Buying Guide
By Jeremy Berger
on 8.15.13

Cities are graveyards for stolen bikes, with bent wheels and ragged frames hanging off anything nailed to the ground. Remains. The air is thick with the ghosts of bikes that were stolen completely — Fujis, Treks, Surlys. You can almost hear their cute little bells chirping. Estimates for stolen bikes in the U.S. between one and two million per year, and they’re difficult to get back because most people don’t write down serial numbers or register their bikes — and bike theft isn’t exactly law enforcement’s number one priority. The good news is that with a serious lock, proper locking technique and the good sense to take the darn thing inside at night, we’ll all meet again in the bike lane when the sun rises tomorrow.

PROTECTION FOR EVERYTHING: Best Motorcycle Boots | Sunglasses for Driving | Most Rugged Hard Drives

Blackburn San Quentin

Blackburn-San-Quentin-Gear-Patrol

Most Innovative Shackle: Blackburn makes a variety of bike accoutrements, from bags and multi-tools to saddles and lights. The San Quentin U-Lock is their meatiest lock that isn’t a chain, and its selling point is a hexagonal alloy steel shackle (to prevent the shackle from spinning) with an anti-scratch liner (to prevent said shackle from scuffing) and a dual-bolt lock mechanism. The San Quentin comes with a theft-replacement guarantee of $4,000.

Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Mini

Kryptonite-New-York-Fahgettaboudit-Mini-Gear-Patrol

Best U-Lock: With its yellow and black vinyl coating, the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Mini is as ubiquitous as it is battle-ready. The 18mm hardened steel shackle and oversized steel sleeve covering the crossbar are designed to thwart bolt cutters, and the small size makes prying with a lever downright tricky. Pair it with a secondary cable. The Fahgettaboudit comes with a theft-replacement guarantee of $4,500.

Kryptonite KryptoFlex Double Loop Cable

Kryptonite-KryptoFlex-Double-Loop-Cable-Gear-Patrol

Best Accessory to a Lock: Though not meant to be used solo, the KryptoFlex cable gives added security to a bike already socked in with a U-lock. Just lace the 10mm braided steel cable onto the shackle and around anything else that a thief might want, like wheels, baskets and Rolex Submariners. On second thought, don’t leave your watch with your bike.

Master Lock Street Cuffs

Masterlock-Street-Cuffs-Gear-Patrol

Best Handcuff-Inspired Lock: Though the main deterrent of the Street Cuffs maybe be the hope that thieves will be frightened by the mere sight of handcuffs, these are also pretty tough thanks to hardened laminated steel and a pivoting link that makes them extremely difficult to break with a lever. While the portability of the Street Cuffs is a definite plus, the small size also means they only lock from frame to anchor of choice — nice for grabbing take-out, but maybe not enough for an overnight. The Cuffs come with a theft-replacement guarantee of $3,500.

Abus Bordo Granit X Plus 6500

Abus-Folding-Lock-Gear-Patrol

Best Folding Lock: German security company Abus is very interested in keeping thieves away from your goods: they make alarm systems, video surveillance, even fire extinguishers. Plus, they’re German. So you can probably trust them with a bike, right? The Bordo Granit X Plus 6500 will cost a pretty penny, but it’s their maximum security lock, complete with a portable design of folding 5.5mm hardened steel bars with a soft coating to prevent nicks and scratches.

On Guard Beast Chain with X4 Padlock

On-Guard-Beast-Chain-Lock-Gear-Patrol

Editor’s Pick: When it comes down to it, the best protection you can get for your steed is a massive chain. The Beast is one such chain, made of 14mm link titanium reinforced chain coupled with a short shackle u-lock. Also suitable for powersports and post-apocalypse street war. The Beast comes with a theft-replacement guarantee of $5,000.

TiGr Lock

Tigr-Lock-Gear-Patrol

Best Looking Lock: You’ve already invested in a beautiful piece of machinery and you’re not about to kill the look — sound like you? Consider the TiGr lock, which looks like an avant-garde pair of tongs but is actually a titanium bow covered in clear PVC that, in it’s longer iterations, can lock around a bike frame and both wheels. The TiGr began as a Kickstarter, so you can thank crowd-funding for this beauty.

Knog Strongman

Knog-Strongman-Gear-Patrol

Funkiest Lock: Australia-based Knog makes a range of design-forward bike products, including lights, computers and bags. Their toughest lock is the Strongman, a U-lock-style 13mm hardened steel shackle with a silicone outer that won’t scratch up your bike (we can’t say the same for the strong man trying to pinch it). Bonus: it really dresses up an otherwise dull street sign or bike rack.

Pitlock

Pitlock-Gear-Patrol

Best Skewer Lock: The second product of German engineering on this list, Pitlock makes what is arguably the best system of locks for wheels, seats, top caps and disc brake calipers. The skewers lock with a coded nut recessed in a free-rotating housing, which means thieves armed with pliers and vice-grips will just be flummoxed. Between a U-lock and the Pitlock, you may not even be able to unlock your bike.

Spybike

Spybike-Gear-Patrol

Best Lock Alternative: Want added protection, or like the idea of having your bike stolen and then tracking down the thief for some vigilante justice? We don’t advocate the latter, but the tool to do it is Spybike, a GPS tracker that looks like a typical topcap. If the device is armed and detects movement, it’ll alert the owner via text, at which point you can pull up a map on the phone or computer and start tracking. Also a fun way to keep tabs on your friends.

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limits-promo-logoThis article is part of a new original series, LIMITS, dedicated to exploring the physical and mental borderlands of human capability. And beyond.