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Where To A Put Bike Lock While Riding

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Millions of bicycles are stolen in the US and Europe each year.

A sad fact indeed, so it’s a good idea to carry a lock 🔐 when on the go.

Chain lock wrapped around a bike framePin

Trouble is, some locks are often cumbersome to carry.

I’m first going to talk about where I keep a lock while riding. Then I’ll talk about the main types of locks to ride with.

Whether it be commuting to work, grabbing groceries or out and about around town…

The Best Places To Keep Your Lock While Riding A Bike

There are a number of different ways to carry a lock whilst riding your bike.

Bike Mount Holder

Dedicated bike mount holders are ideal for rigid bike locks, as they hold them in one place without impeding your pedaling or unbalancing the bike in any way.

Attach a u-lock to the frame of your bicyclePin

Typically, lock holders go inside or adjacent to the “triangle” of the frame, so they’re not always ideal if you’re using this space for something else (e.g., drink bottles).

Mount holders are suitable for:

  • U-locks of all sizes
  • Folding locks

Around The Seatpost

A classic way to carry a bike lock is to wrap it around the seatpost multiple times.

This is convenient as long as you don’t have anything else fixed to it, like a rear light or cargo rack.

A chain lock and cable lock wrapped around seat post and rackPin
Here is my mike with a chain lock AND a cable lock wrapped around seat post and rear rack. Does the job!

For this method, the lock shouldn’t be either heavy or too long.

Seatposts are suitable for:

  • Cable locks
  • Light chain locks
  • Small U-lock

Around The Top Tube

cable lock wrapped around bicycle top tubePin
Yeah, yeah, so it’s a cheap cable lock, I get it! It’s just so handy for carrying around and locking short-term

An alternative to wrapping a lock around the seat post is to use the top tube instead.

💡 Pro Tip: It is better to use a thin lock around the top tube. A thick, heavy lock can interfere with your pedalling.

This doesn’t do much for aesthetics, but it works.

Ideally you want to avoid having a metal padlock knocking against the frame if you value the paintwork.

close up view of cable lock wrapped around bicycle top tube and rear brake cable
Pin
Keep the lock clear of any external brake cables. if you wrap too tight it can interfere with braking!

Top tubes are suitable for:

  • Cable locks
  • Chain locks
  • Zip tie locks

Around The Handlebar

You’d be unlikely to do this on a road bike, but on an MTB or hybrid it’s sometimes possible to wrap a lock around the handlebar.

bike cable lock wrapped around handlebarsPin
Looks messy, but I wrapped the cable around my handlebars here. Perfectly safe.

Ideally, it’s best not to do this if the lock is left dangling and in danger of snagging other bike components or unbalancing you.

Handlebars are suitable for:

  • Small chain locks
  • Cable locks
  • Zip tie locks

Bike Racks

Within reason, you can carry almost anything on a bike rack, so of course you can secure your lock to one as well.

A big lock might be strapped on top of the rack, or you might thread it around the rack if it’s flexible.

Naturally, you can also store a lock in a pannier or cargo bag, either to the side of a rack or on top of it.

Bike chain lock inside a pannier bagPin
Chain lock inside my Ortlieb backroller pannier bag.

Bike commuters will possibly be using panniers anyway, so this solution is ideal.

Bike racks are suitable for:

  • U-locks
  • Chain locks
  • Folding locks
  • Cable locks
  • Zip tie locks

In A Front Basket

If you have a front basket fitted to your handlebar, it’s perfect for carrying a small or flexible lock.

You’re probably not going to carry a hefty high-security lock this way, but it’s okay for quick chores where you’re never far from the bike.

Baskets are suitable for:

  • Cable locks
  • Small chain locks
  • Small U-locks
  • Folding locks
  • Zip-tie locks

Inside A Backpack

Backpacks are ideal for carrying all manner of locks, except for heavier varieties.

Bike chain lock inside a backpackPin
A chain lock inside my Osprey backpack.
Yes, I know it’s dirty inside, but I use this backpack for EVERYTHING.

It doesn’t make sense to bear the weight of a hefty chain lock or U-lock unnecessarily, particularly if you’re travelling any significant distance.

But it’s possible.

This is a solution that may well suit many commuters, many of whom carry stuff to work daily in a backpack.

Backpacks are suitable for:

  • U-locks
  • Chain locks
  • Folding locks
  • Cable locks
  • Zip tie locks

In A Pocket

Bicycle cable lock inside a hoodie pocketPin
Me with a light cable lock in my hoodie pocket

What could be more convenient than carrying a lock inside a jacket pocket or a deep jersey pocket?

The lock needs to be compact and light to make this practical, though.

Bike lock inside hip pocketPin
Hip pockets are totally fine for a light-ish lock. Careful it doesn’t fall out though.

If you’re on a quick, short trip – maybe popping out to a 7-Eleven or buying snacks at a bakery during a long commute. A pocket will suffice.

Pockets are suitable for:

  • Small chain locks
  • Cable locks
  • Small folding locks
  • Zip tie lock

Check out our guide on locking bikes without a rack, for those who get stuck for options of not having something to lock to!

