The most important thing that we do after buying a bike is to ensure that it’s secured properly in public spaces. The best and easiest way to secure the bike is through portable locks that provide adequate protection against opportunistic thieves.
A bicycle lock takes several different forms. There’s the folding lock and the somewhat flimsy cable lock.
Recently, however, a U-lock or chain lock is getting more readily used for theft deterrence.
U-locks use U-shaped locking mechanisms to fasten the bike to any immobilized object. Cable locks, on the other hand, use a chain or cable to tightly fasten the bike.
In this article, we compare the two to determine which of these articles is better for protecting your bike in high-risk areas.
U-Locks vs Cable Locks: 5 Common Questions
1. Are U-locks easy to break?
Compared to a cable lock, a U-lock is harder to break. This is because a thick metal tube, that may be as wide as 18 mm, makes up a U-lock.
This metal tube is usually of very high quality and doesn’t come undone even when pulled apart (as is usually the case in a cable lock). The locking mechanism is also of a good standard, meaning lock picks won’t be able to go through it.
There is, however, the danger of a twist attack. Such an attack occurs when a burglar is able to successfully insert a long rod between the two ends of the lock.
A rotating motion then imparts an opposing amount of force on the two ends of the lock, eventually dislodging the lock. A car jack or a metal pipe of any reasonable length is usually used for such a nefarious act.
A weak U-shaped bike lock of a shoddy brand may even be taken apart by a tool as simple as a pry bar. These accessories are, therefore, perfect for theft deterrence only in low-risk areas.
2. Are U-locks better than cable locks?
The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors. In terms of ease of use, cable locks do indeed come out on top.
Similar to folding locks and chain locks, cable locks curve in upon themselves, reducing their surface area and enabling them to be carried anywhere relatively easily. They’re also lighter than their competition.
Their flexibility and large shackle diameter mean that you can easily lock a cycle to a variety of immovable objects. This isn’t possible in a U-lock where there’s only a fixed limited area inside the lock for only one bike frame and the object that the frame will be attached to.
The cost of cable locks is also less as compared to U-locks, which may be attractive to customers looking for a cheap solution to security.
However, all the above advantages pale in comparison to what really matters: how secure is a U-lock?
When it comes to security, a U-lock is much more superior. Made from hardened steel, a U lock offers significantly more resistance to a thief than a cable lock.
The solid metal provides good security against all types of tools used by bike thieves such as saws and bolt cutters. Only a concentrated effort by an angle grinder will subdue such a lock.
3. Are cable locks secure?
Cable locks may come in handy when you need to lock multiple bikes together but they aren’t a good deterrent when it comes to protecting your vehicle.
The thin metal strands that make up a cable bike lock are no match for wire cutters or bolt cutters. A professional thief would need only a minute to cut the lock and sprint away with his prize.
In addition, the lock itself can easily be picked using hairpins or other commonly available tools. While high-security locking mechanisms are available, their higher price means that a prospective consumer is better off with a U-lock than paying a premium for a cable lock with no chance against a bolt cutter.
4. What about chain locks instead?
Chain locks are made of thick steel or alloy chains that are even harder to crack than their competition. A further advantage is that these chains are available in every standardized length.
The linkages that join the chain make their structure somewhat flexible. This means the same methods that are used to pry open U-locks won’t work here.
The only threats faced by chain locks are industrial-sized bolt cutters but the chances of a burglar carrying a bolt cutter of such a size are almost zero. Also, since the chains are made from alloys, they’re fairly heavy.
5. What is the safest bike lock?
Kryptonite has been a market leader in bike locks and the Kryptonite New York is arguably considered to be the best U-shaped bike lock.
The Kryptonite New York, through its 16 mm hardened steel, is impregnable against bolt cutters and the company even offers insurance of up to $4000 if one of their locks is successfully broken.
All this premium security means that to carry this Kryptonite lock around, one must fasten it either on frame mounts or on a bike rack. Since the New York is fairly large, a compact version is also available in the shape of Mini U, albeit with a lower level of security.
However, the best U-shaped lock can’t hold a candle to the best bike chain lock.
Therefore, for those who want the highest protection level or rating, I think the Hiplok Gold chain lock is the way to go. The 10 mm steel chains make up the chain lock, which can even be carried as a belt around the waist.
Even though this chain-link lock weighs almost 3 kg, the level of security offered by the chains is unparalleled. Even with a portable cutter, it would take around an hour to go through the chains.
For a burglar looking for a quick exit, this presents a significant problem.
Even in low crime areas, bike thefts are fairly common. Therefore, securing your bike should be fairly high on your priorities.
Bikes are expensive and the most important thing for every cyclist needs to be finding the best way to secure their asset.
After reading the reviews of both cable and U-locks above, it’s fairly easy to conclude that U-locks are clearly the better option to lock your bike due to the superior protection they offer.
However, there are tools against which even U-shaped bike locks fail. Therefore, for unparalleled protection against all the ways a bike may be stolen, the smart thing to do is to also buy a chain lock.