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Locks test 2011

4 October, 2011

Beat bike thieves with the right lock. With the help of the police, Rowan Lamont and Simon Vincett broke a range of locks to find the best.

Cheap cable lock broken with a hammer

It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of bikes are stolen each year in Australia, and with more people riding that number is likely to increase. But choosing a good lock does a lot to prevent your bike being part of these sad statistics.

With the help of two police officers from the Melbourne West Bike Patrol, Ride On broke a range of new locks using the most common methods employed by crooks. Thinking like thieves, we used techniques that were quick, simple and least likely to draw attention to ourselves. If a lock showed resistance, we increased the severity of the tools and techniques we used.

It was shocking how simply and quickly some locks yielded. However, it was good to find that some mid-priced locks provided good protection and, therefore, represented very good value for money. You can view below the results of all 16 locks tested.

D-locks remain the best protection available, yielding only to an angle grinder. Some of the thicker and more expensive cable locks are difficult to break, though they can all eventually be cut through with bolt cutters.

As rule of thumb, the thicker the lock – the shackle, cable or chain link – the harder the lock is to break. Though, as the saying goes, the lock is only as strong as its weakest link: check for thin or weak points. Beware also that some cable locks seem thick on the outside but actually have just a thin, easily cut cable inside.

We found seemingly insignificant features help to make some locks a real pain to break into. A soft silicone cover on cables interfered with our cutting tools, and some more expensive cables had a combination of metal strands of different toughness which added another level of inconvenience.

An unexpected feature on some D-locks was once we cut through the bolt it would not rotate out of the way, forcing us to cut both sides, making twice the noise, and doubling the time and effort. These locks provide a serious deterrent to anyone thinking of pinching your bicycle.

See detail of all 16 locks tested below

Locking up wisely

Choose your lock according to where you need to lock up. If you’re leaving it at a high-risk site like a university or a train station then you’ll need some serious protection. A D-lock and a cable lock as well offers the most deterrence. A D-lock by itself is the next securest option.

If you’re locking during the day in a low-risk area you should be OK with the low-level deterrence of a cable lock. You should still use the best cable you can get.

If you leave your bike locked up overnight in public it’s at high risk, regardless of where it is and what it’s locked with. If you only lock up in low-risk situations you could choose to use a lighter lock.

Surprisingly, locking to an immoveable object is commonly ignored. Check the street pole cannot be lifted out of the ground, a fence railing is not rusted or weak, and avoid chain-link fences that can be easily snipped by an opportunist with a pair of pliers.

Quick release skewers make removing a wheel easy for you and a thief. If you have expensive wheels or are parking in a high-risk area, pop the front wheel off and lock it with the frame and rear wheel. Alternatively, you could replace quick releases with security bolts that require a special key to release.

Make sure you lock your bike by the frame and not just the wheel because a thief will release the wheel and take the rest of the bike away.

Bike theft facts

Acting Sergeant Shaun Hill, head of the Melbourne West Bike Patrol for Victoria Police, describes the scene of the crime.

“Bikes get stolen from many different locations, including people’s homes, garages, and lockup cages of apartment blocks. Many bikes are stolen when they are locked up on the street, as many people use cable locks which are easily and discreetly cut by thieves. With more and more people riding to work, police are finding that many bikes are being stolen from business car parks and bike storage areas.

“People assume that their bike is safe, but it’s still important to lock it up at home or in the storage cage at work. The storage cage may be a secure area, but thieves will follow other people in and steal bikes. If locking it up on the street, lock it to a parking rail and choose a place that is in good view of the public and well lit if it’s night time.

“If you are locking your bike up for more than two minutes while you go into a shop, then in my opinion a cable lock is inadequate. A good quality D-lock is your best bet against having your bike stolen.

During the locks test for Ride On I was very surprised that some of the more expensive locks were so easily and quickly broken. I also didn’t realise that not all D-locks were designed the same. Some D-locks are designed so that even when cut with an angle grinder the actual locking mechanism held together, meaning the lock had to be cut twice to be removed.

“It’s important to have all the details of your bike recorded at home. Things like the brand, type, size, colour, serial number, photos and any distinguishing marks (like your licence number engraved on the bottom) are important to have on record. That way if your bike is stolen you have all the details on hand to give to the police when making a report. Some great information is available at virtualbike.com.au.

