Help me remove my bike lock from my bike.
January 26, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

How do I remove my £30 Kryptonite D- (or U-) lock from my £200 bike? The lock wouldn't open, I over-turned the key and the key sheared off inside the lock. I still have the spare key but obviously can't insert it.

The Kryptonite is over 2 years old. No idea if the "pen trick" will work but even if it did, there's a big chunk of key stuck inside the lock now.

If you suggest the angle grinder route, where does one acquire those things cheaply in London, and crucially, how does one run the thing in a London street without 20m of extension cable?

Any other cheap ways to free the bike, possibly even without sacrificing the (possibly broken anyhow) lock?
posted by KMH to Travel & Transportation (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hydraulic car jack.
I wore a moving blanket around my waist like a skirt and was glad for it because the lock blew apart with great force.
posted by Seamus at 1:08 PM on January 26, 2010

What kind of key was it? Was it similar to a house key, or was it the round kind?

In any case, it is almost certainly possible to remove the key fragment(s) with a pair of needle nose vice-grips and/or a key extractor.
posted by Commander Rachek at 1:08 PM on January 26, 2010

A great tool for removing broken keys can be made from breaking a coping saw blade. Just insert the blade and use the tooth to hook the key remnant.
posted by buggzzee23 at 1:15 PM on January 26, 2010

The round kind.

It's more of a complication though, as I have a feeling the lock itself is dead, since the first key wouldn't open it and the opening of the lock mechanism, down inside the plastic sheath, looked a bit off-centre unusually.
posted by KMH at 1:17 PM on January 26, 2010

I just bought a hacksaw for $4.96. No power needed.
posted by mmdei at 1:26 PM on January 26, 2010

Seconding Seamus with the car-jack suggestion.
What model lock is it?

There's some suggestions here.
Contrary to some urban myths, Kryptonite claim that their locks aren't vulnerable to freezing (scroll to the bottom.) I bet you could do it with liquid nitrogen though (I don't recommend this.)

Best suggestion from the linked thread is a decent hacksaw with a carbide blade; most DIY places should have them.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 1:26 PM on January 26, 2010

A hacksaw is going to take a very, very long time, and likely a number of blades.

Have you tried asking kryptonite? They likely have a better idea of what sheared off your key to begin with and why the lock wasn't working like it was supposed to.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:37 PM on January 26, 2010

I don't recommend using a car jack. Some locks are car-jack proof - they mean it! You may ruin your car jack.

I think you should contact Kryptonite directly. Why ask the internet when you can ask actual experts?
posted by Gor-ella at 1:38 PM on January 26, 2010

The hard part of all this is figuring out how to destroy the lock in a timely fashion, and without also destroying the bicycle, yourself, or random passerby. With all that in mind, a skilfully wielded angle grinder is probably the way to go. Surely you can rent a generator somewhere in London, and possibly the angle grinder itself as well. In the US, we go to Home Depot for such things; I have no idea what the British equivalent would be. If you have never used an angle grinder before, I do not recommend taking this route.

Another solution may be to drill out the lock mechanism. The U-shaped part of the lock is hardened steel, I'm sure, but the little plate that covers the front of the mechanism (where you stick the key in) may not be.

If you are very patient, a carbide blade hacksaw ought to do it. You might want to bring a friend or two you can tag-team with, unless you want to spread the task over multiple sittings. This will not get done in a timely fashion, but it is by far the least dangerous option.
posted by Commander Rachek at 1:39 PM on January 26, 2010

I have cut two crypto locks off with a normal dremmel and a metal cutting blade, the first time took me 15 minutes, the 2nd took me 5 minutes.

wear safety glasses.

I just cut through the metal loop, when it was cut in half, the lock just comes off.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:42 PM on January 26, 2010

My coworker had this problem just last week on a brand new $140 kryptonite lock.
I would try a dremmel and cutting blade as well.
posted by captaincrouton at 1:46 PM on January 26, 2010

Angle grinder.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2010

For an angle grinder on the cheap, go to the Tools for Hire department at B&Q. They also hire out generators and massively long extension cords.
posted by randomstriker at 2:12 PM on January 26, 2010

Contrary to some urban myths, Kryptonite claim that their locks aren't vulnerable...I bet you could do it with liquid nitrogen though

The whole liquefied gas thing is a myth, even with non-Kryptonite locks. If you pour it over the lock, it will just splash messily everywhere and produce an impressive cloud of steam. You need to fully immerse the lock for several seconds, which is impossible to do with the bike and bike rack in the way.

Really, the best way to break the lock is to use a well-aimed sledgehammer.
posted by randomstriker at 2:18 PM on January 26, 2010

When I had this happen to me, I was in a rough part of Philadelphia. Someone who passed by suggested I ask a local crackhead to pop the lock for me for a tenner.

