It’s a sad fact of society that there are people among us who will take advantage of easy to steal items of value. Bicycles are among the most-stolen of all items these days – and some bikes are very expensive models that are treasured by their owners – as are laptops and other items. People who are travelling may be susceptible to thieves, too, as it’s easy to be distracted when you are in an unfamiliar place, so it helps to have viable security with which to protect your items.
Locks have become more sophisticated these days, with complex combinations and more added features, but often it’s the cable itself – that which you wrap around the item to keep it secured – that is the important part. You may want to look for steel cables that are hard to get through, and double cables are also on offer. Whatever it is you need to secure, you also want your lock to be compact when not in use, and that’s why we have looked specifically at retractable cable locks.
These work by using a strong cable of varied length, usually of a tough metal construction that is designed to be very difficult to cut through, attached to a combination lock. They tend to be coiled too, which allows you to stretch the cable when in use and adds to the compactness when packed away. We took a look at some of the best on the market so that you can choose one for your requirements, so here’s our list of the 10 best retractable cable locks you can buy right now.
The Top 10
1: Winzwon Bike Lock with LED Night Light
Our first example is a nice lock that comes with some interesting features, so let’s talk about the bits that matter. The PVC outer hides a very strong set of steel cables, making this extremely difficult to cut even with powerful tools, while the cable can stretch to 1.2metres which is a sensible length for most uses. It also comes with a handy fixing mount so you can carry it on your bike frame easily, and is compact when retracted thanks to the coiled effect.
This one features a four-number digital combination lock that offers more than 10,000 possible numbers, and also comes with a blue night light that illuminates for 15 seconds at a time so you can see what you’re doing in the dark. Customers are largely very favourable regards this item, although there are a few complaints of the cable being cut – after all, nothing is 100% thief-proof – and also of the combination being difficult to change. Overall, a neat lock at a very sensible price.
2: CROPS Pro Q4-Biro
Featuring a twin-steel cable and with a coiled construction so it returns to its original shape when not in use, the Pro Q4 is a very neat design that will easily secure your bike to a lamppost, fence or other structure, thanks to a 180cm extended length. It’s also surprisingly light at less than 120g, and retracts to a compact size when not in use so can be stored and carried with very little hardship. It’s nicely made, and comes with a three-number combination lock.
At each end of the coiled cable are two very strong metal clasps that lock onto the central section for added security, and it comes with largely favourable comments from a good number of buyers. If there’s one recurring comment that makes us think it’s that many users, although appreciating it, believe it would be easy to get through with strong bolt cutters, while others complain it’s difficult to use with skis.
3: Bestfire ET152 Mini Portable Lock
This very compact lock is similar in design to that above, in that it consists of a central metal unit on which there is a three-number combination to be input, plus a coiled wire that springs back to shape when not in use. It weights – also similarly – less than 120g and is 150cm in maximum length (shorter than the above by about 30cm) yet would be perfectly adequate for locking a bike, or any other item that you need to leave unsupervised for a length of time.
Is it sufficiently secure? The steel wire in this one is a single cord of 2mm diameter, with a PVC outer to prevent scratching. 2mm may not sound a lot, but it should be enough to deter thieves who don’t want to spend too much time messing around trying to get through a lock. The problem would appear to be with the combination: a number of users have commented that it is easy to find the combination as each of the numbers has its own reset button and works independently. If you have one number, you can therefore get them all. This is a design fault we hope would be rectified as otherwise it’s not bad and a decent price.
It’s worth us reminding you that no lock is ever going to be 100% successful. Just as with your home security system, if someone wants to find a way in so desperately, then they will find a way in. The purpose of a visible lock is just that: a thief is always going to go for the easiest option, and a bike or gate secured with the Vine Lock seen here is going to be less attractive than one with a simple padlock and chain, or no lock at all.
This one comes in an easy to see bright blue casing – a good move if visual deterrent is essential – and includes a 2.4mm steel cable, which is thicker than a lot of these. It’s compact when not in use, extends to 90cm – not the longest by far – and has a 4-digit combination for added security. This model comes as a two-pack at a decent price, but we feel the short length may put some buyers off.
5: M-Wave Lock ‘n’ Roll Cable Lock
Curiously, this lock is described as ‘unisex’. We’re not sure why there would be a distinction! It’s a very neat little device – similar in style to that described above – designed for keeping things secure, and another that has a shorter (90cm) cable than some of these. That does have some disadvantages if you want to leave, for example, a bike locked to a lamppost in an awkward position, but it also means the device is compact and light in weight.
A changeable 4-digit code gives more than 10,000 combinations, 2.4mm steel cable is suitably strong for most uses, and it is very cheap at less than £10. It’s also very popular with more than 100 customers having commented on it, most of them favourably. Some, however, comment that it can be ‘jiggled open easily’, that it is poor quality and that it doesn’t extend the cable after a few uses. Bear in mind these are very much in the minority, look at it as a cheap deterrent, and it’s worth considering.
6: TSA Luggage Locks
One of the most frequently reported instances of theft is that of luggage at the airport. Opportunist thieves will take anything in the hope there is something valuable within, and it is strongly recommended you lock your luggage securely, perhaps with these locks that are designed especially for the purpose. Supplied as a pack of two, these are TSA – Transportation Security Administration – approved, so come with the added appeal of that for peace of mind.