“Many bikes that are stolen do get recovered, but unfortunately since many people don’t have a detailed description of their bike when they report it stolen, it’s often difficult to return the bike to the owner when it’s recovered. Having your licence number engraved on the bike makes it much easier for police to identify the owner and increases the chances of you getting your bike back if it is stolen. If you don’t have a licence you might like to use the licence number of a relative or friend.

“If your bike is stolen, report it to the police. When making the report ensure that you have a comprehensive description of your bike, as well as the time, date, location and method of how your bike was stolen. Having a photo is also handy.”

D-locks

All D-locks on test held secure until cut with a portable angle grinder

Vulcan VLS101B Supreme 2000

  • $40
  • 954g, 80 x 140mm
  • Shackle had to be cut twice to release bike

96% Excellent value for money

For retailers www.bikecorp.com.au

Abus Granit X-Plus 54

  • $199
  • 1397g
  • Square-section shackle must be cut twice to release

96% The best D-lock money can buy

For retailers www.southcottcycles.com.au

Tioga TLSHS short

  • $30
  • 789g, 110 x 245mm
  • One cut releases the shackle
  • Cylinder key lock may be prone to picking

92% Impressive performance for this price

For retailers www.bikecorp.com.au

Kryptonite Evolution mini 9

  • $100
  • 1089g
  • One cut releases the shackle

89% Performance justifies Kryptonite’s strong reputation

For retailers call Cassons on (02) 8882 1900

Abus Bordo 6000

  • $190
  • 920g
  • Resisted all types of non mechanical attack
  • Convenient size for carrying
  • Equivalent to a D-lock for protection and more compact.

88% More compact than a D-lock and offers more locking options

For retailers www.southcottcycles.com.au

On Guard Bulldog DT 5010

  • $60
  • 1254g
  • The lock mechanism became damaged but did not yield during tests
  • One cut releases the shackle

76% Overpriced for the performance offered

For retailers www.apollobikes.com

Cables

All the cables yielded to bolt cutters or even just a hammer

Kryptonite Hardwire 2018

  • $100
  • 1950g, 200cm x 18mm
  • Long, two-metre length
  • The key lock can be fiddly to use
  • Toughest cable on test

88% The best an armoured cable can be

For retailers call Cassons on (02) 8882 1900

Kryptonite Krypto Flex

  • $20
  • 354g, 120cm x 10mm
  • A tough cable providing above-average resistance to cutting
  • Good soft coat to protect your frame and add cutting nuisance
  • A longer length would be better to secure both wheels and frame

88% Value-for-money additional cable

For retailers call Cassons on (02) 8882 1900

Vulcan VSL367 Extreme 1000 key lock

  • $40
  • 974g
  • Cable offered good resistance to cutting
  • Handy, long length
  • Lock was well made and very tough

88% Excellent value for money

For retailers www.bikecorp.com.au

Knog Kabana

  • $50
  • 468g
  • Small and light
  • Shortish length
  • Silicone provided an extra nuisance to cut through

80% Funky and effective

For retailers www.apollobikes.com

Abus Steel-O-flex 1025 X-Plus

  • $179
  • 1832g
  • A multi-layered large diameter was difficult and time consuming to break through
  • Lock was very well made and extremely tough
  • Only one metre long

80% Top performance for top dollar

For retailers www.southcottcycles.com.au

Kryptonite Modulus

  • $50
  • 754g
  • Two cables provide double the protection because both must be cut
  • Cables are shortish but enable securing both wheels and frame
  • Cable socket remains mounted on your frame

76% Fresh and effective new approach that works well

For retailers call Cassons on (02) 8882 1900

Vulcan VSL501 Ultimate 3000 key lock

  • $45
  • 547g
  • Wide diameter outer is difficult to get cutters around
  • Lock provided good resistance to attack
  • Useful length and good flexibility

76% Overall good protection for a good price

For retailers www.bikecorp.com.au

Tioga TLK1218  key lock

  • $30
  • 421g, 180 cm x 12mm
  • Cable offered above average resistance
  • Lock provided good resistance to being broken
  • Useful length

76% Cheap, moderate protection

For retailers www.bikecorp.com.au

On Guard Doberman  combo

  • $30
  • 413g, 185cm x 10mm
  • Lock broke apart from hammer blows
  • Cable offered minimal resistance
  • Good long length

44% Offers a low level of deterrent

For retailers www.apollobikes.com

Knog Ringmaster cable and padlock

  • $90
  • 588g
  • Good long length
  • Cable offered poor resistance to attack
  • Padlock offered no resistance, surprisingly easy to break

36% Pretty, but poor protection

For retailers www.apollobikes.com

Ride On content is editorially independent, but is supported financially by members of Bicycle Network Victoria. If you enjoy our articles and want to support the future publication of high-quality content, please consider helping out by becoming a member.

