A bike lock is an essential part of any cyclist's kit. Whether you are commuting to work, on holiday, or just using your bike to keep fit, the last thing you want is to return to an empty spot where your bike once was. According to statistics, a bike is stolen every six minutes in the UK, many of which are easily preventable. Choosing a bike lock can be a tricky choice, so we have put together some tips to help you pick the bike lock that best suits your needs.
Before we begin, it is important to note that no bike lock is unbreakable. A good bike lock will help keep your bike safe but for additional tips check out: 8 Tips to protect your bike from theft
Independently Security Tested
It is hard to know who to believe when purchasing any product. Luckily there are third-party experts who test how secure bike locks are and then give them a rating. Here in the UK, the premier testing and certification house for security products is Sold Secure. They are owned by the Master Locksmiths Association (a not for profit organisation) and are experts when it comes to testing the security of bicycle locks. They use a variety of tools and methods that are common in real-life bike theft to establish the security level of the lock. After testing a product, Sold Secure will give it either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold rating based on how secure they determine the product to be, with Gold being the most secure. Because of their respected reputation as experts in their field, a Sold Secure rating is used (and often required) by many insurers.
Another notable testing house is the ART Foundation. Based in the Netherlands, ART is a premier security testing house with the aim to increase the level of anti-theft prevention of two-wheeled vehicles (bicycles, mopeds, scooters and motorcycles). They give a rating out of 5 which is interpreted as such:
- 1 star is minimum protection ("take-away protection")
- 2 stars for bicycles
- 3 stars for mopeds and light mopeds
- 4 stars for motorcycles (en route)
- 5 stars for motorcycles (parked at home)
Generally, an ART 2 rating can be compared to a Sold Secure Silver rating and an ART 3 rating can be compared to a Sold Secure Gold rating. However, they are different testing facilities and perform their own security tests so this may not always be the case. A rating from an independent company is a stamp of approval you can trust, so only buy a bike lock that has one.
Level of Security
As previously stated it is important to have a bike lock that has an independent security rating. However, not everyone will need a bike lock that carries the highest security rating. Sold Secure Gold locks are more costly than their Silver counterparts so you don’t want to overspend if it’s unnecessary.
To work out what level of security you need, ask yourself these questions:
Where do I live?
Urban cities such as London and New York have a much higher crime rate when it comes to bike theft than suburban and rural areas. In 2017, nearly a quarter of all reported bikes stolen in the UK happened in London, with a massive 21,745 being taken. Other UK cities such as Cambridge, Bristol, and Brighton also report high numbers of bike theft in the previous few years. A Gold rated lock can easily deter thieves looking for an easy target. But if you live in a small town or village then a Silver rated lock should suit you fine. There won’t be many bike thieves around and as long as you lock it sensibly then it is unlikely your bike will be taken.
How long will your bike be left alone?
If you are out and about enjoying a leisurely weekend cycle around the countryside, you may not want to take a big heavy lock with you. Especially if you are only planning on stopping for a coffee break or to use the facilities. A Silver rated lock is ideal in this situation. A Gold bike lock is recommended if you plan on leaving your bike for longer periods of time. For example, if you commute to work and leave your bike unattended for several hours at a time. The longer your bike is left alone the more opportunities thieves will have to steal it, so the more protection the better.
How expensive is your bike?
A more expensive bike will attract more attention and if your bike stands out then it becomes a target. Using a Gold rated bike lock can combat that. Far too many people will spend thousands on their bike and pennies on their bike locks. If you do have a bike that doesn’t attract a second glance then a Silver lock should be sufficient. One thing to take into consideration is that companies will often insist on certain levels of security ratings for your bike lock based on the value of your bike. If you don’t meet the criteria set by your insurance then they are within their right to refuse your claim.
Different types of locks.
The majority of bike locks can be put into 1 of 4 categories. U/D-Locks, Chains, Foldable, and Cable locks. Each comes with their own pros and cons.
D locks (also known as U locks) are made of hard steel that is moulded into the shape of a D (or a U when not attached to a base). Due to their rigid dual locking system, it means that they have to be cut twice in order to be compromised. But being made of steel means that they can be compromised with bolt croppers which is a common tool used by bike thieves. Thieves using bolt croppers will usually attempt to break a lock by creating a nick which turns into a crack because the metal is contiguous – it consists of an uninterrupted series of atoms. Also, due to their shape, they can give you limited locking options, being unable to fit around lamp posts or other large poles.
Chains are flexible and usually very long, giving you plenty of locking options when it comes to securing your bike which is very handy. However, they are very heavy and cumbersome. High-security chains can weigh a lot as they comprise of thick metal links that can be tricky to defeat. But in order to lock your bike using a chain, you need a padlock to keep it together. Bike thieves can target the padlock and once that is defeated the chain just falls away.
Foldable locks are a really interesting design. They are metal bars that are connected together by rivets, allowing them to pivot, meaning they can be contorted into such a way you can lock your bikes to unusually shaped objects. Although they feel quite quirky, the downside is they aren’t very secure. The steel bars are usually quite thin and the rivets connecting the bars can be vulnerable.
Cable locks are light, flexible, and usually pretty cheap compared to other lock types. However, the majority of them can be cut pretty easily as they are made of braided steel cables and therefore aren’t generally recommended for long stops.
We at Litelok feel like we have taken the pros of many of these types of locks whilst eliminating the cons. We designed a lightweight, flexible, high-security bike lock. We created and patented a new composite material called Boaflexicore. It is made of layers of innovative materials that keep Liteloks lightweight but difficult to cut or break. Each layer provides additional security, meaning it can withstand sustained attack from heavy-duty tools. Whereas bolt croppers can defeat steel locks, Litelok has category-leading resistance against bolt croppers because Boaflexicore is tough & flexible but not brittle. Boaflexicore was made so that it spreads and squashes by placing more material in front of the cut so that it can't be cut.
Our (original) Litelok Gold is the lightest, flexible Sold Secure Gold range available and is targeted at urban commuters and cyclists who need high security. Litelok Silver is even lighter, more flexible, and being Sold Secure Silver rated, it still offers a good level of security. It is suitable for all ages and cyclists.
We are developing a range of locks, so we can offer the right lock to the right cyclist and situation. The two ranges are designed to complement each other.