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

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

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...

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.



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    39 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    3 replies

    3 years ago

    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.


    3 years ago on Introduction

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


    6 years ago on Step 4

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


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    2 replies
    black holefrenzy

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    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.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    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.

    1 reply

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

    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.

    4 replies