Should I lock my front or back bike wheel? And other questions, answered. Should I lock my front or back bike wheel? And other questions, answered.

Should I lock my front or back bike wheel? And other questions, answered.

Most cyclists I know have had their bike stolen. Stolen from a college campus, an apartment basement, a front porch, the list goes on. The worst was a bike stolen during a job interview. They didn’t get the job, and they never found their bike.

Bike locks don’t completely prevent bike theft. A determined thief, with the right tools and enough time, can defeat nearly any lock. But securing your bike properly, with a quality bike lock, can deter and reduce the chance of theft, according to our experts.

To find the best bike locks, we spoke with experts across the biking industry to better understand different types of locks, bike theft, bike storage and more. Plus, I tried top-rated options for months on my two bikes in the Tri-State area.

SKIP AHEAD Staff-favorite bike locks in 2024 | How to lock and secure your bike

What are the different kinds of bike locks?

There are four main types of bike locks: u-locks, folding locks, chain locks and cable locks.

  • U-lock: A thick, u-shaped metal shackle that slots into a metal crossbar and unlocks with a key. U-locks are convenient and easy to carry in a bag or on your bike, says Chris Nolte, founder of ebike shop Propel Bikes. They offer a good balance of security and convenience, according to our experts.
  • Folding lock: A series of flat steel plates connected by rivets, typically locked and unlocked with a key. This lock is easy to fold into a compact shape for transit. One of the most convenient kinds of lock, in my experience.
  • Chain lock: What it sounds like: a metal chain with a locking mechanism, usually involving a key. The ends of the chain are connected with a deadbolt or miniature u-lock. Chain locks are very versatile, but can be a challenge to transport, as they can be large and unwieldy, says Nolte.
  • Cable lock: Lightweight, flexible cable made of metal cords, typically wrapped in soft rubber or plastic. Unlocked with a key or number pad built into the cable. Cable locks are lightweight and very easy to carry. They are easy to cut through using bolt cutters, a tool commonly used by bike thieves, according to experts. If you live in a dense urban city, I would not recommend using a cable lock as your primary lock.

How we picked the best bike locks

We spoke with bike industry experts who helped us identify what to look for when buying and using a bike lock. Based on their guidance, we selected locks by keeping the following in mind: 

  • Variety: Our experts recommend different types of locks depending on your needs. Whether you’re based in a major metropolitan area or tend to bike in more off-road settings, we included a variety of locks in our recommendations.
  • Independent certifications: Bike lock manufacturers often create their own scale or rating system to explain how tough their locks are. Instead of taking their word at face value, we picked locks that have been independently tested and certified by organizations like the UK’s Sold Secure and the Netherlands’ Art Foundation.
  • Price: Bike locks can cost anywhere from $10 to $350. We selected locks across a range of price points, but our favorites were around $100.

Staff-favorite bike locks in 2024

Our favorite bike locks came from large lock manufacturers like Kryptonite and Hiplok. We list specs like weight, shackle thickness and independent certification ratings below each recommendation. We also discuss how easy each lock is to carry or mount to a bike’s interior triangle: the empty, triangular space in the center of the bike most often used to mount gear.

Best U-lock: Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 U-Lock with Cable

This high security rating u-lock costs under $100 and comes with a cable lock you can use to more easily secure your front or back wheel.

I received it from the brand to get hands-on experience, and used it to lock my commuter bike. I used the u-lock to secure my frame and the cable to lock down my front wheel. I rode around locking my bike to racks and parking meters. I also used this lock to secure my bike for overnight storage (along with a bike cover).

Locking and unlocking is easy: both shackles slid in and out of the crossbar smoothly, and the keys never jammed. I especially like that the keyhole has a sliding plastic cover that keeps out dust and debris.

This lock mounted easily on my hybrid bike, but proved more difficult for my gravel bike, which has a thicker frame and a smaller interior triangle. Depending on your bike, mounting this lock may take space away from accessories like bottle cages. 

Weight: 3.55 lbs | Shackle thickness: 13mm | Sold Secure rating: Gold | Art rating: 2 stars | # of keys included: 3, one with built-in light | Mounting hardware: Included

Best folding lock: Foldylock Compact

This folding lock lives on my gravel bike. I’ve used it for years to lock up at cafes and rest stops in the suburbs and towns outside New York City. It’s flexible enough to wrap around my bike frame, rear wheel and most fixtures, such as bike racks or parking meters.

I love this lock because it is lightweight, compact and has great mounting hardware. My gravel bike does not have much interior triangle space, but this lock is compact enough to fit in-line alongside my bottle cage and frame bag. It comes with a hard plastic mounting case, two mounting screws and two plastic mounting ties. I have mine screwed into threaded mounting points on my seat tube — it never rattles, even on gravel descents.

Weight: 2.2 lbs | Shackle thickness: 5mm | Sold Secure rating: Silver | Art rating: N/A | # of keys included: 3 |  Mounting hardware: Included

Best chain lock: Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Chain 1415

I have tried and enjoyed the Kryptonite New York 1213 chain, but it appears to be less widely available than the brand’s other, similar heavy-duty chains, like the New York Fahgettaboudit Chain 1415 above.

