It’s every cyclist’s worst nightmare. A nightmare that, unfortunately, too often becomes reality and that we suffer time and time again. What nightmare are we talking about? Getting your bike stolen, of course! We all know the feeling: that shiver that runs down your spine as you blink twice to wake yourself up, but of course, your bike really isn’twhere you left it last night.
The statistics don't lie. In Germany alone 335,000 bicycles were reported stolenin 2015. More than 27,000 in Berlin in 2017. And that's just the ones reportedto the police – think about how many go unreported! But in addition to thematerial consequences of having a bike stolen, there are also the emotional repercussions – according to a study conducted in the UK between 2011 and 2016, 25% of people who suffered a bicycle theft turned their back on cycling for good. And that's something we can't tolerate here at Bikester!
We’ve written this guide to inform you about the different types of locks available on the market, the pros and cons of each type, different security levels available as well as some exciting new innovations in bike security!
European regulations define the different levels of security for locks ranging from 1 to 10:
- Level 1 to 3: basic level of protection, for everyday use
- Levels 4 to 6: general level of protection, to protect assets with medium value
- Levels 7 to 10: high level of protection, for industrial and commercial use or to protect objects such as motorcycles or bicycles that are parked for long periods in public places. Protects against attempts at leverage and cutting to open
In the UK, 3 levels of security (Gold, Silver, Bronze) are used, as specified by the company Sold Secure. Founded in 1992 by the Northumbria and Essex Police forces with the help and support of the Home Office, Sold Secure is nowowned and operated by the Master Locksmiths Association (a non-profit trade association). They have close links with many UK police and insurancecompanies, which provide Sold Secure with up-to-date information on modern theft methods and the tools used by criminals.
In addition, almost all brands (Abus, Klick Fix, Kryptonite, Onguard etc.) have their own safety levels, which are individually specified for each model they offer.
U-Locks (also known as D-locks) are one of the most secure types of lock.Hardened and tempered steel bars together with a solid lock make this the option most frequently chosen by cyclists in large cities where dedicated bike parking is available, as this is where they are most effective. However, it can be difficult to lock your bike to certain structures/objects with a U-Lock. They can also be cumbersome to transport, even though many of them come with a bracket that attaches to the bike’s frame.
Today many models are packaged with a cable to protect the rear wheel, because in many cases thieves leave the front wheel and take the rest. Combining a U-lock and chain prevents this. The pros of U-Locks clearly outweigh the cons: they’re very secure as well as drilling- and cutting-resistant.
Chain locks together with U-Locks are the most secure on the market. These locks are available in slightly different styles: with the chain as is, lined with a resistant fabric or with rigid plates. They offer a very high level of security and good resistance to cutting.
Additionally, they’re easy to transport and can lock your bike to many morestructures and objects, depending on the length of the chain. However, they are heavier and more expensive. It should be noted that they can weigh between 2 and 5 kg, which makes them too heavy to carry for many.
Also, bear in mind that not all chain materials are the same. Here are a couple of tips to work out what kind of material one is made from. Take a saw and try to cut the chain. Two things can happen:
- The chain gets scratched: if the chain lock gets scratched when you try to cut it, this is not a good sign. This means that the chain material does notoffer maximum safety and can be cut with a saw.
- The saw slides off the chain: this is a good sign and means that the chain padlock material repels even a saw because it is almost impossible to cutthe chain with a semi-conventional tool.
Cable locks are usually made from meshed steel that is protected and covered by some type of material, like plastic or a tough fabric. This type of bicycle lockis available in many different configurations and for all budgets. The price varies according to the thickness of the cable. Cable locks have two major advantages over other types of bicycle locks:
- They’re lightweight and flexible: these locks are ideal if you want to secure your bicycle quickly. They are, however, less secure than other types of locks, such as chain locks or u-locks, due to the numerousspherical plain bearings that weaken the structure. Cable locks are very practical for securing a bike in the garage or other place where there’s less danger of theft or for spots where an especially flexible lock is required.
- As an additional lock: these locks are great for complementing a sturdier main lock. For example, it’s common to use a chain lock to secure the bicycle and a cable lock to secure the wheel(s), or other accessories such as a helmet.
As already mentioned above, cable locks are very flexible, but this makes themsomewhat less secure as in most cases a pair of pliers is enough to break them.
Folding or articulated locks have enjoyed great success in recent years because they combine the flexibility of a chain with the security of a U-Lock. Made from folding rigid plates, they also offer great resistance to cutting.
The advantages of this type of lock are that they are very easy to transport because, even though they aren’t always super light, they take up very littlespace. Additionally, being available in numerous lengths, they allow the bicycleto be locked to a wide variety of structures and objects.
Unfortunately, there’s not much variety when it comes to colors and shapes,compared to chain locks, for example. This is a negative for people who treat their bike and accessories as a complete package.
Frame locks are a type of basic protection for bicycles that are temporarily parked in places with a low risk of theft and/or for a short time. Locks of this type are not great overall protection from theft but do prevent the bike from being ridden away. These types of locks come installed on many bikes and are highly recommended for e-bikes.
However, we recommend using them in addition to another lock, either a U-Lock, chain or cable lock at the same time to fully secure the bicycle.
The world of locks has also taken advantage of new technologies. In thebeginning it was small innovations like keys with lights to illuminate the keyhole at night, then the use of new materials (Text-lock, LITELOK...) put an end to themyth that a heavier lock equals a more secure lock. It’s now possible to have a 1.5kg lock that offers the same level of security as a 5kg chain.
Locks have also arrived on the market that actively deter thieves. Take theSkunklock: a U-Lock that releases a noxious gas when someone tries to break it open. Others emit a loud noise when someone tampers with them (Noke).
Locks have also undergone a revolution in the era of the smartphone. Locks arenow available that no longer require keys (Bitlock, U-Lock) and can be opened from a distance with an app if you want to let someone else use your bike. There are also locks with sensors that warn you via an app when your bike is being tampered with. The future has truly arrived.
TIPS FOR PREVENTING YOUR BIKE BEING STOLEN
In addition to having the right lock, there are also a few basic things you can do to prevent your bike being stolen:
- Try to avoid locking up your bike in poorly-illuminated areas with little footfall.
- Always use your lock, even if you stop for five minutes and have your bikein sight. It doesn't take longer than a few seconds to pinch a bike.
- Never lock the bike only to itself. Today's bikes are very light and easy to carry, so always secure the bicycle to something permanent (bicycle parking, lamppost etc.)