56 Comments leave one →
  1. 4 October, 2011 3:44 pm

    Excellent post. Thanks for doing this.

    • 4 October, 2011 3:55 pm

      It’s a pleasure. The urge to pull things apart to see how they work never goes away. It’s good to be able to put it to good use!

  2. grant permalink
    5 October, 2011 12:47 pm

    Is the weight right on the Bordo 6000? You say it’s heavier than a U-lock.. but it’s lighter than all but one that you tested? I held a Bordo 6500 today and I think it weighs more than my bike.

    • 6 October, 2011 9:51 am

      The weight is 920g as stated but that’s a good pick up Grant. The Bordo was in the cable category but I moved it because it is really more like a D-lock. It is heavier than most cables but it’s about equivalent in weight to a D-lock. I’ve edited the text now. Thanks for pointing out the error.

  3. Alan Taylor permalink
    6 October, 2011 9:08 am

    I was just thinking of replacing my current lock (On Guard Doberman combo, 44% Offers a low level of deterrent, as it turns out :-)) with a D-lock, so this is very timely information. Thanks.

  4. Malcolm permalink
    6 October, 2011 3:27 pm

    Did your comparo result take into consideration the PRICE of the lock and the WEIGHT of the lock?
    If not, this would provide more useful additional data for punters

    • 7 October, 2011 9:32 am

      Yes, we considered price and weight. Our five assessment categories are Function, Material and components, Construction, Appearance and Value for money. Scores for each of these categories are combined to reach the overall score. Knog products always do well in the Appearance category and vary a lot from item to item in other categories.

      • Platts permalink
        17 October, 2011 6:50 pm

        Would you be able to post up the breakdown of scores in each of the assessment categories. I already own one of the locks listed here, but I would like to see how it compares, in terms of resistance to theft, to the other ones. It scores relatively low, but it is hard to know if it lost marks due to price and appearance, or function/construction. Price doesn’t really matter, since I already own it, but as I just bought a new bike, it would be good to know if it would be worth investing in a more reliable lock, and I can’t tell which ones are more reliable when price and appearance are affecting the scores.

      • 31 October, 2011 12:23 pm

        Excellent point. Sorry we haven’t delivered this. It’s something we should do with this and future posts. Hopefully soon…

  5. Kate permalink
    11 October, 2011 10:21 am

    Great review! Can I request you do a similar review of bike racks? After having my bike stolen twice from my undercover apartment carpark, I’m looking at buying a rack that will screw into the brick wall outside my 1st floor apartment front door. Would love to hear of some sturdy racks that allow the bike to be locked to them.

    Thanks,

    Kate

    • 11 October, 2011 12:57 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion Kate. We have considered reviewing bike storage racks before but we’ve always prioritised something else ahead of it. Perhaps now’s the time.
      In the meantime, we have a lot of faith in the products and expertise of the Bike Parking Experts, so check them out: http://www.bv.com.au/general/bike-parking/.
      Glad you found the locks review useful.

  6. 12 October, 2011 4:54 pm

    Thanks guys, this exactly the thing I’ve been looking for, thanks for taking the time.

  7. 12 October, 2011 5:03 pm

    Interesting review- I always used Kryptonite, despite the BIC pen debale a few years ago (after which they replaced all my locks for free- good on ‘em)

  8. Martin permalink
    12 October, 2011 5:08 pm

    Should have included the onGuard Mastiff.
    I have bene using this for a year after my bike wass stolen in under 90seconds when ‘secured’ by a top of the range Kryptonite D-lock.

    The mastiff is heavy but if you are a commuter then leave it on the rack at the office. Very very secure.

