Advice and Tips

The Ultimate Bike Lock Guide


Choosing the right bike lock and knowing how to lock your bike up correctly often causes difficulties in itself. Add bike insurance to this, you’ve got yourself a minefield to navigate… We also know just how gut-wrenching it can feel to have your pride and joy stolen.

That’s why we’ve created The Ultimate Bike Lock Guide. It’s goal is to help you through the process of finding the best bike locks, how to lock a bike correctly, how to avoid the awful experience of a bike theft where possible, and how you can also look to get your bike back.

What bike lock types are available?

Despite an endless range of bike locks on the market, buying the right lock for you is far simple than you think. There are lots of guidelines and tips which can help along the way.

It can seem difficult to know what the qualities of a good lock are. The different weight, price, shape and style of a lock can cause confusion, but we will cover the 3 main lock types and the benefits of each.

Overall though, it doesn’t matter what brand or type of lock you choose. As long as it has the correct Sold Secure rating for your bike’s value. As we mention later, the Sold Secure rating is the most relevant and trustworthy method of measuring how good a lock is!

Different bike lock examples
Different bike lock examples

D Locks / U Locks

D-locks, which are also known as U-locks are possibly the most common types of cycle lock. Similar in principle to a padlock, they are strong and reliable.

U-locks are composed of two components; a U-shaped steel shackle and the locking barrel. When connected, they give it a distinctive “D” shape. They are one of the most robust forms of locks for day-to-day use and a secure deterrent to thieves.

Available in a wide range of materials and sizes, and an even wider range of prices, U-locks are suitable for almost any location and for any bike. Because of the fixed dimensions of a U-lock, they are ideal when partnered with another cable lock. Cable locks can be used to lock the wheels, quick-release components or accessories to the frame. Some also come with frame mounts, avoiding the hassle of carrying the lock yourself.

If your Sold Secure approved D-lock comes with an additional auxiliary cable, please be aware that the cable is unlikely to be included in the approved rating. It will just be the U-lock.

Kryptonite sold secure bike d-lock
Photo by Claudio Schwarz

Cable locks

The flexibility and light-weight nature of cable locks makes them an attractive option for many cyclists.  With the ability to stretch and fit around a wide range of fixed objects, cable locks are highly practical, and their lighter weight compact nature makes them perfect for city riders and commuters.

Cable locks also cover the widest budget, ranging from locks that are just a visual deterrent, right through to ultra secure heavy duty Sold Secure approved locks that are resistant to most cutting tools. 

There’s no shortage of cable locks on the market, so it is important to look at whether they are Sold Secure rated and what rating they have.

Cable bike lock example
Photo by Markus Spiske

Chain locks

Simple and effective, chain locks are frequently used for motorbikes, and are more than suitable for bicycles. Premium chain locks use a hardened metal chain link, wrapped in a super-tough kevlar lined cover that puts up a fight against the hardiest of cutting tools. The weakest link will always be the padlock, so most high quality chain locks come with a very robust padlock, designed to resist lock-picking and impact damage.

Generally starting at a higher price point than U-locks and cable locks, chain locks combine the flexibility and the robust reliability of both. Although they are heavier than their other counterparts, it’s easy to ride with one across your chest or around your waist, which also makes securing your bike a speedy affair.

kryptonite sold secure bicycle chain lock
Kryptonite Chain Lock

Locking Mechanisms

Locking mechanisms come in two forms – Key Lock and Combination Lock.

Key locks work exactly like a house key or car key; the key turns an internal barrel which releases the lock. Generally resistant to lock picking, and with no code to remember, key locks are usually more secure, and rate higher on the Sold Secure Approved Product list.

Combination locks require no key, and are therefore quicker to use. Turning the numbers until they line up correctly releases the lock, and the code can be set to any number you desire. However, because the mechanism is more exposed than a key system, it can be vulnerable to impact damage, should a thief strike the mechanism repeatedly with a hard object.

