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Lock Blog

A resource for consumers, locksmiths, and security professionals

6 Best Ways To Open A Bike Lock

by Ralph June 21, 2017
Bike Locked

I will begin by saying, this article is not intended for criminal use. If you would like to know how to open a bike lock for the purpose of stealing bikes, my advice would be to re-examine your life. If you are wondering how to open a bike lock because your own bike lock is stuck, you have lost your key, or even broke your key off in the lock, then read on. These methods will not be effective for every person of every skill level, and if you have one of the best padlocks you might need professional help to open your bike lock.

1. Picking

Pick Bike Lock

If it has a keyway, you can pick it open. There are locks that cannot be picked yet, but truthfully, all locks can be picked. That being said, picking a bike lock is by far the most difficult way to open the device. If you are looking for how to open a bike lock quickly, let alone the fastest way to open a bike lock, picking is not the right method for you.

Lock picking requires two main tools. A tension wrench and a lock pick. The tension wrench is used to apply torque to the core as the pick tries to move the internal mechanisms as if it were the proper key. In terms of how to open a bike lock with lock picks, you could rake or single pin pick and you could use manual or electric lock picks.

You can pick some of the cheaper bike locks with a relatively low skill level. These would be the types of locks you could get at Home Depot or similar big box stores, which make for good practice locks. But in order to get into lock picking as a hobby, you need to start by getting the right type of lock picks from the companies that make good lock picks.

Once you get to a certain level of ability, no lock will ever be locked to you again. But until then, lock picking is unlikely to be a viable way for you to open your bike lock. How to open a bike lock with lock picks depends on the lock and even the key. And your success with a simple or complex lock is reliant on your knowledge and skill. And pending on your local laws about lock picking, you might not be able to own these tools unless you are a locksmith.

Key Takeaways:

  • Any lock with a keyway can be picked with enough skill and time.
  • Lock picking requires a lock pick and tension wrench.
  • Without a bit of practice and properly made tools, picking a bike lock open will be very difficult.
  • It might be illegal in your area to own lock picks

2. Bypassing

Bypass Bike Lock

Easier than picking the locking mechanism, you can bypass it. Discovering a bypass for a lock has everything to do with understanding how the lock is locked. However, to perform most bypass methods you need very little skill or training. How to open a bike lock with a bypass relies most on your tools. Some of the locks that provide the illusion of security have special tools made for them, which you could buy if you lack the means or ability to make the tools yourself.

The Pen Trick – In terms of bike locks such as the Kryptonite tubular lock and similar Master Lock tubular bike locks, a simple plastic pen can be used to bypass the lock. You can remove the tip of a Bic pen (or use a tube with a similar diameter), then just press the hollow cylinder into the keyway and turn. This will open the lock. When it comes to how to open a bike lock when you have lost your key, a pen is a pretty readily available substitution.

Shims – For very low-quality padlocks made by some of the worst security brands, they can be shimmed open. This is a very popular bypass method that only requires some slim sailor hat-shaped pieces of metal. How to open a bike lock with a shim involves sliding the pointed end of the shim into the crevasse between the lock body and the shackle. Position the shim inside the U-shape of the shackle and depress it to retract the locking pawl. (You may have to do this on both sides of the shackle simultaneously.)

Finding A Bypass – If you are looking for how to open a bike lock like this, but are unsure of what method will work on your on your particular lock, you can research the lock. The research that most people are interested in comes in the form of just Googling the particular lock with terms like “bypass”, “how to open”, “picked open”, “weakness exposed”, etc. If there is no widely advertized bypass, then you may need to experiment or research how your lock works. Knowing how shackles and bolts are actuated will show you if there is any way to get around the more difficult ways of opening the bike lock.

Key Takeaways:

  • Bypassing is one of the easiest ways to open a lock.
  • After using most bypasses, the lock will still function.
  • If you are looking to find a bypass for your specific lock, you will need to do specific research.

3. Decoding

Decoding Bike Lock

Most of the standard combination cable/padlock bike locks are quite simple to decode. These types of locks and their padlock counterparts should not be confused with combination dials (which you manipulate like a safe and are often seen on school lockers). The combination locks that almost anyone can decode with a few tips are cylindrical with either numbers, letters, or a mixture of the two. They are opened when all the correct numbers are lined up in the proper sequence.

Here is how to open a bike lock with decoding:

  1. Pull outward on the shackle or on the cable. This tension is similar to how you would pull on the lock to open it once the correct combination is set.
  2. Move each wheel.
  3. Feel for any of the wheels that are starting to bind. These will not move as freely as the other wheels. (If every wheel feels the same, try lubricating the lock.)
  4. Move the binding wheel(s) one number or letter at a time. If there is more than one wheel binding at once, only move one at a time.
  5. You can tell when the right symbol is selected because you will notice at least one of the following:
    1. the lock jolts.
    2. the wheel falls into a gate and does not move on to the next number as easily.
    3. you can move to the half position on either side of one symbol but not any other
    4. number/letter.
  6. Find the next binding wheel.
  7. Repeat this process until you reach the last wheel.
  8. When the last wheel is moved into the correct position, the tension you have been holding will give as the shackle or cable pulls free.

