Testing the strength of the best bike lock

The Best Bike Locks of 2021

Brighter weather, more accessible e-bikes, and resurgent interest in outdoor recreation have brought about a surge in cycling. But with increased riding comes an increase in bike theft. It’s time to get yourself a bike lock — the right bike lock.

The lock lineups these days are extensive, and choosing the right lock for you can be a challenge. We took into account security most of all, but also weight, ease of use, durability, price, and mounting systems.

Any lock has its Kryptonite (punny!), and if a professional bike thief really wants your bike, there isn’t much you can do to stop them. A good lock, however, will deter or stop most thieves and keep your bike safe and sound.

It is imperative that every rider have a lock to secure their bike, so we tested a handful of them to give you some of our favorites. But, we didn’t just start hammering away without knowing what we were doing. We tapped a bona fide expert in bike security — the original “bike vigilante.”

A longtime rider and tinkerer, “Parker” (pseudonym), once worked as an official police informant and even helped crack a giant bicycle theft ring that spanned across state lines.

So, Parker knows all about bike security and how thieves operate. What follows is his testing, evaluation, and selection for the best bike locks of 2021.

The Best Types of Bike Locks

You may notice that there is not a “best cable lock” category. Cables are too easily cut to be of much use in protecting your bike. The only time I suggest using a cable lock is in conjunction with another high-security lock to secure your wheels or saddle while the better lock protects your frame.

Scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:

The Best Bike Locks of 2021

Best Overall: Hiplok DX Wearable U-lock

hiplok dx wearable u-lock

When I choose a lock, I prefer one that goes on my belt or in the side pocket of my backpack. For years as an avid rider and bike messenger, I have been using a Kryptonite KryptoLok mini 7 and it’s never failed me. However, after testing these locks, I have a new favorite.

Introducing the Hiplok DX ($90). This little gem is the perfect size to go on your belt or in your bag. It also has a convenient and stylish removable plastic clip that holds it on your belt or bag straps.

At 2 pounds 4 ounces, it’s not too heavy to throw in your belt loop, and its security is top-notch for its size. It comes with three specialty keys that protect the lock from being picked and are coded for easy replacement if lost. At 14 mm, the double-deadlock, antirotation, hardened steel shackle provides great protection from bolt cutters and hacksaws.

To cut through this lock, you need to cut both sides, making it much more resistant to theft. This lock is optimized to lock up one bike at a time but can lock two in a pinch. Coming in at $90, this lock is worth the money for its peace of mind and ease of use.

  • Security rating: 9/10
  • Weight: 2.42 lbs.
  • Thickness: 14 mm
Pros:
  • High security rating
  • Reasonably light weight
  • Clip makes carrying it easier
  • Weatherproof design
Cons:
  • Plastic clip can break

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Best Folding Lock: ABUS Bordo Granit x Plus 6500

abus bordo granit x plus 6500

This lock ($115-185) is another one of my favorites. It’s heavy, but the versatility it offers offsets that nicely.

This ABUS lock is long enough to easily lock up multiple bikes without compromising on security. The high-quality hardened steel and folding design make breaking this lock with anything but a grinder virtually impossible.

This lock folds down nicely to a reasonable size when not in use. It comes with an extremely well-designed anti-rattle mount that can be direct mounted or strapped to your frame. Its innovative design makes the joints the most difficult part of the lock to attack when trying to break it.

This lock also is a great candidate for locking e-bikes that have a larger frame diameter.

  • Security rating: 9/10
  • Weight: 4.76 lbs.
  • Thickness: 5 mm elongated
  • Locking length: 85 cm
Pros:
  • High security rating
  • Well-designed mount
  • Compact design with large capability
Cons:
  • Price: $115-185, depending on retailer
  • Weight: 4.76 lbs.

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Best Low-Budget Lock: Amazer U-Lock

amazer u lock

If you are on a budget but still want a decent lock that is hard to break, this could be the lock for you ($17). I tested three of the most popular Amazon bike lock choices, and this one beat the others by a long shot.

Made with quality hardened steel, this lock stood up well to my testing. The plastic shroud on the lock body isn’t the most durable, but it has a metal casing underneath that makes this affordable lock quite formidable.

The convenient size makes it easy to throw into your belt or in a bag. Plus, the customizable combo lock makes it so you don’t ever have to deal with a key.

  • Security rating: 6/10
  • Weight: 1.82 lbs.
  • Thickness: 12 mm
Pros:
  • Low cost: $17
  • Hardened steel shank is well made for the price
  • Combination access
  • Lightweight
Cons:
  • This lock has a lot of internal moving pieces and may not stand long-term heavy use

Check Price at Amazon

Best Chain Lock: Hiplok Gold Maximum Security Wearable Chain Lock

hiplok gold maximum security wearable chain lock

This lock ($140) plays off the wearable chain look of locks that many bike messengers have used for years. Instead of having to size a chain to fit your waist, this lock has a slightly shorter chain that is complemented by an adjustable strap to perfectly fit a wide variety of users from 28” to 44”.

