In Germany, about every two minutes, a bicycle gets stolen. 260,956 thefts were reported in Germany in 2020 (source: Federal Criminal Police Office @Statisa 2021), the number of unreported cases is probably twice as high. Of these bikes, around 145,000 were insured. There were 5,000 fewer bikes reported stolen in 2019 than the previous year (source: GDV), but the amount of damage remained the same at around 110 million euros. Not surprising, because e-bikes, for example, cost much more than regular bicycles. Since the 2020 pandemic e-bike boom, many more people own a bike with an engine. To be sure, there are no figures on how many of the stolen bikes in 2020 had electric drives. However, despite the fact that there are 6 % fewer reported thefts, the consistent amount of bicycle insurance claims suggests that more and more e-bikes are becoming popular thieves’ prey. That’s why it makes little sense to rely on a frame lock for 15 euros to protect bikes, especially e-bikes.
E-bikes, in particular, are a popular target for thieves due to their high purchase value.
We now clarify how to protect your bike from theft properly. To do so, we look at various locks and any additional functions. We also explain why a good e-bike lock alone is not enough, but why a combination of a component and a bike lock with a GPS tracker offers the best bike protection. The latter refers to an independent GPS tracker that is not connected to the bike lock, as is the case with “I Lock It”, but protects the bike independently.
If you follow these tips, make sure you park your bike in the right place and do not forget to lock it, you can park your expensive bike or e-bike with a calm and relieving feeling.
Which bike locks for your bike? – the 6 most important models in comparison
There are six different types of bicycle locks:
- Frame locks
- Cable locks
- Chain locks
- Textile locks
- Folding locks
Important: A strong chain alone is not a sufficient protection. The right locking system also plays an important role. Both points in combination make up the best bike lock. In addition to the standard lock cylinders and combination locks, some locks are unlocked via app or fingerprint. An alarm system can also already be integrated into the lock.
Frame lock – only suitable as an engine immobilizer
Some conventional bicycle models (for example, Holland or city bikes) have frame locks installed as a standard component. However, you can get a lock for your frame retrofitted and also as a bike lock for an e-bike.
Such a frame bolt is a lock attached to the bicycle frame, usually underneath the saddle tube. The frame lock is ring-shaped and consists of hard plastic or hardened steel housing.
The principle behind it is simple:
- A ring or hoop, also made of hardened steel, is pushed through the spoke.
- It snaps in and encloses the rim.
- This locks the back wheel.
The locking mechanism works with a key. For some models, the key cannot be removed when the lock is open. So you always have the key with you when you lock your bike. Frame locks in the higher price segment can be locked and unlocked electronically. They work via radio key or app.
- Simple and convenient handling
- It is attached to the bike and therefore takes up no storage space.
from as little as 15 – 170 euros
- Very insecure: only prevents the bike from being driven away quickly, but not from being carried away. Easy prey for thieves because they can pick the lock later..
- Only useful as a supplement to another lock, chain, or wire cable.
- As a stand-alone lock, it is only suitable for short periods of storage.
(Armored) cable lock – protection for bike components
Cable locks consist of braided steel cables a few millimeters thin, sheathed in a plastic cover and with a – usually four-digit – combination lock as a closure. Cable locks are colorful and curl, much like gift ribbons. The disadvantage: they are just as easy to open.
Like the cable lock, but with a much higher level of security, is the armored cable lock. It also consists of braided steel cables, additionally encased in capsules made of hardened steel. These capsules can move more or less with each other. Thus, armored cable locks also retain their flexibility – depending on the model. A combination lock or a cylinder lock is used as the closure.
- Simple and convenient handling
- It weighs little and is easy to stow in a backpack or bag. Alternatively, you can wrap the cable lock around the handlebar or seat post.
simple cable lock: 5 – 35 euros; armored cable lock: up to 110 euros
weight 0.1 – 1.5 kg
- Very insecure: serves more as symbolic security in places that are public or are under surveillance. Not without reason, they are called gift ribbons for thieves. For them, it is easy to pick cable locks with simple bolt cutters within seconds.
- They are particularly suitable as a supplement to other locks, for example, to secure individual parts such as saddles, helmets, or wheels.
