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)
Update (April 30th 2017):
I’ve now got hold of a LITELOK and have been using it for the past month. Check out my full hands-on LITELOK review here.
Sometimes it seems like barely a week passes by without the launch of another Kickstarter funded bike lock from yet another trendy startup company.
And the promise is always the same: we will solve all your bicycle security problems with our clever ideas and the latest cutting edge technology.
There’s always a slick video. There’s usually a smart phone app. And more often than not, I’m left slightly baffled and a little bit disappointed.
Why? Because they either solve problems that don’t seem that significant. Or add layers of technological complexity that will inevitably unravel in the real world. Sometimes they manage to achieve both of these things.
And they always seem to marginalize the most important part of any lock: the security. In most of these projects the security level of the lock almost feels like an afterthought. When it should be the very highest priority.
Because lets face it, a bike lock must protect your bike from theft. If the lock is defeated and your bike is stolen, no amount of innovative design features will save it from being utterly, utterly useless.
And of course, we all know that along with security comes weight. The two are inextricably linked. The more secure a bike lock is, the heavier it is. It’s unavoidable. And this is one of the greatest problems with bike security: in order to adequately protect your bike, you have to lug round a very weighty and very inconvenient bit of metal.
So when I first read about the LITELOK, I was understandably dubious. A light bike lock that is also secure? It’s impossible. Isn’t it?
Well, apparently not. Using a new, super tough, super light material they call “Boaflexicore”, the LITELOK defies expectations. Not only does it weigh less than 1 Kg, it’s also been awarded the very highest Gold security rating from Sold Secure, the independent lock testers.
How does it compare to other locks? At first glance it seems to offer all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of it’s competitors…
The LITELOK is closest in form and function to cable or chain locks. These are practical and easy to use. But most cable locks are close to useless when it comes to actually protecting your bike and chain locks are notoriously heavy. And while the other major alternative U-locks, can provide a high level of protection at a reasonable weight, their rigid shape means they’re not always so practical to use.
Compared to chains, both the Kryptonite Keeper 755 Mini and the Hiplok Lite are about the same length and weight as the LITELOK. But both of these locks only have a Sold Secure Bronze security rating. And there’s a big, big difference between Bronze and Gold. In fact, I don’t recommend locks that are rated Sold Secure Bronze to anyone.
And the lightest chain lock that offers a Sold Secure Gold rating is the Abus CityChain 1010 85 which is twice as heavy as the LITELOK. (It’s also slightly longer, but only by 4 inches.)
Talking of length, the LITELOK is admittedly, not very long. In fact at 29″ / 73.6 cm, it’s pretty short. But you can actually join two of them together to double the usable length if you really need to.
Against U-locks, which are generally lighter, you might think the competition would be closer. But the lightest Sold Secure Gold rated U-lock I can find (with a verified weight) is the Abus U-mini 401 Yellow. Not only is it still slightly heavier than the LITELOK, it’s also a mini u-lock which makes it significantly less practical to use.
So yes, it does seem like the LITELOK may well have found that hallowed ground where a high degree of practicality is not undermined by poor security.
But this isn’t a proper review. Let’s save a full appraisal of the LITELOK until it’s been released and real people start using it in the real world. When real thieves start to tackle it with real tools. Because a Sold Secure rating is not the be all and end all. Let’s see how the thieves rate it.
However I am genuinely optimistic, even excited by the prospects of this lock. The people behind it seem to have done everything right so far. They’ve tackled a genuine problem. They’ve had their lock certified by an independent tester. And there’s no smart phone app in sight!
So I really look forward to giving it a full review once it is released. In the meantime, if you need great lock RIGHT NOW, check out my guide on how to choose a lock.
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.So 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.
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.