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Which is the Best 'Unbreakable' Bike Lock? 3 Options & Reviews
The Strongest Bicycle Lock Choices for 2017
If you live in the city, and you're a bicycle owner, you know just how bad bicycle theft is. An unattended bike is just asking to get nabbed, and in most cities a flimsy lock is no problem for a skilled thief. Finding the best bicycle lock for your money is one of the few ways to keep your ride safe.
Part of the reason why bicycle theft is so rampant is the fact that stolen bikes are nearly untraceable. They're easily broken down for parts, and they're easy to hide from searching authorities. Reporting a theft to police is always a good idea, but realistically, investing in the strongest bicycle lock you can find is the best defence.
If you're hunting for an unbreakable bike lock, I have bad news: it doesn't exist. Every lock can be broken given enough time, space and know-how. That said, you can definitely find a super strong bike lock that will make thieves ignore your ride and search for easier pickings.
This article is intended to review a few of the best bike locks I have come across. We'll look closely at each one and go over why it's a solid choice. I'll also cover a few types of easily breakable locks for bicycles that you'll want to avoid. Let's begin!
Locks To Avoid:
I will be reviewing some very strong bicycle locks in a moment, but first I want to go over the types of locks to avoid. The following are unfortunately very popular, and I'm certain that many bicycles have been lost as a result.
Cable locks are a terrible choice. Sure, they may be light and flexible, but there's no way that a cable of intertwined wires can be as strong as solid steel. All a thief needs to get through a cable lock is a decent set of bolt cutters. I have yet to find a cable lock that is immune to this type of attack.
Cable locks are only useful as auxiliary defence, for instance to secure your wheels to your frame.
U-locks can be pretty great, but cheaper ones are not worth the time. At my housing co-op, we had to remove some abandoned bikes. The cheap u-locks could be removed in seconds with a battery powered reciprocating saw or a hand hacksaw. On hardened steel locks, those methods didn't make a scratch.
The issue is the metal quality. Junk metal is actually quite soft. When buying a u-lock, go for quality, even if it costs a few extra bucks.
Kryptonite: An Almost Unbreakable Chain Bicycle Lock
Kryptonite is a big, big name in this industry, and there's a lot behind it. I think their Fahgettaboudit line of locks is incredible, this one in particular.
A chain lock like this one has a ton of advantages. First, it's easy enough to attach and detach, and it's fairly compact to tote around in your bag.
Made out of hardened manganese steel, these six-sided links are tough! Good luck trying to use a bolt cutter on this one! The only attack that MIGHT get through it is the portable angle grinder technique. Even then, the thief will have a lot of trouble holding the links still to cut.
It comes with a small, hardened steel lock with a double deadbolt design and a disc cylinder that's very difficult to pick. The whole thing is covered in a mesh to prevent the heavy chain links from scratching up your paint job.
It's pricier than some of the alternatives, but it's definitely worth the peace of mind. This is one of the best bicycle locks around, and it will outlast your bike (and possibly you). Kryptonite offers a theft protection warranty too.
Whenever I'm asked which is the strongest bicycle lock, this is what I typically point them towards.
Abus: A Super Strong Folding Bicycle Lock
If you're hoping to get a good product in a small size, you're in luck. One of the strongest and best bike locks around also happens to be extremely convenient.
This is one of those products where I say "Why didn't I think of that?". It's so small and convenient that you might think it's a gimmick. In fact, this is one of the top bike locks around and should give the big companies a run for their money (I imagine knockoffs will be hitting the shelves soon enough).
Every part of this system is made out of hardened steel, including the lock itself, the bars and the links. They're resistant to cutting and sawing, and a bolt cutter won't get anywhere. It's so different from conventional locks, most thieves will probably be scratching their heads.
The chunky metal links are rigid enough to intimidate any would-be thief, and it has a reassuring heft to it. Even so, when it's folded up it is much smaller than a typical u-lock would be, so it's perfect if space is limited.
Another little touch that I like is that it's coated in silicone to keep it soft, so it won't be scratching your paint. It's a fantastic and strong bicycle lock that's among the best in this category.