The lock is made to look like a seatbelt buckle and is extremely difficult to cut due to its design. The chain is wrapped in a durable fabric, making it more difficult to cut and more comfortable to wear. And, it helps protect your bike from scratches while locking.

Chain locks are much more secure than cable locks due to their hardened steel construction, as well as the need to cut through both sides of the chain link to remove the lock.

  • Security rating: 9/10
  • Weight: 5 lbs. 4.7 oz.
  • Thickness: Shackle 12 mm, chain 8 mm
  • Locking length: 85 cm
Pros:
  • High security
  • Wearable design
  • Locks multiple bikes with ease
Cons:
  • Weight
  • Price: $140

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Most Durable Lock: Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 U-Lock

kryptonite evolution mini 7

I have used one of these locks ($69) for years. It’s been used as everything from a lock to a hammer, and it’s still going strong!

The rubberized shackle helps protect your bike from scratches, as well as the lock from damage. The rubber around the steel lock cylinder also helps protect the lock.

There are little to no plastic parts, depending on which model you are looking at. In Minnesota, the weather can get pretty cold, and I have had issues with locks in the past freezing up. With Kryptonite, I have never had an issue.

The lock mount is removable from the shank, which I like because the mount can shake loose as you ride. The lock is also available with an optional flex cable to help secure your wheels or accessories.

  • Security rating: 7/10
  • Weight: 2.45 lbs.
  • Thickness: 13 mm
Pros:
  • Extreme durability
  • High security
  • Anti-theft bicycle protection offer: $2,500
  • Key replacement program
Cons:
  • Mounting system is less than desirable

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Most Difficult to Break Into (Tie): New York Fahgettaboudit Mini

new york fahgettaboudit mini

This lock ($129) has been known for a while as the ultimate in bike safety, while still being somewhat reasonable to carry around. With multiple security features and an 18mm shackle, it takes over 90 seconds with an angle grinder to cut through.

It’s heavy but trusty. If you’re locking up for extended periods of time in high-theft areas, this may be the lock for you.

  • Security rating: 10/10
  • Weight: 4.5 lbs.
  • Thickness: 18 mm
Pros:
  • Top-notch theft prevention
  • Extreme durability
  • Anti-theft protection offer up to $5,000
Cons:
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

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Most Difficult to Break Into (Tie): OnGuard #8112 Brute

on-guard #8112 brute

Coming in at a shackle thickness of 16.8 mm, this lock was extremely tough to break into. With an angle grinder, it took me about 60 seconds to cut through the #8112 ($74), with sparks flying everywhere. The steel is super tough, and you have to cut both sides of the shackle to remove the lock.

These locks will definitely help keep your bike safe. The plastic shroud around the new lineup of OnGuard locks can get brittle when it’s cold, but this doesn’t change the function of the lock.

  • Security rating: 9.5/10
  • Weight: 3.06 lbs.
  • Thickness: 16.8 mm
Pros:
  • High theft prevention
  • Affordable price
  • Bike protection offer: $5,001
Cons:
  • Breakable plastic shroud

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Most Difficult to Break Into (Tie): Altor SAF Lock

Altor SAF bike lock

I couldn’t do this test without mentioning the Altor SAF Lock. This lock is the ultimate in bike security and is praised as the “first angle grinder-proof lock.”

However, weighing in at 13.7 pounds, being unreasonably large, and coming in at $299, this bike lock is not a reasonable choice for everyday use.

  • Safety rating: 11/10
  • Weight: 13.7 lbs.
  • Thickness: 80 mm overall with 14mm core
Pros:
  • Top-notch theft prevention
Cons:
  • Heavy
  • Expensive: $299
  • Irrationally large

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Most Innovative Lock: Benji U-Lock

benji u lock

One of the frustrations with bike locks is losing your key. Many companies offer key replacement programs, but that doesn’t help you when you realize you lost your key and can’t open your lock. Or that time you forgot to grab your key when you were running out the door and can’t lock up at the grocery store.

BenjiLock ($79) is here to solve these problems by using your fingerprint to unlock your bike.

Like your phone, you set the lock up by scanning your fingerprint from multiple angles. Then, charge it up with the USB cable and you’re ready to go.

The battery is designed to hold a single charge for 3 to 6 months of use, and the fingerprint scanner works well rain or shine. The lock also comes with a set of keys if the battery dies.

Although the BenjiLock’s locking mechanism is cool, it doesn’t stand up as well as I would have liked to the rigorous testing that I put these locks through.

  • Security rating: 6/10
  • Weight: Not available
  • Thickness: Not available
Pros:
  • Keyless access
  • Lightweight
  • Long battery life
  • Stores up to 10 fingerprints
Cons:
  • Weak locking mechanism
  • Covers for charging port and biometrics are flimsy

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How to Choose a Bike Lock: Bike Lock Styles Explained

Bike locks traditionally come in four different styles.