Chain lock – secure? It depends
Chain locks are widespread among bicycle locks: steel chain links (starting from 4 mm), rounded or multi-edged, supplemented by an equally sturdy padlock, combination lock, or cylinder lock. The chains are covered with tear-resistant and durable textile or plastic to avoid scratches and paint damage to the bike. A chain lock is more flexible than a folding or U-lock but often heavier. The level of security depends on the thickness of the chain links, which can be up to 15 millimeters thick. If it is a high-quality model, bolt cutters are not enough. To pick the lock, thieves need at least a flex, a saw, bolt cutters, or a welding torch.
- Relatively secure: high-quality, thick chains offer good protection
- Space-saving: a chain lock can be stowed away easily.
- Depending on the model, it can be pretty (0.3 – 4 kg) and take up a lot of space in the backpack.
- Secure options are quite expensive: chain locks with chain links between 4 – 7 mm: 10 – 50 euros/ thicker locks: up to 200 euros.
Textile bicycle lock – surprisingly insecure
Pure textile bicycle locks consist of several fiber materials woven together in layers. Thus, they do not cause scratches or paint damage to the bike. Some models additionally enclose a metal cable.
Depending on the model, the lock is more or less water- and dirt-repellent, and fireproof. The lock is closed with lugs, which are inserted into each other and locked by using a mini U-lock (which again brings extra weight).
Textile locks are similar in weight to folding or U-locks. Longer textile locks are particularly suitable for locking cargo bikes, long-wheelbase bikes, or multiple bikes at once, as they are easier to wrap around the bike frame and an object than metal locks. They can also be easily stored in a backpack, bag, or basket. There are also models with a strap closure. So you can strap on the textile lock. And what about their safety?
In a YouTube test video from Stiftung Warentest, a textile lock from the company “tex-lock” is sawed apart within 15 – 30 seconds with an 11 euro saw from the hardware store. In the attempt, not even thieves handle professional tools:
The company has reacted to this and brought out the successor model, “tex-lock 2”, which now states “saw-resistant” on the packaging. Vit:Bikes tested this option in one of their videos:
The conclusion? Textile locks like the “tex-lock 2”, which have a metal chain woven inside, are more difficult to break open than locks made solely of textile. Still, thieves can manage to pick them in minutes with a saw and bolt cutters. We would therefore be less inclined to recommend a textile lock alone as an anti-theft device.
- Simple and convenient handling
- With chain similar in weight to folding and U-locks: approx. 1.5 kg with a length of 1.20 m.
- Textile locks can be wrapped around the bike frame or conveniently stored in a backpack, bag, or basket. There are also models with belt closure, which allow to strap on the textile lock.
- Less secure: Pure textile locks offer no security and can be broken open with saws or bolt cutters from the hardware store.
- Quite expensive: 90 – 200 euros
U-lock – the best bike lock
U-locks are reminiscent of an oversized padlock. They consist of a U-shaped metal shackle coated with plastic, which can be up to 20 millimeters thick. High-quality models are hardened on the outside and somewhat “softer” on the inside so that cold spray attacks cannot harm them. The ends of the shackle are inserted into the actual lock, a metal cylinder with two openings. The locking mechanism works with a key.
Due to its rigid shape, the shackle offers little attack surface for tools. Only a flex or a welder is promising. However, the U-lock must be cut in two places to remove it. Picking two joints is very time-consuming and, above all, conspicuous.
To make it even more difficult for thieves, make sure that the U-lock is mounted in such a way that a shackle broken open on one side cannot be twisted free, so thieves have to cut open two sides. Also, the design intends that opening them without a suitable key or even lock-picking is virtually impossible.
The only disadvantage: the shape is rigid, in contrast to a chain lock, which results in limited flexibility.
When buying a U-lock, make sure that the shackle is long enough to enclose a lantern, fence, or similar next to the bike.
- You can easily lock your bike.
- one of the safest bike locks
- U-locks are large and take up more space compared to chain or folding locks. A special lock mount on the bicycle is usually required.
- Rather heavy: :
0.8 – 3 kg
- High-quality U-locks are quite expensive:
30 – 220 euros
Folding lock – high security and flexibility
Folding or also joint locks are a mixture of chain and U-lock. They consist of elongated, rigid links. By folding, the locks are easy to carry. They are available with cylinder or combination lock.
