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U-lock vs. cable lock?

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WS Member Imagen de WS Member
U-lock vs. cable lock?

We're about to embark on our first multi-month tour (Europe) and like all riders, are trying to cut weight. I've read in multiple places that U-locks are overkill, my kyrptonite series 2 weighs 1.3 kg (2.8 lb). I was hoping to hear different thoughts and experiences on the matter. Thanks!

-Yoni Steinberg

WS Member Imagen de WS Member
Not sure where you have read

Not sure where you have read those are "overkill", but certainly not from the thousands of people who have reported their bikes stolen even while using better locks than that. I have the exact same model myself, and I trust it a bit more than cancer, knowing how I know it can be "easily" broken by anyone with the right tools. Check Amazon, Youtube, or any bike related forum.

I would never ever trust any of these locks for an entire night outside in any major city, much less so a cable lock. I have had a bike stolen at 12:00AM, parked in the middle of a busy campus, while locked with a "good" motorbike u-lock. Ever since then, my own personal policy is: if the bike cannot sleep right beside me, it´s not the right place for me to sleep.

Of course, you can go for thousand of miles without incident, if you´re lucky enough. If you´re unlucky enough, the only "overkill" you will ever find is the size and power of the tool the thief used to take your bike.

Best of lucks.


WS Member Imagen de WS Member
Overkill is a subjective

Overkill is a subjective concept. It's more a question of what your comfort level is. Both in acceptance of risk and willingness to carry more weight. If you're travelling light, for example credit card touring, then why not bring a U-lock especially if you're certain that you'll be in areas with enough bike racks or other similar items to which you can lock your bikes. If you're fully loaded with tools, spare parts, camping and cooking gear, teddy bears and inflatable raft, maybe consider the cable lock only. But follow "safe bicycle parking" rules at all times (this applies no matter what lock you use). Also keep in mind that a U-lock is not very useful when all you have to lock to is a tree, etc.

In the past I've travelled only with a cable lock, not because of weight but because it's vastly more flexible for the type of touring I do. On our upcoming 2 1/2 month Europe trip of our own we're debating bringing both types of locks. We'll be fully loaded down and have basically just resigned ourselves to the fact that we'll be overloaded snails heading down the Danube :-) I'll truly find out if my bike lives up to its' name ...Long Haul Trucker :-)

In the end it comes down to "safe parking" practices since a determined thief can cut through pretty much any lock, probably in one minute or less. A google search will yield some interesting information on that subject.

Attended bicycle lots; high traffic areas; never leave the bike on the street overnight; leave the bike with your hotel/hosts; park beside bikes more expensive and less protected than your own; get a trusted person to watch your bikes; get something like "Pinhead" locks for your wheels, seat posts, etc ...those are probably more effective in reducing (but never completely eliminating) the risk of your bikes being stolen.

Have fun on your trip.


WS Member Imagen de WS Member
Like both of you mentioned,

Like both of you mentioned, if someone wants to steal your bike, they will. I would never leave my bike out on the street and always will leave it in a shop or in a hostel/home. Most of our nights will be camping. I mention 'overkill' b/c if we're camping and never leaving our bike on the street while in cities (except to go into a coffee shop or store), I'm not sure if there will be so many times when it's useful. We're also 2 people, so if it seems shady, one of use can stay with the bikes and the other can run inside.

Thanks for your responses, any other thoughts?

WS Member Imagen de WS Member
Based on the description of

Based on the description of your trip I would not go without a cable lock. Very useful for campgrounds. A U-Lock would then be in addition to the cable lock. So far I've toured in British Columbia, Canada; Germany; bits of France; Morocco; USA (Washington, Oregon, California); Belize; Guatemala; Southern Baja California, Mexico; and Cuba (3 times). All with a cable lock only. The only bikes I've had stolen were both in Vancouver, BC. One from my second floor balcony and one from my apartment storage locker, never on a tour ...go figure.

I always pick coffee shops and restaurants where I can find a table or seat with a view of the bike. Since there's two of you, one can go in and order while the other watches the bikes. Then pick a table with view.

If I were in your position I'd leave the U-Lock at home since you may not have too many opportunities to even use it. Your main "unattended" times will be in campgrounds where you'll probably end up chaining the bikes to a tree overnight while the Ulock sits there all jealously forlorn and plotting the cable lock's untimely demise :-)

I think I just convinced myself to take only a cable lock on our upcoming trip.

I'm envious of your trip, even though we're doing our own multi month Europe trip at pretty much the same time as yours ...different area.


WS Member Imagen de WS Member
Wow! Maybe it is just the


Maybe it is just the USA, but I have toured for 35 years and 80k+ kilometers and have only used a very thin (4mm) cable with a small combo lock with no troubles. I have toured in Europe but that was in the 80s so maybe things are worse.

The practice I use is that if in any type of town other than small, I "may" lock the bike up while I am shopping, sightseeing, etc. I don't think I have ever left the bike "on the street" at night. It is always beside my tent or in a secured area (hotel closet).

Is theft really that much of a concern in Europe or is it only certain countries in Europe? Reason I ask is I have a high end bike and was planning on touring Europe next year for several months and I really prefer not to haul 2+ pounds of locking equipment around and/or be paranoid the whole time.

Happy Trails, John

WS Member Imagen de WS Member
Nothing to do with the 80s,

Nothing to do with the 80s, John. Today we have everything, from local teenagers who can watch a Youtube video that explains them how to open a lock with a tool they can buy at the mall, to well organized eastern-european mafias who resell bikes abroad or chop'em for parts, and everything in between. According to most European laws, it´s next to impossible that you go to jail for stealing bicycles, so if you steal enough of them, you got yourself a very profitable "business". Enough people stealing them, all across Europe, makes it more of an "industry".

All in all, the only way to prevent your bike from being stolen IS to be "paranoid" (AKA: "Being aware of what reality is, regardless on whether or not is a comfortable one to accept")

WS Member Imagen de WS Member

I have done a fair bit of traveling and haven't had any issues. Like another responses, I carry only a thin cable lock. What probably helps me is I park next to nicer bikes with "cooler" gear. Potential thieves seem to pass on my old scared steed with its horribly faded and sagging panniers for someone that has the "good stuff". Also, my bike looks like a traveling laundry what with a pair of nasty bike shorts clothes-pinned to the brake housings to dry. Come to think of it, carrying even a thin cable lock is probably overkill.

WS Member Imagen de WS Member
My partner and I have done 3

My partner and I have done 3 trips in Europe, camping along the way. We use two cable locks. These are more useful in a camp as you may only have a tree to lock the bike to and cable locks are more versatile for this. You can also pass the cable through both wheels and the frame to make if more difficult to steal a wheel. We realise that a determined thief will be able to steal the bikes but it is all about making it less attractive to try. Two locks between the two of us also help make it less attractive.

WS Member Imagen de WS Member

I use cables on everything. If you are looking for a little more security, look into a Pacsafe web net for your panniers. It will add a little bit of weight, but ease your mind.