6

Liberate yourself with a beater bike!

My every day bike is what some people would call a “beater bike”. What’s that I hear you cry? Well, a “beater” is usually an old, cheap, tatty looking bike that’s so unattractive that no-one would ever steal it. And even if someone did steal it, you wouldn’t care. Because it’s so ugly you could never love it. And it’s so cheap you could replace it without upsetting your other half.

A typical beater bike

That’s the idea anyway. In reality, even beater bikes are stolen if they’re not properly secured. I’ve had bikes that a clown would think twice about riding, stolen the first time I left them outside because I “secured” them with a crappy cable lock. As always, the opportunist thief will take anything they can get.

And this idea that you don’t care about your beater bike doesn’t work for me either. I love my beater and I’ll be gutted if it’s ever stolen. In fact, without getting too weird, I think it’s very difficult for anyone to ride the same bike every day and not form a close relationship with it.

And I ride mine every single day. It gets me to work and back. Rain or shine. I ride it to the pub. I ride it to the club. I ride it to the shops. I ride it every opportunity I get.

My beater bike

It’s certainly not a handsome bike. It’s covered in scratches and gathers more every day. And when the components wear out, I buy the cheapest replacements my local bike shop’s got. But I keep the tires pumped up and the chain well oiled. So most of the time it’s a nice ride. It doesn’t turn any heads, but it gets the job done without any worry or fuss.

That’s the beauty of a beater. It just works. And you don’t worry about it. And this is an incredibly liberating feeling for anyone who’s only had “nice” bikes before. Because if you’ve got a nice bike, you’re always worrying about it. You’re worried about it getting scratched. You’re worried about it being stolen. Maybe you’re even worried about it getting wet!

And this worry often limits how you use it. You won’t take it here because it might get damaged. You won’t leave it there because it might be robbed. So you don’t use it. Or you use it less. Or you use it, but won’t leave it too long. And of course you can’t concentrate properly while it’s out of your sight!

With a beater there’s none of that. Take it anywhere. Leave it anywhere. This means you use it more. And this is what bike riding is all about for me. Using it everyday. Using it for every possible journey. Without any stress.

And if you get a good lock there’s very little chance of it being stolen. I leave mine in the same place in the street all night, every night. It’s secured with a decent U-lock and a half decent chain lock. I’ve had the handlebar grips stolen, the seat stolen and various parts of the breaks stolen. But never the bike. It’s just not worth their hassle it seems.

So here’s to the humble beater bike. The understated workhorse of the streets. Getting thousands of us where we want to go every day. Long may you ride…

Hipster Bike Lock: The Shinola Chain

Shinola bike lockI’ve just found the ultimate hipster bike lock! It’s a 7 mm steel chain, secured with a brass padlock, made by Shinola in Detroit. Both the chain and the padlock are encased in a Horween Essex leather cover which is available in three colorways: black, natural and orange. And it costs, wait for it… $285!

It does look fantastic. In fact, I think I’d rather wear it round my neck than waste it on my bike.

But while the leather sheath should adequately protect the paintwork on your custom fixie, the chain and particularly the padlock will not protect the bike from a tooled up thief. An average sized set of bolt cutters will slice through that padlock shackle like a knife through butter. But you will look good and feel smug until your bike is robbed.

It’s so pretty and so expensive, maybe we’ll start to see thieves stealing locks and leaving bikes. But until then, you’re probably best off with a chain lock that’s rated Sold Secure Silver or better.

 

 

4

Kickstarter Project 1: Seatylock Review

I think Kickstarter is great. And since there’s always loads of bike lock projects on there, I thought it would be a good idea to cast a discerning eye over some of them.

First up is Seatylock. It’s not available to the public yet so a full Seatylock review will have to wait. But that’s not going to stop us speculating on what it might be like…

Essentially it’s a bike seat that incorporates a folding lock. The lock itself is very similar to the Abus Bordo. But in this case the lock is permanently attached to the bottom of the saddle.

