How to protect bike components against theft

This post describes how to protect the individual parts of a bike – such as saddle, wheels, stem and fork – against theft.

In the first part, I present the individual measures in detail. At the end of the page there is an overiew comparison table.

Do you know any other ways to defend yourself against theft? Then just write a comment.

Updates

  • 10.7.2020: updated some sections, added information about IXOW safering and wheelguard (gravity and keycode), Nutlock, ABUS NutFix and Kryptonite Wheelnutz, removed information about Atomic22 (no longer available)

Security assesment

I have tried below to give an assessment of security (against theft) for each system. For this I have judged from my own experience and have also partly looked at webpages or videos with attempted break-ins.

These remarks are to be understood as my personal opinion only.

Very important: For some systems I do not give any assesment of their security. This means that I either have no own experience with the system or have not found (or searched for) any further information about it on the internet. No assessment does not mean that the system is very secure.

Locking the components

The simplest measure to protect bike parts against theft is, of course, to connect the affected components to a fixed object or the frame with a spiral, chain or U-lock. However, since this has many disadvantages, I will not consider it further.

Disadvantages:

  • You have to carry several locks (and keys!). This increases the weight and you have to put or attach these locks somewhere while riding.
  • Many of the “lighter” locks (e.g. spiral locks) are unsafe and can be opened with the simplest means (pliers or bolt cutters).
  • Locking and unlockinging the bicycle takes longer.
  • Especially securing the saddle with a lock is relatively difficult (unless you use a very thin and therefore unsafe lock).
  • Handlebars and forks usually cannot be protected against theft this way.

Types of anti-theft systems for bike components

So if you do not want to connect your wheels or saddle, you need a different type of protection. In principle there are the following categories with different characteristics:

  • Systems based on a special key that cannot be purchased in stores (each buyer receives a more or less individual key)
  • Systems based on a special key that can be purchased in shops but is very unusual (special key)
  • Systems based on gravity (the bicycle must be laid down or turned upside down to loosen the screws)

In addition, the following distinctions or characteristics exist. As a prospective buyer you first have to be clear about what you want to protect and which type of wheel mounting is used on your own bike:

  • Can the system only secure the wheels, or also the seat post?
  • Can other parts, e.g. fork and stem, also be secured?
  • Or is it even possible to generally secure all screwable parts?
  • Especially for wheels – which axle systems can be secured? Hollow axles (quick release replacement), solid axles (used with hub gears, low priced hub dynamos), thru axles?

In the following I present different systems.

Pitlock system

Pitlock key, nut, and bolt

The Pitlock system consists of special nuts and bolts (for wheels, seat post) and a special (individual) key. There are more than 1000 different nuts and keys, which can only be purchased from the manufacturer using a code card.

Advantages:

  • Very lightweight (appearance and weight).
  • Pitlock offers a very wide range of possible locks, including for: seatpost, ahead stem, thru axles, full axles (for Rohloff, Shimano Nexus and Alfine, hub dynamo), removable dropouts, rim brakes, front headlights, single screws.

Disadvantages:

  • Can unfortunately be opened relatively easily. I myself had a set of wheels stolen a few years ago, despite using Pitlock. Allegedly there have been various improvements to the system over the years to prevent theft, unfortunately I don’t know them.
  • According to the manufacturer, the Pitlock system may only be hand-tightened (8-10 Nm), which can be a problem on the seat post (could slip) and especially on the rear wheel (due to the large forces, the wheel can shift – I probably ruined my drop outs due to years of use).

Pinhead Components

Pinhead components key, nut, and axle

The Pinheads system is similar to Pitlock, i.e. there are special nuts and axles and a special key/wrench. There are a large number of different versions of nuts and keys, which can only be ordered from the manufacturer using a code card.

Advantages:

  • Light and slim (appearance and weight)
  • Similar product variety as Pitlock: also for thru axle, full axle, stem (headset), seat post.

