Is the Wheel Lock a Useful Feature?

Yesterday I mentioned not being a huge fan of bicycle wheel locks (or "cafe locks"), and so I wanted to elaborate. Most typically used on transportation bicycles, the wheel lock is a circular contraption that is installed over the rear wheel, with a metal latch sliding through the spokes when the key is turned. The wheel lock immobilises the bike, thus making it more difficult to steal - especially if the bike is heavy. I thought it was a neat idea before I owned one, but the Axa wheel lock on my Pashley annoyed me so much that I eventually removed it. The older model on my Gazelle works much better, but I am still considering getting rid of it.

Here are the pros and cons of the wheel lock as I see them (and your impressions, of course, might differ):

. It's useful as an extra lock, for those who like elaborate lock-up jobs.
. It's useful if you're sitting in an outdoor cafe or a park bench, with your bike within sight.
. It's better than nothing if you forget your main lock.
. It's better than nothing if there is no structure to which you could lock your bike.
. If you live in an extremely safe area, you might be able to use it as your only lock - which would eliminate the need for a bulky U-lock or cable lock.

. Its theft prevention effectiveness is limited.
. It is heavy (like having a U-lock permanently attached to your bike).
. If it jams in the "on" position, your bike will be immobilised.
. Some models are difficult to use and can hurt your fingers while you fiddle with the lever.
. Once installed, you must lock it every time you leave your bike. Otherwise someone else could lock it and walk off with the key. On most models, it is impossible to remove the key in the un-locked position.
. You can break a spoke if you forget that the lock is activated and try to forcibly roll your bike. Likewise, a passer-by can break a spoke if they try to give your locked wheel a spin with their hand.

Do you have a wheel lock on your bike? If yes, what make and model, and have you found it useful?


  1. I've an older Princess Sovereign and the wheel lock is the only lock I use whether I am near or far from point of locking.

    Can't say I notice the extra weight considering I lug on average a good 10kg with me wherever I go.

    I did have an additional lock, initially, but found the extra chain/ spaghetti superfluous considering how fiddly it was for what was often a 30 second dash into the shops.

    Many a friends' bike's been nicked, irrespective of being locked with a garden variety chain, so figure I'm playing the odds. Considering how cumbersome the Pashley is to haul up stairs in its unlocked state, good luck to anyone daring to fleece her with wheel lock engaged in a hurry!

  2. I don't have one, but have been tempted to after using one in Europe. Your list of cons makes me think I'll wait a bit longer.

    It's look always makes me think of a single handcuff and I wonder if a pair of pawn-shop handcuffs carried in a saddle bag wouldn't perform a similar function?

  3. My abus works wonderfully. It both lets me remove the key and and has never had any issues with the mechanism.

    Very nice in conjunction with a u-lock for locking my cargo bike to itself in front of a cafe or pizzaria where I can watch it.

    I also ruitinely use it to lock my bike at work (in a secure facility).

    Beyond that, it's just nice to have that extra protection when you're sitting next to a bike without it.

  4. Here in Japan the wheel locks come standard on most bicycles and the only lock lots of people use. I don't have one on my current bicycle because it is a folding bicycle and the frame prevents it but I wish I had it. I used to have a "mamachari" with one and it was so easy to just jump off the bike and lock it. People also don't lock their bike to things very often and often there is nothing to lock the bike to. Designated bike parking on some streets just use a marked off area of the sidewalk and usually some bicycle parking official (an old man with a vest) will come along and tidy up the parked bikes.
    If people don't used a wheel lock here they usually use a small cheap cable lock and just run it through the back wheel. Most people ride bicycles that cost less than $300 so I don't think they worry too much about their bicycle getting stolen. A lot of Japanese people I know consider bikes like cheap umbrellas you buy when it starts raining, both are disposable.
    That being said there are bicycle fans here as well and they ride more expensive brand bikes but they tend to lock them with only a slightly heavier cable through the back wheel.

  5. I've tried a AXA wheel lock and for the type of bike they are often found on, BHDB (big, heavy Dutch bike), think they're very nice to have. The AXA had an optional chain that 'plugged into' the lock and increased security. Yes, riding off with the lock in the locked position would probably not be hard to do, though it takes just a few inches of foward movement to figure out it's locked. A strong wheel, like those found on BHDB's probably wouldn't have spoke damage. And it would unlikely for any wheel to get spoke damage from just spinning it. Plus one for the ring locks here.

  6. The nurse's lock on my Batavus (came with; probably a Batavus-branded Axa) is handy on transit, since it stops my bike rolling on the subway. I didn't get the extension cable which allows you to lock up the whole bike with just the one lock, though.

    Wouldn't be without it. It's the lock I can't forget.

  7. The lock on my Workcycles does not work and never has. When the key is out of the lock it is in the open position (unlocked!). I decided to quit tryint to fix it as having it lock but with the key in the lock made no sense. The people I bought the bike from had no suggestions. I should just take it off if that is easily done.

  8. "It is heavy (like having a U-lock permanently attached to your bike)." Meh. To me at least, it isn't like choosing to not carry a U-lock is even a realistic option, if I ever want to get off my bike.

    "On most models, it is impossible to remove the key in the un-locked position." Oh, that would be a deal breaker for me. So unless you want to listen to your key chain rattling against the bike as you ride you have to keep your wheel lock key separate from your key chain? Yuck. No thank you.

  9. I had one of these on my bike for the year I was in Germany, and you really get used to it. I found that all the usage cons you listed sort of disappear through constant usage. It was the only lock I used, and when you're dealing with a heavy crappy bike, the extra weight doesn't matter (granted, your lock above is much higher quality than mine was).

