Having your bike stolen is a nightmare for all cyclists, whether you rely on your two-wheeled chariot for the ride to work, or have invested your hard-earned cash into your dream machine.
While bicycle insurance is a sensible option for cyclists, prevention is, of course, better than cure and a solid lock will act as a deterrent to would-be thieves. If you plan on leaving your bike unguarded for any period of time, you should buy a lock.
Bike locks have come a long way since the days of spindly cables, easily hackable combination chains and bulky motorcycle-style shackles. In fact, you can find options from super-portable locks to use when popping into a countryside cafe, to designs that wouldn’t look out of place on the gates of Fort Knox.
It's now possible to get bike locks that are small, sturdy and smart, and can be whipped on while you're in the shops, to deter opportunist scumbags. Some modern criminal deterrents even come with hi-tech features such as the ability to unlock via your phone's Bluetooth, and even GPS tracking and alarm systems.
Don’t be put off by a surfeit of choice, though. Here is T3’s pick of the best bicycle locks on the market.
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How to buy the best bike lock
There are a number of things to consider before parting with your cash in return for a good lock, including weight, size and convenience.
First of all, what do you need the lock for? For example, a bike commuter who rides to work and wants to lock their machine up on the street will need to prioritise out-right security, compared to a road cyclist who wants something lightweight to slip in a jersey pocket in case they make a rural stop for a cup of coffee. Also consider whether you’ll be carrying the lock with you day-in, day-out (in a backpack or mounted to your frame), or whether you’ll be leaving it behind as you lock your bike up in the same place every day.
From there, you can start to weight up your priorities. Enormous chains from the likes of Oxford and Abus tend to offer the most security, deterring even the hardiest of light-fingered folk, but they will also take up most of the room in your backpack, not to mention weigh you down. If you’re trying to make your bike ride even harder, great; if not, a sturdy D-lock is a more convenient option. Once again, if you live in an area with high bike crime, you may want two locks: a D lock to secure the frame, and a cable to run between that and the wheels.
On the other hand, the smaller the lock, the lighter and more convenient it will be to carry around town, with brands such as Hiplok offering compact designs that clip to belt loops for easy transportation.
These are great if you only want to leave your bike behind for a short time or to use as secondary locks. However, they can be a pain to loop through bikes frames and still have enough lock left to anchor onto something secure, meaning you could leave quick release wheels and saddles vulnerable to tea leaves.
While lock manufacturers don't adhere to one universal security rating, Sold Secure is the most widely adopted, with rankings of bronze, silver and gold. If your bike is insured, the small print might require the use of a Sold Secure lock, so make sure you check. You can also search for approved locks by rating on the Sold Secure website.
Finally, some modern locks also offer additional features such as Bluetooth smartphone tethering for keyless entry, integrated lights for safer cycling and even built-in alarm systems. These will clearly cost extra but the smart features could prove useful for those who have a track record of losing keys or who simply want their lock to work harder when not in use. In truth, however, the most important thing is to find a sturdy lock that acts as a deterrent to thieves, while also being practical enough to ensure you actually use it.
What is the best bike lock?
What, you can't be bothered to read our in-depth analyses? Here are our top recommends then.
Best lock overall: Abus Bordo Lite 6050.
Best heavy duty lock: Kryptonite Keeper Folding Lock 810.
Best lock for home storage: Hiplok Airlok
The best bike locks, in order
Despite its diminutive size, the Abus Bordo Lite 6050 offers a level 7 (on a scale of 1-15) in terms of security. This is thanks to the 5mm-thick bars that make up the unique design, with each featuring a core of light steel with a synthetic coating to prevent damage to your bicycle's paintwork.
Better still, it folds down small enough to stuff in a jersey pocket when tackling a weekend ride, but can easily wrap around the rear wheel, frame and lamppost when parked up outside the favoured coffee shop.
This is not going to put off the more determined part of the bicycle-thieving community, but it's ideal for short stops. Pair it with a good D-Lock and you'll have a setup that will make most light-fingered types think twice.
Hiplok's been making very handy, wearable bike locks for years now, but changing over from padlocks to a combination lock with the brand new Spin ups the convenience level even further. Hiplok describes it as the 'perfect' bike lock, and it's probably not far wrong.
The Spin is pretty light at 800g and you quickly forget you're wearing it. Cleverly, while the four-digit combi lock offers solid security when you lock your bike, when you have it around your waist, the Spin always remains unlocked, so it's always ready to deploy. The 75cm length obviously isn't massive, but it seems sufficient for most lock-and-leave scenarios, and the convenience of being able to wear it like a belt makes up for the slight lack of length.
