Gear recommendations: These lock will keep your bike safe!
- Abus U Lock Mini $$ both colors are the same
- Seatylock Mason U-lock $$ I reviewed this newer ulock and it’s just as good as my favorite Abus Mini
If you’ve made it here, you’ve realized that cable locks don’t keep your bike safe from real thieves. Yet, not all U-locks are created equal. They still have their weaknesses. Here I’ll cover some important traits you should have in the next U-lock you use. I’ll do this by by going into detail on my favorite lock, the Abus U Lock Mini.
My Badass U-Lock (Abus U Lock Mini – $$) – This lock is an excellent example of what features you want in a solid U-lock. I’ve used it for years in San Francisco and it continues to keep my bike safe. If you aren’t a fan of this lock specifically, use this as a minimum requirement guide.
Photos & Videos by Andrew Finch featuring my locks and bikes.
1. Double-bolting shackle
On a single-bolting shackle, one end of the U gets locked, while the other end is just a curve held in place by the structure of the U. With one cut, the curved section will fall out because nothing is holding it in place. On a double-bolting shackle, both ends of the U-lock are secured. If a thief is able to cut through your lock once with a double-bolted shackle, they would not be able to squeeze your bike frame through the lock. They would have to cut it TWICE to remove a piece of the lock. A double-bolting shackle is not only more secure, but it makes it easier to insert the U into the lock. You can place it straight in instead of having to twist and turn it.
Most new U-locks are all double shackles, but if you find an old U-lock with a curved end, don’t bother using it it in a high risk location.
2. Small U Size
This refers to the length of the U. A smaller size makes the lock more secure against tools like a car jack. Thieves can sometimes put tools in the locked area (not the lock mechanism) and leverage it open. If the U size is small, it’s more difficult to get one of those tools in the space left after you’ve locked your bike. It also makes your lock harder to maneuver around if the thief is trying to move it to an easier to cut position. The downside of this means it can be more difficult to lock your bike up if it’s not properly positioned, but most bike racks, parking meters, and poles it will work fine. Check out my Tips on using a small U-lock to see if this is for you. If not, I recommend a bigger lock in the Troubleshooting section.
3. Soft on the Bike, Thick on the Eyes
This lock is 14mm with a 1mm hard rubber coating on it. The main purpose of this coating is to protect your bike frame and other things the lock may touch, but also makes it look thicker. This means a potential thief will probably mess with the bike next to yours and not yours 🙂 This is an underrated quality of good U-locks, you just have to scare off the thieves with your badass looking lock!
This extra coating also helps to reduce noise and rattles when your lock contacts your bike frame or anything else. I enjoy having a quieter lock.
4. No Weather Cover
I’m looking at you Kryptonite. Those plastic covers are annoying and serve little purpose. Unless my lock is secured with the lock side facing straight up (which proper locking technique rarely allows), all the plastic cover does is add something else to fidget open. My Abus lock has been fine for 4+ years rain and shine. I have never oiled it, but if it did start to get rusty I’d clean it with WD-40 and lube it with chain lube to fix it right up.
5. Easy to Grip Key
The key is flat and wide, so it’s easy to grip with your fingers. Some bike keys are awkwardly shaped or smaller, making them that much harder to use.
6. Lighter Than Many Other U-locks
Coming in at 2.16 pounds, that’s more than a pound lighter than most other U-locks of a similar security level.
There are other locks that can provide most of these qualities, but at the very least I recommend you get a U-lock at least 13mm thick with a double-locking shackle. Those are the most important traits. This is the minimum size that prevents a thief from using a large pair of bolt cutters on your U-lock! With these thicker locks, a portable angle grinder would be required, making the theft loud, bright, obnoxious, and hopefully not worth their time.
As you may have noticed, I don’t recommend a cable for your wheels, this is because locking skewers or nuts are the way to go!
How do I attach a U-lock like this to my bicycle?
Unfotunately, this U-lock doesn’t come with a bracket like the ones most Kryptonite locks come with. Fortunately, you can buy one for yourself and add it to this Abus U-lock! I reviewed that bracket in another post.
The small U size on this U-lock isn’t going to work for me
Check out my Tips on Using a Small U-lock. If you still think you’ll have trouble or really want to lock your wheel + frame in the U-lock, try this longer Abus U Lock. A bit more expensive, but a solid choice for more space inside the U. It has a fancy square shaped steel bar that makes it stronger even at a mere 13mm and 3.43 pounds.
But I really like Kryptonite and all my friends tell me it’s the way to go
Kryptonite has since made the Kryptonite Evolution 5″ that is about the same as this abus lock. They also have the slightly larger Kryptonite Evolution 7″ that is a tad bigger so you can fit your wheel in it, but still not too big. I would still recommend to buy separate wheel locking devices to make locking more convenient.
And of course there’s the big kahuna, the Kryptonite New York lock and the even bigger Fahgettaboutit, of which both I think are a bit overkill. They have thicker shackles at 16mm and 18mm, which also makes them significantly heavier. Honestly the extra 2-4mm of thickness doesn’t add much security. Once a thief has to use an angle grinder instead of bolt cutters, it’s negligible to go through the extra thickness. I don’t think the extra weight (and price!) is worth it.
My lock is jammed, and I can’t seem to unlock/lock it
If you don’t get the key all the way inside before you turn, it may not work. You just have to make sure you jiggle the key when you first put it in to make sure you get all the way down into the lock before you turn. Here’s a good post on a jammed lock if you can’t get it to work.
A Word of Caution
The point of this blog is convincing people that you can ride your bike to everything and not have to worry about it. Although I believe in this, it’s worth noting that bad things can and do happen, and you should be mentally prepared for this situation.