What Is a Proper Bike Lock?

February 11, 2023

What is a secure lock for bikes

By current standards, a lock is considered “secure” if it can withstand an attack lasting 3 minutes or more by a thief using readily available hand tools. Some robust locks are sold with insurance guarantees for the bicycles they secure. Different types of locks are vulnerable to different theft-perpetrator techniques.

For maximum security, cyclists are advised to use two locks of different types. This means that a would-be thief must use two different tools to “break” the locks, thereby increasing the associated effort. Determining whether cyclists in your area use poor locks may inform intervention approaches.

Bike lock types

The effectiveness of a lock is also dependent on the type of bike thief. Bike thieves can be divided into three categories: “joyriders,” thieves that steal for money, and those who steal by volume. Joyriders, usually people under the age of sixteen, simply take a bike because “it is there” and they want to go for a ride. Those who steal for money are often looking for a quick profit to purchase drugs or alcohol. Those who steal by volume intend to sell the bikes, often as “used” bikes, on the gray market. A lock will very easily deter the first category, which various studies have indicated make up a significant proportion of all bike thefts. A lock can also deter the second type, especially if they need cash quickly.

It is estimated that if a lock takes more than five minutes to remove, the thief will move on. Bicycle locks do little to deter organized bike crime as there have been cases where entire racks have been stolen with the bikes still attached.
  • U- LOCK: Since the problem of bicycle theft is not new, there have been numerous methods, both technological and social, that have been implemented and tried over the years to prevent it. A simple and very effective method of preventing theft on the individual level is the bike lock. Invented in 1972, the U-Lock has remained the most secure type of bike lock. Consisting of two components, a U-shaped metal bar, and a lock, it is very simple and robust. When closed, a D is formed.
  • RING LOCK: Due to the solid bar, the lock is very difficult to remove, but the trade-offs for this level of security are bulk, weight, and difficulty to transport. The ring lock is smaller and fixed to the bike. Instead of locking the bike to the rack, the ring lock prevents the rear wheel from turning - immobilizing the bike. However, such a lock still does not prevent the entire bike from being picked up and carried away. As a result, the cable lock is often also used. Similar in function to a U-Lock, the rigid bar is instead replaced with a steel or composite cable. The result is a lighter, more portable lock, but it is easier to cut.

Importance of parking infrastructure

Despite how strong it may be, a bicycle lock is only as effective as the structure it is attached to. A bike locked to a metal bike rack is generally safe. Since these racks usually consist of both vertical and horizontal bars, bikes cannot be easily removed. However, despite their safety, these racks are not always used. Due to space constraints, bike racks are sometimes placed far from the entrance to a destination. This scenario results in a significant drop in usage, where it has been observed that people will not use bike racks more than 150 feet (46 meters) away from an entrance. Instead, cyclists will use whatever is available and “fly park” their bikes. The most common objects used are parking meters, posts, or something similar. Unlike bike racks, these objects do not have any horizontal sections that prevent a bike from being lifted off. They are therefore much less secure.

BikeFlare VISIO tracking module

What comes after bike lock?

A lock is the most important bike protection tool. However, once a bike is stolen, the only tool that can help during the theft and after is Bluetooth or GPS tracker.  

Learn more about our bike tracker and alarm BikeFlare VISIO.

More articles:

My Bicycle Got Stolen. What Should I Do?

The Problem of Bike Theft in Europe and the USA and Ways to Improve the Situation

Bike Theft and The Best Ways to Protect Your Bike from It

Bike Thieves and Most Common Bike Theft Areas

Choosing the Best Bicycle Tracker and Alarm

What Types of Bikes get Stolen Most Often

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