Aside from being the name of one of my favorite albums of all time, I’ve been thinking about a more traditional definition of security, as regards bicycles. In running an increasing number of errands by bike, I’ve tried a number of different locks, some of which were frustrating while others were a fresh take on an old need.
Years ago, when I was riding my bike to class and to the pizza joint where I worked and ate, I—like so many—locked my bike up with a Kryptonite U-lock. That didn’t prevent some kids in rural Virginia from making off with my Merlin mountain bike while it was locked up outside a grocery store. That one event taught me to think about locks and just how much security they could provide. I came to the conclusion that your average U-lock tended to either offer way more protection than was necessary, or not nearly as much protection as you thought you had.
Still, I couldn’t help but take note of the Knog Strongman U-lock. Aside from the issue that some of them weren’t as foolproof as advertised, the greater truth was that by the time you passed the U around the seat tube, rear wheel and front wheel, the chances that you could still lock all that to something immobile was less likely than finding someone on Wall Street with a conscience. Anyone who ever managed to secure a road bike with a U-lock noticed a very different experience with a mountain bike. The Strongman is different in that it opens that traditional U-shape into more of a trapezoid, making the lock’s capacity noticeably larger.
The Strongman features a 13mm hardened-steel shackle, a double-locking mechanism and the whole lock is coated in industrial grade, UV-stable silicone so that the lock won’t scratch your bike. The lock also includes a nicely integrated mount that the Strongman locks into. It’s secure and clean looking, too.
I’ve been using the Strongman with my city bike, which has 35mm tires, fenders and a longish front-center; despite the greater room than a regular U-lock, I’ve yet to find a circumstance where I can pass the shackle around a pole, the down tube and the front wheel. Honestly, that’s what got me to thinking about what’s really necessary to keep my bike safe while I’m inside the post office or Trader Joe’s.
Admittedly, my neighborhood isn’t like big swaths of the rest of the world. We can leave our bikes outside Starbucks and never fear they’ll be stolen. And while this isn’t the only place where that’s true, I wouldn’t do that most places. I also don’t have to worry about securing a bike outside work for eight hours. I’m typically away from my bike for a maximum of 15 minutes.
As I’ve had a bike stolen that was locked, but not locked to anything, I decided to give the Knog Milkman a try. The Milkman is a tiny little box of a lock that can fit in a pocket and features a 90cm retractable cable. The case itself is plastic and the cable is braided stainless steel with a 6.5mm stainless shackle. Knog gives it a score of 2 on its 10-point scale of security. The Milkman is as classic a case of keeping the honest honest as I’ve seen. The retractable cable makes this the easiest-to-use lock I’ve ever encountered.
Let’s be clear: I think if I whipped this out of my pocket in any of New York’s five boroughs it would just go ahead and self-destruct, but in my cozy beach town, it’s been enough. Of course, I’m aware that any and every lock is enough until the occasion when, it turns out, it was not enough.
Still, I wanted a lock that would provide more serious protection for those occasions when I might leave a bike outside in an area I don’t know for longer periods of time. Then I encountered the Abus Bordo Ecolution 6000.
The Bordo series of locks are Abus’ folding locks; they feature six steel bars 5mm thick and joined together with hinges to allow the lock to wrap around a much greater area. The steel bars are coated to prevent the lock from serving as a paint removal tool. Abus gives this lock a 10 out of 15 on security.
This particular model of the Bordo series is meant to be a more ecologically sensitive lock. To that end biodegradable fibers are used in the lock’s coating and cover. The look isn’t as cool that of the Knog units, but if you’re going to give up some industrial design style, it might as well be for unquestionable security. If anyone can destroy this lock it’ll be because either the bike was locked up in a war zone or the thief is a professional safecracker.
The Bordo is easily my favorite bike lock I’ve ever encountered and I’m grateful that I don’t live someplace where I need this thing the way I need gas for my car. Would this thing be enough for New York? I don’t know and I’m happy I don’t need to find out.
The Knog Strongman goes for $99.95, the Milkman a more affordable $24.95, while the Abus Bordo Ecolution 6000 is $129, far less than your insurance deductible.
It’s hard to get excited about locks, but if your bike is stolen you’re likely to react with more than just excitement. I’ve found these some handy and fresh approaches to bike security.
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