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Old 04-14-08, 07:02 AM   #1
stevage
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Locks - weight vs security tradeoff

Hi all,
Wondering if people could provide some datapoints on the tradeoff between weight and lock security (and cost) - how often do bikes with bad/medium/good locks get stolen? I have an oldish lock (twisted steel cables wrapped in steel "knuckles" wrapped in plastic) that I'm considering replacing, but the alternatives are heavy or very expensive ($150+). Obviously the bike is worth much more than that, but there has to be a reasonable tradeoff somewhere. Do any of the better but not ridiculous locks (eg, the Abus "8" level ones) ever get defeated in practice?

I'm going to be leaving it overnight in the foyer of my block of flats, visible from the street, behind a glass door which is sometimes locked. Also, generally for a few hours or so during the day or evening around the place, but probably never overnight in strange locations. Melbourne, Australia.

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Old 04-14-08, 07:19 AM   #2
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A good u-lock will resist human powered cutting attacks, which are the most common. Next is leverage or pressure, either one will defeat even the best u-locks if improper technique is used - but conversely, both can be defeated fairly well by filling your lock and making it hard to crank on with a bar or fit a stubby bottle jack in.

You don't necessarily need the most expensive, most massive lock in existence. You simply need one that is tough enough to withstand the cutting, and then its up to *you* to help make sure it withstands the leverage and pressure by using proper technique. Doing so covers your butt against almost anything but power tools,

even the $150 locks can be broken open with a nice jack if not properly used though.

So in my opinion, a well placed lock which is capable of resisting the human powered cutting attempts is just as good as any, because technique very important to prevent lock leveraging, not just how beefy the lock is.
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Old 04-14-08, 07:46 AM   #3
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I'm not quite sure what you mean by "proper technique"? Do you mean, attempting to fill the space inside the U with some object (maybe bike helmet?) Does this apply to flexible chain locks too?

Steve
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Old 04-14-08, 06:01 PM   #4
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The standard line used to be, "All bikes weigh 30 pounds." If you had a heavy old clunker, you could leave it unlocked, and it weighed 30 pounds. If you got a 25-pound bike (fairly light in those days), you needed to carry a five-pound lock. If you pulled out all the stops and built a 19-pound bike, you needed a motorcycle chain and big padlock....
I don't know about where you live, but if I had to lock my bike up under the circumstances you've described, I think I'd buy a junker from a thrift shop or somewere, tune it up and ride that most of the time.
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Old 04-15-08, 04:38 AM   #5
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I have a Kryptonite Evolution Series 4 U-lock. It's $50 cheaper & a few pounds lighter then the Fuhgetaboudits that everyone here reflexively recommends. However, it will still take an hour with a hacksaw, or 5 minutes with an angle grinder to defeat.

I live in a college town of 15,000, & it's the best lock in town. When I was checking out locks at the LBS, their best U-Lock was a basic $30 Kryptonite, which left me unplussed. I went in figuring I'd order a Fuhgetaboudit, but walked out with a specially ordered Evolution 4. I saved $ & weight, and the way I figure it, if they can defeat a Evolution they can defeat anything.

If I lived in a larger city, or in a part of town with a high crime rate, I wouldn't have hesitated to get a stronger lock, but I already have the strongest lock in town, so any theif could find much easier prey.
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Old 04-15-08, 04:57 AM   #6
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I was in Lowe's last evening and saw a cable lock by Schlage. It uses a key and has a cable about half of an inch thick. The cable is covered wih a plastic coating. It looked pretty tough. Does anyone have any experience with this lock?
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Old 04-15-08, 05:21 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stevage View Post
Hi all,
Wondering if people could provide some datapoints on the tradeoff between weight and lock security (and cost) - how often do bikes with bad/medium/good locks get stolen? I have an oldish lock (twisted steel cables wrapped in steel "knuckles" wrapped in plastic) that I'm considering replacing, but the alternatives are heavy or very expensive ($150+). ...
The thing about buying a heavy and expensive lock is basically: how much do you like the bike? If a lot, then get an expensive and heavy lock. If not much, get a cheap and light lock.
----
One good way to prevent your bike from getting stolen is to lock it up with two different kinds of locks... like a U-lock, and also a chain+padlock, and use them both so that either alone would be enough to lock the bike. Because then your bike is twice as hard to steal as everyone else's.

Even at that, a nice bike is a target anywhere. If you need to use the bike where you will have to leave it locked up in risky places, get a cheaper bike and make sure it looks junky.
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Old 04-15-08, 05:29 AM   #8
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Even if the lock isn't defeated, the attempt to do so could very well ruin a less sturdy bike. Also, parts could easily be taken off the bike. Seatpost, saddle and front wheel are probably the main targets.
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Old 04-15-08, 06:06 AM   #9
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From what I've read, pretty much any cable lock is easy to defeat. A plastic coating may make the cable LOOK bigger but doesn't add much.
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Old 04-15-08, 06:34 AM   #10
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I think it is pretty hard to get actual numbers. Most locks can be broken relatively quickly if the right equipment is there. There is also that old saw that your bike always weighs 40 pounds, as the lighter the bike, the heavier the lock.

That being said, I have a an OnGuard from REI cable/Ulock combo that is relatively manageable for around town strapped down on the rack. On my road bike, I just never plan on stopping anywhere where I would need to lock up my bike. I do have a Kryptonite NY chain, which is what I use on my fixie cause I can just wrap it over myself and ride around.

Basically here in NYC though, it is pointless to expect that an expensive bike will survive the night outside. Other areas are different of course.
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Old 04-15-08, 07:27 AM   #11
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If someone wants it or the components bad enough they will figure out a way to get it/them.

FWIW my "really" good bikes don't get locked up in public. If they aren't where I can keep my hands on them they are locked up at home. My ride and lock up bikes get locked up different ways. Most of the time with a u-lock and a cable. I don't lock up bikes with easily removable components and the only ones I lock up for long periods of time (more than a couple of hours) in public places are basically disposable bikes. My current locking scheme for my newest bike is the Axa Defender wheel lock with the optional chain. This bike is one of my better ones and won't be locked up for long periods of time. Typically it will be locked where I can see it, or for short periods of time; like grocery shopping. Typically in and out in under 1/2 an hour.

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Old 04-15-08, 08:42 AM   #12
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I have an example of how easy it is to protect a cheap bike.

I drive home past a particular intersection sometimes, and there is often a bike locked to a pole outside a bar. The bike is locked with a cheap cable lock through only the front wheel.

If anyone wanted the bike, 10 seconds with a small adjustable wrench would be all it would take to get the whole bike except for the front wheel... 10 seconds with a large bolt cutter would get the whole bike with the front wheel.

What keeps it safe? It is an old beat up bike that you can get new at Wally World for $100.
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Old 04-15-08, 09:12 AM   #13
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What keeps it safe? It is an old beat up bike that you can get new at Wally World for $100.
Exactly. Which kinda goes back to the "All Bikes Weigh 30lbs" maxim. Desire is the big motivator: Lock up a K-Mart Huffy and no one's gonna bother bringing the tools to steal it. Lock a mint Colnago to a parking meter on the street and watch how quickly guys show up with Sawz-Alls, hydraulic jacks, concrete saws, oxycetylene torches, and liquid nitrogen dispensers.

Ever since I got a Really Nice BikeŽ I've been subscribing to that other aphorism: The Best Bike Lock Is No Bike Lock At All.

iow, I don't lock it up, ever. I always keep it with me, or store it indoors in a secure, limited-access location.
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Old 04-15-08, 10:18 AM   #14
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A point that is, I think, underemphasized in lock discussions is that geography plays a large role in the type of lock you need. In my large (1 mil. + population) midwestern city, most of the bike theft involves stealing a bike that is not locked at all. Decent cable locks seem to be all that's required, as I'm not aware of any thefts involving the use of tools. Consequently, the only locks available in bike stores are standard U-locks - no fahgeddaboudits, and not even any Evolutions are available.

Which is fine for my area; unfortunately, I travel with my bike and sometimes need to take a better lock than I can buy here.
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Old 04-15-08, 07:49 PM   #15
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I'm not quite sure what you mean by "proper technique"? Do you mean, attempting to fill the space inside the U with some object (maybe bike helmet?) Does this apply to flexible chain locks too?

Steve
With U-locks, you'd "fill" the space with parts of the bike (go around the seat tube and rear wheel, for example), the rack you're locking it to, etc. You'd want to not leave enough space where a thief could fit a scissor-type car jack. A helmet can be removed with a pair of scissors for cutting its straps, so it's not really protective.

A chain-specific breaking method is putting it against the ground and breaking it with a hammer & spike or something. Whichever way you use one, make sure it's high enough that none of it can touch the ground.

Cables suck; the plastic coating is only there to weatherproof the steel and keep it from scratching the bike.
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