Friday, April 8, 2011

Badass latte lock

I love café or latté locks on bikes. They always make me think of Belgium, where I was in constant amazement at the number of expensive Dutch bicycles left overnight on the front street secured only by one of these simple devices. 

Of course, this said more about the incidence of theft in Flanders than it did about the power of the wheel lock. Nevertheless, the simplicity of the wheel lock -- and the desire to live in a world where it would be sufficient to prevent anyone from borrowing your bicycle -- make it a favorite accessory for me.

Not long ago, Lovely Bicycle wrote about the wheel lock and I was reminded of how much the lock resembles a single handcuff.  I resolved to get a pair of handcuffs and add them to my security arsenal.  Sadly, my access to police equipment is gone, lo these last 15 years, so it wasn't a question of begging a pair from Property.  Likewise, the pawn shops that used to sell them downtown no longer carry them. This last item is less surprising than the fact that they ever carried them in the first place.  The pawn shop employees I asked seemed to think I was nuts for thinking they'd have such a thing.  I was, though, relieved and vindicated when one old-timer emerged from the back room to verify that my memory was correct... handcuffs had, inexplicably, been a prominent feature of his window displays in the early 1990s.

So, it was off to Amazon and then some fun waiting for the FedEx man.

First of all, the cuffs are much easier to carry than my u-lock.  Lighter, too.  They slip into even the smallest saddle bag.  After a bit of practice, unlocking them became very easy.  I did have to learn to lock them with the keyhole facing up, so I wouldn't have to stand on my head to get at it.

I'm not suggesting the cuffs offer the same level of security as a u-lock.  I imagine they wouldn't hold up well against decent bolt cutters.  I wouldn't use them, then, to lock the bike and leave it unseen in a theft-prone area for a long time.  But, for the quick coffee stop or an extra layer of security in a valet lot, they seem more than adequate.

I use them only occasionally as a wheel lock.  More often, I lock one cuff on the frame of the bike and the other around a stationary object. 

I wonder if their association with law enforcement doesn't offer some slight intangible benefit as well. I wonder if they might create a bit of extra hesitation on the part of the thief who would prefer not to tangle with something that could be the property of a cop?  On the other hand, maybe that'd make the theft all the more fun.  Dunno.

In terms of drawbacks, there is one big one I've found.  It turns out that parking meter posts and most bike rack tubes are far wider than I realized.  Finding a secure, but sufficiently thin, structure to which the "other" cuff can be fastened isn't always easy. 

But this still leaves their intended use,  as a wheel lock, a viable option.  I'm going to call this $13 investment a success.


  1. I doubt the association with law enforcement would make any difference. We had a rash of thefts of police cars and having police cars broken into, so much for respect for the law.

    But they are a lot less expensive than a good ring lock.


  2. Good point, Aaron! For years, I still carried a generic key on my ring that would open (and start) any of the Ford police cars in my town. I will admit that the idea of borrowing one for a quick ride was sometimes tempting. Of course, I was sobered by the thought of the consequences and how poorly that little joke would have gone over.

    BTW, stay tuned... an item of interest to you is in the works!

  3. This is brilliant. I use my bike for exercise, but increasingly, for errands and coffee stops. Currently, I am lugging around a spiral cable and a heavy combo lock.

    I'm heading to Amazon to get some cuffs. Couldn't be any worse than the cable/lock.

  4. Love it! Neat Idea and I bet it makes a few people "look twice" .