    That said, I wouldn't trust it to be my only lock in Boston, except when I'm sitting there, but that happens so seldom that I can easily just bring my U-lock along. So, even though I'm a big fan of the idea, and have loved using it in addition to big locks while in Amsterdam, I don't have any installed on my bikes here.

    as for the keys connected - they don't jingle as much as you might think, and by keeping the keys all together you a) never forget to lock your bike and b) always know where your keys are!

  10. I have no experience with these things whatsoever, I don't recall ever even seeing one on a bike but the concept has some appeal. I just don't like things that don't make the bike go, turn or stop being permanantly mounted on my bikes. I don't much like racks much either for the same reason but even I'm not going to take it off and put it back on every time I want to carry something.

    The thing that really got my attention about this post though was the comment about people locking the bike and carrying your key off...I mean, I know the world is full of (unflattering, judgmental or obscene word here) but does this really happen? I remember one customer at a bike shop where I worked who replaced all the quick release levers on all his bikes with the cam bolts that require an allen key to open the quick release. His fear was not theft but that someone would try to hurt him by making his front wheel come off or his seat suddenly slip down. He WAS sort of annoying in a time vampire sort of way but none of US ever wanted to kill him. So I suppose he just felt it was something to be on gaurd about.

    If it actually happens I think I would be sort of concerned about it too. Around here the issue was Rednecks spitting on your bike when they walk into the local store for more Red Man or Copenhagen and see it leaning against the wall. It was a regular plague around here a few years ago but I haven't heard of it for a while.


  11. We put them on all our bikes. We buy a higher end Abus or look for bikes that come with them installed (my Batavus Entrada, installed).

    We also have cables and use them to loop the front wheel, through the frame and then locked into the O-lock (Dutch lock) as they are called here. Having had bikes stolen from our garage we realize that no lock is safe and so we work on the 'make it look harder' principle.

    Regarding the key, we have the detachable thingy on our key chain so our lock keys have a very tiny thingy on the end and then at the end of the ride click on to our key chains.

    For me, biking is about being able to get on and ride off without a second thought. Prior to O-locks, we'd get somewhere and think... oh crap, you stay with the bikes this time.

    Note, I'm still considering getting a small U/D lock for my Batavus.

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  13. Spindizzy - Yeah, the "someone walks away with the key" thing has happened to a couple of friends. As have much more distressing acts of random (not theft-oriented) mutilations: slashed tires, magic marker profanity on the frame, dented baskets, and so on. Just for "fun." People are complicated. I do leave my wheel lock unlocked with the key in it sometimes, but I really shouldn't.

  14. Lot's of places make it illegal to posses handcuffs if you aren't an actual law enforcement officer so tread lightly on this one...The local cops where I lived in Pa. for a while immediately went into arm waving, spittle flying code red every time they saw a pair that weren't theirs.


  15. More on usability, in reply to the "pro-lock" comments:

    If the locks worked consistently, I think my complaints would diminish greatly. But I think that maybe the new wave of locks that are exported to the US have some quality control issues, because I know of way too many cases where the lock does not function properly and drives the owner nuts. It took me several minutes of struggle to lock the wheel on my Pashley, which was just ridiculous.

    As for weight... I think that even on a Dutch bike, there has to be a logical limit to the extent to which "weight does not matter". Like a ratio of how useful the attached accessory is vs how heavy it is. For those who find the wheel lock useful, the extra weight is indeed no big deal. But for those who do not, why have it there gratuitously?

  16. "For those who find the wheel lock useful, the extra weight is indeed no big deal. But for those who do not, why have it there gratuitously?"

    Well, any practical bike will need some sort of a lock anyway, and any decent lock will weigh at least 2 1/2 lbs anyway. If you don't have the wheel lock you'll most likely need a heavy U-lock or chain lock. That just sort of seems to moot the point to me.

  17. "Slashed tires, magic marker profanity on the frame, dented baskets, and so on. Just for "fun". It's a wonder more people don't just go all Bernie Goetz more often. I'm right there on the edge of a gibbering kung fu freakout myself about 93% of the time (but I also look the part which maybe keeps the vandals from messing with my bike so much), so maybe that's the answer...


  18. Adam said...
    "Well, any practical bike will need some sort of a lock anyway, and any decent lock will weigh at least 2 1/2 lbs anyway. If you don't have the wheel lock you'll most likely need a heavy U-lock or chain lock."

    I am assuming that the reader will have a U-Lock and/or cable lock in addition, and not the cafe lock alone. Where I live (and I'd venture to say in most American cities), it is not feasible to have just the cafe lock. Looking at it that way, for many it is just extra weight that does not add usefulness.

    Another issue that makes the cafe lock more useful in (some) European countries than in the US, is the manner in which bike theft tends to take place. In American cities, it is not an uncommon scenario for a thief to drive around with a huge van looking for bikes to steel. No matter how heavy a Dutch bike is, a grown man will still be able to pick it up and place it into the van, which makes a wheel lock utterly useless. In the EU, that kind of theft is less prevalent, so the wheel lock is more useful.

  19. My wife has a 36-year old wheel AXA lock on her Dutch Union. It is made from cast aluminum, not steel, but with a steel "core" piece that passes through the wheel. So, it is not as heavy as the current wave of wheel locks.

    My biggest gripe about them is that you need to leave the key in them when they're not being used. I tend to lose tiny keys and other things that aren't tethered to a some sort of key ring. So when locking the wheel lock, you have to keep that tiny key separate from your other keys and make sure you don't lose it. That makes me feel uneasy.

