Avoiding the Bicycle Thief
The best locks to protect your wheels.
Despite their tough looks, I slayed the Gorgon and the Akita with both the hacksaw and the bolt cutters. Note that these locks have zero theft protection, which shows how little faith their makers have in them. Although they represent some of the thickest cable locks on the market, they didn't stand a chance. "Cable locks are a surefire way to get your bike stolen in the city," the manager of my neighborhood bike shop, City Bikes, told me. Spend your $40 on something else.
Portability/Ease of Use: 5
Portability/Ease of Use: 5
Master Lock Force 3 STD U-lock, $29.99 Pertinent Thickness: 13 mm Weight: 2.2 pounds Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $1,000 for one year
The Force 3 got a perfect 10 for portability because the included mounting bracket works great and is built to last—it's much, much sturdier than those supplied with the other brands' U-locks. (Note to Kryptonite and OnGuard: Please go back to this old-school design! It works!) But security-wise, it can't be depended upon: Of the three $30 U-locks, the Force 3 performed the worst. The metal in the shackle (the "U") is of low quality and the locking mechanism in the crossbar broke off quickly and easily. All U-locks are not created equal.
Portability/Ease of Use: 10
Kryptonite KryptoLok STD U-lock, $29.99 Pertinent Thickness: 13 mm Weight: 2 pounds Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $0
The Kryptonite KryptoLok showed some heart, but with the right tool even Lois Lane could bust it. It took me less than a minute to break through, since the steel in the shackle is so soft and vulnerable. The included mounting bracket is flimsy plastic junk: One of the "EZ Mount Brackets" broke when I was putting it on, resulting in a two-point portability deduction.
Portability/Ease of Use: 8
OnGuard Bulldog STD U-lock, $29.99 Pertinent Thickness: 13 mm Shackle Weight: 2.4 pounds Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $1,251 for one year
I neutered the Bulldog with relative ease, but its failure may have been a fluke. The manager at City Bikes tried the same breaking technique on two other Bulldogs, and both took the punishment without busting. And while my hopes were high for the sturdy-looking OnGuard mounting bracket, the City Bikes staff assured me it would eventually snap off. In fact, just as they said this, a customer entered with a broken OnGuard mount asking for a replacement—1.5 points off portability. (All warrantied OnGuard locks also lost one bonus point for value because bikes stolen in New York state, and bikes jacked with power tools, aren't covered by their warranty, nor are bikes swiped from bike messengers or deliverymen.)
Scott Elder is a freelance writer in Washington, D.C.