Introduction: Make a Simple Bike Lock (0-10 Dollars)

Picture of Make a Simple Bike Lock (0-10 Dollars)

Bikes are great things. Unfortunately, no bike lock is going to stop someone from stealing your bike. Locks are only deterrents that make it more of a hassle for someone to steal your bike. This article from Slate magazine will show you how much you need to spend to protect your bike from hand tools. The only ones which stood up to those tools were at least 90 dollars and can still be broken in under a minute by inexpensive power tools that real thieves know how to use.

With that said, you can save some cash by making your own deterrent out of some chain, a padlock, and (optional, but very nice to have) some cloth. It will provide similar security to many cheaper bike locks and could save you 10 to 20 dollars in the process.

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

Obtain some chain (0 to 10 dollars):
A friend had some extra chain laying around - it was 5mm thick and about 3 meters long (.2 inches and 9.8 feet long). You can use chain of any thickness - the thicker it is, the more hassle it will be to cut and the less . However it will also become more and more of a hassle to carry around with you.
You can pick up chain for 1-4 dollars/foot at most hardware stores. Decide how much you need for the lock - I used about .8m (2.5 feet) for my lock.

Get a padlock (0 to 10 dollars):
I spent about 10 dollars on a Master D-1 padlock. It is pretty hefty, but don't let that fool you. It can be cut by a 10 year old with a bolt-cutter if they know what they're doing. You can get a dial-based padlock, but I chose one operated by a key for no real substantive reason.

Get some fabric (really? you must have something lying around...):
Anything will do here. Make sure you can cut it into a long strip which can be wrapped around the chain so that it doesn't pinch skin or scratch paint as it swings around.

Step 2: Cut the Chain to Desired Length

You can cut chain with a bolt cutter. Most hardware stores will let you do this for free with theirs.

I had 3 meters of chain and cut it down to be just under a meter in length. This would allow me to wrap it around the frame, and front wheel of a bike and then have room for wrapping it around a thick object like a sign post.

Step 3: Wrap the Chain in Cloth

Picture of Wrap the Chain in Cloth

Cut the cloth into a strip that is wide enough to wrap the chain with and just a few centimeters/inches shorter than the chain's length.

Then sew or staple the strip around the chain.

This will allow you to protect your chain from damaging painted surfaces and also protect your skin from the film that develops on your hands from dealing with bare metal.

Step 4: Additional Info...

Picture of Additional Info...

You can now use this chain and padlock system to deter the theft of your bike.


1. Another things that deters theft is making your bike less attractive. Real bike thieves can break any locks they want, but will only do so if they think the bike is worth it. Making your bike look less expensive than the one next to it will almost always prevent its theft. Cover your Pinarello's frame with reflective tape or your Moots with dirty-looking paint. Boom! A $3000 bike looks like it is worth $300!!

2. You can wear your bike chain as a belt or wrap it around your torso and shoulder like ammunition. This helps you achieve that "hardcore bike messenger" look.


senorwill (author)2015-12-04

This really isn't very good advice. The chain in the photograph could be snipped through in seconds with a very modest pair of bolt cutters. And in fact most of the cheap chains you find in hardware stores are the same. They are not properly hardened and they will not offer decent level of security.

Add to that the fact that they are also pretty heavy and you really are getting the worst of both worlds: a lock that won't protect your bike but is heavy and cumbersome to carry around!

With bike locks it really is best to buy a proper one from a reputable brand. Never get anything that is less than Sold Secure Silver or equivalent. And do some research to make sure the lock you buy suits the way you use your bike. This site has some good advice on how to choose a lock and only recommends ones that are Sold Secure or above.

propringle1 (author)2015-06-07

i would be carefull using master locks because i (im very new at lock sport) can pick one in under 5 seconds

pyro=fire (author)2012-04-18

or you could buy a lock for 10 $

flamingice (author)2012-03-12

to cover the chain you could just use an old inner tube

frenzy (author)2011-07-05

As a former bike parker and mechanic, i can say that in any city with professional bicycle thieves this lock isn't going to keep your bike safe for long.

First off, if you really want to save "a few bucks" at least get hardened steel chain and lock. Other stuff will just crumble with the cruddiest of bolt cutters.

But honestly for about 30-40 bucks you can get a good quality lock. U-Shaped locks are the best, and you should know the proper way of locking your bike.

and that said, i will make soon a how to lock you bike instructable.

black hole (author)frenzy2012-01-31

Yeah, but a lot of times just the sight of a lock will act as a deterrent. I can't see myself walking down the street with bolt cutters so I can cut the lock on a bike chain. If anyone saw me, I'd have a hard time explaining what I was doing.

hjjusa (author)2011-10-02

Write your name and address on a piece of paper, roll it up, stick it in a baggie and take your seat off. Stick the rolled up paper down the tube, replace seat. that way if it is stolen and recovered you can prove it is yours.

pitajames (author)hjjusa2011-10-20

great idea! tx

snotty (author)pitajames2011-12-28

Oh cool, good idea

dekonick (author)2011-12-19

Another option (to avoid carrying extra weight... costs more but sometimes worth it)

Leave your bike lock @ your destination(s) locked... ie - @ school, @ your 30 mile rest stop, @ work...

that way you can just carry the key or combo... you might want to check with the owner of your pitstop... probably safe to leave a lock attached to a bike rack. Never hurts to keep a cheap mini cable lock for those times you just need a 5-10 minute stop... or just in case your real lock is missing...


