Locks for Bicycles and E-Bikes: What should you consider when buying?

Anyone who invests a lot of money in a new bicycle or e-bike is sure to put some thought into how best to protect it from theft. We will explain the different types of bicycle locks and the advantages and disadvantages of each type. You will also find out how you can best protect your bike with the right combination of different locks and/or GPS trackers.

Die sichersten Schlösser für Fahrrad & E-Bike – darauf musst Du achten!

Roughly every two minutes, a bicycle disappears in Germany. In 2018, 292,015 thefts were reported in Germany (source: adfc), but the number of unreported cases is believed to be double that number. In Austria, there were 22,568 bicycle thefts. In the larger cities, in particular, bicycle theft seems to be a kind of national sport, if not a “law of nature”. Occasional offenders, petty criminals and organised gangs have their sights set on bicycles. The bad news is that if someone is really determined, they usually manage to steal the bike – and don’t always need elaborate tools to do so, because some bicycle locks are more decorative than useful in preventing bicycle theft. A professional thief can even pick a high-quality lock if he has enough time.

We recommend investing approximately 10 to 20% of the purchase price in the security of your bicycle or e-bike.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as perfect protection, but a combination of (several) quality locks, the right choice of location for parking or storing the bicycle/e-bike and additional technical security measures, such as an alarm system or a GPS tracker, can make things difficult for /en/press-release-56-e-bikes-stolen-biketrax-prevents-huge-lossesbicycle thieves. So you should not try to economise when it comes to securing your bicycle or e-bike, because there are often specific stipulations when it comes to claiming for damages or losses. We recommend that you invest approximately 10 to 20% of the purchase price in the security of your bike or e-bike.

The 6 Most Important Bicycle Locks

There is a huge selection of bicycle locks. Here, you can find out how to choose the right bicycle lock, and how best to protect your bike from theft.

There are a total of six different types of bicycle locks:

  1. Frame locks
  2. Cable locks
  3. Chain locks
  4. Textile locks
  5. Folding locks
  6. U-locks

A strong chain alone does not provide adequate protection. The right locking system also contributes towards the protection of your bike or e-bike. Besides the standard cylinder locks and combination locks, there are also locks available that can be unlocked via an app or a fingerprint. High-tech equipment, such as an alarm system, can also be integrated into the lock.

Frame Lock – Only suitable as an immobiliser

Rahmenschloss - Schlösser fürs Fahrrad

Some bicycle designs (e.g. Dutch bikes and city bikes) have integrated frame locks as a standard feature. This is a relatively simple form of lock, which is attached to the bicycle frame, as the name suggests; it is usually situated at the back of the bicycle, underneath the seat stay. The ring-shaped frame lock is made of a hard plastic or steel casing. A steel ring or shackle is pushed through the spokes and locked into place, clamping the rim at the same time. This blocks the rear wheel. On the basic models, the locking mechanism operates with a key. On some models, the key cannot be removed when the lock is open, so the key is always at hand when you need to lock your bike. Frame locks in the higher price segment can be locked and unlocked electronically. They work via remote keys or apps.

  • Easy, convenient handling
  • Attached to the bicycle, therefore it requires no storage space.
  • Affordable:
    Available from EUR 15 – 170

  • Very insecure: Only prevents a thief from riding away quickly, but not from carrying it away. Easy prey for pilferers, because they can pick the lock later, at their leisure.
  • Only makes sense as a supplement to another lock, a chain or a cable.
  • On its own, it is only suitable for brief periods.

(Armoured) Cable Lock – Protection for Accessories

Kabelschloss - Schlösser fürs Fahrrad

The basis of a cable lock is a braided steel cable, just a few millimetres in diameter, which is covered with a plastic sleeve. It has a combination lock – usually with four digits – to close it. Cable locks are brightly coloured and tend to curl, similar to a ribbon on a gift. And they are just as easy to open.

An armoured cable lock is similar to a cable lock, but it is much more secure. It also consists of braided steel cables that are additionally encased in hardened steel capsules. The capsules or sheaths can shift together to a greater or lesser extent, so that armoured cable locks are also flexible, depending on the model. The locking device is either a combination lock or a cylinder lock.

  • Easy, convenient handling
  • Low weight and easy to store in a backpack or bag. Alternatively, you can wind the cable lock around the handlebars or the seat post.
  • Affordable:
    Simple Cable Lock: EUR 5 – 35
    Armoured Cable Lock: up to EUR 110
  • Light:
    Weight 0.1 – 1.5kg

  • Very insecure: Serve more as a symbolic security measure in visible or monitored areas. There’s a good reason why they are referred to as gift ribbons for thieves, because for them, it is very easy to cut through cable locks with regular bolt cutters in just a few seconds.
  • They are best suited for use with other bicycle locks, for example to secure individual components, such as saddle, helmet or wheels.

