The best way to lock an ebike

2/9/2024

These days, bike theft is rampant (just ask our friends at Bike Index). Thieves are getting better at their jobs and using new tools that allow them to steal bikes in broad daylight.

That makes a good lock essential, especially for ebikes, which can be expensive and indispensable for daily transportation.

So what’s the best way to lock an ebike? Are all locks created equal? And what should you consider when choosing a spot to lock your bike? 

Standard U-locks aren’t super secure anymore

The first thing to know is that thieves can cut through locks in seconds. While bolt cutters have been commonly used in the past, the portable angle grinder has become the tool of choice for the modern bike thief. These grinders cut through name-brand, heavy-duty bike locks in seconds. And they’re small — they can fit discreetly in a backpack.

That’s how someone stole my ebike. They sliced through my $60 U-lock with a portable angle grinder in broad daylight in downtown San Francisco. I was inside the nearest building, just feet away.

Had the thief brought bolt cutters, they might not have been able to cut the lock. Or it might have taken them more time, increasing the chance that a passerby would intervene. The angle grinder made it possible.

It’s ironic, but the same technologies that help you zip up hills in seconds on your ebike also allow thieves to cut your bike lock just as fast. 

Power tool brand EGO is now marketing a minibike that runs off the same battery packs as their other products. And Aventon, a popular ebike brand, is selling a model of bike that can run on Worx powertool battery packs. Worx, in fact, makes a portable angle grinder that uses the same batteries.

A bike lock’s material matters

So if U-locks with names that should scare Superman don’t scare thieves, is any bike safe? Yes, but you need a super-material invented by Nobel Prize winners, not comic book authors. The good news: there’s a material that destroys angle grinder blades before the blades destroy it. It’s called graphene, and the geniuses at Hiplok made a bike lock out of it. It’s by far the best way to lock an ebike.

You can trust the Hiplok D1000 for ebikes

The Hiplok D1000 is the lock I use today to secure my family’s cargo bike. In this video you can see angle grinders going through U-lock after U-lock in seconds, but after 10 minutes and 10 destroyed angle grinder blades, the D1000 remains undefeated.

So why doesn’t everyone have a D1000 to lock their ebikes? Why do reputable review sites like Wirecutter still tell you to buy out-dated locks? There are three reasons:

  • The D1000 is new. The lock launched on Kickstarter two years ago and only started shipping a year ago. Most people don’t know there is such a thing as an angle grinder-resistant lock.
  • The D1000 is heavy. At four pounds, it’s a lot to carry on a mechanical bike. But if you have a (valuable and powerful) ebike, a four-pound lock is worth the weight.
  • The D1000 is expensive at $300, and I’ve never seen it on sale.

Is the lock worth it? Read on.

The pros of the Hiplok D1000 outweigh the cons

For me, the D1000 is totally worth it. My ebike’s motor makes the weight a non-issue. I also love that I don’t have to worry about my bike in any neighborhood, if I lock it up properly (more on that below).

My bike cost $1,400 before accessories, kid seats, etc., (a lot of money, but not for an ebike). Why would I pay $300 to protect a $1,400 bike? For me, having a bike stolen is more than just about the cost of buying another:

  • There’s not being able to get home or pick up my kids from school and needing to figure out and pay for alternative transportation.
  • There’s the stress and uncertainty and time spent trying to find the bike and get it back.
  • There’s the hassle of filing a police report and an insurance claim.
  • There are weeks of waiting for a replacement bike and then the time it takes to set up the new bike.

So while $300 is a lot more than most other bike locks, it is a lot less than the real cost of a theft plus the distraction of always worrying about my bike being stolen. And it lets me use my bike (and enjoy it) more.

A $300 lock is going to be outside many people’s budgets, but if you have bought a decent ebike for $1000+ and use it in the city, you should seriously consider it. And if you own, or are considering, a nicer ebike, in the $2500+ range, $300 spent to make your bike very hard to steal is money better spent than on many similarly priced accessories or upgrades.

