You love your bicycle, you often take it with you wherever you go. Sometimes however, you need to part with it and park it in a busy place outside. You are either in a University campus, or a busy metro station, and you can’t take your bike beyond a certain point. You lock it to a particular place and then come back only to find that your lock is jammed. You try desperate means to break into your lock but to no avail. What’s the next step? Calling a bicycle locksmith?
Maybe it may not be so intuitive for you, but locksmiths aren’t just there for your homes, cars, and businesses. If you are one of the 800,000 plus commuters biking to work, this will sound like a huge relief. But it’s not just workers, but students and recreational bikers that can get into troubling lockout situations. Bicycle locksmiths understand the unique nature of bicycle locks, and lockout situations. They also know how for students, and regular commuters, a bike lockout can be equally as bad as an automotive lockout.
At Locksmith for NYC, we pride ourselves as being one of the few locksmith companies in the NYC region, with services in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island, that have bicycle locksmiths in their team.
Now, you may find yourself in a busy cafe in the downtown of any city. You think that you have secured your bike along with a couple of others that you see in sight in the back alleyway. ‘Worry’ is not in your vocabulary that day as you see other bikes parked there. Your 5 minute break that you intended, turns into a 15 minute one, as you love the interior of the fancy coffee shop. While your eyes are distracted by the dazzle of city lights, and traffic of all types of commuters outside the coffee shop, the bike thief has a laser focus on one thing. He just likes the look of your bike, sees a vulnerable lock, and the place where it is parked (out of sight of most people) and he pounces on a wonderful opportunity.
You come outside, only to see your only means of transportation gone. A cab ride from the busy downtown to your home is very expensive, but you have to reluctantly take it. Instead of feeling sorry, this can be utilized as a lesson in better investment in a bike lock.
A problem bigger than your bike lock malfunctioning is generally having your bike stolen. In most cases, the problem is in the choice of the lock used. Bike thefts are unfortunately very common, and most bike thieves need as little as 5 minutes to get the job done! Unlike residential break ins, or thieves prying into your car, bicycle locksmiths have multiple weak links to work with. They can try to pick your lock, or simply cut into them. Most cheap bike locks, and lightweight locks are very easy to compromise. Bike thieves are just opportunists. They don’t need the cover of dark, or be professional lock picks. That’s what makes them a threat. Also, it is quite unlikely that your bike thief may be caught. They can and will just as easily sell off your bike to someone at a throw away price and enjoy the profits.
If you own a bike and use an un-secure lock, you are as guilty as the guy that has no anti-virus software complaining about a virus or malware on their computer!
Types of bike locks: In general there are 4 types of locks most commonly used in securing bikes.
The hardened steel of U Locks presents a clear barrier to entry for most amateur lock thieves. They are truly designed with security in mind. They require power tools to cut through. In most cases bike thieves will try to pick these locks.
- Folding Locks:
Folding locks are seen as alternatives to carrying the heavy U-locks. They can be folded up when being carried, and are designed for portability and ergonomic needs in mind. Folding locks are highly popular for those always on the go, and need to stop at multiple points. Think of UberEats bike delivery.
- Chain Locks:
Chain locks are what usually come to mind when we think of bicycle locks. Chain locks with longer chains have the advantage of being locked to anything with a bigger diameter (think of a thick tree trunk), and/or allows you to lock up both your wheels and frame together. A strong chain and equally strong shackle can make these locks as secure as U-Locks. The difficulty in carrying these chains can be overcome by ergonomic designs by certain brands that allow you to carry these chains on your waist.
- Lightweight locks:
Before using these locks, please note that you are taking a bit of a risk while using them. Though good for short trips like going to a store, or a cafe, make sure that when using these locks, your bike should be visible to you at all times. Or, keep sure to check on it every 5 minutes.
Now, these lightweight locks can sometimes be so flimsy that they will be taken out by a pair of pliers, and thieves with heavier tools can surely cut into them easily. Their only advantage is their lightweight and portability. So, definitely not recommended to rely on them for leaving your bike overnight on a university campus. You may have to walk back!
Locking mechanisms: Bike locks come in 4 types of locking mechanisms. They all offer varying levels of security. The price tag of locks also gives a hint to the type of locking mechanism they use.
- Disc Detainer: They are often called disc tumbler locks and consist of slotted rotating discs separated by washers. They were originally patented by Abloy and are considered very secure, and harder to pick than most locks. They are popular for bicycle locks because they don’t contain springs and can be manufactured to low tolerances. Both ideal for bike locks to last long.
- Slider: These locks are designed to be high or low security, depending on their construction and number of sliders. Slider locks are one of those locks that were clearly designed for bikes, even if the initial reason was not for that purpose. They have usually found a lot of service with high security lock companies like Abba. They are often used to secure casino locks! The design employs springless sliders on both sides of the lock, and each of these sliders has a ‘gate’ that allows a sidebar to enter them. Keys for such type of locks make sure that the sliders are raised to a particular height via the sidebar that they activate.
- Pin Tumbler: This is the most traditional lock. You may be very familiar and most likely using this type of lock for your house. In this locking mechanism, a plug sits inside a cylindrical case which contains a series of spring loaded pins. The key is grooved to mimic the pins on the lock exactly and match them to unlock or lock the pin tumbler lock. However, pin tumbler locks are also the easiest to pick.
- Wafer: Wafer locks are similar to pin tumbler locks. They use flat, rectangular ‘wafers’ that are also spring loaded. These wafers replace the pins of the pin tumbler lock. The rest of the mechanism is the same, where the grooves on the key correspond to the wafers. This design is the least secure!
When choosing the right bicycle locks it is important to have the most secure locking mechanism, and a strong enough lock frame that cannot be easily broken through. According to our research, the most secure models are U-Locks that utilize Disc Detainer locking mechanisms. They are hard to break, and even harder to be picked.
One of the best brands that fits both bills is the Kryptonite New York Lock. It offers a longer mount option, is very secure and ergonomically designed. It can be mounted on your bike, so you don’t have to carry it. Other good models, that are less secure but almost as good include the Brute series, by OnGuard Locks.
Folding locks can also be a great alternative to U-Locks, for example the Abus Bordo Granite. Their only weak link is that the rivets on these folding locks have a vulnerability. They can be easily broken by even the right pocket sized tools!
If you fancy a good chain lock that is hard to break into, the On Guard Mastiff comes closest to the security offered by a U-Lock.