Chain(link) Lock – Popular and Safe

Kettenschloss - Schlösser fürs Fahrrad

When it comes to bicycle locks, chain locks are considered a classic: steel chain links (from 4 mm), rounded or angular, supplemented by an equally sturdy padlock, combination lock or cylinder lock. To prevent scratches and damage to the paintwork on the bike, the chains are covered with durable, tear-resistant textile or plastic. Chain locks are more flexible than folding or U-locks, but they are sometimes heavier. The level of security depends on the thickness of the chain links, which can be up to 15 millimetres thick. Bolt cutters cannot cut through the high-quality models. To open the lock, thieves need at least an angle grinder, a saw or welding torch.

  • Secure: Thick, high-quality chains offer good protection

  • Generally easy to store; depending on the model, however, they can be quite heavy (0.3 – 4kg), and they can take up a lot of space in a backpack.
  • Secure variants are quite expensive: chain locks with links between 4mm and 7mm: EUR 10 – 50 / thicker chain locks: up to EUR 200.

Textile Bicycle Lock – Modern and Surprisingly Secure

Textilschloss - Schlösser fürs Fahrrad

Pure textile bicycle locks are made of several fibre materials that are woven together in layers. This means that they do not scratch or damage the paintwork on the bike. Textile lock variants also enclose a metal cable at the core. Depending on the model, they are more or less water and dirt-repellent as well as fireproof. They can usually resist the tools petty criminals use. Textile locks offer a similar level of security to U-locks and folding locks. However, by contrast, they are lighter than their metal counterparts. Longer textile locks are particularly suitable for locking cargo bikes and bikes with a long wheelbase, or for locking several bikes at once.

The locking mechanism consists either of eyelets that are inserted into each other and locked with a mini padlock (which adds extra weight). Alternatively, there are textile locks that have a click-lock (they simply click into the locked position, and the key is only needed to open the lock), or, as is usually the case, with a cylinder lock.

  • Easy, convenient handling
  • Secure: Meanwhile, they have become so refined that they offer a similar level of security to folding or U-locks.
  • Very light:
    0.6 – 1.4kg
  • Can be wrapped around the bicycle frame or easily stowed in a backpack, bag or basket. There are also models with belt fasteners that allow you to strap the lock around your body.

  • Quite expensive:
    EUR 90 – 200

U-Lock – Top Protection for Bicycles and E-Bikes

Bügelschloss - Schlösser fürs Fahrrad

U-locks resemble oversized padlocks. They consist of a plastic-coated, U-shaped metal shackle up to 20 millimetres thick. High-quality models are hardened on the outside and somewhat “softer” on the inside so that they are not vulnerable to cold spray attacks. The ends of the shackle are inserted into the actual lock, which is a metal cylinder with two openings. The locking mechanism works with a key.

Due to its rigid shape, the shackle presents only a small attack surface for thieves and their tools. Only an angle grinder or a welding torch are likely to lead to success. But they would have to cut through the shackle lock in two places before being able to remove it, which is very time-consuming and, above all, conspicuous. To make it even more difficult for thieves, the U-lock should be mounted in such a way that if a shackle has been broken open on one side, it cannot be unscrewed, i.e. thieves are forced to cut two sides open. The cylinders are designed in such a way that it is almost impossible to open them without the right key, and they are virtually impossible to lockpick.

It is not for nothing that U-locks count among the most secure bicycle locks on the market – even for e-bikes.

The only disadvantage: The rigid form and the limited flexibility. When buying a U-lock, you should make sure that the shackle is long enough to lock the bicycle to something like a lamppost or a fence.

  • Easy to lock.
  • Very secure

  • They are relatively large and take up a lot of space compared to chain or folding locks; generally, you need a special lock bracket on your bicycle.
  • Rather heavy:
    0.8 – 3kg
  • High-quality U-locks are quite expensive:br />
    EUR 30 – 220

Folding Lock – Good Security and Flexibility

Faltschloss - Schlösser fürs Fahrrad

Folding or hinge locks are a combination of a chain lock and a U-lock. They consist of elongated, rigid links. Here, too, the tried and tested material is hardened steel. The lock can be folded through joints (similar to a folding rule), which enables it to retain its flexibility. They are also stable and difficult to cut. The movable links and the flat profile make it difficult to use a saw or bolt cutter on them. There’s a good reason why they are among the most secure bicycle locks on the market. They are available with either a cylinder lock or a combination lock.

