the secret to hanging onto your bike lock keys

Carabiner for Bike Lock Key
photos: velojoy

Ever watch a New York City messenger lock and unlock a bicycle? The experienced ones are there and gone in less time than it takes to whisper “good morning” from the other side of the bike rack.

Part of the secret to that enviable efficiency is quick access to bike lock keys, often aided by a little gizmo called a carabiner. The metal loop, typically used to rig ropes for mountaineering, opens on one side via a spring gate. So it’s easy to securely clip keys to belt loops, chain locks or bags. If you often misplace keys or fumble around for them (mea culpa!), then this can help lift one small burden from your day.

You can also attach other stuff you want to keep handy. The messenger in the photo below carries a bicycle-shaped bottle opener and loyalty cards on her light blue carabiner. Mine (top photo) is loaded up with lucky charms: a fob from the French handbag maker Jamin Puech and a bright yellow key tag that a friend brought me from Paris.

Bike Messenger Carabiner

A carabinered key bunch may prevent fiddling and searching, but if dropped, it won’t protect against an equally frustrating foe: the New York City storm drain.

NYC Storm Drain

Perhaps it was the consequence of watching keys plop through a grate that led Emilia Crotty, education operations director for Bike New York, to recommend this no-fail alternative in the Bike Commuting 101 class that I attended last fall: the retractable key holder that attaches to clothing.

Retractable Key Ring

Find carabiners in sporting goods stores; non-load-bearing versions designed for keys, as well as retractable key rings, are available in hardware stores. Revel in your new-found efficiency!

photos: velojoy


Ripples continued to spread from last week’s New York Magazine “Bikelash” cover story. In the article, a former bike shop owner who’s now a bike lane opponent, says cycling contributes to anarchy in the streets of New York City and likens it to “homegrown terrorism.” On Friday, posted this editorial cartoon:


Illustration by Mark Markovich
Artwork: Copyright Mark Markovich


  • Hi, great to meet you tonight.

    I use an authentic carabiner myself (that I had lying around); attached are one small key ring for house keys and one small key ring for bike keys. Retractable one is intriguing, however.

    • Great to meet you too. If you get a chance, please send a photo of the bike-light battery holder and bike gloves that you made. Very cool!

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