OnGuard Pitbull: A Great, Cheap, Hardened Steel U-Lock
There are a lot of good u-locks on the market, and I'm not particularly drawn to one over another. Kryptonite has a great u-lock in their Fahgettaboudit series, and there are several others. The OnGuard Pitbull is one that I've owned and had success with. It's one of the best and strongest bike locks around in this category.
First off, this is a big, heavy lock, and rightly so. If you're looking for a lightweight bike lock, your bike isn't going to be very secure. Hardened steel may be heavy, but it's tough.
This lock comes with a dual pin locking mechanism and a superior quality lock cylinder that's very difficult to pick. It's virtually impervious to bolt cutters and hacksaw attacks. There is plenty of room inside the 'U' so it's a good choice for bikes with larger frames.
Overall, this is a nearly unbreakable bicycle lock with strong construction and good durability. If you decide to go with something else, just make sure that it's made from hardened steel, not pot metal. And remember that you get what you pay for.
Hiplok: A Unique, Convenient Belt Chain Bike Lock
The Hiplok is a newer design that's pretty popular because it solves one of the big issues of locking up your bike: what do you do with the lock when you're riding? The lock is designed to fit around your waist as an adjustable belt. When you arrive, just remove it and lock up your bike like any other chain system.
The chain itself is (you guessed it) hardened steel, and it's invulnerable to bolt cutters and hacksaws. Like most chains, it will be pretty difficult for an angle grinder as well. It uses a six sided hexagonal chain that's pretty beefy.
The lock mechanism is integrated, and it uses a disc style mechanism that's difficult to pick and impossible to 'bump' open. The fabric outer housing keeps your paint from being damaged when you lock it up. I should mention that the limited adjustment means that those with larger bellies might not be able to use it as a belt.
It's among the strongest bicycle locks, nearly unbreakable without heavy duty tools. What's more, it's really convenient to use with the integrated lock, and when you're wearing it you won't even notice it's there. Say goodbye to that clunky lock taking up room in your backpack.
How Locks Get Broken: Common Theft Techniques
Even the best bicycle locks have some vulnerabilities. Here are a few of the ways that a thief will try to break your lock.
Bolt Cutters: A pair of bolt cutters can snip through many locks in seconds; both cable and u-locks are vulnerable to this kind of assault. To protect yourself, be sure to buy a strong bike lock that uses hardened steel, which will resist that kind of attack.
Angle Grinder: The portable angle grinder was a miraculous gift to bike thieves everywhere. They are battery powered and can cut through even hardened steel like butter. No lock is invulnerable to this attack, though chains are probably the most difficult to breach. Fortunately, angle grinders make a ton of noise and sparks, so they aren't used on busy streets.
Hack Saws: The simple hacksaw is cheap and effective in cutting through cheaper bike locks. However, most thieves will opt for a quicker approach.
What About Freezing, Etc.?
You CAN breach some locks by freezing and shattering the lock cylinder. Likewise, some cheaper locks can be opened using a pen. However, these are more the fodder of Youtube videos, and real thieves prefer quick, cheap and effective tools like those listed above.
Unbreakable Bicycle Lock? No Such Thing
I'll be honest: there is no such thing as an 'unbreakable' bicycle lock. Any lock can be compromised with enough time and the right tools.
The idea with bike locks is to make your bike a lot of work to steal. That way they'll move on and find easier pickings (believe me, they have a lot of options). If you load up your bicycle with several lines of defence, you're unlikely to have any issues.
A few more tips to keep your bicycle very difficult to steal:
- Always lock up your bike in a populated area with lots of foot traffic, if possible. Bicycles are harder to steal with people watching (though it's not impossible).
- Be sure to secure your wheels as well. You can have the best & strongest bicycle lock and still get burned if your wheels get stolen. Most modern wheels feature a quick release skewer, which allows you (and others) to remove them quickly. This is where a cable lock is effective: run it through your wheels and then through your frame. This, in addition to the strong lock securing your bike, will add extra protection.
- Don't leave your bicycle outside for days on end. Often, a thief will observe a bike for several days before making a move. You shouldn't leave a bike out in the rain and cold anyway!
Got any bike theft stories you want to share? Feel free to post in the comments section below! Thanks for reading.