Tried and tested material for such locks is also hardened steel. Due to the joints, the lock can be folded (similar to a folding rule). Thus, folding locks retain their flexibility. In addition, they are stable and difficult to cut. The movable links and flat profile make it difficult to apply a saw or bolt cutters. Nevertheless, the bicycle is not even with a folding lock 100 percent secured against theft. COYA bicycle insurance demonstrates in its YouTube video how they cut through the folding lock model Abus Bordo Granit X Plus 6500 with a bolt cutter in less than 40 seconds:
Nevertheless, folding locks are considered the best bike locks on the market. Cutting the folding lock requires a great deal of strength, which – admittedly – not everyone possesses. For example, if the lock is mounted parallel to the ground, the leverage of the bolt cutter can work particularly well and the lock is more likely to be cut than if it is mounted perpendicular to the ground on an object (e.g., lamppost).
- Simple and flexible handling
- By folding said locks, they can be stored to save space.
- Relatively secure: stable and difficult to pick, but not 100 percent theft protection.
- Relatively heavy: 0.3 – 2 kg
- High-quality folding locks with strong segments can be quite expensive:
30 – 180 euros
Conclusion: which lock for bikes offers the best protection?
Experts still recommend a solid U-lock from established brands as the best bike lock, but folding locks and heavy chain locks also offer good protection for your bike. Cable and spiral locks should rather be used as additional or emergency locks. We do not recommend a frame lock alone.
The most effective protection against bicycle theft is obtained by combining several security systems.
When protecting bicycles or e-bikes against theft, the following applies: It is better to combine a mechanical bicycle lock with GPS systems such as the BikeTrax GPS tracker and secure your bicycle components with an additional lock. Keep in mind that bike thieves specialize in one type of lock and the appropriate tools to break it open. Also, they usually do not try to pick bike locks for more than three minutes. If you use 3-way protection, you will keep your bike safer on the road than with just one lock.
Radio keys, alarm functions, temperature sensors: more security through additional lock functions?
Expensive options of almost all bike locks are optionally equipped with additional functions. Whether and how helpful they are is beyond the scope of this article, but we have nevertheless prepared a small excerpt for the curious readers:
- With an electronic, keyless system, locking and unlocking works via radio key, Bluetooth, or app. You can charge such a system via USB.
- The cylinder locks of high-priced locks protect against picking. This means picking a lock without a suitable key and without damaging it.
- In addition, there are locks with so-called “intelligent alarm functions”, a kind of integrated alarm system. The alarm ranges from a short warning signal in the case of minor vibration (e.g., triggered by a soccer ball) to a continuous alarm signal in the event of unauthorized movement of the bicycle. Bike locks connected to the smartphone via app send a notification to the owner – another valuable feature.
- Alternatively, some systems do not emit a warning sound when the bike moves and instead only inform the owner via the smartphone.
- Additional technical features include LED light keys or temperature sensors that detect frost and melt attacks.
Guidance for choosing locks for regular and electronic bikes
As a general rule, if you are buying a high-quality, expensive bike, do not skimp on the bike lock. Invest at least 10 to 20 percent of the purchase price in securing the bike or e-bike.
Suppose a bicycle insurance policy or an e-bike insurance policy applies in the event of damage, it is crucial to clarify the necessary criteria with the respective insurance company. Many require that the bike lock has a certification. Common seals for bike locks are CE mark, DIN mark, TÜV seal, VdS certification, and the adfc seal.
In our article “e-bike insurance – everything you need to know about the topic”, we give you the necessary tips on what to look for to find a suitable e-bike insurance.
- The CE mark serves to protect consumers. It states that a bike lock complies with the applicable EU directives and regulations.
- The DIN mark is a confirmation of compliance with standards.
- The TÜV seal indicates that a bicycle lock meets the legal requirements of the state.
- The VdS seal comes from the independent certification body VdS (“Vertrauen durch Sicherheit”) Schadenverhütung GmbH. It is part of the German insurance industry e.V. and is responsible for security-related products. The testing focuses on actual safety, not government guidelines.
- Bicycle locks receive adfc certification if they have passed the DIN EN 15496 test procedure. The German Bicycle Club (adfc) developed the standard test to check how secure and suitable bike locks are for daily usage and how resistant they are to any kind of violence.
- Among the minimum requirements: The lock must withstand a sawing duration of 45 seconds, be impact-resistant to minus 20 degrees, as well as withstand a tensile force of 30 kN (kilonewtons), and a drilling duration of 120 seconds.
Best bike locks for bicycles: an overview of security levels
Every bicycle lock is assigned to a security level. However, since there are no uniform specifications, it is challenging to compare bicycle locks from different brands. Thus, each manufacturer evaluates and weights differently (for example, according to security, suitability for everyday use, ease of use, or design) and assigns an individual security rating. These can range from 5 or 10 to 15 or even 100 levels. They serve merely as a guide and enable the comparison of different models of a brand.