  20. I would like one so that I could "pause" my bike near the farmers I visit at the greenmarket, because I prefer to load up panniers to carrying heavy produce back to wherever my bike is locked. I go three or four times a week so it wouldn't really be a wasteful thing, but wheel locks don't work with the fenders and fat franks on my bike. I am totally intolerant of carrying heavy things on my body when I can just have the bike do it.

    OTOH, I don't like how they look.

  21. somervillian,

    i think you miss the point. when the bike is not being used you LOCK the bike and take the keys with you. The idea is that the bike is always locked unless you are riding it. While you might not want to lock it in your basement, it's not really so inconvenient in order to get the key, right? you do have to get used to keeping your whole keychain attached to your bike while riding though, but i have a non-car keychain for days when I don't drive.

    At least that's the way mine worked when I had them. :)

  22. i've been wondering if it will work with 45mm SKS fenders over 40mm Schwalbes... i am considering an AXA Defender, with integrated cable, and cannot seem to find dimensions anywhere... i can lose a pound to make up for any additional lock weight and can see the possible benefits.

  23. Velouria said... "It took me several minutes of struggle to lock the wheel on my Pashley, which was just ridiculous."
    That is so unfortunate. I have heard that many have had this issue, but mine was never a problem (unless I didn't realize that a spoke was blocking the lock mechanism). If it were up to me or an option for a bicycle, I would not have one intentionally installed because, as you pointed out, I could never just use that as my only anti-theft device. Personally, I'd rather carry a lock and deal with whatever minor weight it adds to the ride. It is a nice "extra" feature as far as being able to lock the rear wheel and use the cable, chain or U-lock for the front wheel and frame though... but again, it's not nice enough that I would have it installed after market.

  24. Interesting. It never oocurred to me that someone would walk away with my key if I didn't wheel lock it.

    I have one on the sorte and often use it as my only lock. Granted the bike is 70 pounds so if the wheel is locked no one is taking it anywhere and since I don't live in portland Or and I do live in SUV land no one would really *want* to take it anywhere. In fact I doubt anyone would know what the key was for to take it. So for the sorte or a big cargo bike I think it is priceless. after having one- I wanted it on all of my bikes but now think less so of it for a two wheeler since I'd often need to double lock it AND now that idea of someone taking the key freaks me out.

    However since racks are short around here- it would still be really useful. I do know of a story of someone trying to steel a Gazelle in somerville that was wheel locked outside its owners house for lunch. the thief tried to carry it away and got frustrated half a door down and threw the bike in the bushes. so I do think it deters off the cuff theft.

  25. and RE: key, my wheel lock key has one of those circle key rings on it. simple- just that key and ring ( I have spare key at home). My house keys bigass key chain has a carabiner on it. When I lock the bike I slip the bike key cirlce onto the carabiner and house keys and bike key are all together. I did have a dream about loosing the key and it was a nightmare. But since it's in the bike when in use or in my garage and on my key ring for when I'm stopped I doubt I could loose it well- I'd have to retrace my steps - kind of like trying to leave my car keys at a cafe and trying to drive way without them- I have to go back and find them... I am someone who looses keys.... lost car key while biking. had the transponder on the canopy of the sorte and the kids closed it and it fell off without me seeing. since I wasn't driving I didn't notice til I got home and wanted to get in my car.... I freaked out and fretting, yet went for another bike ride the next day and thankfully saw my transponder by the curb and picked it up.

  26. I have both a Kryptonite U-Lock and the Trelock rear wheel lock on my Batavus Fryslan. We have covered, indoor bike storage where I work. Because our bike room is overcrowded, and because it can be hard to maneuver a big bike in a small, crowded space, I find it is much easier to use the wheel lock than locking the frame to the bike rack. And on days when there's no space in the racks and I have to park up against the wall, the wheel lock gives me a bit of added protection. When I'm anywhere else, I use both locks.

  27. I have one on my bicycle; I special-ordered it when I bought the bike, as it came standard with the next level up but was not offered with mine. I've never noticed the weight. I've never had a problem with it sticking and on my model the keys can be taken out whether it's locked or unlocked. But since I also have to use a cable-I don't feel secure without locking my bike TO something, it's not as convenient as it would be in places where I could use it as the only lock.

    I admit that I probably bought it mostly out of nostalgia. It reminds me of the bike I used when I lived in the Netherlands and makes me smile when I use it. So it's worth it to me.

  28. I use mine all the time in conjunction with a u-lock from the frame to the front wheel and occasionally a looped cable to secure the seat and rear wheel to the u-lock if the bike has to sit outside for any period of time.

    It's a cheap Gorrin lock from japan that the key remains in while unlocked. I put the key on a micro carabiner such that it easily can be placed on, or taken off of, my keychain.

    I find the lock more convenient than other types of locks and the added bit of a security, particularly for securing the rear wheel, a bit more reassuring.

  29. No matter how heavy a Dutch bike is, a grown man will still be able to pick it up and place it into the van, which makes a wheel lock utterly useless.

    Not in all cases. The ring lock (that's what I call it, because it sounds better to me, and because AXA calls them ringsloten) I have is on a bakfiets. It weighs about 100lbs, and it's at about eight feet long. It's possible that one very strong thief could lift it (or drag it), and it's possible that he could actually fit it in his truck, but it would almost certainly be easier and more profitable for him to nick six or seven mountain bikes locked with cheap, thin cable locks.