When folded, the folding lock uses only a little space in your backpack, bag or basket, or on a bracket intended for the purpose.

  • Easy, flexible handling
  • Secure: stable and hard to break or pick.
  • Because they can be folded, folding locks don’t take up much storage space.

  • Relatively heavy: 0.3 – 2kg
  • High-quality folding locks with strong segments can be very expensive:
    EUR 30 – 180

Which Locks Offer the Best Protection?

Experts still recommend a solid U-lock from established brands as the safest option, but folding locks and heavy chain locks also offer good protection. Cable and spiral locks should rather be used as an additional or emergency lock. Unlike other bicycle parts, the following applies to locks: The heavier the better.

When all is said and done, a combination of several security systems provides the most effective protection against bicycle theft.

As a rule, it makes sense to combine several bicycle locks, also because many thieves specialise in one type of lock and carry the appropriate tools for breaking that lock open. A frame lock always makes sense as a supplement, provided that it can be attached to the bike easily. A cable lock is suitable for attaching small objects, such as helmets, saddles, baskets etc. Furthermore, according to statistics, a thief does not spend more than three minutes trying to pick a bicycle lock. Conversely, this means that a bike with several “simple” locks can be just as well secured as a bike with one a high-security lock.

Type of Lock Security
U-Lock
Folding Lock
Textile lock
Chain lock
Frame lock
Cable lock

Another good idea for optimum protection of your bicycle or e-bike is to combine a bicycle lock with an additional security system, such as an alarm system or a GPS tracker.

More Security Through Supplementary Lock Functions

The expensive variants of almost all bicycle lock models are equipped with optional additional functions, for example, an electronic, keyless system: Locking and unlocking via a remote key, Bluetooth or an app. These systems are equipped with a USB connection, via which they can be charged.

The cylinder locks of expensive bicycle locks are designed to provide protection against lock-picking, or in other words, the opening of a lock without the matching key, without damaging it in the process.

There are also locks available with so-called intelligent alarm functions. They range from a brief warning tone in the event of a small shock (which might be triggered by a football, for example) to a continuous alarm signal in the event of unauthorised movement of the bicycle. Bike locks that are connected to a smartphone via an app also send a message to the owner. Alternatively, there are systems that, instead of sounding an alarm when the bicycle is moved, only inform the owner via smartphone. There are also other technical tricks, such as LED illuminated keys or temperature sensors that recognise attacks caused by frost and melting.

High-Tech Theft Protection Through GPS Tracking

Because bicycles and e-bikes now cost ten times as much as they used to, securing them with mechanical locks alone is no longer enough. GPS trackers verifiably offer the best theft protection, and they are particularly suitable as a supplement to folding locks, chain locks, U-locks etc. The bicycle or e-bike can be chained to a fixed object (lamppost, fence, bicycle stand among others) with the lock of your choice. But, because EVERY lock can be picked or broken, a GPS tracker offers essential additional smart, digital protection.

GPS trackers are particularly suitable as a supplement to folding locks, chain locks, U-locks etc.

GPS trackers are practical, light-weight and effective, and they do not require conventional locks. Advantage: Keys are a thing of the past – you can neither lose them nor forget them. And besides, GPS trackers weigh next to nothing, and do not require any storage space. Bicycles with GPS trackers can, of course, be stolen, but the chances of catching the potential culprit in the act, or tracking him, are very high. GPS trackers send the live location of the bike to the owner’s smartphone in real time. If the bicycle is moved without authorisation, the owner (or the police) can take up the pursuit of the perpetrator.

Good GPS trackers have the following properties: They are especially designed for bicycles/e-bikes, and they are equipped with a mobile application for real-time monitoring. They also have a silent motion alarm that is mounted INSIDE the bike, rather than on it, which makes it invisible to thieves.

Currently, the best GPS anti-theft device for e-bikes available on the market is “BikeTrax”, awarded with the “Design & Innovation Award 2020”. This compact tracker can easily be retrofitted to almost any e-bike, and it enables the owner to keep track of the location of his e-bike at all times, via an app.

Guidance for Choosing the Right Theft Protection

Generally, the following applies: If you buy an expensive, high-quality bicycle, you should not try to save money on the bicycle lock. You should definitely invest between 10 and 20% of the purchase price in security measures for your bicycle or e-bike.

Many insurances stipulate that the bicycle lock should be certified.

