Best bike lock + strategies: 2019 edition
May 26, 2019 1:14 PM   Subscribe

I live in a medium-sized city. Bike theft is an increasing problem, and I finally have a decent road bike and snow bike, either of which I would be very sad to have stolen. Talk to me about the best locks or locking strategy available in 2019.

My bikes are never going to be left outside overnight, but I’d like to be able to bike to a brewery for dinner and leave it outside for an hour or two without worrying the whole time- my brother had his disappear in this scenario when locked with a u-lock- or brick a bike/run on a trail and leave it for the run portion without freaking out. I do have the serial numbers etc. recorded so that I can claim it on my homeowners insurance in the event of disaster. What are 2019 best products and practices?
posted by charmedimsure to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
The LockPickingLawyer suggests the Kryptonite Evolution Series-4.
posted by gregr at 2:12 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

You need to understand that every lock can be broken, it's simply a matter of time and ease. Forget stretchy cable/wire rope locks, most can be broken in under one second with a small pair of cutters. D locks are far better, but also far heavier, get as heavy as you can tolerate carrying. As of a couple of years ago three Kryptonite Fahgedaboudit was the behemoth but much like carrying an anchor. To bust it you'd need an anchor grinder or reasonable sized battery powered parrot type cutters, both of which are conspicuous.

Which leads to the other thing to do: lock your bike up in high traffic, conspicuous places, not quiet streets without traffic. The ways to bust better locks are noticeable, if the thief can afford to be noticed you will be out of luck, but it's better than nothing.

This is also why having a pub bike is a thing.
posted by deadwax at 2:22 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I put locking skewers on my wheels. I could put antitheft bolts on my stem and seatpost binder, too. Then I use a krypto mini-u. It's been a successful strategy for a decade. But nothing is foolproof.
posted by entropone at 2:29 PM on May 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

I've had a Viro lock and chain on my bike in Amsterdam for almost 20 years. The chain is original, and the lock has failed twice in those years. Once, the key broke off, so I had to use a cut- off saw to remove a link. And once the lock truly fell apart in my hands and had to be replaced.
But not once has anyone even attempted to steal my bike. I would recommend Viro to everyone.
posted by Tunierikson at 2:35 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Single krypto mini on the rear triangle and a bike that's worth <>
Mini d with almost zero space for a jack is as good as you'll get for time to break and the rest is just reducing the target frequency part of the "will my bike get stolen" part of the formula.

Never understood why people waste time faffing with cables plus d locks plus other nonsense when the simple option is 99% of the issue solved optimally.
posted by turkeyphant at 3:38 PM on May 26, 2019

So I recently did a tonne of research on this because I just got an ebike. As mentioned above, you want the shortest lock possible because it makes it harder to get equipment in there to break it. Also, I use two locks because one of my wheels is quick release but it's not the one that is close to the frame so I can't lock it at the same time as locking the frame. I know other people achieve this with a cable they attach to the main lock. The lock I use for the quick release wheel is just a less heavy-duty lock I already had at home.

This is the lock I went with, after all my research and talking to the people at the bike shop. It is heavy, but it's designed to be worn on your waist as you bike. It can pretty much only be destroyed with an angle grinder, and as others have mentioned, if someone really wants to steal your bike by breaking out the power tools then there is little to be done.

Then there is the common sense stuff, like locking it somewhere public where most thieves wouldn't be brazen enough to make a scene stealing your bike. I mean, some are, but where I live this doesn't happen.

There is a wirecutter article about bike locks which I found helpful, but if you go over to amazon the ones they recommend don't actually have great reviews, and I'm inclined to believe people who have owned them for a while on certain points. However, they talk about how hard they are to break which is good info.
posted by BeeJiddy at 4:24 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

My friend likes the the TIGR lock. It's different enough that the average bike thief is hopefully going to skip it. Plus, it's pretty.
posted by dum spiro spero at 4:38 PM on May 26, 2019

I went down this rabbit hole very recently. I ignored most reviews and focused on videos of people actually cutting the locks.

The existence of 18V cordless angle grinders means that any bike lock will really only hold up an equipped thief for minutes at best. Realistically you need to treat the lock as a deterrent, and potentially as a basis for an insurance claim, rather than as something that is going to completely prevent theft.

Steel cables will be cut by bolt cutters in an instant.

D/U shaped locks can be cut with bolt cutters if the diameter of the steel bar making up the 'U' is small.

At bar thicknesses of about half an inch / 13mm or higher, the bolt cutters required get impractical to carry around and they will need to get the angle grinder out. So it's worth getting at least that thickness.

The bar will take a minute or so to go through with an angle grinder. Thicker bar will slow that down but only marginally. The thickest you can get is about 18mm, which will be very heavy.

The smaller 'mini' D locks make it harder to get tools into the right place to work on the lock, but give you fewer options in terms of how you can actually place the lock.

The single best improvement comes from having a D lock with a double locking mechanism, i.e. both ends of the 'U' are engaged when locked. That means that the thief has to cut the lock in two places in order to release the frame, which doubles the time needed.

