tumbler locks have a narrow keyhole, and if you look closely, you should see some small pins inside the lock’s opening.  

    Wafer/tumbler cylinder bike locks are typically easier to pick than most disc detainer locks. 

    If you see circular discs inside the keyhole, this is a disc detainer lock, and you should proceed to the steps below.

    1. To pick your bike lock, you’ll need to insert your tension wrench into the keyhole and apply some tension to the cylinder. From here, insert your picking tool and feel for the pins.
    2. Once you have located the first key pin, you’ll want to lift it up slowly, maintaining tension with the wrench.
    3. Once the key pin has pushed the driver pin past the shear line, you’ll feel a small click. This is the sign to move to the next key pin.
    4. Repeat this process until you’ve set all the pins in place, and you should then be able to twist the lock open with your tension wrench.

    If this doesn’t work, you’ll find a few other methods to open a bike lock without keys just below. 

    Picking a disc detainer bike lock is easier with a disc detainer-specific lock pick but can also be achieved with tumbler lock-picking tools. 

    1. To begin with, you’ll want to rotate every disc of the lock as far as they will go clockwise. This can be achieved with any long, flat piece of metal that inserts into the lock.
    2. Next, take your disc detainer pick and with the picking head and tensioning arms aligned, insert the pick into the opening of your bike lock.
    3. Ensuring the tensioning arms are engaged with the first disc, apply tension and slide the picking head onto the second disc. 
    4. Now begin rotating the picking head while still applying pressure to the front disc, and feel for clicks that indicate that the disc is in the set position. 
    5. Once the first disc is set, work your way down the other discs, and once all of the discs are in the set position, you should be able to rotate the tensioning arms on the first disc, opening the lock. 

    4. Cut the Bike Lock Off Using Tools

    If you have the tools and skills required to remove a bike lock, this is the best option.

    Since this method is destructive, you should attempt the previous steps before trying to remove your bike lock with destructive tools.

    LITELOK X1 vs Angle Grinder Testing
    Angle grinders are one of the most effective tools you can use to remove a bike lock without keys

    The table below shows the most effective tools for removing different types of bike locks without keys:

    Cable Locks D-Locks Chain Locks Folding Locks
    • Cable cutters
    • Bolt cutters
    • Angle Grinders
    • Bolt Cutters
    • Carbide Hacksaws
    • Bolt Cutters
    • Angle Grinders
    • Bolt Cutters
    • Angle Grinders
    • Hacksaws

    Cable locks are by far the easiest locks to cut yourself, they also cost the least. 

    D-locks and chain locks provide much better security than a cable, so they’ll be more challenging to remove. 

    If the lock you’re cutting is more than 12mm thick, I’d recommend using an angle grinder. 

    This is because even the largest 42″ bolt cutters can struggle to cut through D-Lock shackles and chain lock links of this size. 

    Using an angle grinder, you can cut through almost any bike lock, apart from a select few.

    Wear your PPE and ensure you’re not putting yourself or any members of the public in danger when attempting to cut your lock.

    Getting Help to Remove a Bike Lock Without Keys

    If you don’t have time to try to remove your bike lock yourself, the steps below are surefire ways to remove any bike lock without keys. 

    In an attempt to save your hard-earned cash, the following steps are in ascending order of how much they’re likely to cost. 

    If you locked your bike on private property such as a university campus, your local gym, or a library, there will likely be a ground maintenance team that can help. 

    Find a receptionist or staff member and ask if anyone can help.

    Usually, grounds staff will help free of charge since it’s in the establishment’s interest to have space left in their cycle parking areas rather than a bunch of abandoned bikes.   

    If you have any friends who work in the construction industry or anyone who enjoys a bit of DIY, the chances are they’ll have access to the tools required to cut your bike lock. 

    Give them a call and see if they’re able to help you out. 

    Since they’re your friend, hopefully, they’ll do it free of charge, but make sure to make it worthwhile for them.

    Friends appreciate bottles of wine and free meals out!

    Most bike shops will have the tools required to unlock a bike lock without keys, and will generally be cheaper than calling out a locksmith. 

    If you opt for this step, be ready to provide some proof of ownership to the staff member who comes to help. 

    Shops typically ask for proof of ownership before cutting locks for obvious reasons.

    Call around your local bike shops and ask if they can help!

    If you’ve lost the keys to your bike and have exhausted the above steps, calling out a locksmith is your best option. 

    Locksmiths have excellent knowledge of locking systems and can quickly help you unlock your bike lock without its keys.

    You may also use a locksmith because you don’t want to damage your bike lock or be accused of stealing! Both are perfectly valid reasons not to get stuck in yourself.

    Bear in mind that this is likely the most expensive method available to remove your bike lock, but it is also the most effective. 

    A locksmith will have the tools to remove almost any lock, saving you time and dignity!

    If you have time, it’s worth asking for a quote from different locksmiths to get the best price possible.

    Have proof of ownership of your bike ready, so the locksmith can get straight to work when they arrive. 

    If you don’t have proof of ownership, some locksmiths may refuse to help, so it’s worth explaining this on the phone if you don’t.

    Summary - How to Unlock a Bike Lock Without Keys

    If you were wondering how to unlock a bike lock without keys, the above steps should have helped.

    If you use a good-quality bike lock, you’ll likely need to cut it off.

    If you don’t use a good quality bike lock, count yourself lucky that a thief hasn’t already cut the lock off your bike!

    If you’ve successfully removed your bike lock without keys, it’s time to get a replacement lock. 

    For 90% of cyclists, one of the locks from our review of the best cheap bike locks will provide more than enough security.

    However, if you ride a more expensive bike or an e-bike, you’ll want to use a lock that provides the best possible resistance, as your bike will be a prime target for thieves.  

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    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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