With the increasing values of bicycles today, the market for tools to protect them while they sit idle has grown considerably. With more and more choices available, cyclists from the frugal to super-serious may ask, How much does a bike lock cost?
A bike lock can cost anywhere from a few dollars for a single padlock, up to $200 or more depending on styles such as flex cable or chain locks, foldable bike locks, or other lock-chain combinations. Just remember, who locks up a bike with just a single padlock?
Bike lock selection may not be as easy as it seems. With higher (and increasing) bike values and more cyclists using bikes for errands around town, or to commute or even travel, their investment often must be stored in public. Therefore the need for quality locks to secure them.
Bicycling.com reports that over 2 million bicycles are stolen annually in North America. Think about it: that’s about 2 every minute.
Additionally, such thefts tend to increase during down economic times, such as 2020-21 with the coronavirus pandemic.
Bikes are constantly stolen and sold to pawn shops, online, or person-to-person on the streets, often for as little as $30 for bikes valued well into 3 figures or even cracking a thousand dollars in value. Thieves don’t usually ride bikes they stole, for fear of being seen on them. They hawk them quickly for cash, usually without notifying buyers how they came in possession of them.
It’s a very strong reason to ensure your bike is always properly secured.
Bike Lock Selection Tips
Factors for bike lock selection can be plentiful. Consider:
- Strength of lock. Remember that the lock and connection tool for really tying your bike to a solid, stationary object are different. Things like flex cables that wrap through frames and wheels can be very hard to cut through. Locks, however, often are separate items and can be smashed and broken. Look for manufacturers with solid reviews in terms of strength, and pay attention to materials used to produce the lock, like light-weight and strong titanium.
- Chain or cable. This means strength as well as length. Too often, bike owners get short chains, fail to properly lock up all parts of a bike, and find a wheel or seat missing when they return to it. Cycling experts will recommend buying two lock systems for this reason, either two of the same, or a combination of styles.
- Bike lock type. The most expensive bike locks are probably the newest on the market: foldable bike locks (more on that below). The bike lock types or styles selected will impact how much you’ll pay.
- Bike value. Some say to invest 10% of a bike’s value in the system to lock it up. So for those bikes at $1,000 brand new, consider spending $100 to keep it secure. How much a cyclist values his or her bike can erode over time; but often we hold sentimental value for trusted longtime wheels. Buy accordingly.
Bike locks at the very, very low end of the spectrum, like just a padlock with nothing else, might provide a little peace of mind but little else. It’s not just bicycle theft to worry about … bike parts are heisted all the time, too. Too often bike owners forget about the seat, for instance. Hardly anything is worse than returning to a bike that has no seat!
Longer bike-lock chains or cables can be run through bars on the underside of seats, too — as well as through a number of accessories on a bicycle. If you can’t lock it up, think about taking bike accessories with you into stores or other places. It might look weird to walk into a meeting holding a bike seat. But at least you’ll be able to ride home, right?
See Also: Where To Put Your Bike Lock While Riding
Types of Bike Lock Systems
Popular styles of bike locks and accessories can vary, according to size, weight, and how they are designed to perform. Some bicyclists even look for locks and security systems of specific colors. A quick look at the most common:
- Chain or cable bike lock. The chain or flex cable lock are very popular, are modest in price at around $50 on average for quality systems, and have length to protect more than just the bike frame. Serviceable ones can be found online for as low as $20. Remember, locking up wheels is important; front wheels are especially susceptible to fast thievery. These bike security systems have either a built-in lock, or loops at the ends for use of a separate padlock.
- U Style Locks. These look just like the name suggests: a big curved metal contraption that looks like a big letter “U.” These might be favored because the arms of the U are usually hardened steel and more difficult to cut fast. A challenge is that it’s hard to lock up all parts of a bike with just one; the arms are solid and non-adjustable. However, they can be paired with chains or cables. These types usually cost around $60 for quality, or as low as half that online.
- Folding locks provide optimum security along with convenience. These come in the form of several connected steel plates to be shaped for various locking options; and then folded for a nice compact package easier to lug around. Some even are stored attached to a bike’s frame. They come in various lengths, too, and can run between $50 to $100 each. Higher-end folding locks with cases can exceed $200 in price.
Chains and some U style locks can tend to be quite heavy, if you’re worried about the impact of carrying them on speed and performance. Many folding locks (see Amazon) are made of materials stronger than the other lock styles, and even lighter at the same time.
Retrieving Stolen Bikes
Very few stolen bikes are reunited with their owners. That said, one way to recover a stolen bike is to write down or memorize its serial number, and maybe register the bike and serial number with a government agency or private organization.
Along with the serial number, log the bike’s make and model, and perhaps capture some digital images of it close up and broadly, to help identify it at a police department’s property storage area. (Most people would be surprised at the sheer number of bikes that are stored at police departments). Ultimately, you will have to prove you own the bike.
Another problem is that few owners report bikes stolen. Some say just 1 in 5 stolen bikes are reported missing, and that maybe 1 percent of owners register bikes.
Question: How important are bike locks among the list of bicycling accessories?
Answer: Bike locks should be considered standard bike equipment, arguably as important or even more important than helmets, pads or reflectors.
Q.: Are some bikes more prone to theft than others?
A.: Yes, especially those with known brand names glued in large letters on frames. Aside from that, customized bikes with glaringly obvious additions, like shiny chrome wheels, or a big high-end seat, can get closer looks than stock bicycles right off store shelves. If you invest to customize, also pay proportionately for the bike-security system.