Does a frame/wheel lock that can be locked without the key being inserted exist? And if so, how secure is the lock itself (I heard that this style of locks that can be locked without the key inside are more susceptible to picking than normal style locks)?

Ring type bike lock (Wikipedia user Hustvedt https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bike_O_Lock_Japan.jpg), CC-BY-SA-3.0

These locks are variously named ring locks, cafe locks, O locks and defenders.

Update: There is another style of lock that is similar to the one picture above, but it has a straight locking bar instead of curved one. This type can be locked without the key inside, but it's not as easy to close and open due to the bar not being curved.

straight locking bar

  • I saw a combination one the other day, on a bike parked next to mine. Any use? I don't have any more information except that it was in the UK and the bike had an unusual child seat only available direct from China (which was what caught my eye)
    – Chris H
    May 15, 2017 at 9:34
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    @ChrisH: Thanks, I actually have a frame lock with a combination of push/pull levers instead of keys, but I prefer something with keys, since there's less fidgeting. May 15, 2017 at 10:22
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    @Criggie On a heavy e-bike (which is where I've used one) such a lock makes the difference between opportunism and planned theft. In many locations that's a big difference; in others all you'll do is annoy the thief when they get your bike back to their home. Especially with a step-though that you can't carry over your shoulder. Picking up motorbikes that aren't locked to the ground used to be quite common, it may still be, but it requires a van
    – Chris H
    May 15, 2017 at 11:14
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    I'll have a look at the one one my wife's bike. She rides it with the key in the lock (e-bike, the key is tied to the battery key which has to be in to use it). I can't remember whether the lock requires the key present to lock it, but I know you don't need to turn the key. Of course it might not have a brand name on it. Riding with the key in the lock may be the easiest for you though, as you have to unlock it to get going.
    – Chris H
    May 15, 2017 at 11:16
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    I've added the picture from wikipedia (licencing should be OK) as people seem to be getting confused, and also listed all the names I know of.
    – Chris H
    May 15, 2017 at 14:52

3 Answers 3


You should note that non-key-retaining locks that don't involve a separate lock-actuating lever are susceptible to shimming.

Before buying a lock, you should always google or YouTube search to see if your lock can be easily shimmed or bypassed.

Ps I would not worry too much about picking unless it's a tubular lock, as most thieves will prefer to use physical force (cutters, grinder) as they are much faster (5-30 seconds) than picking (1-5 minutes in ideal circumstances; 3-20 in non-ideal).

  • That's good advice, thanks--learned something new! Jun 14, 2017 at 19:35

Abus has several frame locks: https://www.abus.com/uk/Mobile-Security/Bike-Safety-and-Security/Locks/Frame-Locks

They distinguish between 2 variants. For one variant, you can remove the key when the lock is unlocked. The other variant does not allow you to remove the key when the lock is unlocked. However, I am not sure, whether or not you can lock it while you have the key removed. But maybe the variant where you cannot remove the key would already help you, as you can never forget to take your key with you.

  • Good idea, I will contact Abus and some other manufacturers and see if they make what I'm looking for. May 15, 2017 at 15:50
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    So with the second kind of lock, you can't keep your key on a keyring because it has to be in the lock the whole time you're riding your bike? That sounds like a total nightmare. May 15, 2017 at 19:19
  • Having once managed to lock my bike to a rack 4 hours walk from home, there's a small positive point in forcing the key to stay with the lock. Consider it like a swimming pool locker key.
    – Criggie
    May 15, 2017 at 19:57
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    @David Richerby: It sure isn't the ideal solution for everyone - it might still be an interesting option. Also, there are key rings where you can take off individual keys and just click them back on. So that might be an option, too.
    – Thomas
    May 15, 2017 at 20:01
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    I received a reply from Abus, they don't make a frame lock that can be closed without the key in the lock. Other manufacturers like Axa and Trelock don't seem to either. May 18, 2017 at 10:59

I've seen these advertised recently:


You can lock them without using the key, and allegedly they are super mega secure.


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