JOYBAG – The Fastest Lock-Up in the West

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:

  1. Wheels and other parts of the bike secured separately from lock system.
  2. A very robust lock.
  3. Lock is easy to lock in many bike rack situations.
  4. 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.

Sign up for our Adventure-Packed Newsletter

Get our latest touring, commuting and family cycling posts and sales delivered to your inbox!
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

12 thoughts on “JOYBAG – The Fastest Lock-Up in the West”

  1. Kirk says:

    How did you attach the end of the lock to your downtube? You say you “Looped it to itself” Did you complete this with another padlock?

  2. John M. Hammer says:

    Although I don’t agree with the final recommendation of this article, the interviews with actual bike thieves of several different styles and skill levels is worth the time:

  3. Josh Lipton says:

    @Kirk that Kryptonite chain has a large ring on the last link, that the chain can be inserted through.

  4. Isaiah Taylor says:

    Hey Josh–

    This is incredible. I have the exact same orange edgerunner. Any chance I could purchase a Tarantula from you? I’d be happy to pay a premium price since it took you 3 versions to make it. Please let me know. Thanks for posting this.

    A U lock stumbler, terrified of the thief with a car jack…

  5. Josh Lipton says:

    @Isaiah, if we keep getting interest in this as a product, we may look towards testing a batch of them. Its a tough call as far as an opportunity for us being that it is a specific to only the Edgerunner.

    It was simple to put together just with straps and sliplock buckles. At the very least I might put together DIY instructions.

  6. Ted Johnson says:

    This was fun to read and watch.

    Even though I had just read about the Pinhead locks moments earlier, I had a hard time watching the you walk away from your Edgerunner without without seeing you lock your rims.

    JOYBAG, apparently, will take some unlearning for those of us accustomed to the opposite of JOYBAG — bike life as it is known.

  7. John M. Hammer says:

    Ted- I use skewers which, like the Pinheads, are not quick-releases but don’t require special wrenches, either – just a normal 5mm hex head. I like them because they do 95% of what a Pinhead does but there’s no special wrench to lose or leave at home.

    A typical opportunistic bike thief isn’t going to bother stealing bolt-on wheels of any type and won’t have the means to open a Pinhead – but a pro can and will do both. More likely, a pro just won’t care because he’ll be taking your entire bike and there’s basically nothing you can do about it if the bike is going to be out of your sight for more than a few seconds.

    For a quick lockup, such as when I’m running into the Post Office or a public bathroom, I can just throw something around my frame quickly knowing that some jerk can’t walk past my bike and take a wheel in 5 seconds without tools while I’m glancing into my wallet or zipping up my pants. But for anymore much more than that, bolt-type skewer or not, I still lock up my wheels along with my frame.

    If a Pinhead owner can buy a replacement wrench, so can anyone else. And they do. There aren’t that many different patterns on the bolts so it isn’t that expensive for a pro wheel thief to acquire all of the special wrenches.

  8. Josh Lipton says:

    @John I’ve been trusting the Pinhead locks for my wheels in Tucson for over a year now. So far so good.

    I just can’t imagine there are that many serious bike thieves that are focused in on steeling wheels with Pin Head locks on them. I would guess that they want the whole bike or they are moving on.

    The convenience of not having to fumbling around with locking my wheels up is well worth the very slight risk I see in someone figuring out how to just steal my Pin Head protected wheels.

  9. John M. Hammer says:

    Josh, I think the Pinheads are great. If I could be sure I’d never lose my wrenches, that my LBS would never lose the wrench I lend to them when the bike needs professional service, and would always have one with me when I need it, I’d use them instead of the less-expensive and less-secure ones installed on my bikes.

    Take a look at the NYC CraigsList or take a walk in the very early morning along any NYC street where bikes were tied up overnight and you’ll understand why I wouldn’t trust Pinheads or any other skewer for more than a few minutes without a real, substantial lock backing them up.

  10. Tuli says:

    Hey, great locking strategy! I have an EdgeRunner and bought the 1210 lock you linked to, but upon arrival I realized that it does not have the larger end link which enables locking around your downtube. I believe the New York Noose model 1275 is the lock you’re using, so I thought other readers should know.

  11. nancy says:

    did you end up publishing a DIY for the tarantula, or set up a way to sell it? I’d be interested as well! I just purchased a edgerunner and am just realizing that my standard u-lock from my old bike won’t work on it because I cant’ get my bike close enough.

    1. Josh Lipton says:

      I never got around to it. As I continued to use mine, I realized there were quite a few problems to work out and didn’t want to set people up for dealing with all of the issues of getting it figured out.

Leave a comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


20% off ALL Ortlieb Bag Closeouts! Shop Closeouts

Scroll to Top