Commuting in New York most often brings to mind unpleasantly crowded subway cars, but in recent years, the city’s residents have taken to a new trend: bicycling. In fact, 86,000 New Yorkers regularly bike to work, a figure that’s grown twice as fast in NYC as it has in other cities.
There are many benefits that come with cycling — such as avoiding subway delays and better health — but there is one major drawback: bicycle theft. If you’re a Citi Bike fanatic thinking of purchasing your own bicycle, be sure to invest in a quality lock by following these guidelines.
The first thing to do before purchasing a bike lock is to familiarize yourself with the types of locks available. There are four primary kinds of bike locks — U-locks, chain locks, folding locks, and cable locks — and each offers a specific combination of price, practicality, and security.
U-locks act like large padlocks that can be fastened around your bicycle. Secure and affordable, they tend to be great all-purpose locks, though they can be a challenge to handle. In contrast, chain locks are made of a long metal chain that’s covered in a sleeve and attached to a large lock. Usually made of super thick, high-quality steel, they tend to be the most secure choice, but they also can be quite heavy.
Unlike U-locks and chain locks, folding locks consist of a several metal plates that are joined together so that they can be folded or expanded into a rigid ring that surrounds your bike. Since they can be compacted, they’re a highly practical choice for most cyclists, though they aren’t as durable as other locks.
Aside from U-locks, chain locks, and folding locks, many cyclists also rely on cable locks, which are made of long, thin steel fibers that are wound together within a plastic sheath. Since they’re usually light, flexible, and cheap, they’re quite popular, but since they’re quite easily cut, they aren’t an ideal investment for those who regularly lock up their bikes in public places.
Since most bike thieves use bolt cutters to sever bikes from seemingly unbreakable locks, a lock’s strength should be your primary consideration. The simplest indicator of strength, of course, is the thickness of the lock. In general, the thicker a bike lock is, the harder it will be to cut it. Locks with a diameter of 16mm or above, for example, are impossible to cut with manual tools. Other factors that determine a lock’s strength include the type of steel from which it’s made, the shape and size of the lock itself, and the overall quality of the locking mechanism.
While you should invest in the most secure lock possible, you still need to choose a lock that suits your needs. A thick chain lock would be difficult for a thief to cut, but it’s also cumbersome to carry wherever you travel, making it an impractical option for some.
To decide on how much security you need, first consider your lifestyle. Where you live and ride affects the kind of lock you might need: for example, bicycle theft is much more common in densely populated neighborhoods than it is in smaller suburbs. If your bicycle is expensive and visually striking, it may also be at a higher risk for theft.
Bear in mind that your travel or commuting schedule will also affect security. If you regularly leave you bicycle locked up unattended in public places for extended periods of time, you’ll want to choose a particularly secure lock.