  9. 12 October, 2011 5:08 pm

    looks like the best protection is a pitbull and insurance – it’s a lovely world

    • 13 October, 2011 10:15 am

      Yes, it’s confronting to realise that most bikes are stolen from your home not off the street. Home insurance such as CycleSafe specifically caters for bike owners. And you should also lock up at home with a good lock.

  10. Mick Davies permalink
    12 October, 2011 5:14 pm

    Great informative article re: security locks – an excellent summary of the best anti-theft items on the market.

  11. The Grizzly Rider permalink
    12 October, 2011 5:22 pm

    This is a great article – thanks for the work and the advice! My two bits’ worth is that i had 2 Vulcan VSL501 Ultimate 3000 key locks, so i had a crack at one to see how hard it was to open. Answer: very! I understand that there are more than a couple to test here, but it was a long and noisy process to try and bust this thing, and it resisted the hammer, ordinary cutting and twisting. I would rate it about 85% because it is so noisy to attack. There it is! Thanks again. Peter

  12. 12 October, 2011 5:54 pm

    Have you guys tried using a BIC pen … you don’t need a grinder or bolt cutters to break the locks, a BIC pen can open it in a few seconds … see YouTube videos

    http:\\www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bosEh5PUNs

    • 13 October, 2011 10:24 am

      Only one lock on test had a cyclinder key – the Tioga D-lock – and we didn’t manage to find a pen that would pick it.

    • 14 October, 2011 9:25 am

      Those are for an old series of locks that have since been fixed.

  13. michael permalink
    12 October, 2011 6:14 pm

    thank you, excellent and informative review. timing is brilliant i’m just about to buy a new lock, thanks again from michael.a

  14. Andre permalink
    12 October, 2011 8:47 pm

    A lot of cyclists carry CO2 canisters around. If you spray one, at very close range, at the lock/cable it freezes the metal and significantly weakens it. Did you guys try that, and then a hammer?

    • 13 October, 2011 10:06 am

      Interesting…Time for some more investigation.

      • 16 October, 2011 7:53 pm

        Andre is spot on, when I was a little crook a can of butane lighter fuel and a hammer was all it took. Works just like nitrous oxide to freeze the metal, making it brittle and very easy to smash.. I’ve seen a lock smashed with the empty can of fluid after freezing it. Definitely needs further investigation..

  15. Matthew permalink
    12 October, 2011 8:49 pm

    Excellent review. I forked out 200 bucks for the Abus granit x-plus a few years ago. So far no thief has bothered to have a crack at it. Its huge and heavy, but I generally leave the lock locked to the racks in work’s secure car park and don’t actually ride with it.

    I would love to know the price range of bikes being pinched. I see some pretty pricey wheels locked up some times. Some people just don’t seem get that above a certain price point, it will be too tempting for your local thief, no matter how good your lock.

  16. Luke permalink
    12 October, 2011 8:55 pm

    Great – thanks for the review. A list of stockists would be great.

  17. 13 October, 2011 1:06 am

    It’s really nice to see such effort put into testing this. It’s like choice magazine for cyclists. Great research that really does aim at satisfying every person’s budget. Thanks for your hard work. Nice to see BV are working with the police for solutions also.

  18. stevo permalink
    13 October, 2011 9:09 am

    I love the safety goggles on his head while hamering!

  19. Emma permalink
    13 October, 2011 3:00 pm

    Thanks – great article. Just a question re Kryptonite Krypto Flex – you say this is the best of the cables, and it’s a good price and design (easier to use than those coiled spiral ones)
    BUT surely it’s only as good as the padlock you use it with? Can your next article recommend the best padlock? Obviously you would need to consider toughness vs weight vs cost for those too…

    • 13 October, 2011 4:10 pm

      Sorry for the confusion. The Krypto Flex is not the best of the cables – it’s an additional cable to be used in conjuction with another lock. I suggest using a D-lock to secure your bike frame to a solid, immovable object and a cable with loop ends, such as the Krypto Flex, to run through your wheels (and anything else you want to secure) fitted into the D-lock as well. In this way I lock up my bike and a trailer and my son’s bike in one pretty simple operation.
      We don’t recommend any padlock (though there may be some good ones). D-locks come in small sizes though, which minimises their weight.

      • Emma permalink
        14 October, 2011 8:40 am

        oh ok – thanks for clarification!

