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BY: Pete Yecco

As a junior living off campus, I choose to ride my bike every morning to UREC and to most of my classes. Not only is riding my bike more environmentally friendly than driving my car, but I also save money by not having to pay for a parking pass and gas. Riding a bicycle warrants locking it up too, so JMU students must decide on which type of bike lock they want to use for securing their bikes.

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At JMU bike theft is currently uncommon. Nonetheless, locking your bike up is a necessity and in this product review I will help you—as a student—decide on which bike lock would be best for securing your bike on the JMU campus. While I’ll suggest that I perceive JMU as a low risk area for my low-end bicycle, you’ll need to decide on how much of a risk you perceive on the JMU campus and choose your lock accordingly.

Assessing risk at JMU

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Before buying a lock, you need to determine your risks.  What is the likelihood that your bike will be stolen in a particular area?

That depends on the area and the quality of your bicycle. For a low value bike, if you park it at JMU and lock it up, you probably won’t experience a theft, at least, that has been my experience. I see the campus as a low risk area.

A high risk area, for example, would be New York City. Because more people live in the area, more people bicycle, and more people want to bicycle, the probabilities increase for stolen bikes. Risk in this case depends on the size of an area, the size of the population, and the interest in the item. JMU might become a place where more people steal bicycles, but at the moment, interest in bicycles isn’t very high.

Two other factors play a role in assessing risk: the time you plan to leave your bike unattended and your bicycle’s attractiveness. The nicer the bike, the more secure it needs to be. If you’re riding a $500 mountain bike around campus, you should invest in a stronger bike lock. For the sake of this review, I’ll be recommending locks for lower end bicycles, whose owners face a tight budget. 

Criteria for Evaluating Bike Locks:

  • Level of security – how safe will it keep your bike?
  • Price – how much would it cost a college student on a low budget?
  • Versatility – can it fit around different bike racks / how portable is it?

Generally there are three kinds of bicycle locks: chain, u-lock, and cable. Cable locks offer the lowest level of security and are most likely to tempt the average thief because they can be cut apart or broken easily.

Chain locks—while the most reliable and secure type of bike lock—may weigh you down both financially and in terms of literal weight. U-locks are light, versatile, and durable, give you a high level of security, and are the best value for low risk situations. While u-locks can be burdensome to carry, many now come with the equipment to fasten a holder to your bicycle which will allow you to attach the u-lock to your bike. Some large diameter bike frames won’t accommodate the u-lock shape, and can be challenging if you want to use a lamp post to secure your bicycle. Cable locks at JMU fit the average college student’s tight budget, are durable, and will keep your bike safe enough as long as you understand just how easily a prepared thief can cut through your lock.

bullylock U Locks

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Cable Locks

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Best for: High Risk Areas Best for: Medium Risk Areas Best for: Low Risk Areas
+ Extremely durable + Extremely durable – Not durable at all
– Expensive + Best value + Extremely cheap
+ Highest level of security + Relatively secure – Extremely low level of security
+ Can wrap around large diameter frames – Cannot lock around large diameter frames, is a fixed length + Is long and can lock around most objects
+ Can fasten to your bike – Less easily attached to your bike, a hassle to transport + Can fasten to your bike
– Heavy, not very versatile and needs a separate lock Medium weight. Not heavy, not light + Extremely light and versatile
– Generally is the most expensive and also safe. + Price meets expectations for security – Value isn’t worth low level of security

 

Chain Locks                                                       

Price range: ~ $45 – $500

Level of Security: Excellent

Versatility: Poor

Chain locks consist of a heavy metal chain (usually made of steel) and a padlock which locks the two ends of the chain together. Often chain locks are covered by a sleeve of some fabric designed to protect your paint job from getting scuffed by the weight of the chain. The chain lock best protects your bike from theft and keeps your paintjob looking brand new!

While the most reliable type of bike locks, their weight and price lower their ranking for the JMU student who has assessed the campus as a lower risk environment. If your bike cost you a significant amount, or you are cautious, a chain locks might be ideal.

Best Chain Locks for a Duke

Kryptonite Keeper Integrated Chain Bicycle Lock

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$27.51 on Amazon

Rating: ★★★ (Out of 5 Stars)

Level of security – ★★★
Price – ★★★
Versatility – ★★★

  • Resistant to bolt cutter, leverage attacks, drilling, and picking.
  • Affordable at $27.
  • Lightweight and long for a chain lock.

 

With 7mm thick chain links made of hardened steel, this lock will deter most bike thieves. Bolt cutters simply won’t work on this lock, and thus it offers a high level of security. However, when bolt cutters won’t work, sometimes bike thieves want to leverage a lock into breaking. With this lock, leverage attacks are impossible. The lock can’t be picked and will resist drilling too.