In general, regardless of the manufacturer, the higher the security level of bike locks, the greater the resistance to attempted theft and the higher the price.
Conversely, one might assume that the most expensive models are also the best bike locks. But it’s not that simple. Even highly rated locks can fail in practice. For this reason, when buying a bicycle lock, it makes sense to make sure that it has been tested by Stiftung Warentest and/or has a VdS or adfc seal.
The new security standard: high-tech theft protection through GPS tracking
Because e-bikes sometimes cost ten times as much as a good conventional bike, mere protection by mechanical locks is not enough.
Bikes can indeed be secured with the lock of choice to a firmly anchored object (e.g., lamppost, fence, bike stand). However, since ANY lock can be picked, we recommend combining a mechanical bike lock with GPS systems and another component lock.
Do you want to know which lock models are the best bike locks for components? Then read our article “Bicycle Saddles, Wheels, Pedals, E-Bike Batteries: Comprehensive Theft Protection for Bicycles”!
How GPS trackers work on e-bikes
GPS tracking is not new, but the way smart GPS trackers work and are used to prevent theft has changed.
With the help of the anti-theft GPS tracker, the current location is transmitted to an app on the smartphone via an intermediary server.
The BikeTrax GPS tracker from PowUnity works as follows:
- The GPS device is installed in the e-bike – invisible to a thief.
- As soon as the bike is moved without permission, the owner receives a movement alert on the smartphone.
- The exact GPS location of the bike can be tracked within five meters and in real-time.
- In case of a theft, the owner can send a theft report to the nearest police via the app, including the GPS location.
For those who are even more interested in the technical side, we explain in a separate article how GPS trackers work in combination with smartphones.
How to choose the right GPS tracking device
Devices for GPS tracking of e-bikes come in different varieties. Not all GPS trackers are the same. Which features are essential to protect your bike?
The following features characterize good GPS systems:
- They are designed specifically for e-bikes and are compatible with the most common motor models.
- They have their mobile app for real-time monitoring.
- Notification that your bike is moving happens in real-time via a motion alert.
- The GPS tracker is mounted well hidden in the cycle.
- An additional battery ensures that the GPS tracker works continuously.
For a deeper insight into all the relevant criteria of a GPS tracker, read the article “GPS Tracker Bike: Test 2021 – how to find the best device for you”.
The BikeTrax GPS anti-theft device for e-bikes has not been awarded the “Design & Innovation Award 2020″ for nothing. The compact GPS tracker can be easily retrofitted to almost any e-bike, comes with an additional battery, and allows you to query the location of your bike at any time via an app. Thanks to seamless network coverage, you immediately receive an alarm when your bike moves. In other words, if you combine a good bike lock with GPS tracking through BikeTrax and a component lock, your expensive pedelec is excellently protected.
Conclusion: only a bike lock with a GPS tracker protects your e-bike from theft
If you have afforded yourself an expensive bike or e-bike, you should not skimp on theft protection and not rely on just one lock.
To ensure that your bike is well secured in the end, ask yourself the following questions when choosing:
- Does the value of the bike lock match the value of the bike or e-bike? A general rule says that you should invest ten to 20% of the purchase price of the bike in its security.
- Is the lock cylinder certified? Professional thieves have lock-picking tools at their disposal. With the help of this tool, they can pick many locks within seconds and without much effort. To make it as difficult as possible for them, the lock cylinder should have a seal of quality (see above).
- Where do I usually park my bike? Most bikes in Germany, for example, are stolen from their own homes. Almost 30% of all thefts take place at home, closely followed by train stations. Investing in a GPS tracker is, therefore, worthwhile, even if your bike is only parked in the garage. Locking your bike is not enough to ensure that it is secure.
- How important is the convenient handling of the lock to you? Not every bike lock for e-bikes is easy to transport or practical. Some are very heavy, massive, and hardly flexible, while others are light and usable in many situations.
- Is one lock enough to adequately protect my bike? The answer depends crucially on the value of your bike. For a bike with a motor, we recommend a bike lock with a GPS tracker for your e-bike. This is not an “I Lock It” solution, where the GPS transmitter is integrated into the lock. The GPS tracker is hidden independently in the bike.
- The ideal solution is to combine an intelligent security system (GPS tracker) independent of the lock with a secure bike lock and another component lock. This way, your bike is protected in any situation.