Words: Neil Webb & Hannah Bussey
It’s a sad truth of the cyclist’s life that there are people out there that want to steal bikes. This may not affect you if you just use a bike purely for recreation where the journey starts or begins at home, or from your car and the bike is never left alone.
What to look for
Ease of use
When arriving at your destination you’ll need to secure the bike to something. This often requires a hand or body part to hold the bike still. If your lock also requires two (or more!) hands to use easily, this can be a real pain. For us, the main part of the lock needs to be controllable with one hand. If something is too complicated to actually use, the chances are you won’t bother. Not bothering either limits your bike usage or means you run the risk of ‘just nipping in here for a minute’ without locking the bike. Trust us, that’s never a good thing!
We live in a damp climate, so the chances are your locked bike is likely to be subject to at least occasional precipitation. While we don’t expect perfectly watertight seals around any opening, additional weather proofing — particularly around the key barrel —is always a good thing.
In order to use a lock to secure your bike, you’ll need to have the lock with you on the bike. It’s worth bearing in mind that the more secure the lock the heavier they tend to be. Many locks come with brackets to secure them to your bike, but we need to make sure they are both secure and not too fiddly to put you off using them. After all, the best lock is only useful if you have it with you.
Oxford Magnum Long £64.99
Like the OnGuard, the Magnum is a butch and solid lock. The bulky U-lock’s size will allow it to secure to most objects, but it’s proof that if you’re after the versatility of a big lock you have to pay in weight. If minimising wasted time is a key life skill, you might find the ‘locked into the bracket’ system a bit of a faff but it does prevent lost locks. The longer shackle is more vulnerable by default, so if you need this much space, the extra Gold motorcycle level security is definitely worth considering as an option.
Master Lock Street Flexium £32.99
This mini-shackle-and-chain-style lock offers security and versatility. With a nylon sleeve acting as a good paint protector, you could loop it through anywhere. It’s not the easiest lock to transport; it’s too small to fit any thing bigger than a 31in waist — so probably best in a bag. It’s not the most robust-feeling lock, rattling in its housing, but it does meet the Silver standard so is well up to the job and offers superb value for money.
Pinhead Ultimate Pack £134.99
The initial price may seem massive compared to others in this test, but it is supplied with a full four-piece Pinhead skewers-and-stem security system. The unique ‘key’ is not only used on these ancillaries, but also to open the lock., This, in our opinion, is where the system falls down. It’s nowhere near as simple to use as a standard key — locating the pins can be hit and miss — and it’s nigh on impossible with one hand. There’s no denying the overall system’s value, but the Bubble Lock (included in the pack) is a let-down.
Abus U-Mini 401 Yellow £69.99
If good things come in small packages, the U-Mini is a prime example. The lightweight U-lock is the best on test in terms of feel. The lock mechanism positively glides and the non-scratch rubber coating along with the two-way shackle make it easy to use. The deep key pocket should keep the worst of the water away from the moving bits and if you’re anything like us, having four keys is a godsend.
9/10 TEST WINNER
OnGuard 5003 Pitbull STD £38.99
If it’s muscles your after then head straight for the Pitbull. The U-lock’s certainly large, but if you’re attaching your bike to something bulky you’ll appreciate its girth. Its mount to the bike is also really secure via a key-free bracket that is suitably secure for the heft of the lock, although its scale means smaller riders may struggle to fit it. It’s the best weatherproofed lock on test and the built-in light on the master key is a great design feature. A great-value and highly practical lock.
9/10 BEST ON A BUDGET
If you’re after the flexibility of a chain-and-padlock security, Hiplok’s ingenious design solves the one key downfall of this type of lock — portability. A Velcro quick-release system allows waist portage without locking and unlocking, and the flat backed padlock section sits well against the body. With reflective versions available as well as bright or subtle colours, there’s something for everyone. Only the hefty £70 pricetag for Silver security level prevents it from scoring a perfect 10.
Kryptonite Evolution Mini7 plus cable £44.99
Not quite two for the price of one, but a U-lock and 4ft Kryptonite cable makes this great value and ideal for giving vulnerable bike bits, like wheels, added security. The bike mount will hold the lock securely in place, but you might struggle to fit it to an overly aero tubed bike. Closing the lock is a bit fiddly as it has a unidirectional shackle, but like most of the U-locks once you’ve got the hang of it, it should be one-handed.
There are three clear winners in this test and each can be separated or chosen depending on what your priorities are when it comes to security.
The Abus is far and away the best-feeling and most secure lock we’d recommend. You’ll know if its small scale is too small for your needs or not. If you cannot stretch to the Abus, but love the mini scale, then the Kryptonite at least offers a similar-sized, pocket friendly design — just don’t expect the same level of security (you get what you pay for).
The OnGuard is a great all-rounder, with a solid build quality, secure bracket and it’s good value. The Hiplok on the other hand may well be a pricier affair, but the small company offers some genuinely unique features. There isn’t a better, easier to carry chain lock on the market. For that reason alone, we don’t hesitate to recommend it.