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Bike Lock Review

Lock that Sh*t Up

Words Dave Tolnai
Photos Dave Tolnai
Date Jul 10, 2020
Reading time

Considering that we all ride mountain bikes, there are remarkably few experiences we all share. We ride different bikes, in different places, in different ways. We wear different clothes and different shoes. Yet, through all this clutter and argument and differences strolls one great equalizer that brings us all together. The Instagram post announcing the theft of a bicycle.

"STOLEN!!! If you see my bike call 555-SAD-MAN2!"

Stolen bikes go with mountain biking like sunburn and surfing, or like over-priced french fries and skiing. Sometimes a garage gets broken into. Sometimes a van gets a new door carved into its side. Often, it's just because somebody turned their back for a second to pay for their gas or tie their shoe. Just like a snowflake, every theft is special. For that reason, this care package full of locks that showed up at my door felt like as good an excuse as any to talk about different ways that you could be locking up your bikes.

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All the lovely ZLoks.

Hiplok ZLok

I'm going to start with the lock for which I was the most skeptical, and which surprised me the most with its utility. The Hiplok ZLok ($12 US for one) is basically a re-usable cable tie that has a strange amount of acne and does secretive things in the locker room at the gym (is this too abstract? It's on steroids, people). It works just like any of the hundreds of cable ties you have buried in your toolbox, except it's easily removable with the provided tiny little key.

I wasn't exactly sure what to do with them at first, but I now find myself using them all over the place. Lock your helmet to your bike when you go to the beach. Lock your pannier to your bike when you go to grab groceries. But, most importantly, quickly and easily lock your bike to your car/truck/moped whenever you're driving to the trailhead.

These things are so easy to use I just leave a couple strapped to the bed of my pickup and I lock a wheel in place any time I'm transporting my bike. It's second nature now. If I stop for coffee/gas/take-out and I can keep my bike in sight, it's that tiny little bit of security that will prevent some guy from making off with several thousand dollars of getaway vehicle. I probably should be locking it with something more robust, but life is risk. These things are cheap and they're easy and they're a great tool for a little bit of peace of mind.

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I eventually figured out how to position the bike so that I only needed to use one ZLok, but you get the idea.

ABUS

Next out of the box is a few options from ABUS. First up is the Brooklyn Chain (MSRP US$ 99.99 with a 12-out-of-15 security rating). It offers 10mm links, and a protective non scratch casing, all in a handy-dandy choker style chain that threads through itself. Locking duty is completed by a skookum "Titalium" padlock that feels pretty durable, and that I certainly can't pick with my beginner lockpicking kit. I did try.

After that is the, somewhat gimicky, 440 Alarm U-lock (MSRP US$ 99.99 with a 8-out-of-15 security rating). I rolled my eyes pretty hard at the thought of an alarm lock, but further reflection convinced me that a nice little aural warning when my bike was getting tampered with might not be such a bad idea?

Also in the box was the Bordo 6000, which has been an incredibly useful lock for commuting around town, but that I haven't found a good use for yet with a mountain bike. It provides a similar opening size to a U-Lock, so the main benefit is how compact it is when folded up. For commuting, I'm now a believer. It's very easy to throw this into a backpack as it doesn't take up much space. Just like a camera, the best lock is the one that you have with you, so making it easier to bring along is definitely a bonus when riding around town, but less of a benefit for most situations faced by a mountain biker. The Bordo can be had for an MSRP between $119 and $129 US, depending on length, and has a 10-out-of-15 security rating.

In the end, none of the ABUS products were perfect for my needs. That's not really a strike against ABUS. They make great products, and I've had one of their higher rated U-Locks for years and it has been faultless. But none of these were ideal. For example, it's hard to make use of all the functionality of the Brooklyn Chain with only a tiny padlock. I find that something a wee bit larger (like this style of disc lock from Kryptonite) makes this style of chain much more usable. It becomes much easier to lock this chain to something, rather than just to itself.

The alarm lock on its own wasn't perfect either. ABUS doesn't sell this as a high security lock, and I can understand why. It wasn't quite robust enough for me to trust it all on its own, and a U-Lock isn't the best tool for locking a bike to the back of a vehicle or rack.

What did work fairly well was to couple the alarm U-lock with the Brooklyn chain. The U-lock gives some additional flexibility to how you can use the chain, and the alarm allows me to drift a little bit further away from my bike, knowing that the chain will scare most people off and that the alarm would let me know if it didn't. Yes, I know, the system is only as strong as its weakest link, and the 440 U-lock is far less substantial than many U-locks on the market. This is not a setup that you can trust while you disappear down the street for a three course meal.