    For most of my trips, I use the ring lock as my only lock, but I probably wouldn't if I was riding a smaller bike (of course, in that case, it would be easier/possible to maneuver the bike close enough to a fixed object that I could lock it to...). Even so, I would like to address a few arguments brought up above:

    Keys: The ring lock key is just like a car key, except that it's not so great to have your whole key chain dangling there. I keep my key on it's own ring, which I slip onto a carabiner (next to my other keyring) when I get to my destination. It's an automatic habit; part of parking the bike, and it only takes about two seconds.

    Weight: Well, in my case, the ring lock is insignificant, but even with a smaller bike it would only be 1-2% of the total weight. It's very unlikely to be the difference between being able to climb a hill or not, or the difference between sweating and not. If you really care about weight, then think of it as "training" (whatever that is -- I keep hearing from people how carrying my kids on the bakfiets must be great "training"...). On the other hand, Velouria's point is valid; if you need another lock anyway, it can be just extra weight.

    Ease of use: I've only ever used this one, and it hasn't ever failed to operate smoothly. I also don't see how one could sustain a finger (or other) injury from the lever, since it's on the side opposite the key, and there's no need to have your hand anywhere near it when unlocking the bike. Perhaps other ring locks are not constructed this way?

    Damage to spokes: I'd be really impressed if someone could damage a spoke by spinning a locked wheel, unless it was a racing bike with a ludicrously small number of spokes (and therefore large gaps between them). I've pushed the bakfiets off it's parking stand with the wheel locked a few times, jamming the lock against a spoke, and there hasn't been any damage. When a spoke is under tension in a bicycle wheel, it's quite strong and resilient. Maybe on a derailleur-geared bike with a highly-dished rear wheel (where half of the spokes are under relatively low tension) it could happen. Velouria, do you actually know of anyone breaking a spoke this way?

    Handcuffs: These would not work very well as a bicycle lock. Far too easy to cut, even with relatively short bolt cutters.

    One last note: when my whole family goes someplace that has no good bike-locking facilities, we can lock the second bike to the bakfiets. Handy! Of course, we only do this in very low-risk places.

  30. I have one on my Pashley. A couple things: those who say it's just another item, have you tried picking it up without a bike attached to it? It's surprisingly heavy. I had no idea until I removed the one on Velouria's Princess. They are very easy to remove.

    I worry about people locking it and walking away, but more than that I worry about someone deciding they need to move my bike and breaking a spoke. I think it's possible. More so, my bike has this annoying under-the-rack rear folding kickstand, so the wheel is just begging to be spun. And there is the issue of forgetting that I locked it.

    While I understand the reasons why the key is not removable, I wish it was, and I wish the lock could then not be engaged with the key out.

    Either way, I am not removing mine because... I would have ugly holes in my coat guards. :)

  31. I installed an AXA model on my Raleigh, and I've loved it. It has a chain attachment, so I just keep the chain wrapped around my seatpost when not in use, and it functions as my only lock (between the wheel lock and the chain). I've loved this, as then I always have the lock with me, I don't have to worry about where I'm going to stick it in my bag or whatever else I'm carrying with me, I can never forget the key (since, as you mentioned, it won't come out when it's unlocked), and the chain attachment gives me much longer reach than a U lock would (and it's a proper chain, not a cable).

    It seems like you'd have to crank on it pretty hard to break a spoke (assuming your spokes aren't extremely cheap).

    I can see that having the rear wheel lock by itself would have limited usefulness, but I do actually use it by itself regularly when just popping into a shop briefly or something.

    When riding in Amsterdam, it seemed like the typical MO was to have the rear wheel lock, with a separate heavy chain with basically a pad lock on it, that people would then just wrap around their frame somehow when moving.

  32. Michael:

    i've been wondering if it will work with 45mm SKS fenders over 40mm Schwalbes... i am considering an AXA Defender, with integrated cable, and cannot seem to find dimensions anywhere... i can lose a pound to make up for any additional lock weight and can see the possible benefits.

    They fit around 47mm tires with fenders. I'm sure you wouldn't have a problem with fitting them, unless the rims have an extremely deep V profile.

  33. I should say too, that I've had no problem with my AXA lock working consistently - it takes me 3-4 seconds to lock it (plus the 20 seconds to unwrap the chain and wrap it around whatever I'm locking the bike to), and I've never had a problem with it getting stuck or anything. This is on my only bike, so I use it everyday and it sits out in the rain a lot, all day long, and so far no problems, thankfully. The only minor issue is that sometimes I have to nudge the bike forward or back to get the lock to go between spokes.

  34. MamaVee:

    Does the ring lock on the Sorte lock the rear wheel? If so, I would think it would be fairly easy to lift the rear end and walk with it rolling on the nice, stable front wheels. Probably a lot easier than carrying a 50-pound Omafiets.

  35. I like the lock on my Nihola (Danish cargo trike) but the key doesn't stay in the lock. Pretty sure if the key had to be in it while I rode it would make me nutty. I still use my cable lock when I'm going to be out of site for any length of time, but the built in lock is nice when I'm someplace like a sidewalk cafe.

  36. Michael,

    Even with 56mm fenders, 47mm studded tires, extra fender/tire clearance for those studs, and 26mm deep rims, there is still a few mm of extra room in my wheel lock.

    My AXA Defender RL with plug-in chain has been very handy, both for quick stops and securing the other half's ride to my heavy Dutch cargo bike. It always works, is much quicker than cable locks, and between the wheel lock, the locking headset for front loading, and general local bike ignorance, I feel pretty safe using it.

