Sunday, December 21, 2008

In praise of cheap locks!

Here's a bit of an EC exclusive. I was able, through a series of covert dealings in a dark garage, score some vintage 1990s cheap wheel locks from India :) Ok, perhaps it wasn't THAT covert or dramatic, but darn if it isn't nearly impossible to get these in the US!

Chris lived in India for a spell in the 1990s. Always the long-term strategist, he decided to invest in wheel-lock futures :) He purchased a few of these, knowing how difficult they are to find in the U.S. He has these mounted on almost all his bikes, even his custom Franklin touring bike, Rivendell (painted to match the bikes of course) and a Rolhoff equipped folding tandem. The obvious question, I suppose, is why would you put such admittedly cheap locks on such nice bikes?

The logic is that most of the time when you're on tour, you are always pretty close to your bike. Usually, when I stop at a restaurant or cafe, I try to get a window seat so I can watch the bikes. With that in mind, a kryptonite hexagonal chain isn't absolutely necessary. Further, when you're on tour, you're always on the move, so no one can plan to steal your bike because they know your parking pattern. Chris usually just uses the wheel lock paired with a small cable so as to deter thieves of opportunity, keeping honest people honest.

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical at first. In practice, however, these locks are super convenient. There's no gigantic U-lock or chain to carry around. These locks are perfect for cafe/food stops where your bikes will only be left unattended momentarily.

The lock is also pretty smartly designed. When it is unlocked (the shackle is up), the lock traps the key in the key hole. You can ride over bumps or do summersaults and it won't fall out. When you push the lever to close the shackle, the key is released (best to put it in your pocket at that point).For such cheap locks, these things have surprisingly powerful springs! The first time I popped the key in to open it, I was surprised at the force the shackle opened up!

The locks come with some thin soft metal bands that wrap around the seat stays and bolt together. Not exactly what you'd call permanent, but again, it's not suppose to be the Fort Knox of locks. Some people use some strong-ish zip ties to mount them as well. Chris has drilled small holes into his frames and mounts them that way.

I'm fortunate to have two, one for my Bilenky and one on my townie 3 speed Surly Steamroller (this one will eventually be moved to my touring bike once I Mickey Mouse the fittings).

Would I use these to park a bike overnight or for several unattended hours? Heck no. But on tour, it would be a good way to provide some security without the weight of a U-Lock.

As of now, the only one that is readily available is through Clever Cycles in the form of the AXA Defender. VO announced a few weeks back that they would carry them, but they're not expected to be on sale until Feb-March. If you see one of these in your LBS' junk box, grab it! They're great and convenient locks. Just don't lose the key!


2whls3spds said...

Love my wheel locks! and can't wait for VO to get the less expensive model in. I currently have them on 3 bikes and want to put them on a couple of more. Interestingly enough my 1972 Raleigh Superbe has a lock built into the front fork and I am fortunate enough to have a key for it! Amazing how something so simple can be so effective.


RussRoca said...

yeah...i can't wait for the VO versions's a pity that they're so friggin impossible to get in the states...

they're even tough to find on Ebay!

I'm sure when VO gets a hold of them they'll be hot sellers!

Karl Gerstenberger said...

I love gadgetry. Way cool. I've been using a coated steel mini cable and a combination luggage lock for the same temporary disabling function, but you have to store the thing....

TheGuth said...

I was just at the mall yesterday and saw some of these on display in a kiosk:

Two of them were outfitted with these wheel locks. I was inpsecting the locks more than the bikes, I had never seen them before. So weird that I see them in your post today. If I go back I'll have to ask where he got them.

Patrick in Chicago said...

I just use a smaller padlock. I lock it around the chainring and over the chain. No way someone can ride or push it away without the lock binding everything up. In a pinch I've even used a locking caribiner. It's small enough that a crook won't notice but enough to slow them down.

Patrick in Chicago

Camden said...

It would be really cool if you could get these integrated into the frame, they're probably all you need in parts of the country with low theft rates.

Although somewhat expensive, couldn't you just get pitlock skewers and run a mini U-lock through the rear triangle/wheel for a similar, possibly more secure effect?