Both systems have their strengths and weaknesses, but are still very much suitable and up to the job if Sold Secure approved.

Lock mechanisms
Photo by Markus Spiske                                        Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke

Who are Sold Secure and what is a Sold Secure bike lock rating?

Sold Secure have been dedicated to reducing the risk of crime since 1992. They’re considered the industry standard for lock and security system testing. It’s not only ourselves who use the Sold Secure rating system, it is standard across most cycle insurers! 

With the widest range of products put through stringent testing, it’s fair to say that Sold Secure knows what makes a good security product. Formed by Northumbria and Essex Police, and now owned by the Master Locksmith Association, they can also be trusted to give impartial, relevant and trustworthy advice.

So how does their testing translate into practical advice for consumers? By breaking their test results into different rated categories, it allows anyone to make an informed choice and understand the amount of protection a cycle lock is going to give your bike. The now four ratings given to bicycle locks are:

sold secure bicycle ratings 2020
Sold Secure ratings

Sold Secure Diamond rating

In 2020, Sold Secure added a fourth security level to their bike lock ratings, Diamond rating! A lock rated this level of security is tested against an angle grinder and more secure than Gold. It therefore covers an expensive bike or bike of any value and in excess of £1,500 with Bikmo bicycle insurance.

Sold Secure Gold rating

The second highest rating given to a bicycle lock, Sold Secure Gold rated locks, provide significant protection against most thieves and the tools they’re likely to use. Tested for over 5 minutes of continual attack, gold rated locks are the ideal choice for higher-value bikes, frequently left in a public place. Sold secure gold bike locks cover a cycle of any value and in excess of £1,500 with Bikmo bicycle insurance.

Sold Secure Silver rating

As a compromise between value and security, silver rated locks are suitable for short term locking in public places, and are resistant to most basic tools used by thieves.  Silver rated locks are expected to withstand up to 3 minutes of sustained attack. A Silver rated cycle lock covers a bike valued lower, or up to £251 – £1,500 with Bikmo bicycle insurance.

Sold Secure Bronze rating

Designed to serve as a deterrent to impulse thieves. These are the lowest strength of the three Sold Secure ratings, but still offer protection against some basic tools. A Bronze rated cycle lock covers a bike valued up to £250 with Bikmo bicycle insurance.

What level of lock rating should I purchase?

There are many variables that indicate the type and quality of lock you should get for your bike.

One factor people often don’t consider is insurance. In the event your bike has been stolen while away from home, if the lock used has an insufficient rating for the bike value, it may invalidate any claim you attempt to make.

To ensure the lock you’re buying is suitable for purpose, one of the best resources you can use is the Sold Secure Approved Product Search.

kryptonite sold secure rated cycle lock
Kryptonite Sold Secure rated lock

How can I avoid a bike theft?

It is any cyclist’s worst nightmare to have a bike stolen. Especially when you think it has been securely locked using a trustworthy device. There are however, many ways to make your lock do more to protect your pride and joy.

It’s common sense to lock your bike to a solid and immovable object; think lamp posts, railings (where legal) and of course bike racks. What many people don’t consider though, is how they lock their bike to said object.

A common mistake which leads to a significant proportion of thefts, is to lock a bike through the wheels or rear wheel only. Most bikes these days have quick release wheels, so by doing this, it enables opportunistic thieves to simply remove the rest of your bike. Unfortunately, the theft wouldn’t be covered under your insurance policy if your bike was only locked to a wheel also.

lock attached to wheel only
Lock that is only through the wheel

Unfortunately, it is impossible to stop every bike theft. The ultimate goal is to make it as awkward as possible for thieves to take your bike/parts. With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at the best ways to secure your bike to help reduce the chances of it happening to you.   