  20. Annabel permalink
    14 October, 2011 11:48 am

    When living in Montreal some time ago, the bike thieves used to put some kind of acid into the D-lock mechanism, come back later and simply knock the D-lock off. Has this approach reached us here? And if so, has it been considered when testing these locks?

  21. Migwai permalink
    17 October, 2011 9:20 am

    You forgot to cover the bottlejack attack. Most d locks are susceptible to this attack and can be broken in seconds. The only real defense at the moment is ensuring you attach the lock to the bike and anchor point in a manner that stops the bottle being inserted at it’s minimum jack height.

    • 17 October, 2011 5:29 pm

      We tried to cover this and couldn’t find a bottle jack small enough to fit inside the shackle of the locks on test. We tried with another jack and couldn’t keep it in place once the pressure was applied. On this basis we abandoned this method as a likely method of attack.

  22. paul maher permalink
    17 October, 2011 11:38 pm

    Splendid research, thanks for it. I only noted one deterrant which I use and which was ommitted–buy a cheap bike.
    Thieves are pretty selective these days.

  23. saul retig permalink
    22 November, 2011 8:02 am

    Hi,

    Regarding the Abus Bordo 6000. Can you elaborate on what ‘Resists all means of non-mechanical attack means?

    Thanks,
    Saul

    • 25 November, 2011 5:17 pm

      Hi Saul. By that the reviewer meant we couldn’t cut it with bolt cutters, twist it apart or operate a jack inside it to bust it that way. The lock also stood up to bashing with a hammer. Only the angle grinder could break it (as with most of the D-locks) and it took an approximately equivalent time to cut through as a D-lock shackle. It does come free with just one cut, unlike some D-locks. It’s a quality product and the compact folding nature of it will suit some people very well.

  24. Steve permalink
    3 December, 2011 5:27 pm

    I’m a BV member, and always look for your reviews. Thanks for the effort, but I’d like to share my frustration with your reviews if I may. I find the lack of comment on the selection of products frustrating. I understand you can’t review all products, but some further advice on what conclusions can be drawn regarding other models would be very helpful. For example, in 2009 the Abus Verado 47 was recommended, but this time its not reviewed. How would it stack up against the current crop? None of the reviewed models really meet my needs – too expensive, too mini, too budget.

    Thanks anyway

    • 6 December, 2011 3:01 pm

      Hi Steve. It is tricky to make a selection to cover everyone’s needs and preferences. We try to address this by testing as large a sample as is managable. I suggest that it’s usually reliable to assume that if one of a brand’s model does well other models will also perform well. I feel confident that the Abus Varedo remains a good lock, for instance, assured by the continuing strong performance of other Abus models. An exception to this, however, is Knog, who have some good products and some poor products.
      Thanks for your feedback. We will continue to think carefully about choosing a representative sample for each of our tests.

      • Steve permalink
        6 December, 2011 6:58 pm

        Thanks for the feedback

  25. Alex Wilson-Smith permalink
    2 August, 2012 10:13 am

    Is there any material that would resist the Co2 and butane attacks, or acid based attacks?

  26. 16 January, 2013 10:30 am

    I used master lock and various other locks over the years just to find that theifs figure a way to pick it or break it. I came across commando padlocks not too long and found they are great bike locks, storage locks and work for just about anything. Check em out. :]

  27. 16 January, 2013 10:31 am

    Oh I forgot to mention they aren’t just for bike and storage padlocks either. You can lock up your safe, boxes, if the military grades and uses it then that tells you something. Commando Padlocks for the win!

  28. Rodney Gray permalink
    21 January, 2013 3:50 pm

    Like many other riders, I read the review of bike locks just over a year ago and bought a number of locks.

    I have been using the very heavy duty cable lock a Vulcan VSL501 Ultimate 3000 key lock to secure my bike in the garage and even in the back of my wagon.

    A few weeks ago the key lock started to get temperamental and took a few goes to get it open. But just before last Saturdays’s ride it failed completely and would not open.

    Lucky I had bolt cutters and hacksaw handy or I would have been late for my ride. I can’t see who imports Vulcan locks so I can’t find anyone to complain to. (I bought them online.)

    But mention this in case others have the same problem and perhaps without bolt cutters handy.

    It appears that Vulcan D-locks (which I also bought) have exactly the same sort of key lock. And these will not be possible to cut off if the lock fails judging by the reviews.

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