That said, I was lucky that there was enough of the key left in the lock that I was able to use a pair of pliars to rotate the key inside the lock mechanism, unlocking the lock. Maybe you have enough left behind to get ahold of with another tool?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:41 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Calling Kryptonite isn't a bad way to start. I've called them a few times (on their 800 number) and always got a helpful human right away.
posted by Obscure Reference at 2:48 PM on January 26, 2010

A well-aimed sledgehammer that turns into a not-well-aimed-sledgehammer will be hard on your bike or the others on the rack.

Another option would be to contact the local police. Most police departments have diamond-tipped saws for cutting off hard-to-cut-off things. I have a friend that went that route when her bike was locked up without a key, though her father was detective.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:54 PM on January 26, 2010

Was the key turned to the unlocked or locked position before it broke? I couldn't get my Kryptonite lock open recently. I would turn the key to the unlocked position but the end wouldn't come off from the U part. My boyfriend took a look at it and it had become rusted inside preventing the end from coming off. He put the key in the unlocked position and tapped on the end with a hammer and it popped right off. Try that first before resorting to the other suggestions.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:56 PM on January 26, 2010

Where is the bike exactly? When this happened to my husband, he contacted a local bike shop who pointed out that it was right by a university campus - he called university security, who were used to removing bikes, had the tools, and did it for him within an hour or so. He gave them a tenner, everyone was happy.
posted by handee at 3:01 PM on January 26, 2010

I have used a circular saw, a blade for cutting metal, gloves and safety glasses to take a u-lock off a bike pretty quickly - maybe a few minutes or so. Note that you will attract a lot of attention doing this, though.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2010

This happened to me. I used a grinder with an extension cord into a nearby store. Most big hardware stores or renovation places will rent out a grinder cheap. It took about 60 seconds to cut the lock this way. Wear goggles. You don't need a fancy saw that only the police or security folks will have. Just get a grinder with a blade for cutting metal.

If you use bolt cutters you will just ruin them. Hacksaw will take forever, as will a car jack.

A car jack will be a huge pain and as mentioned is potentially more dangerous. You risk damaging your bike and the bike rack. If the police show up and are having a bad day, they'll probably believe that you are trying to liberate your own bike, but may not like how much damage you are doing to the bike rack with a car jack.
posted by The Wig at 3:15 PM on January 26, 2010

nah! ... bolt cutters have always worked well for me ... with a big hammer ... I have my own 150 cm long bolt cutters (I live in Amsterdam) ... work like a charm (but I gotta use the ground as a leverage point ... and stand on them). Ask your local bike shop (or a nearby one).

Bolt cutters compress the metal, which work-hardens it ... making it stiff and brittle. I twist it a bit, and a few serious raps from a hammer generally does it. (corollary ... doesn't work with braided cables).

posted by jannw at 3:42 PM on January 26, 2010

I had to do this recently. An angle grinder will make VERY quick work of it. Buy a battery powered one at whatever you call a hardware store there, use it, and sell it on ebay for only a slight loss.
posted by paanta at 4:27 PM on January 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I came here to post what paanta did -- battery powered angle grinder with a metal-cutting disc. Buy it, use it once, and resell it for a slight loss.

The suggestion to contact the security office of a nearby university is also a very good one, and worth pursuing if it is an available option.
posted by mosk at 4:48 PM on January 26, 2010

Have none of you people ever heard of a locksmith? They do this sort of thing all the time.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:43 PM on January 26, 2010 [3 favorites]

I know in Berkeley, CA, USA, the police will help with this matter. My friend went into the university office and they came out and cut it. It probably helped that the bike was within walking distance of the station, though.
posted by just.good.enough at 7:49 PM on January 26, 2010

how does one run the thing in a London street without 20m of extension cable?

People are suggesting you rent a generator because of this requirement, but if it's possible to run an extension cord buying one will be a lot cheaper than renting a generator. A long extension cord isn't really that unusual of an item in the US, so I'm assuming that you could get one in London too.
posted by yohko at 11:44 AM on January 28, 2010

I got the lock cut off by locksmiths in the end.

Kryptonite paid for the work, although I'm still waiting on the replacement lock they promised.
posted by KMH at 4:21 AM on March 3, 2010

Wow, way to go Kryptonite.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:55 AM on March 3, 2010

Wanted to jump in and add that Kryptonite's US division will also pay for a locksmith, and ship a replacement for free.

The (very friendly) phone rep explained that the replacement lock usually takes 2 weeks to arrive, and that the reimbursement process takes up to 4 weeks.

She also explained how to re-set the pins/cylinders on my particular lock, which allowed me to open it without having to call a locksmith!
posted by schmod at 10:06 AM on May 10, 2010

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