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Adventures in Bike Locks

Recently I was forced to buy my third bike lock, and while contemplating what a cool and funky bike lock it was, I was moved to write a short treatise-cum-review of Bike Locks I Have Known. It's OK, you don't have to read it.

Innocent days of yore

Back when I was a lad, everyone seemed to have these weedy little combination locks. You could probably have got them apart using a pair of toddler-friendly Fisher-Price plastic scissors, or maybe a sharp look if you were feeling particularly mean. I also discovered they were piss-easy to pick, by a method similar to the traditional way of picking locks (I'm sure someone else has described it on the web, so I won't bother). Anyway, that was back when the world was a nice, and a bike lock meant "I'd rather you didn't take my bike," rather than "SOD OFF!". But that's as may be.

The traditional padlock and chain

This is what I had for a long long time. At first it had a protective plastic sleeve on the chain but that didn't last long. After that the chain was more flexible, and trickier to carry. You have to find some torturous way of wrapping it round your bike without it getting in the way or rubbing the paintwork off. And of course it rattles like buggery, quiet bike rides are a thing of the past, and your friends cast aspersions upon your bike's probable state of health. Far better, if you ask me, to dump it in your bag (a chain folds itself up quite neatly, though it does weigh a bit. Well, what do you expect? It's metal, isn't it?). Also annoying when it's been raining, since the chain's all cold and wet.

Anyway. None of the Chain's manifest disadvantages sufficed to persuade me to get rid of it, until my hand was forced. Having locked my bike at the Oxford train station while going to see Shockheaded Peter in London, I returned to find that, perplexingly, somebody had cut the chain but left the bike. It was at this point that I realised that the chain was, well, a bit weedy. Except it wasn't even a chain, it was two inconveniently short chains. I needed something new.

The magic self-coiling steel cable

Since two short chains weren't much good to me, I headed down to Reg Taylor's, surely the best bike shop in Oxford. Soon I was proudly wielding the impressively-named Kryptonite KryptKeeper, shipped all the way from America to protect my bike from evildoers. I was mildly disappointed to find it wasn't actually made of Kryptonite, and would thus be no bloody use were Superman to have designs on my bike. But "twisted steel cable" seemed a good second. And it was black and shiny, giving the distinct impression that it was pretty damn hard. Unfortunately it turned out to be, well, pants. Here, briefly, is What's Bad About This Lock.

Fate had decreed that the CryptKeeper would not stay with me long. I used it to lock my bike on the platform at Birmingham New Street Station while I waited for a connection. Upon my return the station staff had kindly removed the lock (and bike) with a fuck-off great pair of boltcutters, in case it was a bike-shaped IRA bomb. Nice one, guys. The CryptKeeper looked pretty sorry after that (unlike the chain, it's utterly useless once it's been cut) and I needed something new.

The hardcore shiny panzer lock

The next morning I walked into Cycle Heaven, surely the best bike shop in York, and emerged with the serious-looking Abus Steel-O-Flex 860. OK, so "Steel-O-Flex" doesn't sound quite as hard as "Kryptonite KryptKeeper", but it's still fairly cool. Anyway, this is one of those funky reptilian-looking affairs made up of steel rings with plastic on top. Needless to say, it's black and shiny. And it's far more pleasant than the self-coiling bleeder I was stuck with before. It's a decent length and doesn't coil itself all over the place, the lock is lovely and smooth, and it does lock with the key out. What's more, when unlocked it feels reassuringly weaponlike -- handy if you're attacked while unlocking your bike (don't scoff -- my brother was set upon by skinheads while unlocking his bike in Joensuu). I suspect that this one will outlast the bike, unless I lock it in a train station again. (Addendum: I didn't, and it did.)


Last modified 2004-03-13 07:32 GMT