The 1415 is five feet long, more than long enough to secure your bike frame and wheels to most fixtures. Its chain links are thicker than many u-locks, making them more time-consuming for would-be thieves to cut through. The chain locks together with a heavy, miniature u-lock that works just like the brand’s full-sized u-locks.

Because it’s so heavy (over 15 pounds), I recommend using this lock for long-term storage or overnight parking, leaving it in your preferred parking spot and taking a smaller lock on the road with you. Carrying a heavy chain lock while biking can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, according to our experts.

Weight: 15.25 lbs | Shackle thickness: 14mm | Sold Secure rating: Diamond | Art rating: N/A | # of keys included: 3, one with built-in light | Mounting hardware: N/A

Toughest to cut: Hiplok D1000 U-lock

No lock is impenetrable. But heavy-duty locks like this one are some of the toughest on the market, according to our experts. The D1000 has the highest Sold Secure and Art rating of all of our recommendations, but doesn’t weigh much more than a typical u-lock.

The D1000 is made of hardened steel reinforced with graphene, making it more resistant to portable angle-grinders, one of the most powerful tools bike thieves utilize, according to the brand.

It is smaller than many u-locks — some customers report that it is too small to easily secure large cargo bikes with thicker frames to some fixtures. D1000 mounting hardware is sold separately.

Weight: 3.97 lbs | Shackle thickness: 20mm | Sold Secure rating: Diamond | Art rating: 4 stars | # of keys included: 3 | Mounting hardware: Not included

How to lock and secure your bike

You can have the best bike lock on the market, but if you don’t use it correctly, it is about as good as wishful thinking. All of our experts spoke at length about the importance of proper locking technique. Below is some of their key advice:

Lock your frame first, wheels second

Always make sure that you lock your bike’s frame to a steady fixture. Your bike frame is generally the most valuable part of your bike, says Nolte. If a thief can take your frame, they can walk away with everything on your frame too.

If you can, lock both your frame and your front wheel. The front wheel is one of the easiest things for a thief to steal, according to our experts. Depending on how big your bike is and what you are locking to, you may be able to lock your frame and front wheel with the same lock. If not, you can supplement a u-lock with a cable add-on, or carry two locks with you.

The frame and the front wheel are the two pieces our experts highlighted most. After those two, the rear wheel and seat post are worth considering. Long chain locks can often secure the frame, front wheel and rear wheel at the same time. For your seat post, consider a supplemental cable lock or cable add-on.

Park smartly

It’s best to lock your bike in a well-lit, well-trafficked area in public view, says Alison Dewey, the director of education at the League of American Bicyclists. Be sure to lock it to something immovable — do not lock it to something like a patio chair or sandwich board sign. Inverted U bike racks are one of the best places to park, and let you more easily lock both your frame and front wheel with one lock, says Dewey.

Lock your bike in plain sight. If you are going into a coffee shop or deli, lock it somewhere where you will be able to see it from inside the store, if possible.

For commuters, Nolte and Neile Weissman, the public relations director at New York Cycle Club, recommend bringing your bike inside, when possible. If your workplace does not accommodate bikes, some parking garages have bike storage options, usually for a monthly fee, says Nolte — see if there is one near your workplace.

Take accessories with you

Anything that is easy to take on and off your bike, think GPS units, bike lights, water bottles and saddlebags, is easy to steal. After locking your bike, be sure to take these kinds of accessories with you as you go, says Dewey.

Carry your lock on your bike, not your body

Large chain locks and u-locks don’t always come with mounting hardware, and can be uncomfortable to carry while biking. But you should avoid wearing your bike lock on your body, says Weissman. If you crash and fall, the hard metal bike lock may sandwich between your body and the ground, leading to a worse injury. 

Also, wearing a u-lock or chain lock isn’t very comfortable, and can get your clothes dirty, in my experience.

Most u-locks and folding locks thankfully come with mounting hardware that makes it easy to affix them to your bike’s frame. For chain locks, consider riding with a backpack, frame bag or pannier. You can also wrap small chain locks around your seat post or handlebars in a pinch, just be sure it doesn’t interfere with moving parts like pedals, gears and brakes.

Meet our experts

At NBC Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and without undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Chris Nolte is the founder and owner of Propel Bikes, an ebike retailer with locations in New York, California and Delaware. He founded the company in 2011 with an emphasis on ebike education.
  • Alison Dewey is the director of education at the League of American Bicyclists, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to creating safer roads and stronger communities for bikers in America.
  • Neile Weissman is the public relations director at New York Cycle Club, one of the biggest cycling organizations in New York City.

Why trust NBC Select?

Harry Rabinowitz is a reporter at NBC Select who covers technology and fitness including guides to cycling shoes, fitness trackers and workout headphones. To better understand different types of bike locks, he spoke with biking industry experts. A cyclist himself, he also tried top-rated bike locks with his two bikes.

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.



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