If you also want your household insurance to cover any losses in this respect, it is important to clarify the requirements with your insurance company. Many of them require that bicycle locks be certified. Common certifications for bicycle locks are: The CE seal, the DIN seal, the TÜV seal, VdS certification and the adfc seal.

Certifications

  • The CE seal serves to protect the consumer. It states that a bicycle lock is compliant with the applicable EU directives and regulations. The DIN seal confirms compliance with the standards and the TÜV seal indicates that a bicycle lock meets the legal requirements of the country.
  • The VdS seal is issued by the independent certification body, the VdS Schadenverhütung GmbH. VdS stands for “Vertrauen durch Sicherheit” (Confidence through Security). This organisation, which is part of the German Versicherungswirtschaft e.V. (insurance industry), is responsible for security-related products. The focus of the test is on the actual security, and not on state guidelines.
  • Bicycle locks are awarded adfc certification if they pass the DIN EN 15496 test procedure. The Allgemeine Deutsche Fahrrad-Club or adfc (General German Bicycle Club) developed the standard test to check how secure and suitable for everyday use a bicycle lock is. It also checks how resistant the lock is to forceful impact. The minimum requirements include: withstanding sawing for a duration of 45 seconds, being impact-resistant at temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees, withstanding a tensile force of 30 kN (kilonewtons) and drilling for a duration of 120 seconds./li>

Bicycle Locks: Security Levels

Every bicycle lock is assigned a certain security level. However, as there are no uniform specifications, it is difficult to compare bicycle locks from different brands. Each manufacturer evaluates and weights their locks differently (for example, according to security, suitability for daily use, user-friendliness or design) and they assign their own security levels. These can range from five, ten, 15 or even 100 levels. They serve merely as a guide and only make it possible to compare the various models of one brand.

The higher the security level of a bicycle lock, the greater the resistance it offers in the case of attempted theft.

Generally, the following applies, independent of the manufacturer: The higher the security level of a bicycle lock, the greater the resistance it offers in the case of attempted theft, and the more expensive it will be. Conversely, one might assume that the most expensive models are also the safest. But it’s not as simple as that! Even locks with a high rating can fail in practice. For this reason, it makes sense to ensure that a bicycle lock has been tested by Stiftung Warentest and/or that it has a VdS or adfc seal before buying.

Theft Risk and Storage/Parking Location

The places where you park or store your bicycle also play an important role when it comes to choosing a suitable security system: At home or in the bike shed, or if you quickly pop into the bakery and are able to keep an eye on your bike the whole time, a simple lock with a merely deterrent effect is usually enough. During the day, in a well-frequented public area, you might get away with a lower level of security, compared to a place hidden from view at night. The more time a thief has without being discovered, the more likely he is to try to pick or break a more difficult lock. In such situations, the only thing that helps is a GPS tracker, so that the bicycle can be tracked.

Some general orientation:

Brief Stop A Few Hours All Day All Night
Rural Areas
Bicycle Stands on the Street
Suburbs
University/School Campus
Large Cities
Urban Centres
Low Level of Security
MMiddle Level of Security
High Level of Security
Very High Level of Security

Summary: The Right Locks are the Most Effective Measure for Securing Your Bicycle Against Theft

If you buy an expensive bicycle or e-bike, you shouldn’t try to save when it comes to theft protection. A combination of several locks and/or security systems makes sense. When making your choice, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the value of the bicycle lock match the value of the bicycle/e-bike? The rule of thumb says that you should invest between 10 and 20% of the bicycle purchase price on security.
  • Is the cylinder lock certified? Professional thieves have lock-picking tools, with which they are able to open a lock within seconds, without any great effort on their part. In order to make it as difficult as possible for them, the cylinder lock should definitely have a seal of quality (see above).
  • Where do I usually park/store my bicycle or e-bike? If you leave your bicycle in your own bicycle cellar or in parking areas that are not frequented very often, you will require fewer security measures. However, if you often leave your bicycle or e-bike in public places where there are a lot of people coming and going, you should invest more in security.
  • How important is convenient handling of the lock to me? Not all bicycle locks are easy to transport or practical to handle. Some are very heavy, bulky and inflexible, whereas others are light, and can be used in many situations.
  • Is one lock sufficient to protect my bicycle adequately? Here, once again, the answer is very much dependent on where you park or store your bicycle, and which type of lock you use, but the following generally applies: Because bicycle thieves often specialise in one type of lock, the use of two different types of locks (e.g. one with a high level of security and one that offers moderate security) will provide good protection. It might make sense to also use a GPS tracker as supplementary protection. This enables you to monitor your bike in real time, and it also makes it possible to track down stolen bicycles or e-bikes.

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