How to Unlock a Bike Lock Without Keys?

Consider the following scenario: you have important meetings in the center of the city so you dash out on your bike to make it there on time. You quickly lock your bike outside and make it to your first meetup.

As you descend towards your bike to rush to your second meeting, you suddenly realize that you have made a huge mistake. In your rushed exit, you forgot your bike lock key at home.

Having your bike locked out in front of you without its keys in sight is probably the second-worst nightmare of every biker out there (the first one is probably the bike itself being stolen).

So, short of trying to saw off the bicycle lock, what can you possibly do in a situation like this? How do you open a bike lock without a key?

Turns out, you can try a multitude of things when stuck in a situation of having a bike lock without its keys.

Tips & Tricks to Unlock a Bike Lock Without Keys

1. Use the Pen Trick

The pen trick is something that sounds cool and all but regrettably, it only works on the most basic and shoddiest of bike locks.

The way this works is that you take any ballpoint pen (such as a Bic Pen) and remove the tube containing its tip and ink. Now, all you’re left with is a hollow pen tube.

Press this hollow pipe into the key way of the bike lock and turn it in the same direction you normally turn the key. If the lock is of a less than adequate quality, this movement should open the lock.

Please be advised that only certain U-locks can be opened with this method.

2. Use blunt force

Only bound to work on a bike lock of very cheap quality, this method would require the need of a heavy object. A hammer will do just fine but it’s hard to find a hammer out on a random street.

So, the next best thing is to grab a brick or heavy stone and have a go at the lock. Some cheap cable locks may come apart but a higher quality lock will absorb every impact without any significant damage.

3. Try lock picking

Successfully pulling off lock picking requires a fair bit of know-how in how locking cylinders work. It will also require a lock picking tool kit, plus a tension wrench.

To get to work, first select a lock pick that inserts into the cylinder of the bike lock unhindered. Next, insert the tension wrench and keep it inside the lock until the end.

The selected lock pick will have to be moved around inside until you hear the pins inside drop. This will require a fair bit of practice and will be extremely time-consuming if you haven’t done this before.

You could forgo all the frustrating work required and save a bit of time by purchasing an electric lock pick and have a go at the bike lock using this device. However, electric picks are usually very expensive; several bike locks can be purchased at the price of a single pick.

4. Use the Bypass Method

Bypass methods are techniques used to open combination locks when a keyhole is not available for reaching the locking mechanism through picking tools.

This method is technical and a number of steps need to be followed in order to successfully open the bike lock.

First, you need to turn each binding wheel digit of the combination dial lock clockwise and counterclockwise multiple times until you feel the shackle clicking out of place. Make sure that you aren’t pulling on the shackle too firmly; otherwise, you would need to repeat these steps several times.

Another method of opening a combination lock without keys is to develop a shim from a soda can. A scissor is usually employed for this purpose.

The shim is then gently pressed into the locking area to try to dislodge the bike lock.

One recent modification of this method has been the credit card technique.

Here, a plastic card is inserted between the locking area to open the latch system employed in some bike locks. While only the simplest locking mechanisms may open through this, it’s worth a shot.

5. Cut the lock open

If all else has failed, it’s now time to do what bike thieves do. This involves cutting the lock in any number of ways.

If you secured your bike using a cable lock, using average quality wire cutters will cut your lock apart. A cable lock is made from thin metal strands which are easily divided into two parts by the sharp end of a wire cutter.

Wire cutters are cheap as well, so there’s no issue of a heavy hit to your pocket. Such tools will also easily go through cord locks.

If you secured your bike using a U-lock, employing a bolt cutter might be a better option. Since large bolt cutters can cut through almost anything, every U-lock and chain lock will be easily opened.

The tools introduced above will not be able to make a dent on high-end chain locks.

To open these up, you may need power tools such as angle grinders. Almost no one has an angle grinder at home, so the next best thing is to bring in professional help.

Alternatively, if you fastened your bike lock to an anchor point, you may try to dislodge this point rather than hammering away at your bike lock. Employing a torque motion to dislodge the anchor may be a lot easier than cutting through metal.

6. Ask for professional help

One of the easiest ways of solving the problem of opening a bike lock without its key would be to ask assistance from a nearby bike shop.

Owing to an explosion in bike use, such shops are found everywhere now. These shops see similar cases of individuals losing their keys every day, so the shops are poised to have the necessary tools (such as bolt cutters) to open your bike.

7. Call a locksmith

Alternatively, you could call a locksmith.

Bike shops will use brute force to go through your lock and will therefore make your lock useless for future use. A locksmith, on the other hand, will unlock the bike without damaging the lock, enabling it to be used in the future as well.

If you have lost your keys, a locksmith will even manufacture a replacement key set. However, a locksmith is expensive and the labor cost involved will surely be greater than the cost of your bike lock.


Staring helplessly at a bike lock without a key might be one of the worst situations that people may find themselves in. Thankfully, all is not lost and a number of ways are available for people to get their bikes out of this mess.

Each of the steps outlined in the article above will come in very handy if you find yourself in an unfortunate situation of having to deal with a bike lock without a key.

While some methods are a bit on the expensive end, everybody should at least be aware of them. In your bid to frantically find some kind of way of getting your bike back again, having the right information may make all the difference.