  37. Merlin- yes you are right.

    although as I said- I am not concerned with anyone local trying this. first they'd have to walk it like this kind of far or to a truck and need two people to lift it up and second who is going to do this? Of course maybe some of you people reading esp the lurkers. so I tend to use both for quite a while whenever I post anything online just in case of weird stalkers.....

    but random people in my town. They think I'm crazy for having the bike... I cannot imagine anyone who would want it and if they did how the hell would they sell it without me noticing. Not a lot of for sale by owners of Sorte's happening locally.

  38. Good to know there are other models out there where the key doesn't need to stay in the lock; I might look into that.

  39. MamaVee -- I understand completely. I'm pretty sure my wife and I have the only bakfiets in Winnipeg, and that's a big reason why I'm not really concerned about theft.

  40. I had one installed on my Retrovelo. I put the key on a bright pink slinky wrist keychain. When I'm off the bicycle, the key is around my wrist. The AXA did not fit around the Fat Franks, but the Abus did. I will probably put an AXA on my Raleigh Sports, too.

    I only use it alone when I am right next to my bicycle. Otherwise, I also use a BFC (Krytonite NYC chain -- 12lbs!). Even though this is a low-crime area, that Retrovelo cost a mint.

  41. I have an AXA defender on my utility bike which started life as a Bianchi touring bike. I also have the chain attachment, and usually when I lock the bike, I use the chain to attach it to a bike rack or something solid. I don't live in a particularly high crime area, so security is a secondary concern to convenience.

  42. MDI said...
    "... my bike has this annoying under-the-rack rear folding kickstand, so the wheel is just begging to be spun."

    Right. If your bike has a kickstand - either the drop down type or the double legged type - that lifts the rear wheel off the ground, beware that it's not uncommon for people to walk by and give your wheel a friendly little spin. I see this in Boston so many times.

  43. The Axa Defender on my bike has worked fine down to -18 C (but is only 6 months old). I like it because it guarantees that I can't ride away with my keys sitting in my garage or at work. My u-lock key is on the ring with the wheel-lock key and I never notice any jangling noises.

    I never walk away from my bike with the wheel-lock unlocked, even when it is stored in my office at work. Nor do I leave the bike out of sight locked only by the wheel-lock. But in a busy area, I will lock the wheel-lock if I have to step a few feet from the bike, say, to use an ATM.

    However, the wheel-lock is a lock for the back wheel, making it pretty difficult to steal the rear wheel when the bike is otherwise well locked.

    I have taken the omafiets off the center-stand with the wheel-lock locked. The wheel appeared undamaged, but the wheel-lock mounts broke. It is now attached to the frame with cable ties! (It still is an effective lock because it is too large to remove through the rear triangle. The strength of the mount is not a determinant for the usefulness of the lock.)


  44. While no lock will keep a determined thief from stealing your bike (or whatever) this lock will turn away the non-pro thief. Easy to use, not to big, and from a well respected company. Not a great lock but still a very good one.

    Or the thief can try and carry my 50 lb bike!

  45. I have one on my Pashley Princess Sovereign and it works like a dream. I've never really thought about the extra weight, because I knew I was choosing a heavy bike when I bought the Pashley, and I've already got used to how it feels. I use the wheel lock in combination with a cable lock and then walk away without a second glance. If someone's determined enough to steal my bike no lock in the world will prevent them, but I figure the combination of the two locks will deter most opportunists.

    I attached a small ring to the key, and when I lock up I slip the key onto the carabiner clip that holds the keys to my house and office. If I lost the set of keys I've got spares, but I admit I'd be gutted at the incovenience it would cause me.

  46. I only use framelook... South Italy is a quiet place to live.
    I have two models on two bikes.
    A ABUS AMPARO 485 on a Pilen Cykel bike and a AXA BASTA DEFENDER on a Bianchi City...
    I prefer abus, because it's made all of metal respect to axa that is mix plastic/metal, and it's possible to remove the key in the un-locked position...

  47. My wifes Gazelle has a ringlock on it.
    I often use her bike on the weekends
    to pop into the local shops.
    Under these conditions the lock works really well.
    It just makes the bike so convenient to use.
    However, she also ride the bike to work
    where she locks it with a conventional U lock.
    She has the same problem of not wanting
    to use the ringlock because the key is then
    loose. She does not want to dangle all
    her keys from the bike as she ride along.

    While in Japan I saw some ringlocks
    that have a combination keypad instead of
    a key. These might be another solution.

    John I

  48. Mike said...

    It's look always makes me think of a single handcuff and I wonder if a pair of pawn-shop handcuffs carried in a saddle bag wouldn't perform a similar function?

    HAHAHAHA! Oh I love it! Goodbye Kryptonite, I'm using a pair of fuzzy handcuffs from now on!

    At least for Burning Man, and maybe Venice Beach!

  49. This is an interesting discussion. I'm actually looking for a frame lock because I like the added security they offer in addition to the regular U-Lock. Bicycle theft is a huge problem in this area (probably because there is a big market for vintage bicycles) so I'm really paranoid, even using the U-Lock since I know you can hacksaw through those. I'm considering one of those giant "forgetabouit" chain locks with the padlock but they are extremely heavy and cumbersome. My hope was that the frame lock would add some additional deterrence for bike thieves. I've heard that the AXA locks can be easily broken/picked, so I was looking at the Abus because it seemed to be a bit heftier and harder to crack.

  50. I find these locks pointless in the US. As V has pointed out, they do nothing to deter an opportunistic thief with a truck or van. An fr8 with 3 child's seats was lifted (literally) from in front of a store "secured" with a built-in.

    After all if motorcycles are stolen this way there's a sense of false security here. BTW bikes are stolen at an alarming rate in Amsterdam.


  51. MFarrington,

    I heard that about AXA locks too, but they have supposedly been re-designed to improve security. Don't have any hard facts on that though.

