5 flimsy bike locks you should avoid

Have you ever had a bike stolen? I have and I’m sure most London Cyclist readers will have as well. Cycle in London for long enough and it’s an unfortunate probability, that you will one day be a victim of bike theft. That’s why I highly recommend bicycle insurance.

Cyclists don’t help their probabilities however when you see their bikes secured with flimsy locks such as these. These locks are simply not suitable for high theft locations like London.

1. Master Lock 1800x8mm key self coiling Cable Lock Black

Bike lock

Believe it or not, this is the one of the best selling bike locks on Amazon. Yet, it looks like something you could cut through with a pair of scissors. I wouldn’t even use this lock to protect my front wheel. The cost: £4.39. Save your money!

2. 6mm X 550mm combination bike lock


When we asked readers which of these bikes would be stolen first, they overwhelmingly picked one that was locked with something along the lines of the above lock. Yet, amazingly, this is the third best selling bike lock on Amazon! It costs £1.99 – you get what you pay for.

3. Oxford Combination Cable Lock – Bronze

Oxford Combi-lock

Oxford is a more reputable company but at the bottom of their range they have their combination lock which costs £3.81. This is a better option than the two above but still only really suitable for very low crime areas. It is rated as Bronze on the sold secure scale.

4. Metalock Metalock Coil Combination Lock 180cm X 10mm

Flimsy bike lock

At £7.20, this lock by Metalock is a tiny bit more expensive than the options listed above and at least offers 10mm of steel for the thief to cut through. A much more expensive Kryptonite lock, which we recommend as a secondary lock, offers 12 mm of steel but costs 4 times more!

5. Metalock Metalock Shackle Lock 110 X 229 X 12mm

U lock

This lock is definitely a step in the right direction and a fair bit stronger than the options above. With 12mm of steel, it compares favourably to the Kryptonite lock we recommend that has 13mm of steel. The difference being this is a 1/4 of the price. Overall, I’d still rather spend more and get a trusted brand like Kryptonite to protect my bike with. There’s a lot more than goes in to a bike lock other than simply the thickness of the steel shackle.

For a list of bike locks you should use, checkout our bike lock guide. They are a fair bit more expensive, but they will actually protect your bike against theft.

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36 Responses to 5 flimsy bike locks you should avoid

  1. Pieter 29/08/2013 at 11:42 am #

    The Kryponites are very good, but I’ve recently ran into a problem with mine. The internal locking system seems to have rusted (had it just over a year and use it daily). It’s so good I now can’t seem to prise it apart.

    • coney 30/08/2013 at 3:49 pm #

      shoulda closed that keyhole bro

      • Annabel 01/09/2013 at 8:30 pm #

        Get a lock with a dust cap then you will fine that the lock wont get rusty but you have to remember to close them each time you use them.

    • Dan 31/08/2013 at 9:34 am #

      Clean it out both “holes” with a paper towel and clean the D section bits then spray in GT85 and leave for 30 mins. Did that with mine and works like new again.

      • Pieter 02/09/2013 at 4:24 pm #

        Thanks for the tip, will give it a go.

    • Cfuzz 02/09/2013 at 1:00 pm #

      I had the same issue with the Kryptonite D Lock. 10 minutes with WD40 and its as good as new! Just spray it inside and use some paper towels to wipe the residue off.

      • Pieter 02/09/2013 at 4:25 pm #

        Thanks a lot for the tip.
        I saw a lot of people with the same problem on other forums. Even though you keep the lock closed, it seems at some point they will just rust shut.

    • Tim 22/09/2017 at 10:55 am #

      You need to add a little light oil into the sliding deadbolt mechanism when you have the lock open. Ie without the shackle in, turn the lock on. Drop a little oil onto the bit that engages the shckle. Let it get into the parts. After a while it will loosen back up. Do this every few months or as required.
      WD40 is fine, but won’t last long

  2. sm 30/08/2013 at 7:40 am #

    I use #3! I think of these as convenience locks, i.e, use only to pop into the shop with eyes on bike at all times. To be honest I rarely use my bike unless I know I can keep my eyes on it.

  3. Vincent 30/08/2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Cables shouldn’t even be sold in stores anyway. The only reliable solution is a solid U/D lock, listed as “Bicycle Gold” by Sold Secure.


  4. Sabine 30/08/2013 at 2:53 pm #

    I have a Kryptonite cable – I don’t really see why it is so much more expensive than others, apart from the bright red Kryptonite labels, which may deter a thief. For me that is my 3rd lock and is only there to attach the removables to the bike, plus an extra for attaching it to bigger objects as it is rather long and fits round thick fence posts and similar.
    But cables all look flimsy to me – a decent metal cutter gets through them, no matter how expensive they are? Saying that, the Kryptonite is only £9.95 on Amazon, so it’s not a massive increase to the bottom of the pack and similarly priced to other cables in the 10-15mm thickness.

    I have now got a D-Lock, a Kryptonite Cable, that gets fed into the D-Lock and a heavy Abus chain. The D-Lock is alarmed. If my bike still gets stolen, I give up – I am carrying nearly 2kg of weight in locks and my bike only cost £200….