Disadvantages:

  • Opening even without a key is possible with relatively little effort (with and without special tools).
  • Relatively expensive: A set to secure the wheels and seat post costs 70 € (current market price).
  • According to the manufacturer, the Pinhead system may only be hand-tightened (8 Nm), which can be a problem on the seat post (can slip in) and especially on the rear wheel (the wheel can shift due to the large forces – I think it has probably ruined my drop outs due to years of use).

HexLox

HexLox consists of inserts that can be inserted into all Allen screws (hexagonal socket) with a special key. The insert remains there and is held by magnetic force (for titanium or aluminium screws, a magnetic insert may have to be glued in for this purpose). An Allen key then cannot be inserted into these screws.

If you want to open a screw, you have to remove the insert with the individuel key. The key is available in a variety of combinations (only reorderable with code card).

Advantages:

  • Extremely light and unobtrusive.
  • Any Allen screw (4, 5 and 6 mm) can be protected. This also allows the saddle (not only seat post) and handlebar to be protected.
  • Solid axles and thru axles (of a specific manufacturer) are also supported.
  • Since the original bolts are used, they can be tightened with normal force.

Disadvantages:

  • There are several easy ways to open HexLox without a key (as of 2018).
  • Very expensive: A set to secure 5 screws (wheels and seat post plus 2 more) costs 72 € (plus the price for Allen wheel mounts, if required).
  • Depending on the shape of the screw head, some screws can also be opened with a pair of pliers. HexLox does not protect against this. But these screws can usually be exchanged for screws with a flatter head.

Pentagonal screws and bolts

A very simple kind of theft protection is to replace the quick-release and all hexagon socket screws (hexagon socket) worthy of protection with pentagonal socket.

Pentagonal key and bolt

Advantages:

  • Very cheap: A set to secure the wheels and the seat post costs from 11 €.
  • Screws can be tightened with normal force.
  • All allen screws can be protected.

Disadvantages:

  • Protects only against absolute casual thieves, because the necessary pentagonal key can be bought in any bike shop.

Allen (inner hexagon) screws and bolts

Just for the sake of completeness, it should be mentioned that in principle, using Allen screws and bolts also offers a certain protective effect compared to a quick release.

However, since Allen keys are available to practically everyone (and almost every bicycle parts thief is guaranteed to have one), this is only useful for protecting cheap components against casual thieves.

For this reason this protection is sufficient for me on my city bike, e.g. on the seat post.

Special safety bolts

Screws and nuts can also be replaced with special safety screws, e.g. Torx with pin in the middle or hexagon socket with pin.

Advantages:

  • All normal screws can be protected in this way.
  • Very inexpensive: 1 screw 0.10 € to 1.50 € depending on type and size.
  • Screws can be tightened with normal force.
  • Protection of solid axles, e.g. with hub gears, is possible with special nuts (e.g. Kinmar Removable)

Disadvantages:

  • The necessary tools / bits are freely available.
  • Therefore this protects only against casual thieves, but probably at least better protection level than with inner pentagon, because there are a variety of shapes and the tools / bits are certainly not so common.
  • Protection of wheels with hollow release axle probably possible, but not simple..
  • Protection of thru axles is not possible.

Zefal Lock’n’Roll

Zefal Lock’n’Roll

Zefal Lock’n’Roll (also known as Zefal Anti-Theft) is a quick release system for the wheels and the seat post, which can only be opened when the bike is lying down (gravity system). Since a locked bike is usually standing, opening it is then not possible. This is achieved by a ball which blocks the lever.

Advantages:

  • Functions almost as a normal quick release.

Disadvantages:

  • According to some users it can be opened with different tricks depending on the version.
  • Full or thru axles cannot be protected.

IXOW safering gravity

IXOW safering gravity

The safering gravity is a gravity system (bike must be turned upside down to loosen bolt with an Allen key) to protect the seat post from theft.

RRP 28€.

Advantages:

  • Can be tightened with standard Allen screws.

IXOW safering keycode

IXOW safering keycode

The safering keycode is an anti-theft protection system with individual keys.