Again, this is not going to put off men in vans, equipped with angle grinders, but opportunist thieves will be dissuaded.
Generally speaking, we’d advise spending as much as you can afford on a lock, but if you’re on a tight budget then the LifeLine Steel D Lock is a really solid option that will give you plenty of change from a £20 note.
LifeLine’s lock has a Solid Secure Silver rating so, while not as dependable as some of the (much) more expensive locks in our round-up, this is still a seriously strong shackle for your pride and joy. Handily, it’s available in three sizes, with small (80mm x 143mm, 1kg) and large (110mm x 300mm, 1.5kg) alternatives to the medium lock we’ve featured here.
Despite its low price, LifeLine’s lock still has a sliding dust cover and comes with a frame mount. Bargain. The only thing holding it back is the rather cheap and cheerful look, but you could think of it more as 'no-nonsense'.
This ace Kryptonite Keeper number is like the hybrid lovechild of an old school chain lock with the portability of a modern folding number.
At 770g, it's heavier than the others here but that does mean it offers a good safety rating and acts as a pretty good visual deterrent for any opportunistic thieves on the prowl. The 360-degree link rotation means it folds down small and it comes with its own carry mechanism, for transporting in a bag or pocket, as well as a bike frame mount.
For full peace of mind when locking your bike up all day, this D lock is the ideal weight, being not too heavy to carry but robust enough to keep your bike secure and resist tampering. It has a 16 mm shackle and is made from hardened steel so any thief would have a tough time trying to get into this lock.
It’s easy to carry in a backpack and it is bigger than your average lock so it’s easy to attach. Hard to beat, when it comes to D locks.
Keeping your beloved bike under lock and key while you’re out and about is one thing, but the Hiplok Airlok takes security to another level. Not only does the Airlok come with a Solid Secure Gold rating, it doubles as a rather stylish bike storage solution for your house or garage.
The Airlok is built around a hardened steel frame, anchored onto the wall by four sturdy bolts. An impact resistant casing with a non-scratch frame holder gives the unit its sleek look, while a 30mm locking bolt keeps your machine safe from wandering hands.
The Airlok is available in a selection of colours – another feather in its cap as a showpiece feature, rather than a simple lock – and Hiplok also offers the option of a custom design, with the colour and finish of your choice.
A word of warning: this lock probably isn't going to deter the most determined bike burglars but it does clip onto the back of a jersey or jeans when not needed, and acts as a pretty powerful 10 lumen rear light, as well as a deterrent to opportunist thieves.
The Hiplok FLX's construction is pretty cool. A 0.9m cable slides out of the little box and clips into the opposing shackle for stress-free short stops when out and about. A simple three-digit combination lock gives access to the bike when you return, at which point the steel cable neatly retracts back into the unit.
Live in an area that's riddled with hardened bike thieves? You need to bring out the big guns and, to continue the military theme, the Hiplok Gold is an absolute weapon. Its 10mm hardened steel chain will withstand even the toughest cutting tools, while the steel shackle features an additional 2mm of steel reinforcement... just in case. Luckily, the tough chain is covered in a soft nylon shroud and there's a cool buckle device at the front, which means it can be worn like a belt when not in use.
As a result, there's also a reflective chevron design on the outer casing, which lights up like a Christmas tree when hit by a vehicle's front lamps. It's overly bulky, yes, but this thing offers superb protection, which is a must if you're thinking of locking up an expensive bike outside for lengthy periods of time.
D-locks are some of the toughest cookies on the market, requiring a serious set of industrial cutters to slice through the steel construction, but they can also be tough on delicate bike frames.
The guys at Knog have simply covered their D-lock in a thick silicone material to protect your frame from damage. It also means the Bouncer looks pretty cool, with the lock available in black, white or teal.
Stylish additions aren't in place of proper safety either, with a double locking mechanism securing both sides of the shackle and a high-security disk style lock barrel designed for a minimum of 2500 key combinations.
This flexible and fluorescent lock is easy to use, transport and store. It folds away neatly so you can pack it in a bag, and its radioactive yellow colour means you won’t have any trouble locating your bike in the dark.
It’s lightweight, with just a simple clicking lock mechanism that requires a key to unlock. It has two hooks and loops to make it easy to attach to the frame, and you can attach your bike to anything using this lock. Judging by its Gold rating, it's also considerably more secure than its slim lines would suggest. Its stiffness means it is a bit more fiddly to use than a chain of equivalent length, however.