  5. john r 30/08/2013 at 2:59 pm #

    whilst not endorsing them at all, I use the top one to fix my Brompton to a handrail on the train whilst standing within 5 feet of it. Only because a colleague had his lifted from under his nose (read gazing sleepily out the window) as the perp stepped of the train!!

    • Dave 09/09/2013 at 1:32 pm #

      I don’t have a lock for my Brompton, on the train its between my legs, anywhere else in my hand

  6. Montyz 30/08/2013 at 3:06 pm #

    I have No.4 attached to my bike permanently, unless participating in a sportive. I agree as mentioned here that these locks are primarily for convenience, when popping into a store and where it will remain mainly visible. I believe that targeted areas are mainly those occupied by ‘Long-stayers’ in which case these locks offer very little protection, even to an oppotunist.

    It makes sense that if you own a bike £300 or more (example), it is SENSLESS to purchase a lock worth less than a tenner!!!

    Bike insurance sites should detail locks that are both secure and properly rated too.

  7. SteveP 30/08/2013 at 3:08 pm #

    Every one of those locks is infinitely better than no lock at all.

  8. Liam 30/08/2013 at 3:19 pm #

    I think it is worth having a ‘cafe lock’ – something that is a visual deterrent for when your bike is in sight. On Audax rides you often get a large number of people parking up in the same place but you still need something that would make a would-be thief pause long enough for you to put your cake down and saunter over…..

  9. Rickster 30/08/2013 at 3:30 pm #

    I learned from witnessing it that number-lock type cable locks are nearly useless for protection. It’s not so much that thieves can cut it, but that that the number-type lock can be decoded within 2 minutes by a skilled operator. I saw this at a bike shop where I work. By manipulating the numbers and feeling the lock, the operator can quite quickly sense how to unlock it. It’s not that they are stealing anything (in this case anyway) but that they are trying to remove number-type locks so the bike can be reconditioned and legitimately resold.

    Bottom line for users: get a lock with a key. Number-type locks, even the really good ones, do not protect as much as you might think.

  10. Ross 30/08/2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I use a kryponite mini d lock and a hip lock chain from evans. not had any problems so far. I always look for a better bike with a rubbish lock to lock it next to.

  11. SteveP 30/08/2013 at 4:16 pm #

    I think by definition, an “opportunist” won’t be carrying tools. That’s a thief – someone who got up in the morning and set off to steal stuff and harder to protect against. Opportunists are people who see something unattended and take it – your phone, your bag or your bile. So a cheap keyed lock (I agree the combi ones are easy to defeat) will prevent the chancer. Even the combi locks will slow him down – problem is, “picking” one of these combi locks looks the same as the owner opening it.

  12. Roger 31/08/2013 at 12:38 am #

    This article is making claims that are not supported by any evidence. Just opinion. Come on.. let’s have something worth reading if your going to email me with notifications.

  13. SteveP 31/08/2013 at 9:38 am #

    Opinion can be based on evidence or experience, no? Did you want a scientific peer-reviewed study? 🙂

    Police stats support the above info – D-locks better than cable, two locks better than one. I’m a bit skeptical of their “two-different types of locks” suggestion (the Police). Their rationale is that thieves won’t carry two different types of tools to defeat two different types of locks but I suspect it’s the two locks that moves them on to simpler targets, not the fact they are different. If someone is going to bother carrying a massive set of bolt cutters, I doubt any cable lock is going to survive.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but while locks fall into categories the thieves are more divergent. You can simplify to opportunists who didn’t get up that morning planning to steal anything, but can’t resist an easy mark.

    Then there are the semi-pros – they will have some tools with them from wire cutters to bolt cutters and your cable lock is useless. They are looking for easy targets – probably matching what they steal to what type of tools they have to defeat locks.

    Then there are the pros, who might spend some time watching you and spotting expensive bikes locked in the same place daily. They will come by wearing hi-viz waistcoats and fake ID tags with a battery powered disc cutter, cut off your D-lock and relieve you of your pride and joy.

    This is not opinion, but rather information gathered from a variety of sources, Sorry – no footnotes

  14. Ree 31/08/2013 at 1:38 pm #

    When I did the Prudential Ride London recently, I spoke with officers there who said it’s surprising how many bikes they actually recover. So, my advice is get your bike marked and register as the owner, so if anything does happen and the police recover it, they know who to hand it back to.

    • MJ Ray 03/10/2013 at 5:39 pm #

      Is there anywhere you can register your bike with the police that promises not to spam you? Both Immobilise and BikeRegister reserve the right to spam a bit and change their policy so they can spam more, so I just keep my frame number on file and will give it to the police if my bike is ever nicked.

      • SteveP 03/10/2013 at 6:59 pm #

        Why not just get a free webmail account like bikeregister@somewebmail.co.uk and register using that? You can avoid looking at it until you need to – hopefully never. Spam filters are so good these days I worry more about missing useful mass mailings than getting spammed.