Types Of Bike Locks You Can Carry

There are three main types of lock you can carry on your bike.

U-Locks (D-Locks)

This type of lock is named after its resemblance to the letter “U” or “D”.

U lock with white background with key inside the lockPin
U-locks are very strong. Pity they are so damn heavy!

U-locks are one of the securest ways you can lock a bike, though exactly how secure they are depends largely on the thickness of the shackle.

A 16mm shackle is extremely resistant to being cut by bolt croppers or bolt cutters (a favorite tool of opportunist bike thieves).

At this thickness, a U-lock is regarded as bolt-cropper-proof, though manufacturers often prefer to say “resistant.”

Another desirable feature in U-locks is the double deadbolt. This means the shackle locks into the crossbar in two places and is thus harder to break open, particularly by leverage.

💭 In My Opinion: Don’t get me wrong, U-locks are great locks.

What puts me off them are the fact that they are so heavy AND they aren’t that useable in different scenarios.

I like cable and chain locks for that very same reason – although they have their cons too.

A lock that is oversized or resting on the ground allows thieves more space to use and maneuver tools, which can be as basic as a hammer or crowbar.

You may need two U-locks if you have two quick-release wheels, unless you don’t mind resting the front of the bike on its forks (or have a way of protecting them).

Carrying one U-lock is bad enough!

Video: How NOT To Lock Your Bike

Chain Locks

The chief benefit of chain locks is their versatility.

You can lock your bike to a wide range of objects and wrap the chain around them multiple times to reduce accessibility.

Chain locks are typically made with hardened steel links.

Chain lock with protective coatingPin
This is my Kryptonite chain lock.
It has a protective red sheath which protects the chain from the elements, protects my bike frame and adds another layer of protection from theft.

They can’t be leveraged open like some U-locks and they’re hard to cut open even with bolt croppers or power tools. Of course, not all chain locks are equal.

Note that chain locks are inherently more vulnerable if you leave them dragging on the floor, as the thief can then use the ground to exert more power into bolt croppers.

💭 In My Opinion: The main disadvantage of chain locks is their inherent weight.

The heavier they are, the more effective they are.

A catch 22 situation!

U-Locks are appreciably lighter for the same level of security.

Like U-locks, a hardened chain lock is considered to be bolt-cutter-proof when the links are 16mm wide (each side).

However, this makes for a very heavy chain, similar to those seen around motorbike wheels.

Video: How To Lock Your Bike

Cable Locks

Cable locks have many benefits, including their light weight, portability and low cost. They are made with many thin strands of steel, often encased inside a plastic tube.

Because they’re so light, you can buy cable locks in quite long lengths, too, which makes them more versatile.

Of the three main locks, cable locks are by far the easiest to break.

cable lock on the groundPin
Here is my cable lock. I know it’s not the most secure, but it’s light and good for locking up my cheap bike for short periods.

Many of them don’t even need bolt cutters; a thief can cut them open using ordinary, highly concealable wire cutters ✂️

When you think about how cable locks are constructed, it’s hardly surprising that they’re easy to cut open.

You’re cutting thin strands of wire, as opposed to the thick chunks of metal found on U-locks and chains.

With the above in mind, you can only use a cable lock with any confidence if the bike is in your vision the whole time, like if you’re popping into a convenience store.

Even then, you’d be wise to lock up an expensive bike with something else.

Cable locks are less of a visual deterrent than thick chains or sturdy U-locks.

Combination Locks vs Key Padlocks

Cable locks commonly use a combination mechanism for locking and unlocking.

Close up of Combination bike lock when being usedPin
I like combination locks, but they aren’t the most secure of locks.

Thieves can open many combination locks using nothing more than a thin metal shim, which they use to detect the position of the notch in each rotating disc.

It’s also possible to open such locks by hand, merely by feeling resistance in the discs.

🗝🔒 Keyed padlocks are more secure than combination locks.

Any Other Lock Types?

Besides the main three types of bike lock, you can also buy folding locks.

These are more portable than U-locks, lighter than chains, and generally more secure than cable locks.

Folding Locks

Folding locks do not offer the same level of security as the better chains or U-locks.

However, because they tend to be thinner and introduce more ways to be broken open (e.g., by drilling or shearing rivets).

Zip-Tie Locks

Zip-tie locks with steel cores and combination mechanisms are also available.

HipLok Z lokPin
If you’re only locking for a really short period of time. zip tie locks are ok. This is one from HipLok.

These are okay for a minute or two if you’re within constant sight of your bike, preferably if it’s also locked by another lock.

💭 In My Opinion: Zip-tie locks are fine for “coffee shop” rides, when you pop in for coffee, but you are always within site of your bike.

It stops a would-be thief from just riding off with your bike.

Better than nothing!

Where to put a bike lock while riding - Pinterest image sharePin
Mark Whitley
Article By:
Mark is the founder of BikePush, a bicycle commuting website. When he's not working on BikePush, you can find him out riding.

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