  52. I own an ABUS AmPro 4850 rear wheel lock with corresponding chain on my Worksman Cycle Truck. I bought the lock from Clever Cycles here in Portland. It's a good option for wider tires, for everyone who's been looking for something for "fat" tires. I have a 26"x2.125" on the rear, and it works, though there's not a lot of extra room by any means. The ABUS does not need the key to stay in in either locked or unlocked position, so I never have to worry about someone locking it and walking off with the key.

    I haven't noticed the extra weight (it indeed is a heavy lock) but then the Cycle Truck is so heavy it doesn't really matter.

    I've had decent luck with the lock, with one glaring exception. One night when I tried to lock it, I couldn't because the "bolt" that slides up and down came off its track. Thankfully where we sat in the bar was right by the window so I kept a constant eye on it all night. Clever managed to fix it no problem, but for the amount of money I paid for the lock, I would hope that wouldn't happen. (Then again, I've known folks who had their Kryptonite U-Locks jam on them while locked, so it can happen with any lock.)

  53. Yes I have one on my bike, it's an Electra Amsterdam Royal Eight. The key comes out on my version and it is quite easy to work. I am thinking of getting a Pashley Roadster, but heard that the key has to be left in the lock when your are biking and removes only when you lock it. This has me worried as it would make you have to use the lock. This problem alone has me worried and reconsidering my choice of bike.

    I find these locks to be good as a secondary lock system to be employed only when it makes sense, not to be used every time you lock up your bike, but only when needed.

  54. I'm off to the pawn shops for handcuffs now... and i think I'm leaning toward the kind without the pink fuzz on them.

    This discussion is useful and interesting... while I don't have a wheel lock on any of my bikes, I have a fork lock on each of my three Raleigh Superbes. I use them in conjunction with a U-lock if I'm going to be gone more than two or three minutes. I always figure that locking the front fork in a turned position would force someone to pick up the whole bike and truck it away. This is by no means difficult to imagine in parts of Sacramento, but unlikely to happen in the few minutes it takes to run into a banh mi shop and out again.

    Finally, I have to say this discussion makes me feel the way I felt in Flanders, looking at beautiful Dutch bikes left outside apartments overnight (complete with Basil panniers) secured only by a wheel lock... I want to live somewhere you can get away with that.

  55. +1 for the Tubus Locc rear rack, and high quality Abus locks.

    I removed the AXA wheel lock from my Pashley after it started rattling (about 2 months of riding) and am happy to be without it.

    In Toronto wheel locks are quite uncommon and I think most people don't recognize them on sight.

    A U-lock between the front wheel and frame, when there's no other option, accomplishes the same task - and is ready to lock the bike to something stationary and structural when available.

    Wheel locks are a nice idea for safe, European cities and North American small towns where theft isn't a real concern.

    In Toronto, they're a romantic wish. Sorry! I wish it weren't so.

  56. @Mike--I had a bike stolen once inside a Chinese restaurant. That's right, my usual lunchtime haunt. Just inside the door, far from order pickup. Bike thieves don't know Bahn Mi from Kung Pao chicken.

    Someone in the resto yelled and I sprinted after, only he was already on it an pedaling. A construction guy in a pickup saw me as I was running out of gas, told me to hop in the cab. Instinctually, I hopped in the bed of the truck instead. I realized, after landing on a pile of sharp metal fixtures, that I could see over the cab and give directions, which I did. Seeing the culprit cut through a housing development and knowing the streets, I directed the driver, going through red lights, rat patrol style, to cut him off at the pass.

    Meeting up, I thought of jumping on him but common sense got the better of me so yelled in my most God-like voice to get off my bike.

    Got it. The good samaritan said he stopped because I was hauling ass and really looked like I wanted it back. I did!

    Moral: lock your bike, no matter where it is.


  57. Jim, what a riveting story! And I'm glad you got your bike back.

  58. Having never had a wheel lock, and living in a tiny town where I largely leave my bikes unlocked anyway (go into the diner, leave it in front of the window, and keep an eye on it), not seeing the purpose, I think it's safe to say that I'm never going to have one for a few reasons:

    First, if I can't watch my bike or leave it comfortably enclosed, the bike doesn't go. I have saddle bags on all of my bikes, and while you can lock the saddle to the frame (using a cable), it's rather difficult to remove the baggage every time you leave it. If I can't protect the entire bike, I'm not risking it.

    Second: If you use a wheel lock, just pick the bike up, throw it in the back of your truck, and take off. If you can pick up the bike, you can steal it.

    Third: again - if I can see it, it's a lot more theft-proof than if there's just a wheel immobilization. But then again, I feel the same way about U or cable/chain locks if you can't actually chain the bike to something permanent. Otherwise, pick it up, take it with you, and cut off the lock at your convenience...ya know?

  59. I have an AXA wheel lock on my Pashley Roadster and I find it useful to lock the rear wheel to the frame since this eliminates the need for a u-lock or chain to go through the rear wheel and I can instead protect the front wheel. A thief would already have to work hard to get that rear wheel out anyway, so I hope the additional lock is a good deterrent, anyway I wouldn't trust that lock for any other kind of protection.
    To lock the bike, I use a long (2m x 10mm) chain that goes around the frame, front wheel and saddle and lock it using a 16mm u-lock that also goes through the frame whenever possible.

  60. I'd just like to thank Jim for summoning a memory of Rat Patrol. My big brother's favorite show in its day and, therefore, mine too.