Now, about that alarm function. There's a couple of things to consider. First, if you're locking your bike in a high traffic location, you're gonna get some false alarms. The lock gives a few warning beeps if it is jostled, and then reacts more fully when it is moved around a few times. It might take other unsuspecting cyclists by surprise. It might even prove to be somewhat entertaining. The good/bad news is that the alarm isn't so loud that it will scare the living bejeebus out of them. It's more like an alarm clock that you've let ramp up a few levels when you go downstairs and forget to turn off than a piercing car alarm that will bring people running. For short term, close at hand scenarios, this might be enough to let you know that something is happening.

Do you need an alarm lock? Of course you don't. However, it's an interesting concept to consider. I think with a bit more experience and thinking, this could be a really great product, and I will be interested to see what they come up with after a few product generations. What I would really love to see is a lock that pairs with your phone and lets you know if somebody is fiddling with it. I'd much rather have a device that told me my bike was being stolen, rather than one that provided a minor annoyance to people in the vicinity. This world is so full of smart devices and this one might actually prove to be a useful one.

Conclusions

The first rule of not getting your bike stolen is to not leave your bike anywhere that it can get stolen. There is no perfect lock solution. If somebody really wants to steal your bike and you give them an opportunity, chances are pretty good that they can figure out a way to succeed. But we all have situations when leaving our bike is the only option, and a lock - any lock - is going to improve the chances that your bike won't get stolen. Be smart and you should be okay.

If it were my money, I'd probably put it into something like the ABUS Granit 58. For a bit more than the combined cost of the Brooklyn Chain and the 440 Alarm Lock, you get something that doesn't need batteries, and that will shrug off anything but the most well prepared bike thief. Throw that in your vehicle along with some ZLoks and you can approach most situations with some degree of certainty that your bike will still be there when you turn your back to buy some gas or pop into a coffee shop for a few minutes.

Beyond that, just don't do it. Your bike is gonna get stolen.

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Comments

Endur-Bro
0
Endur-Bro  - July 8, 2020, 11:06 p.m.

That ABUS looks like a cheap knockoff to the Kryptonite New York Noose

Reply

davetolnai
0
Dave Tolnai  - July 9, 2020, 12:13 p.m.

I don't know about "cheap".  Perhaps there are some intellectual property discussions to be had between the two companies.  This isn't the heaviest chain that ABUS makes - see my link for something that would probably rival the New York Noose from Krypto.  In my experience, they both make quality products and its not really fair to compare two products built for different levels of security.

Reply

Endur-Bro
0
Endur-Bro  - July 9, 2020, 8:06 p.m.

No I mean the Titaninal padlock that we cut by placing bolt cutters nearby. The ABUS chain looks solid enough 

NYN has a mini U Lock.

Reply

meepmoop24
0
meepmoop24  - July 9, 2020, 5:53 a.m.

The chain looks a bit short, which is probably why it was hard to use in the choker configuration. I have the 12KS chain in a 6 foot length and it easily locks up 2 bikes. I combine it with their Ultimate 420 U-lock as well. You could probably lock 3 bikes using the U lock and chain, possibly even 4.

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davetolnai
0
Dave Tolnai  - July 9, 2020, 12:11 p.m.

That could definitely be part of the problem.  I have a really old Krypto New York Chain that is a bit longer and that I still use as my primary.  I thought this might help in some of the scenarios where that chain didn't work perfectly, but it hasn't been the case.

Reply

Vikb
+2 muldman Tremeer023
Vik Banerjee  - July 9, 2020, 6:03 a.m.

If I am doing a long solo ride and stop at a cafe/store for resupply/bathroom I'll:

1. Lean bike up against a window or other area with lots of eye on it.

2. Hit shifter so it'll shift in a much harder gear as soon as someone tries to pedal away on it.

3. Attach my helmet buckle/strap through a wheel so it'll stop the bike rolling unless you take it off first.

4. Get insurance with solid bike coverage so I can replace my bike should it be stolen.

If I am riding into town to run an errand on bike and I am going to leave it anywhere for some time I'll:

1. Pick the best locking spot I can reasonably find with eyes on the bike and a secure item to lock to.

2. Use a stout chain with padlock for frame.

3. Use a long cable to get both wheels locked to frame.

4. I have an old Surly Krampus rigid steel MTB setup SS with dual mudhugger fenders that I use for these missions. Nice enough I love riding it, but weird enough it's not a "fancy MTB" in the mind of a potential thief.

5. Get insurance with solid bike coverage so I can replace it if it's stolen.

My home insurance policy is my real bike lock/security system.

Reply

el_jefe
0
el_jefe  - July 9, 2020, 10:21 a.m.

Dave, your Abus Granit 58 link is broken.

Thanks ZipLok looks nifty! Will check it out.

My go-to is the massive chains that Broadway Lock sells, with big-ass American Standard locks that cannot be cut with any boltcutter. I have numerous of these locks, in short and long shackle, all keyed the same. Use with mtbs and motorbikes. 

