How Does a Motorcycle Disk Lock Work? (What To Know Before Buying)

When you’re out on a motorcycle trip, no matter how short or long, the last thing you want is a stolen bike. There are several ways to secure your motorcycle, one of them being the disk lock.

So, How do motorcycle disk locks work? Motorcycle disk locks are small but sturdy locks that attached to your motorcycle’s disk brakes rotor. The U-shaped lock will slip over the disk and the pin will be inserted into a rotor vent hole and locked into place. The lock will prevent the wheel from turning by hitting the brake caliper or wheel forks. But, will a disk lock really keep your bike from being stolen?

No type of motorcycle lock or theft prevention system is a 100% guarantee that your bike will never be stolen. Thieves are smart and tricky. If they really want your bike and they have the resources to snatch it, they will find a way, even if it has a motorcycle lock. But, there are things you can do to make it more difficult, especially for the opportunistic thief who’s looking for an easy score.

What is a Disk Lock?

A motorcycle disk lock is a motorcycle lock that prevents theft by attaching to the wheel of your bike.

All disk locks look very similar. A disk lock is made of heavy, solid steel and generally have a long, thin opening that will slide onto your brake disk with just a little wiggle room. Disk locks will include some kind of disc lock that opens and closes with a key. This lock moves the pin in and out allowing you to install the disk lock and remove the disk lock from the brake disk rotor. To install a disk lock on the bike:

  • Unlock the pin
  • Slide the lock onto the brake disk
  • Align the pin with one of the  vent holes
  • Turn the key to insert the pin through the hole and secure the lock

Disk locks usually come with a brightly colored coiled plastic cable. This is really important for all motorcycle locks. This cable is not used as part of theft prevention. It’s used to remind you to remove the lock before trying to ride away. Yep. Enough people do it to necessitate this feature on motorcycle locks. You’ll string the cable from the disk lock to your handle bars, or some place where you’re sure to see it.

Personally, I’ve been lucky so far. I haven’t used the reminder cable in a long time, and, I’m not even sure where it went. But, there have been a couple of times where I’ve sat on the bike, ready to start it up, and I suddenly remember to remove the disc lock. Maybe I should find that cable and keep it with me.

Anywho, I think the pros of motorcycle locks outweigh any chance you might ride away with it on.

Will a Disk Lock Prevent Theft?

A disk lock will only prevent roll theft. A disk lock creates no more than a deterrent for most criminals, but there’s nothing preventing a few guys with a van from lifting your bike away. Actually, the van method is a lot less common than you might think.

Look at it this way, if a bear is chasing you, you don’t have to run faster than the bear, you only have to run faster than your friend. (That’s awful, I know). If your bike is parked along side another bike, your’s has the disk lock and the other doesn’t, which bike do you think the thief is going to take?

He’s going to take the path of least resistance. And seeing a brightly color disc lock on your wheel and a bright reminder cable on your handle bars, might be just enough to make him move to the next opportunity.

Nonetheless, there are a few things you can do to make it harder for them.

Best Ways to Use a Disk Lock

If you are able, always use the disc lock on your rear wheel. Why? Because a bike thief can quickly remove a front wheel, replace it, and ride away, leaving you with your disk lock and your wheel, but no bike. Rear wheels take more time to remove, so, this will give you a little bit of an edge if the thief is in a hurry. And it’s safe to say most are.

For some bikes, typically scooters or older bikes with rear drum brakes, you should probably find an additional form of security, such as a chain and padlock, rather than relying solely on the disk lock.

Types of Disk Locks

brown padlock on brown wooden fence

There are two common types of disk locks; the kind described above, which is good for only one type of application; on the brake rotor. Or, you can get a padlock style that can be used as a disk lock, or used with a heavy duty chain to lock your bike to a secure object. The padlock style may give you more options on how it can be installed on your rear brake disk depending on the type of bike you have.

The padlock style can also be used in conjunction with a heavy duty chain enabling you to disc lock your bike to an object like a pole, or a strong hold anchor. This creates the best motorcycle disc locks system.

Disk locks come with different lock styles; tubular or a basic, straight key. It’s best to avoid a tubular disc lock as they can be easily picked with a ball point pen. Ne’er do wells have figured it out. Although manufacturers have made improvements to the tubular lock, a cheap brand may be easy to pick.

So, it’s better to use a disc lock that is not tubular, rather, one that used a straight key. A key retaining lock is one in which the key will remain in the lock and can only be removed once the disc lock is secure.

Disk locks come in a lot of brands and some can be made of less expensive materials. It’s best to pick a disc lock (no pun intended) that is made of hardened steel. If a magnet sticks to it, then it’s steel. Other materials may seem good, they are heavy, but, if the metal is soft it is easy to cut or saw through. A good quality disc lock made of hardened steel will cost you more, but it’s worth it.

Disk Locks with Alarms

An added level of security is a disk lock with an alarm.

A Motorcycle disk lock with an alarm function just like any other disk lock, but comes with the added feature of a motion sensitive alarm. A motorcycle disk lock with an alarm takes only a small amount of motion to trigger the alarm which will give out a few short warning beeps the first time it is disturbed.

If it’s moved again within 5 or 10 seconds, a high pitched alarm will sound at about 90 to 100 decibels. Hopefully, that’s loud enough the cause a thief to give up. The alarm will ring for 10 seconds, then stop.

But, we all know how annoying car alarms can be. They go off in the middle of the night and go on and on and on, and everyone ignores it.  So, is a disk lock with an alarm effective? Again, it’s not a guarantee, but any extra deterrent helps. For example, if you’re staying in a hotel and your bike is parked near your room, you can have an ear out for your alarm.

Wrap up

So, to summarize, a motorcycle disk lock is a decent deterrent that will help prevent roll-away theft of your motorcycle. The best motorcycle disc locks are made of hardened steel with a quality lock and key. Consider the added protection of a disk lock with an alarm and install it on the rear wheel, these disk locks really work to fend off thieves.

And finally, don’t forget to use the reminder cable so you don’t try to ride away with the disc lock still attached. You. Will. Fall. Over. A reminder cable will save you and your bike!

I hope this quick article helps you decide whether or not a disk lock is a good option for you. And, if you’re after another level of protection, check out what a grip lock can do to help protect your bike a little more. A grip lock is a handlebar lock for your motorcycle.

About The Author

daniel and sarah on motorcycle

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