Seatylock

To use it, you simply unlock, unclip and remove the saddle from the special mount, unfold the 3 ft (1 m) steel lock and attach it round your bike and an immovable object. A video would probably explain this much better than I can, so have a look a this promotional film from Seatylock themselves.

Seatylock in use

At first glance this seems like a really good idea. The lock is permanently integrated into your bike so there’s no chance of you forgetting it. It sits very discreetly under your seat so it doesn’t spoil the aesthetics of your bicycle. And in this position, under your center of gravity when your riding, the extra weight should be almost unnoticeable. It also very neatly solves the problem of rampant seat theft. No one can steal your seat if your seat is your lock!

But if we want to make a more considered assessment of the Seatylock, what do we need to look at? Well, since all locks offer a compromise between three qualities: price, practicality and security, lets have look at how the the Seatylock might fare in each of these areas.

Practicality

For bike locks, practicality means two things: how easy it is to carry about and how easy it is to use. Since in this case the lock is tucked permanently under your seat, it should be very easy to carry around. There’s no frame mount that may or may not fit your bike. And then may or may not work loose and rattle. And then may even even fall off. With the Seatylock it’s all very neat and tidy.

But how easy it is to carry is also related to its weight. The Seatylock weighs either 1.3 kg or 1.4 kg, depending on which type of saddle you get (more on this later). Seatylock claim that this is less than the weight of 90% of decent seat and lock combinations available today.

It’s difficult to check whether this is strictly true or not. But you can easily compare it to the weights of other U-locks and chain locks. And… 1.3 kg is not heavy by any means. It’s equivalent to around three and a half cans of coke. And as the people at Seatylock say, you won’t notice that sort of weight when it’s under your saddle.

How easy is it to use? Well in the this video it looks really simple. Seatylock claim it takes less than 30 seconds to unlclip the seat, unfold the lock and secure your bike. While thirty seconds would be roughly three times longer than it takes me to secure my bike with my U-lock, it’s not prohibitively long. And considering the benefits mentioned above, it seems an acceptable length of time to me. For others maybe not. And removing and then replacing your bike seat every time you lock your bike may become a real drag for some people.

I’m much more concerned about how flexible the Seatylock is in terms of different seat posts and seat types. They claim that the universal adapter means it fits any bike on the market with a normal saddle. And they offer a variety of different adapter connectors for commonly used seat posts.

But it will only work with saddles from Seatylock. At the moment you are limited to a choice from two: a wide “Comfort” saddle and a more sporty “Trekking” saddle. While these come in lots of different colour combinations, I worry that this limited range will put people off. However they do say they are working on new saddle models so hopefully the choice will improve.

Security

Security is always my biggest concern with any new type of lock. Especially when it comes from a company with no past experience of producing locks. Seatylock helpfully provide a video of their lock being attacked using several common bike thieving techniques. And of course it survives them all admirably.

But I remain skeptical. The Seatylock is very similar to the Abus Bordo which isn’t the most secure of locks itself. And Seatylock certainly doesn’t have the same pedigree as Abus. What’s more, since they don’t have a whole range of other locks to compare it to, when they say it’s secure what does that actually mean? It begs the question “how secure?”.

For me the best thing any new lock company can do is to get it’s locks rated by the independent testing organisations like Sold Secure and ART. This is what Hiplok did. And now I can confidently compare their locks against the locks from other companies. I know how secure a Hiplok is. But I don’t really know how secure a Seatylock is. So until we have reliable third party security ratings for the Seatylock I’m afraid the jury is out!

Price

You can pre-order the Seatylock now for $90. But the final retail price will be $129. It’s not cheap. But don’t forget you’re buying a lock and a seat!

In fact, you can buy the lock without the seat. It’s called the Foldylock and is $95. This is around the same price as the very similar Abus Bordo 6000. But more expensive than OnGuards folding lock.FoldylockSo if the lock that comes with the Seatylock is the same as the Foldylock and the Foldylock is as good as the Bordo 6000, then $90 is a pretty good deal! And even $129 is not too bad. But whether it’s as well made and secure as the Bordo is not yet clear. We will have to wait and see.