  61. I like the handcuff idea! It could be a great icebreaker too. Like, "Nice lock!" "Oh, I had a bunch of these lying around so I though I'd use a pair for my bike!" or "Nice lock!" "Thanks, now I use rope when I need to tie someone to my bed so I didn't know what to do with these!"

  62. I think we can all learn a lesson from Pee Wee Herman in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure", 500 feet of logchain wrapped around your bike and a light pole doesn't mean a thing. If somebody wants it bad enough you're going to lose it.


  63. I use the wheel lock on my Workcycle all the time, it is a nice simple solution for low risk scenarios. Since I can bring my bike in the office, I no longer need to carry a u-lock on daily basis, and I can't forget my lock. I've not experienced any of V's Cons.

    Theft deterrence (there really isn't prevention) is the same as the old joke about running away from a bear. You just want to make it harder than the bike(s) next to it. If you really think your u-lock makes your bike "safe"...whatever helps you sleep at night.

  64. i have an old Specialized Globe w/ a Trelock wheel lock. The kind that's attached on 1 side of the bike and swings thru the spokes. Its great as a replacement for the extra cable lock that folks use to prevent wheel theft. I haven't had any problems w/ the lock or key sticking. Though I have had those problems w/ OnGuard u-locks. And as far as needing to lock it every time you stop, well you pretty much need to lock your bike anyways.

  65. I am usually very nervous leaving my bike anywhere, but lately I've been rather fond of locking it with the cafe lock outside a place for a minute (leaving the lights on even) and grabbing a thing or two on my way home. It's quick, and I can sort of keep an eye on it through the storefront.

    Just wanted to add that to my previous comment, it's not all bad, see.

    As far as jamming the finger, someone here enquired how that is possible, so: I've seen Velouria do it and she does it while locking it. You have to turn the key while engaging a spring-loaded trap on the other side. If you fail to have it click, it may bounce back against your fingers. Her Pashley's AXA lock was unfortunate and the o-ring didn't quite line up. The older model on the Gazelle seems to be fine, though, but still capable of mouse-trapping your fingers.

  66. I have a no-brand O-lock (which came stock with my Breezer Uptown), which lets you remove the key when locked. I love it so much I bought a ABUS frame lock for my wife, which attackes with huge zip-tie like things. It also lets you take out the key.

    Mainly, I love them because they secure the expensive rear wheel (At least $250 to replace, due to the 8-speed hubs).

    We both use "mini" U-locks to attach the frame to a solid pole or bike rack, but it takes a huge U-lock to get the rear wheel as well. A big U-lock weighs as much as an O-lock plus a mini U-lock, I think, and it is much harder to fit on rear rack.

    My wife's front wheel has special bolted skewers, so both wheels and the frame are secure.

    I also lock my O-lock when the bike is parked in my office (just in case... it would be hard to CARRY it out of the building... at least it won't roll), or parked in front of the cafe or in the middle of the park or beach where I can see it, but there are no solid places to use a U-lock. And sometimes I use it alone because I forgot the U-lock!

    Anyway, there is a reason that they sell millions of these in Europe and Japan. (Well, bike theft insurance has something to do with it; the key is proof you locked it)

    At Velo Orange (not in stock, sadly!):

    Amazon, ABUS Lock: (

  67. I have a 2010 Kona AfricaBike 3 with a wheel lock. I find it useful.

    It's not a major deterrent, but combined with a chain lock and a u-lock it definitely wont be easy prey.

    Like an Anonymous poster mentioned above, "You just want to make it harder than the bike(s) next to it."

  68. We have Axa (and a treklock, I think) wheel locks on all the city bikes in our household.
    The only real drawback I can see is the weight.
    Other than that, it absolutely rules :
    Perfect for those minute stops, when installing a proper U Lock would a drag. It takes exactly 1 second to engage or to unlock. The key is always there, which is great : you can't forget it or lose it. I keep the U Lock key on the same ring and never have to fumble in my pockets to find it.
    I don't really see how one can hurt oneself with it (sorry...)
    Now faillure, ever.
    The risk of damaging a spoke is pretty minimal IMO (never happened to me), but, yes, bikes can get damaged by many things. Like a "real" lock.

    Think about it as an ignition key for bicycle, but safer : It's actualy a pretty effective device, very difficult to cut witout damaging the frame or the wheel.

    As far as I'm concerned, no utilitarian bikes is complete without a wheel lock.

  69. I must add that I use a strong Ulock (which is permanently attached to my bike, by the way) for extended parking. Because, yes, bikes get stolen in our oh so safe european towns...

  70. I have a Pashley Princess Classic (didn't come with a Wheel Lock like the Sovereign does)- I've been thinking about getting one of those locks, so it was interesting to read this post on them... your list of Cons certainly gives me something to think about now! :)

  71. Joseph E wrote:
    "the key is proof you locked it"

    I've heard that before but don't really understand it, because my lock came with two keys.


  72. I have an Axa on a Gazelle
    I find it really useful and convenient just pull up pull the key out and you can pop into shops sit in coffee shops etc . If the bike is going to be out of my sight for any time then the u lock goes through the front wheel and frame but before i had the bike with a wheel look i used to use two locks two secure both front and back wheels anyway.
    I would really recommend a wheel lock as in practice when you are not riding your bike it is locked.

  73. I have both the Axa and the Abus locks on two different bikes. I had to order the Abus from Europe, as I could find no sellers here in the US at the time. I love these locks! Be aware there are different models from the same manufacturer, some being nicer than the others.

    On my last new bike, I decided it was a must have, just like fenders. If the bike frame didn't have the braze-on's for the frame lock, I didn't consider it. This made my list much shorter in considering which bike to buy.

