Bike Lock Buying Guide
by Vinay Choubey [January 29, 2007]
A bicycle lock is a physical security device used on bicycles to prevent theft. They are generally used to fasten the bicycle to a bicycle rack or any immovable object. Bike locks are a safe and inexpensive solution to the safety and security of your bike when you ride to work or school. Even if you don't commute a bike lock can be handy for stops while taking rides.
One important thing to consider when choosing a bike lock is who will most likely steal your bike. On a busy college campus, for example, thefts are often crimes of convenience when someone spots a bike that hasn't been locked at all. However, if you ride your bike around an urban center for commuting, people might have specialized equipment such as crowbars, lock-picks and hacksaws that are no match for weaker locks. Leaving your bike in the same public place for hours at a time, as opposed to a few minutes while you rent a DVD, gives someone even more time to take advantage of your lock's particular weakness.
You'll want the best possible bike lock you can afford, since its cost is always less than that of replacing a stolen bicycle. Most people recommend spending about 10% of the value of your bike on its lock. If your bicycle is very precious or expensive, try a combination of several locks when leaving your bike in an unfamiliar area or for an extended period of time.
Buy a lock or chain of tool-hardened steel. This means that cutting, sawing and drilling tools will be meeting metal of the same hardness, and will not penetrate it as they would ordinary steels. Cheap locks use a brittle steel that can be broken by a car jack. Look for a flexible, shatterproof steel which will yield, rather than break, under stress.
* Consider a U-lock. These are the most popular. However, not all U-locks are created equal. Be sure to read the guarantee that comes with the lock. Also, buy the smallest possible U-lock for your needs - this will allow less room for a thief to some leverage for his or her crowbar or other tools.
* Consider a cable lock. These are the easiest for a thief to cut but are also the most flexible and inexpensive.
* Consider a motorcycle lock. These are very sturdy chain-link-type locks that are nearly impossible to cut through. However, they are extremely heavy.
* Consider a key lock. Key locks are generally harder to break than combination locks.
* O-Locks offer the best protection for your bike. A few manufacturers are marketing them; Bike Club and Masterlock are two that come to mind, but not all bicycle shops carry them. Ask around. The adjustability makes them great for snugly securing the frame and a front wheel to a bike rack. This helps prevent thieves from getting a prying device into the lock. Their locking mechanisms are also difficult to pick.
The bike lock mechanism is composed of two different parts: a structure that fastens your bike to itself or to a stationary railing and the lock itself, both of which have strengths and weaknesses. Some bike locks use combinations, like lockers. While combinations seem secure because they aren't easy to guess, these kinds of locks are usually strapped to a thin metal chain that is easy to clip apart with bolt cutters. Then again, you don't have to worry about losing a key if you are prone to forgetfulness, and they are lightweight enough to carry everywhere. Combination locks will work as a visual deterrent against people looking for an easy theft.
Good locks will guarantee your bike against theft up to a specified value. As home insurance policies generally does not apply to stolen bikes worth more than INR 23000 or so, this is an important feature
For many people, weight is an important consideration when selecting a bike lock. Whether you're training in mountain biking, cross-country marathons, or just visiting a friend, the last thing you want is a twenty-pound weight strapped around your frame slowing you down. There isn't a precise correlation between weight and strength, however. A special steel, called tool-hardened steel, will at least be as strong as many saws and cutters without being overly heavy.
Some manufacturers offer a warranty along with their lock that may partially reimburse you should your bike disappear. Of course, nothing is absolute. Recently, it came to the attention of concerned bike riders that some types of very secure locks can in fact be opened with the plastic shaft from an ordinary pen. Keep in mind that while every bike lock has its weakness, there are many issues to consider when buying the right one for your bike.
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