How to Pick a Bicycle Lock?

If you own a bicycle, knowing how to pick a bike lock can bail you out of those tricky situations when you lose your bike lock key, forget to bring the key along with you, or fail to recall the combination of your bike lock.

It goes without saying that this article is meant to equip bike owners with a useful skill that can come in handy when there is a definite need to manipulate the components of a bike’s lock to open it without the original key. The article does not encourage the picking of a bike lock with criminal intent and is meant for legal purposes only.


Different Types of Bicycle Locks

Before we delve into the details of how to pick a bike lock without a key, let’s go through some of the commonly used lock types that are used for securing bikes.

bicycle U lock

Tubular Lock: Also known as a circle pin tumbler lock, radial lock, or Ace lock, a tubular lock exhibits a circular keyway with a series of pins, usually ranging between six and eight.

U-lock: Such a bike lock features a U-shaped rigid metal ring and is sturdy enough to offer you good theft deterrence by letting you attach the bike to an anchor point, such as a bike rack or an immovable pole.

Chain Lock: This type of bike lock features a lock, plus a chain made up of hardened steel links. A chain lock offers immense flexibility in the kind of objects against which the bike can be secured.

Cable Lock: Similar to a chain lock, a cable lock comes with a permanently integrated locking mechanism. Such a lock is lightweight, compact, easily transportable, and flexible. It enables you to lock up more than one bike at a time.

Combination Bike Lock: This type of lock can be unlocked with a combination code, comprising several dials of numbers. A four-digit combination lock is a standard in bicycle locks.

Ways to Pick a Bike Lock Open Without a Key


#1 Picking

This lock picking technique is used for opening locks with a keyway and is the most difficult of all the methods described here.

picking a bycicle lock

To unlock bike locks using this approach, you need a tension wrench (to be inserted in the bottom of the lock hole) and a lock pick (to be pushed into the top of the lock hole).

  1. Use the tension wrench to apply torque to the core
  2. Rake the pick in a back and forth way to move the lock’s internal mechanisms
  3. Repeat the above steps until you pick the lock open

#2 Hacking a Bike Lock with a Bypass Method

Bypassing is a relatively simpler lockpicking technique that does not require any special skill or tools to defeat the lock of your bicycle.

Because you are not operating the lock as such and merely unlatching its underlying locking mechanism, the lock usually remains usable after it has been hacked open using a bypass method. Bypassing can be achieved in two ways.

Bypassing with a Pen

Using a pen is one of the easiest ways to open tubular locks and selected U-locks. While this approach should work for most inexpensive locks, it may not be enough for picking high-quality bike locks.

  • Take a simple plastic pen such as a Bic pen or a pen with a similar diameter
  • Remove the tip of the pen to pull out the ink cartridge
  • Once removed, press the hollow pen tube into the lock’s keyway and turn in the usual direction for unlocking the mechanism

tubular lock

Bypassing with a Shim

This alternate bypass method may require you to wear protective gloves to keep your hands safe as it involves the cutting of a triangle-shaped shim from a piece of aluminum such as a soda can.

  • Locate the crevasse between the body of the lock and the shackle
  • Slide the pointed end of the metal shim into the crevasse
  • Depress the shim inside the shackle’s U shape to retract the restraining spring-loaded catch or locking pawl and pull it open
  • For high-quality padlocks, repeat the above step, if necessary, on both sides of the shackle

#3 Decoding a Combination Lock

Can’t remember the combination of your bike’s four-digit cable lock? Let’s find out how to pick a combination bike lock (not to be confused with a combination dial lock) using the quick peck-and-go method.

  1. Set all the four digits to the same number, e.g., ‘1’
  2. Tug fairly hard at each end and look for gaps, if any, in between the columns. If you have hit the right number, you will notice the formation of a gap between the columns when tugging at each end
  3. Keep moving each binding wheel one digit at a time until you notice a gap forming between the corresponding slots, e.g., a gap between the first and second slots when the first digit has been accurately identified
  4. Repeat the above step for all the binding wheels until all the four digits of the combination have been rightly selected and the shackle or cable pulls free

Combination Cable Lock

Note: Besides the formation of a gap between two columns, the following are ways to identify if a wheel has moved into the correct position:

  • Jolting of the lock
  • Falling of the wheel into a gate, which makes moving on to the next number relatively difficult
  • Inability to move to another digit

#4 Cutting the Lock Open

At times, it may so happen that you are unable to open your bike lock with the above-mentioned methods. This is usually the case if the locking mechanism has been compromised because something has broken inside it.

As a last resort, you can consider cutting the lock open at its weakest point. Do remember that this technique will destroy the lock and a replacement will be needed.

The process requires the use of proper tools such as a pair of regular-sized or large bolt cutters, depending on how thin or thick the lock is.

cutting bike lock

Certain heavy-duty locks may require a power grinder or powered angle grinder to cut them off while simple snippers or wire/cable cutters may be sufficient to get the job done for cord locks or cable locks.


#5 Summon the Locksmith

If none of the above methods are workable for you, you can always call a locksmith for professional help.

A reliable and knowledgeable locksmith will have the technical know-how of opening your bike’s lock without the original key. More often than not, such a professional will be able to bypass the locking mechanism without damaging the lock itself.

lock cutting

Even if it so happens that there’s no other option but to have the lock cut or broken into to get it off, summoning a locksmith can save you time. Plus, you don’t have to bother with the assemblage of the required tools or worry about being accused of stealing.


Conclusion

If you own a bike, you are likely to be using a bike lock to ensure your two-wheeled vehicle’s safety when you leave it unattended. There are scenarios when you may have to legally crack the lock open without the key. This article is a comprehensive guide to hacking a bike lock using different methods.

From how to pick a key-based bike lock to how to pick a 4-digit bike lock, get all your tips here. And if nothing works, call a locksmith or visit a local bike shop for professional assistance.

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How to Pick a Bicycle Lock? 5 Helpful Methods — Bike Hacks