This also means that TSA officers have a special key that can access your locks, as they may want to have look inside. This begs the question: what’s to say other people can’t get hold of the keys? The 3-digit combination is decent enough, and they are strong and sturdily made, but it’s that one worry that concerns us. All it needs is a criminal with an insider on the luggage lines, and whatever you are securing is gone. Yet, more than 5000 satisfied customers can’t be wrong, and the major complaints are with quality rather than the issue we mention, so it’s up to you. At the price, they are good value.
7: Blusmart Bike Lock Heavy Duty
We mentioned above that no lock can guarantee security, but there are some that go a little further in trying. This bike lock, from Blusmart, is one of those, and the first thing to mention is a five-digit combination lock. This may not sound like much, but that extra number means a great deal more time will be needed to crack the code. But, it’s not the code that they are likely to crack, they’re going to cut the cable: this lock features a 12mm diameter twisted metal cable inside the rubber outer, which is far thicker than most on the list.
A 180cm long cable when extended, it nevertheless coils back into a compact size when not in use, but the added size of the cable means extra weight: this one weighs in at around 500g, again far more than most. This one comes with a holding clip for added convenience, and with more than 750 customers having commented on it is clearly popular. Most of those comments are in its favour, but be aware that quite a few – around 10% – are complaints that it was not effective – as we said, not every lock can guarantee to keep your bike safe. At the price, this one has the credentials to go on a shortlist.
8: Yale YCC1 Standard
If there is a brand that inspires confidence when it comes to locks, it has to be Yale. This locking system is made by the household name and promises excellent protection. A twin locking head, with a 4-digit combination, adds extra security to the device, while a 180cm cable – made from twisted thick steel encased in a clear protective casing – is the standard issue, with larger and smaller options available if preferred.
This is designed with a clever ‘steel ball’ gear system that is specifically intended to resist picking, and comes with fluorescent numbers so you can see what you’re doing in the dark. It also comes with some impressive customer testimonies from a number of satisfied buyers, although there are a few who complain that – you guessed – their bike got stolen. This is one of the better quality designs, and comes at a decent price too.
9: CCBetter 5-Digit Bike Lock
To all intents and purposes this model is the same as the Blusmart 5-digit model, and we believe may be that device made under licence. You get the 5-digit security code, a 12mm internal twisted steel cable, and the protective outer coating, and all the added security that brings to the table. One thing that this helps with is that this big, bulky lock – like its sister product – is noticeable, so will deter thieves visually from the off.
Is it any good and what do buyers think of it? First, it’s very popular with a couple of hundred buyers having commented on it, and only 10% of those have a bad word to say about it. The problem appears to be that the code is difficult to set, and has a tendency to reset to default position. Also, there are some instances where the cable had been cut through cleanly – but there is no lock among all of these that can resist very powerful cutters. At the price, we think this one is worth a look.
10: Blusmart 5-digit 7mm
Our final example is another from the highly regarded Blusmart range – see above and the one earlier in the list – which benefits from the 5-digit combination lock. We are aware that this is not the main security feature that people look for, so suffice to say that this one is a smaller version of the other one we looked at, and has a 7mm internal twisted steel cable instead of the 12mm one featured earlier. It’s still suitably bulky, however, so works on a visual level.
This one comes with a nice cloth sleeve as an added touch, is not expensive, and has almost 400 customer comments attached to it. It’s notable that out of these, almost 90% speak in its favour. The few complaints are the usual – cable cut through and bike gone, and difficulty with the combination – so there’s nothing new here. It’s a decent lock, at a sensible price, from a known brand.
That’s our list of the top retractable cable locks, but which is for you? Before we talk about that, let’s recap what you need to think about when choosing one of these.
Important Features to Consider
There is one important thing to remember – and we’ve mentioned it a few times – and that’s the fact that no lock is ever going to guarantee that someone will not break through. If you have an expensive bike, and you leave it in an exposed position, you can have the greatest lock with the best guarantee and someone, somehow, will still find a way through it if they are determined to do so. This is why every one of these locks comes with complaints that they ‘don’t work’ as someone stole the bike it was attached to. On the other hand, if an opportunist thief wants to take a bike – or other locked item – you can guarantee that they will look for the lock that is easiest to get through, and that takes the least amount of time.
This is why the criteria we want you to consider here are actually quite limited: we believe you should look for the most noticeable, biggest and boldest lock, the one that looks difficult to get into. This means choosing one with perhaps a bigger core metal cable; some of these have 12mm thick twisted cable, others are just 2mm, and we strongly recommend you go for the bigger one. It will compromise on convenience thanks to added weight, but will certainly act as a greater deterrent when the moment comes that someone is choosing which bike to steal!
So, having said that, is there one we would recommend? In fact there are two that stand out, so let’s get this wrapped up!
Our two choices are the Blusmart Bike Lock Heavy Duty thanks to its very thick 12mm twisted steel internal cable and 5-digit combination lock, and the Yale YCC1 Standard which appeals not just because of the name, but also comes with a clever and sophisticated steel ball gear system that will resist attempts to pick the lock. Both could conceivably be cut by strong bolt cutters, but you can rest assured that if there is an easier lock nearby than either of these, the thief is more likely to take a chance there.
We hope we’ve helped you find the retractable cable lock that suits you, so remember, it’s the deterrent that’s the important part, so buy the best you can afford.