Optically it does not look too safe, I could very well imagine it could be opened with a small pair of pliers.

RRP 28€.

IXOW wheelguard gravity

IXOW wheelguard gravity

The wheelguard gravity is a gravity system (bike must be turned upside down to loosen screw with an Allen key) to protect the wheels against theft.

Only compatible with standard hollow axle (as quick release replacement).

Weight: 100 grams

RRP 50€.

IXOW wheelguard keycode

IXOW wheelguard keycode

The wheelguard keycode is an anti-theft system with different individual keys for protecting the wheels.

Only compatible with standard hollow axle (as quick release replacement).

Weight: 100 grams

RRP 50€.

IXOW wheelguard gravity nuts

IXOW wheelguard gravity nuts

The wheelguard gravity nuts are a gravity system (bike must be turned upside down to loosen the nut with an open-end wrench) to protect the wheels against theft.

Compatible only with full axle (e.g. with hub gears or favourable hub dynamos).

Weight: 80 grams

RRP 28€.

Nutlock

Nutlock

Nutlock is a system with a individual keys. It is only suitable for wheels (there are separate products for hollow and solid axle). Otherwise it is similar to Pinhead, but seems to be harder to crack.

Price 60 $ plus shipping from USA.

ABUS NutFix

ABUS NutFix

ABUS NutFix is a gravity system for securing the wheels and seat post. The wheel must be on its side to release it. It is opened with an open-end spanner 8mm (saddle, hollow axle) or 15mm (full axle).

Street price 35 € for wheels and saddle.

Kryptonite Security WheelNutz

Kryptonite WheelNuts

The Kryptonite Security WheelNutz is a gravity system to secure the wheels. The bike must be turned upside down to open the screws (with 15mm open-end wrench). They are only available for solid axles (M9 and M10).

Weight 77g per wheel.

Street price 27€ for one wheel.

Overview of the anti-theft systems

 PitlockPinheadHexLoxFünfkantZefal Roll'n'LockSicherheits- schraubenIXOW safering (gravity / keycode)IXOW wheelguard (gravity / keycode)IXOW wheelguard gravity nutsNutlockABUS NutFixKryptonite WheelNutz
System typeindividual keyindividual keyindividual keyspecial wrenchgravity systemspecial wrenchgravity / individual keygravity / individual keygravity systemindividual keygravity systemgravity system
Price for set (wheels + seatpost)40 €57 €70 €
(plus Allen axles)
11 €30 €protection of hollow axles not possible28 € (seatpost only)50 € (wheels only)28 € (per wheel)60 $ (wheels only)35 €27 € (per wheel)
Protection of full axle possibleyesyesyesnonoyesnonoyesyesnoyes
Protection of thru axle possibleyesyesyesnonononononononono
Protection of stem/fork possibleyesyesyesyesnoyesnononononono
Protection of standard Allen screws possibleno*noyesyesnoyesnononononono
Tool freely availablenononoyesno tool necessaryyesnonono
Weight190 g (wheels + seatpost)111 g (wheels + seatpost)a few grams more than standard Allen screws100 g (wheels + seatpost)160 g (wheels + seatpost)no considerable additional weight30 g (seatpost only)100 g (wheels only)80 g (pro Laufrad)??77 g (pro Laufrad)
Protection assesmentattack knownattack knownattack knownwrench freely availableattack knownwrench freely availableunclearunclearunclearunclearattack knownunclear

*: Protection possible via separate product PIT Stopper.
**: very different price depending on the types of screws used, package sizes, etc.

Other theft protection measures

There are a number of other measures to secure screws in particular. I would like to go into these in more detail in the future. Here are some ideas:

  • Fill screw heads with beeswax
  • Fill screw heads with hot glue
  • Seal the screw heads with a metal ball (e.g. from a ball bearing) glued into the screw heads

They all have the common disadvantage that they make it difficult for the owner to open the screws (e.g. problematic in case of a breakdown).

Image copyrights: IXOW, Zefal, Nutlock, Abus, Kryptonite

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