One of the more annoying aspects of everyday bicycle use is fumbling with a bicycle lock. Arriving at your destination by automobile, on the other hand, is a smooth elegant experience. With the click of a button, you are off on your merry way.
Why can’t we ride our bicycles and lock them with ease and grace? Can’t we have our cake and eat it too?
In the war against bike thieves there are two main weapons. #1 are bike locks of all shanks and sizes. #2 is the elusive GPS system.
GPS on a bike is like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I’ve heard it exists and I’ve even paid to Kickstart it, but it is proving to be an elusive phantom. (To be fair there are some interesting products that are now becoming available like the Helios Bar)
There is no doubt in my mind about the accessibility of bike locks to consumers. I decided to focus on the equipment that I could put my hands on to begin my quest at solving the bicycle lock portion of the JOYBAG puzzle.
My JOYBAG bike is an Xtracycle Edgerunner with a BionX kit. I did not want to skimp on bicycle security. And living in the bike thief happy town of Tucson, Arizona, I did not want to limit my options of where I could park my bike.
To summarize, here are the requirements of my JOYBAG lock system:
- Wheels and other parts of the bike secured separately from lock system.
- A very robust lock.
- Lock is easy to lock in many bike rack situations.
- Lock is easy to stow and carry.
With my requirements laid out, I began tackling them one by one.
Wheels and Other Parts of the Bike Secured Separately from Lock System
When I lock up my bicycle, I do not want to also have to worry about all of the parts on the bicycle that can potentially be stolen, namely the wheels and the seat. Pinhead locks has taken this problem on with some innovative solution.
I installed Pinhead locks on my front and rear wheels, my seatpost and my handlebars. Problem solved.
A Very Robust Lock
I was not looking for some dinky bicycle lock that could be sliced through with bolt cutters in seconds. I was looking for the best in bicycle locks. The word on the street is that no bicycle lock is impenetrable.
I chose Kryptonite’s, New York Chain lock.
My lock was not impenetrable either, but to get through it, a thief would likely need 10 minutes with a high powered angle grinder throwing sparks in every direction. My estimate is that less than 1% of dedicated bike thieves would ever travel with this type of gear. And even if they were equipped 10 minutes of spark flying exposure is unlikely to be worth it.
Lock is Easy to Lock in Many Bike Rack Situations
My impenetrable lock also needed to have reach. I’ve spent way too much of my life struggling with fitting a Ulock around my bike. Not to mention the fact that most ULocks can be broken by opening a portable car jack inside of them.
Fortunately my New York Lock is 3.25′ long. The small ULock on the end of it allows me to loop the chain around metal objects and lock it back on itself or the bike frame.
Lock is Easy to Stow and Carry
This was the most difficult part of the equation to solve, but also leads to the most interesting part of this story. How can I have a lock that is always ready to go. The geometry of my Xtracycle Edgerunner gave me pause to think of a solution.
I secured one end of the lock by looping it to itself around the top of my downtube. To keep it in position, I zip-tied the end up to the seat-stays with over-sized zip ties. From this mounting position, the length of the lock could be pulled out in any direction for a quick lockup.
With my lock permanently affixed in this position, it was time to see if the Xtracycle’s unique geometry would support stowing the lock the way I imagined it.
Enter the Tarantula
The vast deadspace behind the down-tube of the Xtracycle Edgerunner is a wild expanse for bicycle designers to wonder and dream about. Using it for a BionX battery has been about the only regular adoption that I’ve seen previously.
I first imagined a sewn bag designed to fit in this space and containing the massive chain lock I wanted to use. But after giving it some thought, I realized that it would be fairly simple to utilize webbing to prototype a solution.
I got out my tailor’s tape measure, webbing role, hot cutter and a pile of plastic buckles and got to work. The first version was promising, basically holding the lock in place. But out on the road, the lock slipped through the straps and hit the ground.
Version 2 and Version 3 just involved adding more webbing onto Version 1. Version 3 is the version in the pictures. The lock stays secure in the sling and is ready to draw at any time.
Bringing It All Together
Setting up JOYBAG level bike security is no simple feat. But it should be. As bike usability evolves bicycle designers should really consider easy-to-use, robust bike locking systems such as what I’ve demonstrated here as integral solutions.
The day is likely also coming when reliable GPS tracking will come standard on all bicycles. The hope is that when that day comes, we can put our bike locks away and truly park our bicycles like cars.