Bike thieves suck!

EmcySquare (author)2011-07-06

Another way of reducing the odds of having your bike stolen are:
- use redundant locking systems. I usually use 2 of them, sometimes 3.
- use DIFFERENT locking systems: breaking 3 chains takes 3 times the time of breaking one, while breaking a chain and a cable and a D/U-Lock takes more time and MORE TOOLS the thief might not have with him.
- use MOTORBike security devices. It's odd, but the oddness is the key: surprise!

Most of all learn how to lock it properly!
- both wheels
- secure the frame to ad unmovable oject
- remember to secure the seat too.

shabbysquire (author)EmcySquare2011-09-10

- and don't leave your bike somewhere quiet, ie an alley, where a bike gremlin can work without any interruption

raullopek (author)2011-08-09

thanks for the post in this site i will bookmark this page and tell my friend about this blog.
motor para bicicleta
bicicleta con motor

Weissensteinburg (author)2009-04-10

College campuses are good places fofr motivation on making a bike look less desirable. I've seen one who's entire frame was wrapped in shoelaces.

Can you get paint that looks like rust patches?

mysss (author)Weissensteinburg2010-11-13


i put bumper stickers on mine

i would wait for the guy to come by and ask if i could buy it from him

KwartzKitten (author)2011-07-10

I already have a dependable cable bike-lock that I use, but if I didn't I'd totally use this!
Oh, another tip I learned after I got my current bike is to loop the lock through the frame and then through any wheels that can be detached. That'll make the whole bike secured, and be more of a deterrent to thieves if they have to go through more effort.

DannytheGreat (author)2011-07-07

use a bike innertube instead of fabric

Yeah, if you use the bike a lot you've burst the tube at least one right?

ramhardikar (author)2011-07-08

Good one!

the walking stick (author)2011-07-07

I did something similar to this when I first went to college, except the chain weighs around ten pounds. some industrial grade chain that the people at Ace hardware had to cut with pneumatic scissors. plus a bullet resistant padlock. cost me like $20 but my bike has never been stolen or had pieces removed. the only problem is that its heavy, but it makes a fantastic improvised weapon!

hossweightlifter (author)2011-07-07

Nice 'ible i made this and it really works.
I told my cousin to make this and he said no it's a waste and the next day his bike got stolen and i lol'd at him he made it the next day to put on his new bike.
I eventually gave him his first bike back XD

aniakovas (author)2011-07-06

Hello all,

I don't comment much so pardon me if I'm a bit wooden.

I would heartily recommend an old inner tube beneath the cloth. It will protect the bike more, and your hands.


PKM (author)2010-06-17

I don't buy the "if a thief is going to steal your bike they will steal it no matter what you do" angle. There are degrees of opportunity and degrees of thieves.

If you leave your bike completely unlocked, you are asking for it to be stolen, as any thief simply has to get on it and ride it away.  I occasionally do this with my $40 backup bike for period of 60 seconds but wouldn't do it for any longer or with a more expensive bike.

If you lock your bike with a chain like this, the casual pick-up-and-ride thief *will be prevented* from stealing your bike.  This is effective theft prevention in, say, a highly visible public place- even ten seconds with some bolt cutters isn't exactly inconspicuous on a busy street.

If you leave your bike in an obscured location or out overnight, thieves will have the ability to use tools so you will need a higher class of lock.  If I'm leaving my bike out overnight I use a >$100 D-lock (which cost me more than my bike and I expect will last longer than it) and a thick cable lock just around the front wheel.

I do totally agree with the technique of making a bike look less attractive.  My current roadie has been inexpertly resprayed (not by me) so has peeling black paint with gold patches showing through, ancient tyres and is covered in little bits of duct tape and a set of LED fairy lights (yes, really).  Additional bonus points if you can leave functional bits hanging off the bike looking like they are broken- maybe unhook your brake cable so it looks like it doesn't work, even if it actually does.

gnawlej (author)PKM2011-07-05

I don't know if it is universal to all D-lock brands or if it has been remedied, but it was going around the interwebs a short while ago that these could be picked with a cheap pen (

tokymaru (author)gnawlej2011-07-05

older d-locks with an "ingenius" cylindrical key could be picked with pen, i think most have gone back to pin and tumbler style locks.

.happy.hippie. (author)2009-10-24

it's faster and more envorimentaly friendly to, instead of using cloth, to use a bike intertube

gnawlej (author).happy.hippie.2011-07-05

Love it!

Or an old garden hose...

good call

ampeyro (author)2011-05-01

(random keyboard fail)... based on a solenoid with a batery on the key, anyone will know how to open it)

ampeyro (author)2011-05-01

i did the same, a week later i saw here a way to open these with a cola can, a regular padlock is not a good idea (now i'm working on a homemade one, made of steel and

BluePhenox (author)2010-08-07

Great Job man! Five stars!!!

Matt21497 (author)2009-09-07

my bike lock was 2$ made out of a chain and a combination lock i got at a garage sail a buck a peice

cflowers (author)2009-04-10

Awesome instructable! I featured it on The Daily Hack. Keep up the great work man!

Charlie Flowers

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