Things to do:

  • Find a well-lit, busy location ideally with CCTV coverage.
  • Check out the condition of other bikes in the area. If there are frames with parts missing, or individual wheels locked to racks then you can be assured it’s a hot spot for thieves.
  • Always have a Sold Secure approved lock through the frame. You can always use other forms of locking to secure the wheels.
  • In high-risk areas, remove or lock up anything which can be easily removed, such as a seat post
  • Try to leave as little space as possible in-between the lock and the bike. Thieves will find  unable to position tools to break the bike free
How to
Correct way to lock bike

Things to avoid doing:

  • Obviously, don’t leave your bike unlocked!
  • Don’t secure your bike to wire fencing or weak railings which can be easily cut or pulled apart
  • Don’t secure your bike to anything which can be easily lifted off. For example – a low post or barrier.
  • Leave the house without checking you have your cycle lock with you
Image from sports and recreation of a bike theft in progress
One way a thief can break a lock

How can I get my bike back after a theft?

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to have your bike returned to you after a theft. However, there are ways you can increase the chances of it happening. So if the worst has happened, wait for the disbelief to settle, the knot in the stomach to ease up, and get cracking on getting your bike back.

Report incident to the police

First and foremost, if your bike has been stolen, we highly recommend reporting the incident to the police as soon as possible. If the police are aware of a theft immediately, they’re more likely to recover the bike sooner after an incident.

Also, with ourselves and most other cycle insurers, if you need to make a claim for the bike, we will require a crime reference number that you receive upon reporting the theft.

Make sure your bike is registered with BikeRegister

BikeRegister are the leading UK National Cycle Database with nearly a million bikes registered to them. Every Police force in the UK uses BikeRegister to search for bikes they recover or stop on the streets, to see if they are reported stolen. So, if your bike is registered, it can make it a lot easier for the police to identify and return the bike to you!

We’re partners with BikeRegister, so as a registered member you can receive exclusive savings on a Bikmo policy. As a Bikmo customer, you also receive an additional 15% discount off BikeRegister marking kits!

BikeRegister partnership with Bikmo image
We’re partners with BikeRegister!

Spread the word online

Whether it’s social media, online forums or your blog, get the word out there that your bike has been stolen. Remember to include pictures as well as a detailed description, asking friends and family to share the post. The more people that are aware of your bike being stolen, the more likely you are to get it back.

If you’re based in London, it is also worth sharing your theft with Stolen Ride. They’ve built a community to make people aware of stolen bikes, to try and reunite them with their owners!

Search for CCTV visibility

So obviously you know where the bike was taken from, but do you know if there’s CCTV covering that area? It may well be that the whole theft has been caught on camera.

You may have to sweet talk a business to let you view their CCTV, but if you break it down and give them the time to look between, they may be willing to help.

Go for a walk around your area

Taking a walk around your local area is worthwhile for two reasons. The first is, hopefully a walk will make that gut sinking feeling subside. The second reason is, it’s likely the bike is still close by within the first 24 hours of it being stolen. Think flea markets, car-boot sales, local pawn shops or even popular bike racks in the local area.

Many thieves will steal a bike only to then lock it up shortly after. They think this will reduce the chances of them being caught with the bike in their possession.

bike locked with d-lock and cable
Bike lock using D-lock and auxiliary cable

Keep an eye out in your local area

Bike thieves will often sell the bike as fast as they can. It’s not unusual for the bike to pass through several hands before someone starts using it again. It’s then not unusual for the bike to be seen in the area that it was originally taken from.

Don’t give up hope

You might be feeling as though you’ve lost hope in all of humanity, but there have been countless cases where bikes have ended up back in the hands of their owners.

kryptonite sold secure rated lock
Kryptonite Sold Secure rated lock through the frame

Do you have bike theft insurance?

As we’ve mentioned, unfortunately it’s impossible to stop all bike thefts and there is always that chance of you being separated from your cherish steed. 

There are lots of steps you can take to avoid bike theft, but if you want complete peace of mind if the worst does happen, why not consider taking a look at cycle insurance cover.

As standard, all of Bikmo’s levels of cover – GO, PLUS and RACE would cover your bike against theft, both from your home and away. Get a simple quote in just minutes!