Bicycle locks aren’t the most exciting of topics, but neither is walking home with what is left of your lock. They’re the first line of defence against bike thieves, but they’re also a minefield when it comes to figuring out how much of a defence they are going to be.
Enter, Sold Secure, a group administered by the Master Locksmith’s Association. They have been rating bike locks since 1992 and have maintained their Gold, Silver and Bronze ratings for bike locks…until about 2020.
This one goes to eleven
For a long time Sold Secure Gold was the pinnacle where bike locks were concerned. However, with every manufacturer aiming for gold the space was getting a little crowded. Not every gold rated lock is created equally, so another level was needed to differentiate between the good and the very good. The levels and how they’re described by Sold Secure (in italics) is as follows:
“Offering theft resistance against a basic tool list (aimed at preventing opportunist crime)”
These ones will be fine for running into the local shop to get a few bits and pieces, but not one for leaving your bike all day. You’ll want something stronger. A bronze lock may well be a chain and padlock like the Hiplok Lite or a thin D-lock, but you probably won’t see bronze-rated cable locks…because cable locks are almost useless.
“Offering theft resistance against an enhanced tool list (aimed at preventing more determined attacks)”
The orange Kryptonite locks tend to be silver-rated and aren’t bad, but still no match for a skilled thief with the right tools. They tend to be a little heavier than a bronze-rated lock.
“Offering theft resistance against a dedicated tool list (aimed at preventing dedicated attacks)”
What used to be the highest ranking for a bike lock, these should be fine for a day parked up somewhere public and well overlooked. Also, for all day you’ll want two locks, preferably from different manufacturers.
“The highest level of theft resistance including use of specialist tools (aimed at preventing the most destructive attacks that could include angle grinders)”
The new …well this is awkward… gold standard for bike locks. These are going to be more resilient than a gold lock, but as we’ll get onto in a bit, may be a little heavier for it.
Some older locks that used to be gold-rated have made the cut and are now diamond-rated, such as the Kryptonite New York lock over on our essentials page, so it is worth checking the Sold Secure page for any lock you are looking to buy.
The problem with locks…
Good locks are invariably forged from some form of metal, usually steel. It’s a durable material that can be formed into a variety of shapes, but to make something stronger you usually need to add more of it. This starts to get heavy very quickly, but that also makes it unpleasant to carry in your rucksack. It is likely to be one reason people keep using cable locks (and end up needing to take the bus home).
The holy grail would be a diamond-rated lock that was feather-light, but if such a material exists, it’s not affordable, or commercially viable yet. With the materials we have available, locks are invariably going to be heavy, but also vulnerable to the limitations of the material –most will be cut by an angle grinder with enough time.
As a halfway step, Hiplok has been specialising in locks that are wearable. We’ve already looked at the bronze-rated Hiplok Lite, but now they have a range of wearable D-locks on the market. As luck would have it, I’ve just bought one, the Hiplok DXF.
The packaging says it is rated Gold, but Sold Secure’s website says Diamond for bicycles and Gold for motorcycles. I suspect the packaging and promotional material were made before the diamond rating was bestowed upon it.
It weighs in at 1.16Kg, roughly half that of the Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Lock (2.09Kg) and has a 15cm by 8.5cm locking area (close to the Kryptonite’s 15.3cm by 8.3cm), which is a little on the small side and you’ll need to be a little creative about how you get it around a Sheffield stand and your bike, particularly as you’ll want to secure your back wheel in the process. The smaller size does give a thief less lock to work with though. Curiously both locks are diamond-rated for bicycles, but there’s a 930g difference in weight.
To carry it around, it arrives with a mount for your frame (it uses the bottle cage mounts), and an integrated belt clip (which is removable), so you can just mount it to your jeans the way we middle-aged folk used to carry our mobile phones. Seriously, they were huge and didn’t do much besides make calls. A simpler time. Anyway…
Despite its diminutive size, the lock when mounted to its frame clip is still big enough to foul both bottle cages, which on my medium frame means that I’d have to go thirsty if want to mount my lock. That’s just not going to happen. Kryptonite’s frame mount for many of its locks can attach anywhere to any of your tubes, so it is possible to have water and your lock with a bit of careful planning. With that said, the Fahgettaboudit we’re comparing with lacks such a mount (you have to drop down the range to the now gold-rated “Evolution” locks).
In the box you get three coded keys. If you register your lock with Hiplok you can get new keys sent to you if you lose them. There’s also a rubber flap that keeps water and debris out of the lock barrel –and a lifetime warranty, which is nice.
Without an angle grinder and a variety of locks I’m willing to sacrifice in the name of science, I have to trust the folks at Sold Secure that the DXF earned its diamond rating. Fortunately, Bikeradar did test it:
Under attack the DXF is a tough unit when it comes to sawing, twisting and grinding. It came in the top 10 per cent of our lock-testing tables when put up against corrosion tests and torsional attacks (twisting), taking a massive 1,092Nm (Newton metre) of torque and 156Nm from a bolt cropper (like using a six-foot set of jaws and a seriously strong operator). Against a portable angle grinder it lasted 108 seconds (for a single side of the shackle), and it held out for 110 seconds against a high-grade tungsten steel saw blade (for a single side).Hiplok DXF lock review – BikeRadar
I’m reassured by those numbers, but locks are only ever about time. You have to be the most secure bicycle in the rack and having a lock that is easy to carry, relatively light and compact may tempt people to finally ditch the cable lock. For that reason there’s a lot to like about the DXF. I’m not a huge fan of the frame mount –it’s a small enough lock that attaching it just under the top tube would allow for both water and a lock, but relying on bottle cage mounts limits your options. Fortunately the belt clip works well.
For ultimate security I do wonder how much the weight difference between the DXF and the Kryptonite is going to be a factor. Bike Radar did say it took three minutes to cut through the Fahgettaboudit with an angle grinder, compared to 108 seconds for the DXF. Is the extra minute worth nearly a kilo of extra bulk? I’m not so sure.
I’m going to start using the DXF when I’m out and about, but if you’d like to pick one up for yourself, you can grab one from Wiggle for about £84.99. Or if you’d prefer the Kryptonite, that’s also on Wiggle for £104.99.
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