Whereas most chain locks are ridiculously heavy, the Kryptonite Keeper only weights around 2.5 pounds. It also boasts 32 inches of heavy duty, chain linked steel. The lightweight design and generous length offer you a “moderate security” rating (the Sold Secure ranking system) and is best for “low crime areas,” which may fit with your assessment of JMU’s campus. Unquestionably the Kyptonite Keepers is superior to cable locks.

Amazon reviewers give it 4/5 stars from 369 customer reviews. While some reviewers point to a shoddy locking mechanism, most reviewers note that it is the “best lock in the price range,” and one reviewer argues that, “for deterring the average criminal looking for an easy steal, this lock can’t be beat.” When you combine JMU’s low risk environment and the low budget of a JMU student, this bike lock offers a great value.

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The Kryptonite Keeper chain bike lock can be bought on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Kryptonite-Keeper-Integrated-Chain-720018-000853/dp/B008GBR9J0/ref=sr_1_3?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1462300572&sr=1-3&keywords=kryptonite+keeper

Next up for chain locks…

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Bully Locks Bully Black Mamba Lock

$55.23 on Amazon

Rating: ★★★ (Out of 5 Stars)

Level of security – ★★★★★
Price – ★★
Versatility – ★

  • Has chain links nearly as thick as your pinky finger! Extremely high security.
  • Most affordable high security lock at $55.
  • Heavy duty lock; may be too heavy for the average student.

If you want to lock an expensive bicycle outside your dorm, choose this bike lock. Extremely thick 12 mm chain links and 6 feet of hardened steel are linked together for and help you to secure your bicycle. The Bully Lock Black Mamba offers the highest level of security. At 25 pounds, you’ll probably want to keep two locks—one that you keep locked to your chosen bike rack, and then one you take with you when bicycling.

Reviews on Amazon call this lock “mega strong,” “well made,” and “heavy as hell.” It’s amassed a 5/5 rating on Amazon based on 6 reviews. Reviewers have remarked that the lock could even work for motorcycles or mopeds! Because of its expense and lack of versatility, this lock should only be bought by the most cautious JMU bikers, or by those who are protecting an expensive bike.

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The Bully Locks Black Mamba chain bike lock can be bought on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bully-Locks-Black-Mamba-Lock/dp/B000MQ6C1S/ref=sr_1_1?s=sporting-goods&ie=UTF8&qid=1460059779&sr=1-1&keywords=chain+bike+lock

cablelock

Price range: ~ $5 – $50

Level of Security: Poor

Versatility: Excellent

 

Cable locks, protected by a combination lock or a key lock, consist of strands of long, thin steel wire interwoven inside a plastic tube. While offering an extremely low level of security, they’re versatile, light, and inexpensive, and they are the most common type of bike lock. Seattle University reported that, “Cable locks have been a challenge on campus, and may increase the chance of bike theft. Incident reports show that over 90% of bike thefts reported were secured with a cable type lock, and cut with store bought bolt or wire cutters.”

Overall, cable locks are extremely affordable and may deter crimes of opportunity. However, they offer the absolute lowest level of security and are unreliable. For JMU students, cable locks would be better than not using a lock at all, but they still don’t do a good job securing your bike. If you understand the risk, can’t afford a better lock, and only need to lock your bike up for short periods of time, cable locks might not be a bad idea but you’re taking a larger risk.

Best Cable Lock for a Duke

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Etronic Security Bike Lock M6 Self Coiling Resettable Combination Lock Bike Cable Lock, 6-Feet x 3/8-Inch

$8.99 on Amazon

Rating: ★★ (Out of 5 Stars)

Level of security – ★
Price – ★★★★
Versatility – ★★★

  • Offers an extremely low level of security.
  • Cheapest lock at $9.
  • Extremely light and transportable. Can fit around mostly anywhere you’d want to lock your bike up.

The Etronic M6 Cable Lock while cheapest, is also the riskiest option among all the bike locks. While notoriously easy to break, the six feet of cable helps with locking your bike and weighs in at under a pound. Users of the bike lock praise the lock’s convenience, simplicity, sturdiness, and the braided wire may resist strong cutting from wire cutters.

As long as the student understands the risk, this lock can be useful as it fits within the average college student’s budget and would serve its purpose on JMU’s campus.

