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Living in London, I knew that researching and selecting my bike locks would be as important as researching my bike! Cycle theft is rife here so, it was important to me to know the ins and outs of the lock beforehand.
I chose the Abus Granit X-Plus 54 HB, which is what's commonly referred to as a U-lock or a D-shackle lock because of the shape. In the review I differentiate between the metal U part of the lock and the locking unit (where the key goes in). Abus is a well-known brand in Europe, and is manufactured in Germany. From my own work in manufacturing with German companies I am hugely respectful of the culture of quality there, so for me knowing the lock was produced in Germany was a big plus.
One of the best resources for choosing locks for bicycles and motorcycles is an organisation called 'Sold Secure' which was established by the Northumberland and Essex police and (according to their website) is now administered by the non-profit trade group the Master Locksmiths Association. Manufacturers apply to have their products tested by Sold Secure, and they rate the quality of the locks by having professional locksmiths try to break them! The Abus Granit X-Plus 54 lock was rated 'gold standard' by Sold Secure (the highest rating) so I knew that this lock had withstood a battering from the experts. Immediately this gave me the confidence to buy. I guess it also allows Abus to charge a premium for their products - as the Granit X-Plus 54 is currently on sale for £79.99 at www.cyclesurgery.com. This is definitely at the higher end of the lock market, although the Abus Granit Extreme comes in more expensive at only £179.99! As the replacement value of my bike is around £290.00, I felt it wasn't a big deal to invest this much in protecting it. Cycle Surgery also say on their website that this lock was twice the winner of the 'What Mountain Bike' magazine lock reviews.
The lock has a lot of features to help it withstand the brute force of an attack. First of all it's made from a 13mm piece of hardened steel, which helps to repel extremely harsh attacks by saws or bolt cutters. The top part of the U is slightly pointed, instead of being a traditionally rounded U shape. According to Abus, this patented parabolic shape increases strength the lock's strength, especially against attacks from pulling (by cars) and twisting (although I am not sure of the science that explains this). I've been using this lock for perhaps 3 years now, and there is only one dent in the hardened steel, which I think is really impressive since it clangs around in my bag, and on the streets of London mostly every day of the working week.
The weakest point of any lock is where the U meets the locking unit. This lock has a specially engineered Abus 'powercell' double locking mechanism, which apparently prevents the force and power of any attacks being transferred across the whole product. I am sure with this kind of highly competitive product that patented engineering solutions need to stay under wraps (and it isn't good to make the information available to potential thieves), but as a consumer I find it hard to understand the manufacturers explanations of what a 'powercell' mechanism actually is, or does. It would be so good if Abus explained just a little bit more about these features, as otherwise it's just a case of taking them on trust. The place where the key is inserted to actually 'lock' the product has a patented Abus cylinder for highest picking resistance and an automatic keyhole cover.
My own experience of using this lock has been very good. Ultimately it has been very successful as I have never had my bike stolen (although I don't want to tempt fate)! The lock itself couldn't be easier to use, it's simple and quick to insert the key and click the lock closed. The lock comes with a spare key and a unique code card, which is helpful if you lose one or want to share the lock with a partner. If you lose both keys then simply present the code card to order another one. I think this system is great, as it ensures that the lock has maximum longevity. The lock unit has worn extremely well, with no dents at all, just some scratches in the plastic. The only thing that has happened is that one end of the U doesn't sit as snugly into the locking unit as before (by about 3mm). I think the U part might have bent slightly in use. It doesn't seem to have affected the hold the locking unit has on the U part of the lock, which is as solid as ever.
The only problem with buying such a secure lock is that weight is ultimately a trade-off, although this lock weighs in quite respectably at 1.4kg. It is possible to buy a standard bracket from Abus to mount this lock to your bike's frame.
At the end of the day, I don't think you can rely on just one lock to secure your bike in a high theft area, and instead you need to use several different strategies. This is one of two locks that I use on my bike, locking the frame and wheel to proper cycle parking. The second lock is also an Abus, but this time a round loop 'O' lock. Having two locks of different types is recommended by the London Met police force, as thieves may be equipped with tools to break either one or the other type of lock. I also think it acts as a big dis-incentive as my bike tends to have double the protection than other bikes where I park.
Overall I would absolutely recommend this Abus Granit X-Plus 54 lock to anyone as part of their bike security scheme. It is well designed, with some great features and as I can testify that it is robust and well-made enough to perform through time.