Summary

I think the Seatylock is a nice idea. Combining your bike seat with your bike lock in this way can solve several common issues. You’re never going to forget you bike lock. You’ll never have any problems with dodgy frame mounts. You’ll never complain about the ridiculous weight of your lock. And you’re seat will never be stolen.

However I’m still unsure how secure it is. And until we have security ratings from independent testers or we start hearing stories of stolen bikes, we just won’t know. I’m also a little bit concerned about how practical it will be for some people to keep removing and replacing their bike seat every time they stop. And I’m slightly more concerned about whether the limited choice of bike seats will put a lot of people off.

So, a mixed bag really. Although they met their funding target in November 2014 and you’ve been able to pre-order for a while, they’ve been making some improvements that have caused some delays and the first batch will not be released until around September 2015 I think.

I really hope it’s a success because I think it’s a great idea. And once it becomes available I would love to write a full Seatylock review. If you have ordered one of these locks please let us know what it’s like when you receive it and start using it.

In the meantime, you’re probably best off with a decent chain lock or U-lock. And check out our tips for keeping your seat safe as well!

 

1

Bike Theft: The 10 worst places

We all know that bike thievery is rampant. In both the US and Europe. But have you ever wondered which are the very worst places for bike theft? Here’s a handy little table that answers that vet question…

Bike Theft: The Top Ten Cities

In the UK:In the US:

  1. Central London

  2. Kingston-upon-Thames

  3. Cambridge

  4. Bristol

  5. York

  6. Oxford

  7. South West London

  8. Brighton

  9. Portsmouth

  10. Nottingham


  1. Philadelphia, PA

  2. Chicago, IL

  3. New York City, NY

  4. San Francisco, CA

  5. Tucson, AZ

  6. Portland, OR

  7. Denver, CO

  8. New Haven, CT

  9. Cambridge, MA

  10. Austin, TX

Why these cities? I think it’s pretty straightforward. These are generally the places where cycling is most popular. These are the cities with the highest number of bikes and the highest proportion of the population cycling regularly…

Bike Usage: The Top Ten Cities

In the UK:In the US:

  1. Cambridge

  2. Oxford

  3. York

  4. Hackney (Central london)

  5. Gosport (Portsmouth)

  6. Exeter

  7. Islington (Central london)

  8. Ham & Ful (Central london)

  9. Richmond (Southwest London)

  10. Lambeth (Central london)


  1. New York City, NY

  2. Los Angeles, CA

  3. Portland, OR

  4. San Francisco, CA

  5. Chicago, IL

  6. Washington, DC

  7. Philadelphia, PA

  8. Seattle, WA

  9. Houston, TX

  10. Minneapolis, MN

What does this mean for us? Well, if you live in one of these places you obviously need to be especially careful with your bike security!

But it also suggests that wherever you live, if there’s lots of cyclists, there’ll be lots of bike crime. So if you look around you and see loads of people on bicycles, there’s probably loads of people you can’t see that want to steal those bicycles! So make sure you’re protecting your bike properly. This means buying the best bike lock you can afford and making sure you know how to use it.

The great thing is that getting a decent lock and using it properly will make a real difference. I came across an interesting article when I was researching this post. Essentially it illustrates how effective simple bike security can be…

The top ten US cities for bike theft list comes from Kryptonites own research. For years New York had topped the list as the very worst city in the US for bike crime. However, in recent years it has started to slip, settling at third in the last list that Kryptonite released. How come? Well, according to this article it was just a case of the people of New York wising up. They’ve realised that they need to spend a bit of money on a decent lock, learn how to secure their bike properly and lock it every time they leave it. It’s as simple as that.

And it’s as simple as that for everyone else too. Find a lock with the right level of protection for your area, make sure it suits your lifestyle, learn how to use it properly and use it every time you leave your bike. The chances are your bike won’t be stolen!