There are some minor variations between the various types of these products, but this is the general way of how to open a bike lock of this type. For other types of decoding, such as key decoding and decoding a combination dial, the processes are extremely diverse and complex. Those types of decoding procedures would each demand a full article.

Key Takeaways:

  • This type of decoding works on very specific locks.
  • A combination lock and a combination dial lock (ie. what is used for school lockers) are different.
  • Make sure to maintain tension on the shackle or cord while decoding the lock.

4. Cutting

Cutting Bike Lock

If something has broken in the bike lock, there might be no way to open it by manipulating the locking mechanism. In cases like this, you can cut the lock open. This form of destructive entry is very popular because it only requires a blade stronger than the metal used on the bike lock. This method of how to open a bike lock will destroy the lock. Once it is cut, it will be useless.

This should only be done as a last resort. If you do not have the proper tools, you risk damaging the tool and possibly harming yourself. Bolt cutters are the go-to tool for how to open a bike lock by cutting it. But depending on your lock, standard bolt cutters might not be enough. The larger the bolt cutters, the more force you can apply to the lock, and the harder the blade the less chance that the cutters will be damaged. A good pair of resistant bolt cutters is the Klein Tools 63342 bolt cutter. For a better chance of success, use an angle grinder. An angle grinder will get through most things given enough time. The Black & Decker 6-Amp angle grinder is a great, cost-effective, solution.

When you are cutting, you need to know where to cut. Cut on the shackle or other weakest part of the lock. (Wherever you can access the length of metal most fully.) If the shackle is a full release (meaning the shackle comes off entirely when it is open) you will need to make two cuts, which remove enough of the shackle to take it off of what is securing.

Key Takeaways:

  • Cutting will destroy your lock.
  • Your cutting tool must be stronger than the metal on your lock.
  • Cut the lock at the point it is the weakest.
  • For full release shackle padlocks you will need to make two cuts.

5. Ignore The Lock

Ignore Bike Lock

In my opinion, a bike lock is open when it is on longer attached to what it had been securing. If you can take apart what the lock is securing and slide the lock off the bike, then you have opened the bike lock. To paraphrase Sun Tzu, this how to open a bike lock without opening the bike lock. A very zen concept, and also a very effective way of how to open a bike lock.

Besides some deconstruction of what your lock is secured to, you can elect to use a destructive method such as cutting on the chain a padlock is using. If the chain is weaker than the lock, it is preferable to cut the chain and spare your tools the stress. Also, the chain will still be usable even if one or two links has to be removed. Know that you will have to cut and bend the link or make two cuts in order to allow for a large enough opening to remove the lock.

Bikes are sometimes secured to anchor points. And if you have not taken the proper steps for bike security, then you may not have cords or chains passing through the wheels. In these cases, you could manipulate the anchor point to remove your bike lock. Be aware that you should not harm or tamper with anchor points you do not own. If there is a chain link fence, signpost, tree, etc., that you do not own, do not mess with it.

Key Takeaways:

  • You can remove a lock without opening it.
  • Address the weakest part of what is being locked.
  • A chain that is cut can still be used after the damaged links are removed.
  • If you don’t own it, don’t break it.

6. Call a Locksmith

Locksmith Customer Service

No matter what lock you have, a locksmith will be able to open it. When it comes to looking at how to open a bike lock, many people overlook calling a locksmith. It takes all of the guesswork out of the equation and delivers you a professional who will understand the best way to open your bike lock. With many cheap bike locks, they will almost always be able to open the device without harming the lock. For the more expensive locks that provide high-security, a locksmith may be able to service the lock so that you can use it again. This could be by swapping out the existing core, making a new key, finding your combination, etc.

Getting the most out of this method is less a question of how to open a bike lock and more about choosing the right locksmith. It comes down to knowing some of the facts about locksmiths and some of the characteristics that make for a great locksmith. Once you know these things, you don’t need to know how to open a bike lock because you will have access to a professional that does know.

No matter if you have an issue with opening your bike lock at home, or when you are out and about in the world, as long as you contact a mobile locksmith, they can reach you no matter your location. There is nothing wrong with choosing to have a professional do the job that you have not had the time to learn how to do yourself.

Key Takeaways:

  • A locksmith will find a way to open your bike locksmith.
  • As long as you can choose the right locksmith you will have nothing to worry about.
  • Do your research to find a good and knowledgeable locksmith.


After all of that, you should not be wondering how to open a bike lock. Just choose the method that works best for you. I will reiterate that none of this information should be used for the purpose of any illegal activity. You should only ever open a bike lock that you own, or have been given express permission to open. Follow the laws in regards to the methods listed above, and good luck opening your bike lock.

Category: How To's, Lock Picking, Lock Types, Safety & Security

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