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Local company wants to make bike security a cinch

Posted by on September 12th, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Wilsonville-based Otto Design Works thinks most bike locks are too big and clunky – especially for people riding fast and light road bikes who want something slim and compact.

The Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign for their new OTTOLOCK launched today and has already raised over $8,000 of its $50,000 goal.

We’ve been following the development of this product for a few months now. Even though we are huge advocates for only using u-locks, we think this product might have a niche among a certain biking demographic.

Here’s their pitch:

OTTOLOCK is an all-new cinch lock for both cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts who value their gear and need a small, safe, and lightweight solution for their lifestyle. It’s far more secure than a cable lock, and much lighter than a U-lock… There is simply no excuse not to carry a lock now!

The initial idea behind the lock was to create something you could stow easily in a jersey pocket (it weighs less than a 1/4 pound) or a seat pack along with your tube and tire levers. The concept came from local professional road racer Jacob Rathe (who we’ve covered several times in the past) who started thinking about the idea after he got his bike stolen during a brief coffee stop during a ride.


While it’s not as secure as a quality u-lock or heavy-duty chain, the little strap is tougher than you might think. OTTO gave one to the Portland Police Bureau Bike Theft Task Force and the company’s Jake VanderZanden says, “They were surprised they couldn’t cut it.”

The lock is made from several layers of stainless steel bands (coated in plastic) and one band of Kevlar®. “Under load,” reads OTTO’s marketing copy, “the bands slide upon one another and effectively reduce shear forces. Conventional theft tools like wire or bolt cutters are just not enough to cut the OTTOLOCK.”

You might recall OTTO’s last product, a “Tuning System” that attaches to your derailleur and interacts with your smartphone to help adjust your shifting.

We’ll be getting an OTTOLOCK in to test soon. In the meantime, learn more over on the Kickstarter campaign page.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 –

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Lester Burnham September 12, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Let’s see how this device survives on either the Esplanade or Springwater corridor.

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    • Otis September 12, 2016 at 2:27 pm

      See the reply below from Bay Area Rider. It’s not a lock for all instances, but could be very helpful in some cases.

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    • Work Account September 12, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      Because of all the bike parking there..

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    • Mossby Pomegranate September 12, 2016 at 5:33 pm

      Lol have a competition and invite all prolific bike thieves of Portland. The best of the best! See who can get through this thing the fastest.

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  • Caitlin D September 12, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    Nice design, and yay for local companies! I ride a cargo bike and don’t mind carrying a u-lock on my bike for daily errands, but this could be useful for those neighborhood trips where I’m walking and my kids are riding their bikes. Currently, I lug a u-lock with me, since they don’t have the capacity to carry one on their bikes. This would be a nice change.

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  • Kyle Banerjee September 12, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Love the concept, but wondering why this is being done with Kickstarter. Also, how well the lock holds up against hammering, the ratchet mechanism resists prying, and the band holds up against sawing.

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    • Jeff September 12, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      Kickstarter allows even established companies to accept a large pool of cash up front without much risk or consumer obligation.

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  • Bay Area Rider September 12, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    This isn’t going to be a lock you want to use for your bike over night in a bad area. I can see using it on brevets when you have togo into a store for a few minutes to buy something. I figure just having it makes my bike less appealing than the bikes of others that are still unlocked. I have heard of bikes being stolen on brevets when the owner had to go in a buy something quickly. This looks light enough to carry on such events and makes your bike just unappealing enough so a thief skips over your bike looking for an easier opportunity.

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    • Spiffy September 13, 2016 at 11:20 am

      I had to look up “brevets”…

      guess I need to do some touring…

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      • BB September 13, 2016 at 12:13 pm

        Randonneuring, not touring. Though this lock would be useful for the similar resupply stops in touring as well.

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  • Steve September 12, 2016 at 2:28 pm

    There is no way I would trust one of these without the chance to use a decent pair of BYPASS cable cutters on it. Every tool “demo” in the video shows an attempt at using an anvil style cutter (diagonal cutters, bolt cutters) neither of which do well even with wire rope or aircraft cable.
    Color me dubious.