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The Etronic M6 cable bike lock can be bought on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Etronic-Security-Coiling-Resettable-Combination/dp/B00HO0804W/ref=sr_1_3?s=outdoor-recreation&ie=UTF8&qid=1460059871&sr=1-3&keywords=cable+lock

U Locks

Price range: ~ $15 – $150

Level of Security: Excellent

Versatility: Average

Think of the u-lock as a giant padlock that fastens around your bike and some object you’re locking it up to. While difficult to transport and challenging in some locking situations because of their fixed length, u-locks offer the best value because they are cheaper, lighter, more versatile, and offer a similar level of security when compared to chain locks. In comparison to cable locks, they offer a much higher level of security at a bit more expensive price. The biggest challenge for u-locks is securing your bike to a post. Fortunately for JMU students, most u-locks can wrap safely around any of the JMU bike rack posts.

U-locks consist of a rigid, u-shaped piece of metal attached to a locking mechanism. More often than not, u-locks are secured by a key lock. These locks traditionally offer a high level of security at an affordable price, making this option the best all-around value when it comes to bike locks. If we were using porridge from the fairy tale of Goldilocks as an analogy for bike locks, u-locks would be the porridge Goldilocks called “just right.”

Overall, u-locks won’t compromise a college student’s budget, and they will protect your bike from most interested bike thieves. While you can’t stop a determined thief, these locks offer the best value, offer a high level of security, and are easy to operate. For JMU students, u-locks are the best option when it comes to securing your bike.

Best U-Locks for a Duke

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Cocoweb ArmBar Heavy Duty U-Lock

$30.67 on Amazon

*Best option for JMU students*

Rating: ★★★★★ (Out of 5 Stars)

Level of security – ★★★★★
Price – ★★★★
Versatility – ★★★★

  • Offers a high level of security.
  • Best all-around value at $30.
  • Comes with a carrying clip mount which attaches the u-lock to your bike.

The Cocoweb Armbar Heavy Duty U-Lock is made of hardened, high-quality steel, weighs just under 3 pounds, and offers a high level of security. This model also offers a wide shackle, so you’ll always have enough room to lock up your bike securely. Similar to the Bully Locks Bully Black Mamba Lock, this u-lock has extremely thick chain links at 12mm. Bolt cutters, wire cutters, and leverage methods will not stand a chance to this lock because of its thickness. Additionally, this lock also can’t be picked or drilled. The lock is protected by a key lock and a weather guard which will protect the locking mechanism from rusting.

This bike lock includes a mounting clip which will allow you to attach the lock to your bike. On Amazon, the lock has aggregated a 4/5 star rating from 526 customer reviews. Reviews called this lock “heavy duty,” “strong like a bull,” and “sturdy.” Most reviews say this lock has protected them in high risk areas and that the lock successfully deters away most thieves.

However, the lock is rigid. While the shackle is wider than most u-locks’, it still might not be able to wrap around large objects. Fortunately, this lock would have no trouble wrapping around a stop sign or bike rack on the JMU campus. For its level of security and price, this lock easily offers the best value.

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The Cocoweb ArmBar U lock can be bought on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Cocoweb-Heavy-Duty-Bike-Locks/dp/B018MK93QQ/ref=zg_bs_194613011_2

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Mongoose Large Bicycle U-Lock

$9.99 on Amazon

Rating: ★★★★ (Out of 5 Stars)

Level of security – ★★★
Price – ★★★★★
Versatility – ★★★★

  • Still offers a high level of security compared to cable locks.
  • Cheaper than most locks at $30.
  • Just as versatile as the Cocoweb ArmBar Heavy Duty U-Lock.

 

The Mongoose Large Bicycle U-Lock is a “hardened steel shackle for use in high risk areas.” The lock is less thick than the previously mentioned Cocoweb U-Lock at 10 mm and at less than 2 pounds it weighs less than the Cocoweb too. While most u-locks offer a high level of security, this particular model only offers a moderate level of security. However, similar to the Cocoweb, this model offers a wide shackle so you’ll have no trouble finding objects to lock up your bike to. Wire cutters wouldn’t work on this lock, but heavy duty bolt cutters and leverage methods may compromise its security. The lock is protected by a key lock.

Similar to the Cocoweb, this bike lock includes a mounting bracket which will allow you to attach the lock to your bike. On Amazon, the lock has aggregated a 3.5/5 star rating from 165 customer reviews. Most reviews on Amazon call this lock a good bargain buy, but they also point to the lock’s shoddy mechanism. For its cheap price tag and level of security, this lock is still a better option than a cable lock. It may be unreliable, but at least the security of the lock couldn’t be compromised by basic lock-breaking methods like wire cutting.

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The Mongoose Large U lock can be bought on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mongoose-MG75414-4PK-Bicycle-U-Lock/dp/B001QXBO64/ref=zg_bs_194613011_1

All images are labeled for reuse or are permitted for reuse by Amazon.

For other great bike lock recommendations, check out http://thebestbikelock.com/