    Also, regarding the statement that someone could lock your bike for you and take the key ---- one of the manufacturers (either Axa or Abus) offers a model with a removable key, even when it is unlocked.

  74. Can the removable key model be locked without a key in it by turning the lever?

  75. MDI--The removable key model (the ABUS AmPro 4850 that I have) needs a key for both locking and unlocking.

    Clever has 'em in stock for $55, I believe. You can also get the accompanying chain for $40.

  76. Funny, just today I used my U-lock as a wheel lock i.e. the bike wasn't locked to anything but itself. When I was ready to ride, I started to move the bike, but I had forgotten that I locked the wheel. Of course, the wheel didn't move very far, which reminded me to unlock the wheel. No damage. I think you'd have to really yank on the bike to damage a spoke. Then again, maybe others have more exuberant mounting technique than I.

  77. I rarely use my wheel lock, but there are no cons to having one, in my experience. I don't feel like I have to lock it every time; I'm not worried about someone locking it and walking away with the key, not even in Chicago. Plenty of times I've forgotten that the lock was engaged and tried to wheel my bike away, but it's never felt anywhere close to breaking a spoke. Mine's never jammed or hurt my fingers. I wouldn't install one if it didn't already come on my bike, but I wouldn't remove one, either.

  78. I have a kryptonite kryptoflex and the mini kriptonite New York Fahgettaboudit. it doesn't make my bike really "thief attractive".

  79. Lynne - Which Abus wheel lock fit your Retrovelo? I just bought a Retrovelo and I can't find a wheel lock that fit's the Fat Franks. I called several bike shops and am getting conflicting info. Thanks!

  80. For those who don't want to have to leave the key in the lock when it's open, note that the Abus Amparo 4850 "NKR" (non-key-retaining?) variants allow you to do just that. With the "KR" (key-retaining?) variant, the key can only be removed when the lock is locked. See the bottom of Abus's product page for the Amparo 4850 here:
    - OR -

  81. I have a dutch bike in my basement. It has a wheel lock but I don't have a key for it. The bike came with the house when we bought the house. Does anyone have any suggestions for either picking the lock, taking the whole lock off, or getting a replacement key?

  82. I'm a bit late to the table on this, but for what it's worth... No bike is thief proof, as others have pointed out. The only thing a body can do is make it as hard as possible to to steal. If I had such a lock, I would probably try to fix it to improve its usability, rather than remove it - after all, in combination with a u-lock it's an extra deterrent. However, relying on that lock alone, without locking to an immoveable object is of course taking a silly risk, at least in a metropolis.

    For those people who think it's "safe" to leave a bike unattended for a few seconds,or simply use a cable lock for the cafe or shop...think again! It takes seconds for someone to cut through a cable lock. I can't tell you how many people I know that have simply turned their heads for a couple of seconds, only to find their bikes are gone! To coin Jim: "Bike thieves don't know Bahn Mi from Kung Pao chicken". (Love it!)

  83. I don't think it's quite so cut and dry regarding safety. Certainly, it behooves a person to consider what situation they're in and act accordingly, but I quite often leave my bike with only the wheel lock locked, here in the center of Portland, if I'm just going to be away from it for a few minutes, and I've never had any problems. I've also left things in my panniers while grocery shopping or other things where I'm away from my bike for a longer period of time, and so far, nobody has touched them.

    That's not to say that it will never happen, but just to challenge the perception that theft is imminent if you don't wrap chains around your bike at any given time (much like many people feel about personal safety, that if you relax at all ever, you're bound to get hurt).

    Of course, it depends on the bike too - I mean, a huge 45lb city bike or a large cargo bike like a with the wheel lock locked is much less likely to walk away than a short 20lb racing bike with the same wheel lock locked.

    Certainly, it *could* happen that I lock my bike with just the wheel lock, run into the film lab to pick up my developed film, come back, and the bike is gone; but how likely is it? Not very.

    Of course, if I'm going out to eat, to a movie, grocery shopping, going to work, when I'm going to leave my bike for a long time, I do lock it to something with a chain (not a cable).

    Though, that being said, I have unintentionally left it unlocked all day at work a few times, and it hasn't been stolen. It's not all bad news.

  84. It depends on how much of a risk you wish to take really. In London, bike theft is rife, much like NYC. There are a lot of opportunists, sad to say.

  85. I fell in love with these when I was in Japan. The convenience of hopping off your bike, sliding the lock shut, and grabbing the key outweighs any cons I could find.

    So you have to lock your point every time you leave it... isn't that the point of a lock? If you don't want to lock your bike, why consider any lock in the first place? For the whopping 7 seconds it takes to lock these, it's hardly worth listing as a "con."

    Granted, I wouldn't use this to lock my bike up at a North American mall and go inside for three hours. But I have a secluded bike parking spot at school, and I'm considering acquiring one of these for my cheap winter bike, specifically so I don't have to dig out my keys in the winter.

  86. I have a combination wheel lock, and I found this site while trying to find another one. I bought it at a used bike store in Davis, California, USA, and I have not seen one like it since. There is no logo or name on the device, no name or model number, though there is a piece of tape, I will try pealing that up to find something useful in the next few days.

    I use a kryptonite U lock (new key) to lock my touring bike's front wheel and frame, then set the wheel lock.

    I have returned to my bike a few times to find all the bikes around mine missing wheels, often with cut cables.

    Because of the nature of the combination system, if I try and unlock the bike the first time and it fails, then someone has been messing with it.

  87. Any insights on the Abus Amparo 4850 vs. the Axa Defender RL? Need an always-on lock for my ride to replace a cheezy ronky ponky cable lock I have now.


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