U-Locks

U-locks (also known as D-locks) have a hardened steel U-shaped shank that fits into a straight lock that closes the loop. These can have a locking mechanism on one or both ends of the U shape. If it locks both sides, it usually means that the lock must be cut twice to be removed.

Chain Locks

Chain locks are a chain with a locking mechanism that locks the two ends together. Some chain locks come with a padlock, and others have a built-in locking mechanism. Chains also must be cut twice to remove, making them difficult to break.

Chain locks offer more flexibility when locking. They allow you to lock up more bikes at once or lock your bike to a larger item. Chains are only as good as their weakest link, so choose one with a strong padlock or locking mechanism.

Folding Locks

Folding locks are composed of a set of hardened steel bars that are attached by pivot hinges at each end and a lock that connects the two free ends. These allow the same flexibility as a chain lock but at a lighter weight.

The pivot hinges are designed in a way that hinders leverage at those points. They force the thief to cut through a bar to break the lock.

abus folding lock
Photo credit: Amazon

Cable Locks

Cable locks are no longer a safe way of locking your bike. They are only meant as an accessory to your main lock and can be used to lock your wheels or other gear that’s on your bike.

These locks use a braided steel cable that’s attached at each end with a lock. Cables can be cut extremely easily and silently, which makes them the number-one lock I have seen bike thieves seek out when stealing bikes.

Ease of Use

Each lock style works differently, and finding the one that fits your needs is pretty easy. My riding style involves a lot of stops and needing to lock up quickly.

I’m also usually locking in a metro area that has poles or bike racks that I can easily lock to. For that reason, I use a U-lock.

When you buy a lock, look at how the locking mechanism works, as well as how easy it is to lock and unlock before deciding which one is right for you. If I had a family, I would be more apt to use a chain or folding lock to be able to lock up multiple bikes at once.

Size and Portability

Most lock styles also come in different sizes, so choose the one that fits your needs. U-locks come in sizes that fit one bike or up to five bikes. Chain and folding locks come in different lengths as well.

Generally, the longer the lock is, the easier it is to get leverage on the lock and break it. So, choosing the right size is important.

The larger and stronger the lock also means it’s harder to carry around. Plus, the size and weight should be considered. Make sure it fits in your pocket or backpack. Otherwise, ensure that it has a quality mount you can use to transport it.

Security

Every lock company has its own security ranking system, but they all seem to be pretty accurate when compared and averaged. An easy way to know if the lock you are buying has a high-security rating is to look for the “Sold Secure” logo, which is an independent-party rating system.

They have four rankings: bronze, silver, gold, and diamond. I would only suggest gold or diamond if you are in a metro area.

Price and Value

In general, as the price increases, so does lock security. To find the right value for you, a balance of price and security, consider asking the following questions.

Where Do You Live?

  • Big town, city, or campus: High risk
  • Small town: Low risk

Does Your Bike Attract Second Glances?

  • Yes: High risk
  • No: Low risk

How Long Do You Lock Your Bike For?

  • More than an hour: High risk
  • Less than an hour: Low risk

If you are in the high-risk category on more than one of these, consider getting a higher security lock. The more expensive the bike, the more secure the lock should be.

The low-risk users should be able to feel more comfortable with a bike lock that is much lower security.

best bike lock of 2021
Testing bike locks.

How We Tested

Although I don’t want to turn this into a tutorial on how to steal bikes, I do need to say a bit about my testing methods.

Not only did I use each of the locks and test their functionality, but I also took a handful of tools and methods that both common and professional bike thieves use, and I put them to work.

I based security scoring on how long each locks withstood compromise. Did they fold to a simple hammer or crowbar, or did they stand up to cutting even with an angle grinder?

Overall, my scoring lined up pretty well with the scores that each company uses for its products when reduced to a 10-point score. At the end of the day, all locks have their Achilles’ heel, whether that’s brute force or the right tool. But a solid lock will deter most thieves, even if it can’t 100% prevent theft.

FAQ

What Is the Most Secure Way to Lock My Bike?

Lock your bike through one of the two triangles made by the frame with a high-security lock. Using a cable or chain lock, also lock the wheels to the frame or to the post you are locking up at.

Never lock your bike using the seat post, handlebars, or just a wheel, as the bike can still be easily stolen leaving that part behind.

What Is the Strongest Bike Lock?

The strongest bike lock I could find was the Altor SAF Lock.

altor saf-lock
Photo credit: Amazon

Is There a Bike Lock That Can't Be Cut?

No; with enough time and the correct tools, any lock can be cut.

Where Should I Lock My Bike If There's Not a Bike Rack?

Depending on the situation, I have occasionally locked my bike frame to my wheel for a very short time. If it is an extended period of time, I will find a pole, tree, gas meter, or another item to lock to, even if it means I have to walk a block or two.


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