        • MJ Ray 05/10/2013 at 4:13 pm #

          Why not use a random webmail? Because they also want your postal address and (for some) phone numbers, plus it’s those details that the police see if they ever pick up your bike, so it needs to be something I actually check. I don’t understand why the police or a charity doesn’t run this, instead of the police telling people to hand over their details to private-profit-making companies. If running a registration system is profitable, shouldn’t the police get the profits?

  15. rossithebossi 31/08/2013 at 3:28 pm #

    I’ve seen many of the KryptoFlex cables cut and the wheel(s) taken. Often the whole bike goes as the owner didn’t grasp the simple logic of locking up a bicycle and merely uses the D-Lock as a padlock. i.e. wrapping the cable around the immovable object then using the D-lock to secure the ends. Not good.

    ‘Opportunistic’ theft of an unlocked bike and opportunistic theft of cable locked bike/components is becoming virtually the same.

    A huge number of bike thefts are the result of poor locks and poor locking technique. I’ve seen great locks used incorrectly. Having your bike stolen is not inevitable.

    -Never leave your bike out over night
    -Secure components with PitLocks/solder/ball bearings
    -Remove your lights
    -Fill the lock to prevent levering
    -Make your bike look less saleable/generic

    -Use either Abus X-Plus 54 23cm D lock (EazyKF mount is excellent).
    Kryptonite Evolution Mini D-lock (as secondary or ‘café’ lock)
    These are both a lot cheaper online.

    -Don’t lock to thin railings. If they’re modern ones use the thickest part and make sure it can’t be unbolted
    -A lot of bikes are stolen from gardens/yards/communal areas.
    -Lock to a proper stand in a good locations.
    -If locking to a signpost check that the bottom/top aren’t loose/easily removed.

    Get your bike marked by the Police. Sadly that’s all they do, they really should demonstrate decent locking methods with proper locks and teach people how to do it properly. The stickers they put on stands are often vague and show a cable lock which is easily defeated.

    DON’T use a cable lock on any part of your bike. It takes seconds to cut, then bang goes your wheel(s) and you’ve got an awkward journey home.

    DON’T use the ‘silver’ series Kryptonite locks. They’re very weak and I often see them lying on the street, defeated by just one cut. People buy them because they think that because it’s a Kryptonite it’s good, and its the cheapest brand-name D-lock in the shop. Avoid it.

    Again, as I said, it is not inevitable. Just spend a bit of money on some decent locks, be conscientious and careful and you’ll keep your bike. Had mine for 12 years.

  16. smorkey 31/08/2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Don’t use locks that have circular keys as they can be opened with a bic biro.

  17. Jon 02/09/2013 at 4:53 pm #

    Clas Ohlson sell a cable lock for £3.49

    Undoubtedly useless against theft, and yet I’ve seen bikes of obvious monetary and sentimental value locked with them. They seem to be very popular.


  18. GrahamS 03/09/2013 at 7:13 am #

    And don’t believe that Sold Secure Gold locks make your bike unstealable. They can be broken in seconds with the right tools:


  19. Ree 05/09/2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Soddit – my lovely white Brompton was stolen yesterday in Covent Garden. Double locked , each lock indepedently locked, the D lock looks like this: &. I had to leave it around the street furniture.
    My advice, just don’t ever leave your bike! If they want it, they’ll take it.

    • Dave 11/04/2014 at 9:21 am #

      Ree, you have my deepest sympathy. As another Brompton owner I know how much a part of your life it became.

  20. SteveP 05/09/2013 at 7:22 pm #

    What happened to the lock? Cut?

  21. Ree 06/09/2013 at 8:02 pm #

    Yep, the cable lock was cut right through. I’ll never recommend a cable because they serve no purpose what-so-ever. The D lock had been hacked at, to no avail, however, they used the frame against it levering the mechanism until it gave out. I couldn’t get it around the frame and the back wheel at the same time. I realise now that I should have just tried to get it through the back wheel, as then there is no leverage with the spokes and a theif would have to destroy the wheel, making it un-rideable, and there-fore a pointless theft.

  22. Liam 09/09/2013 at 8:22 pm #

    I recommend you tell Brompton about the theft as they keep a register on their website and anyone trying to buy it can check. Not everyone is scrupulous when buying a SH bike but it potentially makes life a little more difficult for the thieves.


  23. Bozidar 17/09/2013 at 12:14 pm #

    Cable locks are only useful as a secondary lock, except in a very low-risk environment. The only place where I feel safe leaving my bike with a cable lock is my son’s tennis club grounds. Apart from that, i blogged about lock essentials, and i suggest a combo of a U-lock and a cable lock for locking both wheels to the frame. You can read it here

  24. MJ Ray 03/10/2013 at 5:37 pm #

    So you’ve not actually got any hard evidence against the Metalock D – you’ve not broken it or got reports of people breaking it – it’s just that you think Bic-pen-scandal Kryptonite is a better name worth paying roughly four times as much for?

    I’ve prodded that Metalock D in a shop. The plastic dust cover on the lock feels a bit cheap and the frame holder isn’t worth the price of its plastic, but the lock itself seemed fairly sound.

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