The best way to lock your ebike in any situation 

In general, avoid locking your ebike in public at night. Even though daylight doesn’t ensure thieves aren’t on the prowl, they have an easier time going unnoticed at night.

Choose a high visibility spot. “Hiding” your bike in someplace where people aren’t walking by, like an alley, gives thieves all the opportunity to steal your bike without anyone noticing.

Next, really consider what you’re locking to. Sign posts, fences, and trees are easy for thieves to break or cut. Then they’ll just lift your bike away, lock and all.

If you park in an area you know has a lot of bike theft — and you’ll be parked there for a while — you may want to remove your ebike battery and take it with you. Thieves will be less interested in an ebike without a battery.

If your front wheel has a quick-release, and you’re locking up for a while, remove your wheel and lock it to your frame using the same lock, if possible.

Finally, consider using two locks on your frame. While it may be tempting to use a cable lock along with your U-lock (or whatever lock you choose), cable locks are too easy for thieves to cut through.

To sum it up

There’s no Superman to save the day in this bike-theft crime fighting saga, but there are high-tech, real-world tools you can use to be your own hero. And even when you have the best possible tools, be smart about where and how you lock your ebike.

Get the Tempo app to protect your ebike.

When our family bought an electric cargo bike earlier this year, one of my biggest fears was that this lovely and expensive new machine was going to get stolen. So I got the best lock money could buy, and I started to investigate: did I need ebike insurance?

First, I called my homeowners insurance provider to see if they would cover the bike if it were stolen. To my surprise, because it’s an electric bike, not only did my policy not cover it, they wouldn’t even add it for an additional fee or sell me a separate policy for it, the way they did for our family car.

Instead they referred me to an insurance company that specializes in bikes and ebikes. I bought a policy from them and sleep a little better for it.

I’ve heard similar stories from other ebike owners. And I’ve heard worse.

What can happen without ebike insurance

The saddest stories are the ones where someone assumed their homeowners or renters or car insurance covered their ebike, and after it was stolen or seriously damaged, it turned out it wasn’t covered.

And then there are the stories about people whose ebikes were covered by their homeowners policy, but their premium went way up when they made a claim for a stolen ebike.

Why it’s hard to insure an ebike

When it comes to insurance, ebikes land in a gray area outside standard homeowners insurance and auto insurance. Here’s why:

  • Ebikes are new in terms of the insurance industry. Most of the several million ebikes in the U.S. were purchased in the last two years. Insurers aren’t familiar with them, and insurers don’t like to be surprised by unfamiliar products.
  • Ebikes are more expensive than regular bikes. Policies that cover bikes, like most homeowners or renters policies, might have also covered ebikes until the insurer had to pay much larger claims than they expected to replace a damaged or stolen ebike. See above about insurers and surprise. So some policy terms got changed.
  • Finally, ebikes get stolen a lot, and not only from people’s homes. They are ridden and locked up outside all over the place, which makes them more vulnerable than other valuable household items.

Steps to take to properly insure your ebike

The odds that your ebike is covered by your existing insurance is lower than you may think. Here’s what to do to find out if you need ebike insurance:

  1. Call your insurance company and find out what they cover. Things to bring up: coverage of accidental damage, theft, and travel (like what would happen if you flew somewhere with your bike and the airline did a number on it). Does the insurance company consider your ebike a “luxury item”? If you’re happy with the coverage, great! You’re good to go.
  2. Consider bike-specific coverage. If you aren’t covered, or feel like the coverage you do have isn’t enough, here are some things to think about.

Bike insurance covers all kinds of bike specific things, not just theft. Think damage to the bike from a collision, medical payments if you are injured in a collision, insurance for the bike if you are traveling with it or racing it, or a bike rental while your bike is being repaired. Some policies even cover things like accessories (like bike lights and panniers) and riding clothes.

Bike claims won’t affect your other insurance premium. Should you need to make a claim on your ebike, your home insurance premium won’t change or get canceled.

We can help

Want to learn more about ebike insurance? Join Tempo and get easy access to insurance quotes, and other ways to protect your ebike right inside the app.

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Michael Keating
Founder & CEO
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