Famed bike lock lasts 16 seconds in independent test

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/11/23/famed-bike-lock-lasts-16-secon.html


It’s true–any lock can be defeated by a determined thief. So the best you can do is some relative security–have a lock that will be tough enough that the next bike over is going to be clearly the easier target. Sorry, dude with easily-cut cable!


To be fair, you should lock a bike to a tree or pole and then try cutting it. Having the lock on the ground allows you to stand on the cutter’s handle giving a significant mechanical advantage. Plus, most bike thieves use the shorter handle bolt/cable cutters as they are much easier to conceal but offer less leverage. Re-do the test under more realistic circumstances.


This has been explained to me as the angry bear principle, to escape a angry bear you don’t have to run faster then it, you only have to run faster then the person running next to you. The more cynical interpretation of this will tell you that pre-breaking the lock on the bike next to your bike will help your bike stay secure.

Also I feel it’s unfair to Kryptonite to mention their issue but not mention the exchange program they started when this news came out, from wikipedia:

After this problem became public, Kryptonite offered a free exchange program for all owners of locks with tubular mechanisms.

Disclaimer: I only bought my Kryptonite lock (with the new disk lock mechanism) after this issue.

This is true, however when you look at the mentioned 17 minute video they use cutters with a different biting mechanism (which probably explains why they failed) but with similar length handles. He still manages to place one end on the floor and use the same kind of leverage seen in the successful attempt, even though in this video the lock is on the bike. I bet this iron man dude would be able to cut trough this lock even with short handled cutters, provided they have the “beak” from the successful video’s clippers.


In that video, they guy is using bolt cutters, not cable cutters. Bolt cutters will just smash the cable flatter, not break it. If he had employed the tool against the lock instead of the cable, he may have had better results.


The best bike locks are u-lock style locks made of thick, case hardened steel. This type of lock is impervious to attack by the most commonly employed cable cutters and bolt cutters. They can, however, be be wrenched open by a sufficiently large lever. This is true of just about any type of lock. Their utility is derived from the idea that thieves are lazy opportunists.

Bike thieves usually carry a small assortment of tools that can easily fit in a backpack. These include:

  1. simple diagonal wire cutters, which can be employed against cable locks by cutting each thread of the cable one by one
  2. 18 inch bolt cutters that are useful for defeating common padlocks, chains, and cheap u-locks
  3. small pry bars that can wrench open cheap u-locks, padlocks, or break chains or whatever infrastructure the bike is locked onto.

When locking your bike in public, it is best to use a good quality u-lock. Lock the frame to a sturdy pole or other fixture that is securely fastened to the ground or a building. Do not lock the bike by only a wheel. This will result in a thief making off with the bike and leaving the locked wheel behind. If your bike has quick lock hubs, use a second lock to secure them to the frame of the bike. Thieves will also steal the wheels if they can’t get the whole bike.

ETA: I should add that no bike locking strategy is secure against a determined and skilled thief. If you are really concerned about theft, you should get theft insurance.


A battery angle grinder with a cutting disc ($28.99 @ harbor freight) will go through any of these locks in less than a minute.




There is a way you can lock a bike by one wheel only, which will secure both the wheel and the frame:


Yes, but I was really saying don’t do this:


I wonder if you could break this lock using the jack from your car. I’m thinking the moment where the cable joins with the lock may be another weak point.

I’ve heard about the Sheldon Brown strategy (small U-lock through the rear wheel within the triangle of the frame and an immovable object).

Essentially, this means that the rear wheel can’t be removed because it would have to go through the frame triangle. While the bike could theoretically be stolen by sawing through the rear wheel, that’s a lot of work and involves destroying the second most valuable part of it.

Meanwhile, the standard Dutch locking system is a ring lock attached to the frame. This immobilises the rear wheel. They also are typically designed so the key can’t be removed while they are unlocked, making it much harder to leave your bike unlocked or ride somewhere without the key you need to lock it.

Most people also have an armoured chain, one end of which locks into the ring lock. The other end is a loop which you can put around an immovable object.

And then you still insure your bike against theft, as bike theft is hugely common.


Another good technique is to pass a U-lock through the front wheel and the bike frame, and then suspend a jar of nitroglycerin from it.


I don’t know about this lock, it may actually be quite resistant to that attack because the lock is flexible and hard to keep in the right place. Somebody skilled enough will probably not have much problems with it though.

With enough patience I bet that would work against this litelok.

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I wonder if titanium cable would fare better.



As a bike store posited to me here in the US, bike thieves in Amsterdam don’t have pickup trucks to toss bikes in like some of them do here in the Bay Area, making the rear wheel locks less useful here.


My lock of choice is still the Foldylock – I don’t have to carry it in my bag or worry about it bouncing around on my frame in an insecure bracket.

That’s an odd choice. For that job, you’d obviously want an underwear model on the verge of collapsing from dehydration.


That’s an interesting proposition with their ‘Seatylock’ model, at least.

One of the bikes I used to have (before i wrecked it) had a broken seat clamp, so I just took the seat off and stashed it in my backpack; who’s going to steal a bike with no seat? (no answers, please.)