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Bike Lock Buying Guide - GO Outdoors


Almost half a million bikes are stolen every year in the UK so a good bike lock is an essential purchase if you plan on leaving your bike unattended while out and about.

There are three main types to choose from: Cable locks, chain locks and U-locks. In this guides we'll walk you three the advantages of each and provide a few tips to help keep your bike secure.

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Cable Locks

Cable locks are light and flexible, making them easy and convenient to carry around. They can compact down into a tight loop to fit inside smaller bags. Alternatively, many come with mounts to fit them to the bike itself while riding around. If not, you can simply wrap the cable around the bike frame and lock it back up to keep it tight.

The flexibility of cable locks makes it easy to fit longer cables around all the different parts of your bike. For full security, you want to make sure that both wheels and your frame is covered. It also make it easier to fit the cable onto awkward rails or bike racks. A long, flexible cable lock might well allow you to lock your bike up in places that a more rigid D-Lock might be unable to reach.

The price you pay for the light weight and flexibility of a cable lock is the fact that they are the easiest lock to break into. Cable locks are best saved for the times when you are only leaving your bike unattended for a short while. If your bike is more expensive, you'll want the extra security of a chain lock or U-lock.

Chain Locks

Chain locks are heavier and bulkier than cable locks, offering extra security but still a decent amount of flexibility to help you lock up in awkward places. Some chain locks have an integrated locking mechanism while others are secured by a separate pad lock. Both designs offer similar levels of protection.

Frame mounts are not available for chain locks because of their weight and bulk. You'll need a bag, pannier or basket to carry a chain lock in. You can also lock them around your waist or over your shoulder - that's the preferred option of cycle couriers.


D-locks offer the highest level of protection. These solid, rigid devices are essentially bigger versions of a traditional padlock. They are made of two parts:

  1. A U-shaped shackle that fits around your bike and whatever you're locking it too
  2. A lock barrel that slots on the end of the shackle to close the lock.

They are harder to cut through than their cable locks or chain locks but sit between the two in terms of weight and bulk. They are often supplied with a mount for securely attaching the lock to your frame while riding.

The rigid construction can make it hard to loop D-locks around your bike and the rail or rack you're locking up on. It can be a minor inconvenience but is actually beneficial for security - the harder it is to put the lock on, the harder it is for a thief to break into.

D-locks come in a variety of sizes. The largest are big enough to fit around your frame, one wheel and a rail. These are, of course, bulkier and heavier to carry and there are also more compact options if convenience is more of a priority.

Sold Secure Ratings

The best locks are awarded a Sold Secure rating. Sold Secure is an independent testing organisation run by the Master Locksmiths Association to provide accurate, professional and impartial advice. Locks receive either a bronze, silver or gold rating, with gold rated locks providing the highest level of security.

Some insurers require the use of a rated lock in order to cover bikes under their policies, with more expensive bikes requiring higher-rated locks. It is worth checking with your insurer to make sure you get the right lock for your bike.

Tips and Tricks

  • The ability of good bike locks to prevent bike theft as much in power as deterrent as in their ability to actually stopping bike thieves once they've decided to have a go. Bike thieves want to work as fast as possible and will prefer to ignore a well-secured bike and look for easier prey instead.

  • Don't underestimate bike thieves! There are professional bike thieves that make a living doing nothing but stealing bikes every day. They're experienced, well-equipped and know the best ways to get into every lock as quickly as possible. There are even stories about bike thieves carrying around heavy-duty equipment like angle-grinders! Take every precaution you can to make sure that your bike isn't a target.

  • Using multiple locks of different types makes life much harder for bike thieves. Breaking into different locks requires a range of different tools and multiple locks take extra time to break. If a thief sees multiple locks on your bike, he's likely to just move onto a less secure target. A cable lock paired with a D-lock is a popular combination.

  • It is advised to make sure that both wheels and the frame are locked up. Using multiple locks will help you achieve this.

  • Lock your bike up in a busy, well-lit public area. Breaking through bike locks is just a matter of time for determined thieves, so make sure that they get a little time alone with your bike as possible.

  • You get what you pay for! A cheap lock offers basic protection but if you want full security, you have to spend a bit more. It is often recommended that you spend at least 10% of the cost of your bike on a lock. So a £500 bike deserves a £50 lock to keep it safe.

  • Make sure the object you are locking up to is secure. There is no point investing in a heavy-duty bike lock if you are locking up to a simple wooden fence. A thief would bypass the lock entirely and quickly saw through the fence to take your bike away. Then they're free to take their time breaking the lock in private. The same applies for small posts that your bike can simply be lifted over. Look for sturdy metal rails or purpose-built bike racks instead.

  • Even if you keep your bike in the house or in a locked garage or shed, lock the bike up as well for extra security. Make sure your bike isn't easily visible from outside so opportunist thieves don't try it on.

  • Try and leave as little slack in the chain, cable or shackle as possible. Any slack in the lock can be used by a thief to try and pry the lock open.

  • The harder it is to get a lock onto your bike, the harder it will be for a thief to break off! It might be inconvenient to have to reach through to an awkward position to access the key slot, but every little helps.

  • It doesn't take any time at all to steal an unlocked bike. It doesn't matter how long you're leaving your bike - always lock it up!