In the end I bought an Abus GRANIT X Plus 540. It is not as thick or as small as e.g. the New York Fahgettaboudit Mini.
But it has the double locking, is thick enough to not be vulnerable to regular bolt cutters, is big enough to get round my frame, back wheel and whatever I'm locking to, and has a really good bracket for attaching it to the bike which makes it not a a pain to carry around.
posted by automatronic at 5:59 PM on May 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

You need to have a commuter/pub-type bike which gets locked outside. Do not take your valuable bike to dinner. Cable, U lock, whatever. Just make sure to go through both wheels and the triangle. If the seatpost has a quick release, replace that with a locking clamp or standard collar. Take everything valuable off: lights, seatbags, pump.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:06 PM on May 26, 2019

My strategy:

1. Ride an obviously cheap bike. In my case, a thirty year old steel frame, bar-end shifters, cantilever brakes.

2. Lock in areas with lots of foot traffic, like a street sign on the corner of a busy intersection.

3. Put a quick-release on the front wheel so you can put the front wheel in the U-lock with your back wheel and your seat post. This has the additional advantage of filling the lock so you can't do the pocket jack attack, and making it hard to grind through the lock without damaging the bike.

A cool trick if you're ever riding with another person: You can each put your lock around both bicycles, so that a thief would have to cut both locks to steal either bike.

Oh, and before you lock to anything, put your hand on it and try to wiggle it. Every now and then, someone locks to something that isn't actually anchored to the ground.

In the same vein, if you're going to lock to a pole, pick a pole tall enough that nobody can lift the bike overhead and slide it off the top of the pole.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:20 PM on May 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

The double-locking mechanism is a great idea. I hadn't known about that.
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 7:20 PM on May 26, 2019

My bikes are never going to be left outside overnight, but I’d like to be able to bike to a brewery for dinner and leave it outside for an hour or two without worrying the whole time

Perhaps just go to a brewery where you can bring your bike inside and you can keep an eye on it or where you can dine outside and have the bike sitting right next to you? Having a semi-decent road bike (where you spend $x to lose a kilo or two) and carrying a heavy lock seems self-defeating.
posted by alidarbac at 8:15 PM on May 26, 2019

Response by poster: Having a semi-decent road bike (where you spend $x to lose a kilo or two) and carrying a heavy lock seems self-defeating.

Oh, sure, I get that. Honestly instead of upgrading my bike last year I should have upgraded my body and lost ten pounds, it would have made more of a difference weightwise. I follow all the rules about locking it in busy places and trying to sit somewhere where I can keep an eye on it etc. I live in Alaska so the list of places that have space dedicated for outdoor dining setups for the 10 days a year that makes sense is pretty damn short, and as outside is often gross even in summer I don't know of any places that will let you roll it inside.

But still, I wanted to have the decent bike for racing purposes and long rides, and for summer pub runs it's still fun to take it- it's nimble and zippy and the other options are the snow bike or a truly terrible mountain bike even heavier than the fatbike- and I'll carry the lock even knowing it is heavy and kinda dumb to do so.
posted by charmedimsure at 9:40 PM on May 26, 2019

There's plenty of solid information at re types of lock, specific models and best practice.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 7:25 AM on May 27, 2019

I’ve got a kryptonite u-lock that goes through the front wheel + frame and throughout years of Chicago biking I haven’t had a problem with it. I’ve had every other removable part of a bike stolen. I have the locking skewers on my wheels. I have a Brooks saddle and I’ve had one stolen before, so this one in the Allen wrench hole there is beeswax holding in a ball bearing, so someone can’t just easily unscrew it. It’s been surprisingly effective for such a simple solution (I mean, it’s hard to tell because I could just have a long string of good luck? But I have an expensive bike and I’m not precious about it, I ride it as my main transportation and lock it up in many places).
posted by jeweled accumulation at 10:36 AM on May 27, 2019

this is not so much a lock recommendation as an old bike messenger trick along the lines of automatronic’s response: assume that an angle grinder is the inevitable future for every bike lock. what then? many manufacturers which claim to recompensate for a stolen bike (e.g. kryptonite) have a sneaky clause in the small text: you have to send them the pieces of the broken lock, and more often than not you won’t have all of them. in which case, tough luck.

the trick is to buy two u-locks, immediately angle-grind one and toss it in the closet, and use the other around town. if/when your bike is stolen, you grab the lock out of your closet and mail it in. it’s also important to have the bike receipt / appraisal from a local bike shop so you can show how much it was worth. but the two-lock-approach is the key here (pun intended?)

to be quite honest, i have no idea where this falls on the “insurance fraud” spectrum (and i’m certainly not qualified to speculate) so do this at your own risk. i personally view the “mail in all the parts” rule as pretty skeezy. so i feel less bad knowing about this.

oh also watch out for other bits of small text — kryptonite happily advertises their money-back guarantee on the packaging for all their locks, but they specifically exclude new york city from the guarantee for every lock except the fahgettaboudit. i don’t think it’s an issue in your case, but in case any new yorkers are reading this: double check that warranty pamphlet — it’s buried in there!
posted by =d.b= at 12:48 PM on May 27, 2019 [2 favorites]

Came to recommend the Sheldon Brown thing.

Locks are there to keep honest people honest, but as long as you can park near pedestrian traffic and aren't leaving it overnight, you're fine with a good krypto U-lock and either locking skewer or taking off the front wheel and locking both.

Yes, you can eventually go through even a tempered kryptonite U-lock with a battery-powered angle grinder, but it's loud and generates an arc of sparks, and a minute is an extremely generous estimate of how long it actually takes. If you lock the bike right it's even harder to get the right angle with the grinder.
posted by aspersioncast at 3:12 PM on May 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

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