An interview with TiGr: Makers of Titanium Bike Locks
TiGr emerged in 2011 with a Kickstarter campaign which raised over $100,000 for their lightweight, titanium bike locks.
By smashing their original $37,000 fundraising target they confirmed that there’s a huge appetite among cyclists for lightweight bike locks that can adequately protect our bikes.
They currently offer two different types of lock: a bow which will secure your bike and both wheels (without you removing the front wheel) and a mini which is one of the lightest locks around.
TiGr locks are incredibly innovative and provide some of the best security to weight ratios available today.
I caught up with Jim Loughlin from TiGr to find out more…
The Best Bike Lock: Hi Jim. I understand that yours is a family company. Can you tell us a little about your backgrounds?
Jim: Yes, it is a family company. Robert, a Mechanical Engineer, founded Stanton Concepts more than 25-years ago as a platform to develop and market his inventions. Prior to Stanton Concepts he led product development and manufacturing operations for a lock manufacturing firm in Connecticut.
John joined his father in 2003 and is now President and Chief Product Designer. Prior to that John managed Product Development and Manufacturing Operations for companies in the Fiber Optic, Defence Contracting and Precision Manufacturing space. Bob and John have more than 15 patents for physical security devices, and more in development. Stanton Concepts licenses much of that IP to other firms.
Jim’s background is in Sales and Marketing for technology companies.
Where did the idea for TiGr bike locks come from?
We had been interested in the idea of using titanium for bicycle security for some time.
Making the most of the strength-to-weight and flex properties of Titanium were the primary design goals. Simplicity, minimal moving parts, minimal individual pieces, minimal steps in the production process are also very important to our way of thinking.
The basic bow-lock form springs from concepts we developed for truck and cargo security. We found that a flexible bow-shape worked well as a bike lock.
The strength-to-weight and flex properties of Titanium make the bow-shape and size viable. The TiGr coupling mechanism evolved through many design iterations and field trials. The USPTO has issued three patents on the TiGr concept so far.
Was there a specific problem you were trying to solve?
Actually there were 3 specific problems we wanted to solve: weight, storage and usability.
Bicycles are beautiful, highly evolved machines that are a joy to ride. We thought bikes and bike riders deserved something better than a big hunk of steel to lug around.
Why do you think no-ones come up with a Titanium bike lock before?
The obvious first thing that comes to mind is to simply replace the hardened steel components of a traditional Folding lock or U-Lock with Titanium components.
What makes the TiGr unique, break out design, is that the entire lock is reimagined. The TiGr concept takes advantage of Titanium’s benefits (strength, low weight and flexibility) in an extremely efficient package. The design requires minimal number of parts, a minimal amount of manufacturing operations. It is simple.
Are there different types of Titanium? If so, how do you choose the best type for a bike lock?
There are several grades of titanium. The grades vary in terms of; elasticity, hardness, etc. and cost. We experimented with different grades and various shapes. We chose the material and shape we thought provided the best balance of strength, weight, flexibility and cost.
We are very fortunate in that our Titanium vendor is nearby and is a global leader in expertise and supply of titanium.
U-locks often suffer from weather related corrosion that can cause the shackle stick to the cross bar so that the lock becomes unusable.
How much bad weather testing have you done with TiGr locks? Is Titanium less susceptible to corrosion than steel?
Titanium has superb corrosion properties; that is one reason why it works well in petrochemical applications and for medical implants. Some people have been using TiGr Locks everyday for coming on 6 years. Corrosion hasn’t been an issue.
What were the biggest challenges in the design and development stage?
Getting to a design we could manufacture in a small shop in an economical, scalable and sustainable way. The final (although it’s never really final) design is the result of many design iterations. Beta tester feedback was also a huge help.
What have been the biggest challenges since you launched?
Building brand awareness and earning brand credibility.
I’ve seen some criticism of the security to price ratio of TiGr locks. How do you answer that criticism?
We are more concerned with the security to weight ratio. The TiGr mini weighs less than a pound and provides security equivalent to locks weighing more than twice as much.
The Bow-Lock versions can secure both wheels to a rack without the need of an additional device such as cable or locking skewers or an additional lock.
The vast majority of actual users we hear from tell us they value the weight savings and usability TiGr Locks deliver.
Titanium is expensive. We form and assemble every TiGr Lock ourselves by hand. Those things factor into the price.
TiGr locks were available in two widths, with the wider one being more secure. Can you explain why making them wider rather than thicker make them more secure?
The additional width provides increased resistance to bolt cutter and sawing attacks without decreasing flexibility too much or adding too much weight.
What would be the biggest challenges in making TiGr locks even more secure?
Making locks that are lighter and even harder to break at a viable price point.
I think it’s really important that bike locks are rated by independent security organisations. So I was really happy to see TiGr locks have been tested and rated by ART who are one of the best.
However, in the UK many insurance companies require that your lock is rated by Sold Secure. Have you considered submitting your locks to Sold Secure rating as well?
We plan to get certifications from rating agencies in all major markets including Sold Secure for the UK.
Is it important to have TiGr locks made in the USA (and if so why)?
It’s important to us. TiGr Lock is our baby, we take pride in bringing it to life in our own small shop and touching every piece that goes out the door. We like being able to respond directly to customer questions.
Being simple to manufacture makes it possible for us to keep production in-house. We may outsource more in the future, but at our current volumes the potential costs savings aren’t that great. Titanium cost doesn’t vary much from place to place.
Are there plans to make TiGr locks more widely available outside the US?
Yes. We want to deliver great customer/user experience for every user in every place. To do so on a larger scale outside the US we need local partners who both share our values and have the capacity to help make it easier for cyclists to find and buy our products. We are working on it.
The bigger brands obviously have the advantages of economies of scale. Do you think as a smaller brand with small batch production you have any advantages over the bigger manufacturers?
We think being more nimble and more responsive to customers are some advantages that come with smaller size.
You’ve got the bow design and now the mini. Are there plans for more designs?
Yes, please stay tuned.
Great! Many thanks for your time Jim.
All currently available TiGr locks have been tested and awarded a 2/5 star rating by ART, the independent Dutch security foundation.
The ART tests are very demanding and a 2/5 rating is usually equivalent to at least* a Silver Rating from Sold Secure.
This means they all meet the minimum security requirements to be recommended by The Best Bike Lock.
* (The Abus Bordo Granit 6500 Folding Lock is Sold Secure Gold and 2/5 stars from ART)