Ideas for Carrying Your Bike Lock While You Ride

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Whether you’re a commuter, a hardcore cyclist, or a fair weather cruiser, we all love our bikes and want to keep them safe. Although carrying a lock can be cumbersome, we all know it’s pretty much Bike Security 101. So what’s the best way to transport this necessary burden?

There’s no single solution for where to put a bike like while riding, but plenty of options. There’s bound to be one that suits your needs.

What kind of lock do you have?

Your first decision is style of lock. The four mainstream types of lock are:

  • U-lock (sometimes called a D-lock)
  • chain
  • folding
  • cable

They range in security, but you’re looking for the right balance of protection and portability, with U-locks reigning supreme on that front.

A hand unlocks a bicycle U-lock
U-locks (or D-locks, depending on how you look at it) are the most popular style.

The type of lock you use will highly influence how you transport it, but you’ll also want to consider your frame shape, any additional gear you carry with you, and whether you’re fussy about the look of your ride.

Your options for where to put the lock fall into four main categories:

  • in a backpack
  • on your bike
  • on your person,
  • at your destination

Let’s investigate each a bit deeper.

In your backpack

The tried and true backpack method. If you’re heading out on a ride, you likely need a few other items as well. There’s nothing wrong with tossing your lock into your pack, and if you’re an avid cyclist you may want to invest in a backpack or a good messenger bag that’s made with you in mind. There are plenty of cycling-specific packs on the market, but a regular old rucksack still gets the job done.

Benefits

  • cheap and easy
  • safe and comfortable
  • hands-free and well balanced
  • doesn’t damage or modify your bike in any way
  • carries everything else you need as well

Potential drawbacks

  • If you use a chain lock, the weight (typically 3-6 pounds) can be a bit of a drag to haul on your back, as well as taking up a lot of space, and chains can potentially damage other items in your bag.
  • Where do you store your lock when you’re not using it? Taking off on a ride without it could throw a wrench in your day.
  • Not everyone wants to carry a pack. Maybe you prefer that sweet freedom and sweat-free back.

On your bike

There are several ways to carry your lock on your bike, and again it’s really about preference and lock style, but there are a few options, such as mounts and pannier bags, that offer the most safety and ease of riding.

Lock mounts

Some locks come with a mount, or they can be purchased separately. This is one of the easiest ways to transport your lock. Mounts are designed to keep your lock secure and out of your way, and most are simple and sleek. Where you place the bike lock mount depends on the shape of your frame, what other accessories you desire, and your personal style.

Kryptonite Transit Flexframe-U Bicycle Bracket

A lock mount is an affordable way to fit a U-lock snugly to a bike frame.

A common complaint is that budget mounts are made of cheap plastic, and either don’t hold the lock snugly enough, or break easily. If a mount seems like the right choice for you, you should consider boosting your investment and shopping for quality.

Pannier bags

Easy to install, safe, and out of your way, pannier bags are a great addition to any bike—particularly if you’re in it for the long haul. Like most accessories they range in price and quality, but even a simple style gets the job done. You’ll know your bike lock is always right where you need it. Like the backpack option, the rest of your gear is also at your fingertips, but it doesn’t weigh you down.

The only downside is that you might not like the appearance, so if you’re particular about style, it might not be your bag.

In your basket/on your rack

If you have a basket, you can certainly toss your lock in there. If you just have a bike rack over the rear wheel, you can rig up a Velcro or bungee chord situation for any style of lock. These can be simple, budget conscious solutions, but…

You might find that the vibrations from your ride cause a distracting noise or wiggle the lock loose, and heavy chain locks may disrupt your balance.

Wrapped around the bike frame

This really only works for cable locks (the least secure of the bunch), and cable locks have been known to cause some damage to bikes when used this way. The bike lock can also impede your ability to pedal. It gets the job done in a pinch, but it’s not a great long term solution—particularly if you’re attached to your paint job. Eventually you’ll have to strip the paint off your bike and have it re-done.

Cable lock wrapped around a bicycle seat post
Cable locks wrapped around your bike frame will wreak havoc on your paint job.

Over the handlebars

You can loop a U-lock over your handlebars, and as long as it’s not in your way this is an easy fix for short trips, but not recommended as a permanent solution. The lock can slide around, chipping your paint and reducing your control, and could be harmful in the event of a crash.

On your person

If you really want to keep it simple, or you’re just popping out for a quick jaunt, you can carry some locks on your person. The biggest concern here is safety, and it’s not recommended for the long term. If you do choose to keep your lock on you, ensure it is securely fastened and doesn’t impede your ability to ride with ease and control.

Chain locks

Given the size and weight of most quality chain locks, wearing it across your body or around your waist can be a good option, distributing the weight more evenly than having it pulling on your shoulders in a bag. However, it can still be quite cumbersome and chains are potentially harmful if you take a spill.

U-locks

This one is mostly for the jeans-wearing crowd. You can slide it in your back pocket (particularly the mini U-locks), or hook it through a belt loop, or between your belt and pants. As always, ensure it’s secure and be careful when you sit down!

Folding locks

Most folding locks are compact enough to slip into a pocket, but they will still be bulky and might make riding a bit awkward. I don’t recommend wrapping an unfolded lock around any part of your body for obvious safety and comfort reasons.

Cable locks

You could wrap it around your waist in a pinch I suppose, but it’s not ideal and will restrict your ability to ride safely and with ease.

At your destination

If you’re a regular commuter it might make sense to leave your lock where you park your bike, particularly if you use a heavy chain lock. If you’re lucky enough to have a private space, this is a great option. If you park somewhere public there are more courtesies to consider, but if you’re not impeding anyone else’s ability to use the space it shouldn’t be a problem.

The biggest consideration is what to do if you also lock your bike at home, or when riding for leisure, which can easily be solved by having an additional lock for those times.

The choice is yours

At the end of the day, the way you transport your lock will be as specific as everything else about your bike, your style, and you. Tossing it in a bag (pack or pannier), or using a lock mount offer the most security and ease, but whatever you choose, just ensure you’re keeping yourself and others safe. Ride on!

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