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    • Eric Leifsdad September 12, 2016 at 3:22 pm

      Yes, though it does say the sliding bands would resist shear. Maybe a nibbler would get through in a few notches.

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    • John Lascurettes September 12, 2016 at 6:04 pm

      I’d also like to see how they fair against a hacksaw and a battery-powered grinder.

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      • John Lascurettes September 12, 2016 at 6:06 pm

        While I recognize it’s not an “overnight” lock for bikes, that it’s meant to deter the thief to move on to easier pickings for brief lockups. But I still wouldn’t want it foiled by other means of defeating locks quickly. It would be pointless then.

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        • Ted Timmons (Contributor) October 4, 2016 at 5:03 pm

          I backed it, and asked them to give me a piece of the ribbon so myself and StolenBikeIndex could test it. Nope.

          Not a good sign.

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  • Todd Boulanger September 12, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    Very interesting concept for portable short term security. I would love to test one in daily use.

    Todd Boulanger

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    • Todd Boulanger September 12, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      I love the idea of it being used for locking other personal items…but for bikes…

      – I recommend going to at least “4” numbers for the combo when used for bike and other pricey property (I love combos as a lock option…but a 3 combo code is only a 2 hour process of working through each possible number …I once had a piece of luggage I needed to open w/o the code) otherwise this lock is only for use for shorter time periods or less valuable items.

      – how well does this lock lock the frame and wheel to a bike rack?…in the video the bikes are locked to only their frame…thus a set of high dollar racing wheels may be vulnerable (and more attractive theft due to lack of theft tracking).

      – for your video…please make sure that the items shown locked are locked well (the pram was only locked to a pair of spokes) or folks may give your product marketers some hassle (loose some ‘street cred’).

      Todd Boulanger
      VP of Operations and Facility Design

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      • Paul in the 'Couve September 12, 2016 at 3:46 pm

        I honestly think it quite likely it could be opened in less than an hour – especially with a little practice – but I guess the average thief isn’t going to take more than 5 minutes – as long as the combo takes longer than cutting the lock and the mechanism is hard to break with a hammer then maybe it is good enough for the purpose.

        FWIW I used to unlock old 4 # cylinder locks in grade school and had a technique where I could tell when I got the closest # to the male portion, and then the next – I could tell by pulling when I got the first # right. I could get one open in less than a minute. Hopefully a modern, better machined lock is not so easy to figure out.

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      • Spiffy September 13, 2016 at 11:24 am

        they have 3 lengths (18″, 30″, 60″), so if you get one that’s long enough you can lock the wheel and frame…

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  • FauxPorteur September 12, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    To echo what Steve says above. It’s common practice for bike shops to remove cable locks wrapped around frames with a fairly affordable and compact tool, it takes a couple seconds.

    Many people assume bike thieves are carrying around 4′ bolt cutters to clip cable locks, but these are not the tools of choice.

    While any lock is better than no lock, I would feel pretty confident in saying that this design is not up to spec for what a commuter needs when locking their bike up at work, home, store.

    Kudos to the company for *not* marketing it for every day use, but towards riders that specifically want a compact/light lock for occasional use.

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    • soren September 12, 2016 at 5:15 pm

      my high security lock is a cable lock:

      in fact, i stopped using u-locks entirely a year and half ago.

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      • David Hampsten September 12, 2016 at 11:48 pm

        From that link I went to, who actually test locks, all kinds, and publish their results:

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        • soren September 13, 2016 at 12:10 pm

          so they put it in “other” due to cognitive dissonance. it’s a flexible fabric cable that has a higher rating than the vast majority of u-locks.

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      • GlowBoy September 14, 2016 at 10:46 am

        OK, that LiteLok is a great idea, but am I reading it wrong? It still weighs over 2 pounds.

        That’s heavier than my $30 OnGuard Bulldog Mini, which I consider to be sufficient security for the vast majority of lockup situations in Portland and Minneapolis.

        Perhaps if it came in a “mini” version – just long enough to lock the rear wheel (within the rear triangle, of course, Sheldon-style) to typical racks – I’d consider the LiteLok.

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        • soren September 14, 2016 at 1:32 pm

          i believe the bull dog mini weighs over 2 lbs. and to put the litelok in perspective, the only equivalent kryptonite u-lock weighs 5 lbs.

          i use the tigr mini which weighs 13.6 oz (385 g) when medium security is required — most rides/commutes.

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          • Eric Leifsdad September 14, 2016 at 3:18 pm

            Litelok is $120 + overseas shipping? How long is it? An evolution mini 5 (1.9lb) is a snug fit around a 2in rear tire and a standard bike rack.

            I have an abus 410 mini (1.6lb sans cable, under $40) which is rated silver and maybe a bit heavy for locking kids bikes, trikes, etc. Would be be nice to have a long-ish, cable-ish combo lock for the kids, but the cutting tools they show wouldn’t be much good even on a 10mm cable.

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            • soren September 14, 2016 at 4:47 pm

              amazon lists the mini 5 at 2.2 lbs. i own that lock and find that it is so small that i am occasionally unable to lock my oversized frame bike. the abus mini also looks like a very small lock (listed at 1.9 lbs).

              with the litelok i have no problem locking my rear wheel and rear triangle to just about any rack.

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              • GlowBoy September 14, 2016 at 7:50 pm

                OK, I haven’t actually weighed my Mini; I just assumed it was a hair under 2lb because I thought Amazon was listing 2.2 as the shipping weight. Even with 29″ and cyclocross bikes I don’t often have trouble Sheldon-locking it to most common racks, but did frequently have such problems with my previous Kryptonite Mini, which had a shackle about 1/2″ shorter.

                I don’t doubt a U-lock equivalent to the LiteLock is heavy (My Bulldog may only be rated SoldSecure Bronze IIRC), but I haven’t found that level of security necessary (my bikes aren’t particularly expensive). If I lived in Manhattan – or left my bike parked overnight in high-crime public areas – I would definitely look at the LiteLock, though. Good to know about.

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              • Eric Leifsdad September 14, 2016 at 11:00 pm

                Mine is a decade old and 1.92lb on my kitchen scale. 5.5×3.25in

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              • Eric Leifsdad September 14, 2016 at 11:38 pm

                My mini 5, that is. The abus 410 mini is 1.6lb on my scale and 5.25x3in inside — it is a thinner shackle, but seems a good balance for kid’s or folding bikes.

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  • I wear many hats September 12, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Its for coffee shop/ convenience stops outside the meth riddled urban core of Portland. Its a 60 second lock. Definitely NOT for security for more than 60 seconds.

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  • bikeninja September 12, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I am a little wary of the locking mechanism, but the concept of a composite band has a lot of engineering validity and might be much tougher to cut than you might think. Bypass bolt cutters have a significant clearance between the blades which might make it hard to cut something consisting of thin layers of strong material. Might be a good test to lock up a new carbon fiber bike with one of these in Slabtown and monitor it with a hidden video camera to see how it fairs on the street.

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    • Kyle Banerjee September 12, 2016 at 3:42 pm

      I’m not sure things like wheels even need to be worried about for an application like this. On a high end bike, everything is worth tons of money and can be stripped using simple tools.

      Rather, this looks more like something to prevent someone from quickly nabbing your bike. Carrying one wheel into the store after locking makes it a bit more awkward for someone to simply cut the lock and get away.

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  • Middle of the Road guy September 12, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    Hopefully we can catch a bike thief and lock him up with one of these.

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  • Jon September 12, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Something like this looks perfect a quick stop at the bakery or to pick up some books at the library where the bike is only out of view for a short period of time.

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  • rachel b September 12, 2016 at 5:34 pm

    Oooohh, I would love it if it works! Nifty!

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  • keith September 12, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    Of all the bike lock kickstarter campaigns I’ve seen, this one looks the most promising. If left unattended overnight, or even 30 minutes, your bike is not safe no matter what lock you use. I rarely leave my bike locked up for more than 5 minutes unless I can keep an eye on it. I’ve been using an Abus Bordo folding lock because it’s lighter, more versatile, and easier to carry than a U-lock. But it rattles when carried in the frame-mounted holster and it’s too heavy to comfortably carry in a jersey pocket. Ottolock looks just about perfect for my purpose: it’s light, takes up about as much space as a rolled-up innertube, and is free of any batteries or “smart” bullshit.

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  • hotrodder September 12, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    Oh, sure. The guy in the video at 2:50 will be able to hang onto his bike, but all the valuables in his garage will be missing when he returns from his ride.

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  • John Liu
    John Liu September 12, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    This lock looks perfect for roadie rides. After fifty miles, you stop for coffee or a snack, the diner or cafe doesn’t want you bringing your bike inside, and the next shop is another 15 miles down the road, so you need to leave your bike outside, maybe just long enough to go inside, order, use the bathroom, wait for your food, come out . . . This lock will work. So will other locks, but you won’t carry those other locks because every ounce matters on rides like this. At 115 g (4 oz) and small enough to fit in a jersey pocket, I’ll be carrying this lock.

    And it would be a pretty good lock to toss in your daily bag, for the day when you realize you left your U lock at home. It happens.

    I’m getting one.

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  • TomHardy September 12, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    If I am on my bike, I do not let the bike out of arms reach. I almost never carry a lock. For years I have taken my bike inside stores and even restaurants (even high end). I have taken it into Pharmacies and even into clinics and hospitals.
    If management objects, I take my business elsewhere.
    I guess I will have to wait until this February to get one.

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    • Mark smith September 14, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      I have been tempted…..but a little scared.

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  • kittens September 12, 2016 at 11:40 pm

    Sorry, not buying it. MIGHT work in homogenous, affluent neighborhoods where people think of bikes as outdoor exercise equipment but not where I live. And we all know how “just a quick stop” often turns into something more involved. How annoying would it be to have to do a mental check in the store or library, and think — which lock did I use? The whole point of having a lock is that you sort of forget about it for a while.

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    • Middle of the Road Guy September 13, 2016 at 9:05 am

      Which means there is a huge market for it in the suburbs. When I visit my riding partner in Beaverton, it is an incredible relief to be able to leave the bikes on the porch or in the garage…or even go into a store and not have to be paranoid.

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  • kittens September 12, 2016 at 11:42 pm

    BTW, I think it is great local companies are trying to make biking more convenient and easy for folks.

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  • mran1984 September 12, 2016 at 11:47 pm

    Convenience is the #2 reason the planet is being sucked dry. Easy simply makes you weak.

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  • Eric September 13, 2016 at 8:19 am

    two words: Tin snips.

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    • Todd Hudson September 13, 2016 at 10:25 am

      I’m thinking a Park Tool cable/housing cutter could quickly defeat this.

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  • Ozman September 13, 2016 at 9:34 am

    Great idea! The U-Lock is a freakin’ dinosaur!

    I am always intrigued about kickstarter campaigns. I just see it as companies trying to get funding out of their customer’s and not having the risk themselves. I’ll wait until the product comes out, check out what the competition does, and make my decision when there are more reviews, though.

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  • Kyle Banerjee September 13, 2016 at 11:16 am

    That’s exactly what I find goofy about it. 50K is really not that much and if the gizmo works half as good as they say, it’s sure to be a winner. I expect companies to put their own money up.

    This is a variation of what I call “Kyle’s Iron Clad Rule of Development” — namely that everything works better before it is made than afterwards.

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  • Scott September 13, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    I was on board until they got to the kickstarter. Your company and banks are supposed to take risks on products and 50k is what even small banks make in an hour. Even if it is just $5-20 don’t ask consumers for it. