Mike Flanigan’s recent bout of misfortune crystallized in my mind something that I’ve sort of known for a while, but I’ve failed to publicly acknowledge until now: cable locks provide a false sense of security and offer no real protection against bike theft. While cables may protect your bike against opportunists, real bike thieves have figured out that even the toughest cable lock can be disabled in mere seconds.
Back in 2006, Scott Elder did a piece for Slate in which he attempted to break a number of popular bicycle locks including a pair of cables, four U-locks, and two chains. His “bike-jacking arsenal” as he called it, included an 18-inch crowbar, 30-inch bolt cutters, a hacksaw, and a claw hammer. He declined to use power tools because, as he said, “if a criminal crew with the proper power tools and a van wants a bike, it’s as good as gone.” Here’s what Scott found:
- Cable locks are essentially useless and are easily disabled with either a bolt cutter or a hacksaw.
- All U-locks are not created equal. Smaller, more expensive U-locks are more resistant to breakage than larger, cheaper U-locks. If you’re going to use a U-lock, plan on spending $75-$100 for a good one.
- Chains offer the reach and versatility of cables, while providing protection similar to the best U-locks. The downside is that they’re expensive and heavy.
If you value your bike, go out today and purchase a high quality U-Lock or a heavy duty chain designed specifically for locking bicycles or motorcycles. And please, please don’t fool yourself into thinking a cable lock truly protects your bike.