Abus makes awesome floor anchors too - essential for if someone does actually break in to your garage....

Reply

el_jefe
0
el_jefe  - July 9, 2020, 10:30 a.m.

Also ZipLok looks to be UK? Is there any Canadian distro or did you just order off the regular HipLok site?

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davetolnai
0
Dave Tolnai  - July 9, 2020, 12:08 p.m.

The Abus website is a mess, and I couldn't find anything Canadian for Ziplok, hence the crappy links.  I'm sure they're out there somewhere.

Reply

mrbrett
0
mrbrett  - July 9, 2020, 8:08 p.m.

I got a Ziplok or something very similar to it at MEC. It's a combo, not a key.

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davetolnai
0
Dave Tolnai  - July 10, 2020, 7:49 a.m.

I’m sure you can buy them here. I just couldn’t figure out their web presence.

Reply

davetolnai
0
Dave Tolnai  - July 12, 2020, 2:54 p.m.

Spoke to our contact - Hiplok products are available in Canada through Live to Play.  I had another look at the website as well, but can still only get pricing in pounds through that.

jd
0
JD  - July 9, 2020, 11:05 a.m.

The ZLok looks pretty good as a bare-minimum deterrent. Are they actually "keyed", or is the key really just a release tool (ie one key fits all)? Have you tried to defeat it with, say a bent piece of wire?

Reply

davetolnai
+1 Pete Roggeman
Dave Tolnai  - July 9, 2020, 12:10 p.m.

One key fits all.  I played around a bit to see if I could open it without the tool, but didn't try too hard at that.  I was unsuccessful.  You could probably make your own tool without too much difficulty, but it's really just a simple line of defense against crimes of opportunity.

Reply

jd
+1 Pete Roggeman
JD  - July 9, 2020, 12:26 p.m.

In that case, I'd view the "not-readily-available-in-Canada" aspect to be a benefit!

Reply

kiwizak
+2 Pete Roggeman twk
kiwizak  - July 9, 2020, 12:45 p.m.

Remember guys, A chain is only as good as its lock, and a lock is only ever a deterrent.

https://www.youtube.com/c/lockpickinglawyer/videos

Now not everyone has this guys skill-set or tools, but it goes to show how quick a lock can be picked/defeated.

His Ramset videos show just how quick (and relatively quiet) most locks can be defeated with something available from the hardware store.

Reply

Timer
+2 HitechTurtleneck twk
Timer  - July 10, 2020, 6:50 a.m.

As impressive as most lockpicking videos look, lockpicking is almost never used for bike theft, according to the police.

It is just so much easier and quicker to cut locks with a big bolt cutter than learn to pick dozens of different cylinders (whose construction changes every few years). Not to mention that in reality a thief would often need to pick the lock in horrible conditions ( dirty lock, hanging upside down, lying on the floor, in bad light.....)

Reply

kiwizak
+1 twk
kiwizak  - July 10, 2020, 6:03 p.m.

You're absolutely right.

I should have been more specific, towards the "defeating" part of my original comment. He finds alternative means; double spanners, nut splitters, hydraulic cutters and Ramset gun, to break locks after his attempts at picking.

Reply

T-mack
+1 Andrew Major
T-mack  - July 11, 2020, 5:54 p.m.

I've been using a chain/Ulock combo that I picked up at the Giant factory sale a couple years ago. I then replaced the pinner aluminum tie down hooks Toyota uses in the bed of their Trucks with a CNC'd piece of hardened steel. So really theres thick steel down the whole line of defence. If a thief manages to get through all of that then he can have my bike.

Reply

Wile_E.
0
Wile_E.  - July 27, 2020, 12:07 p.m.

I went outside the bike world and found a rigging supply company in Oregon that sells heavy duty chain and locks.  You can order the chain in any length you want, and they do have links that run from 7mm to 13mm.  These are heavy duty lifting chains and are hardened beyond the hardness of bolt cutters.  My 6' chain with heavy duty lock ran me about $100 US and at about 12 pounds I don't take it on the ride, but I do use it to lock my bike to the car or to a big tree at a campground.  My buddies laughed at me and "superlock" until a trip in Oregon where the campsite and resort we stayed at was hit and a lot of bikes were stolen, but the three on my car remained.  Now they ask me to bring superlock along. 

With the hardened casing, there are videos of guys jumping up and down on the bolt cutters and hurting the jaws of the cutters, not the chain.  Like anything else, they're not foolproof, but cutting requires a torch or about four minutes with a grinder.

My next chain from them will likely be a 7mm at 2 or three feet which with lock is 2 - 3 ponds.  Still heavy to carry, but if I were commuting on my bike I'd take the weight.

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