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Cycling locks tested until breaking point

28 Jun 2016

We put seven common bike locks through their paces with some bolt croppers and an angle grinder to see what's toughest.

Sadly, you can’t always keep your bike with you. So on those occasions when you’re not there to keep an eye on it, make sure you leave it in good company – ideally secure in the custody of a seriously tough lock. It's not an area to scrimp on, so we’ve rounded up a selection of the toughest and most innovative shackles around. Most of them have been independently rated by Sold Secure, an organisation originally set up by the Police and Home Office, but now administered by the Association of Master Locksmiths. They test locks for the insurance industry and provide a rating of either Gold, Silver or Bronze, depending on their ability to withstand attack. However, taking their word for it would be no fun, so instead Cyclist busted out the powertools and got medieval on their collective metal asses, to find out which one would come out on top. 

Here are the strongest bike locks on the market

Hiplok GOLD All Black

Bolt Croppers: Survived 

Angle Grinder: 1 min 52 seconds

What the makers say: A convenient way to carry the highest security lock without the need for a bag, the Hiplok Gold is the ultimate in wearable cycle security. Featuring a patented adjustable design to fit the rider’s waist without being locked to them. 

What we say: Carbon frames hate having things like lock mounts bolted onto them. And people in general dislike spoiling the lines of their bike with ugly brackets. Picking up a trend started by couriers, the Hiplok combines a heavy duty chain with an easily adjustable buckle to fit it around your waist. Despite its heft, it’s surprisingly comfy to wear.

Bolt croppers left little more than a dent. Moving onto the grinder, the double-locking design of the padlock means the quickest way through is to ignore it and instead chop both sides of a chain link. While the first cut went through quickly, moving to get purchase on the other side bumped the overall time to just south of two minutes. Keeping the chain in place while cutting is also tricky, increasing the likelihood of the thief accidentally lopping off their own digits in the process.     


Kryptonite New York Long Shackle

Bolt Croppers: Survived

Angle Grinder: 2 min 34 seconds 

What the makers say: Maximum-security long-shackle U-lock for high-theft areas. Extra thick 16 mm case-hardened Kryptonium steel shackle resists cutters and leverage attacks while its cross bar is shielded by a hardened Kryptonium steel sleeve in a double locking design for increased security.

What we say: A seriously beefy lock with an extra long shackle, and heavy enough to come without a bracket. The extra length makes it perfect for securing both wheels once the front has been removed. Despite our best efforts our croppers got nowhere so we switched to the grinder, which took over a minute to work its way through. Once cut, there’s a fair amount of movement in the lock, so depending on how you’ve packed the internal space it might be necessary for the would-be thief to chop it again. We found we had to and this helped extend the time it held out to over two and a half minutes    


Abus Steel-o-Flex 1000/100 Granit

Bolt Croppers:  6mins 5 sec

Angle Grinder: 30 seconds

What the makers say: A firm favourite in high crime areas, every area of the Granit 1000’s construction has been specifically hardened, making it enormously resistant to all forms of attack. Amazingly flexible for such a tough lock, its Abus Plus key mechanism has over 250,000 key combinations. 

What we say: Popular with couriers who wear it around their waist, the Steel-o-flex is billed as a tough, yet flexible option. Its shielded cable design sees a series of articulated links protecting an internal braided cable. Its length makes it ideal for securing multiple items. Unfortunately, our cutters instantly took a serious bite out of the cable, crushing it flat and pretty much writing it off. A lot more chomping was required to get through the last threads but that’s partly thanks to our ropey cutters. Our grinder zipped through, with minimal resistance.  


Oxford Alarm-D Mini

Bolt Croppers: Survived

Angle Grinder: 58 seconds 

What the makers say: Constructed from quality materials to provide superior protection. The weatherproof alarm is powered by a long life lithium battery and has an output of 120dB, which is at a similar level to the chainsaw  or the siren on a fire engine. 

What we say: This clever lock packs in an alarm that once armed will emit a warning yelp if anyone tries to move it. If they persist, it’ll let out a sustained and piercing wail. It’s pretty sensitive although once in place is unlikely to be activated accidentally. Given the Silver rating, we had hopes of getting into it with the cutter, but after five frustrating minutes all we managed was a slight dent. Once we started, the alarm did indeed start howling, which would make it very uncomfortable for a thief, although the grinder was loud enough to drown it out. It went through without much delay and we were away with the bike in under a minute. 


Abus Bordo 6500 Granit X-Plus

Bolt Croppers: 51 seconds

Angle Grinder: 28 seconds

What the makers say: Manufactured with 5.5mm hardened steel links, the Bordo folding lock will resist the most brutal attacks. At 85cm long, its concertina-style construction offers a multitude of fixing possibilities to lamp posts or other fixed objects. Complete with sleek rubberised pouch to allow fixing anywhere on your frame.

What we say: The Bordo is a unique lock. On the bike it takes up minimum room, fitting into a compact pouch that you can attach to your frame’s bottle bosses. However, once unfolded its flexible links make attaching it to outsize objects easy. Unfortunately, despite its Gold rating, our bolt croppers made short work of it, while its flexible design meant that once severed it takes little time to extricate from the bike. We tested another link with the grinder, which severed it in even quicker time.


Hiplok DX Orange

Bolt Croppers: Survived 

Angle Grinder: 1 min 57 seconds 

What the makers say: The ultimate D-lock design built to the strongest standard. This Sold Secure Gold-rated D-lock features our unique CLIP + RIDE system so that it can be easily carried on bag straps and belts, no bag or bracket required.

What we say: Another lock designed to be worn on a belt or bag strap or otherwise chucked in a holdall. When wearing the lock, a pair of hooks built into the back of the body securely clip it into place, without adding significantly to the overall size. The DX’s compact reach is best suited to skinny framed road bikes and proper bike stands as it’ll struggle to fit around anything beefier. It’s probably shallow to be impressed by how nice it looks but we were. It’s functional too, coming with three coded (and therefore replaceable) keys. Well priced for a Gold-rated lock, we got precisely nowhere with the croppers so switched to the grinder. Due to the small size of the shackle and its double-locking mechanism, it’s difficult to extricate the bike with a single cut, meaning it’ll need cutting in two places as long as you ensure you’ve filled its internal space.     


Abus Granit X-Plus 540

Bolt Croppers: Survived

Angle Grinder: 2 min 51 seconds 

What the makers say: The parabolic 13mm square section shackle is massively resistant to cropping and twisting, while a twin locking mechanism offers the highest protection against hitting and pulling attacks. The automatic keyhole cover allows ease of use while offering protection against dirt and corrosion.

What we say: The Abus lock and bracket certainly have the feel of being quality items, something borne out by our testing. Our oversize cutters failed to put even a scratch in this brute. This is partly due to the unique square profile that makes getting purchase very difficult. Switching to the grinder, a sustained attack saw the lock cut in a little over a minute. However, the dual locking mechanism and rigid fixing of the shackle to the crossbar means that in most cases the lock will have to be cut in two separate locations, more than doubling the time needed. Impressive stuff.     



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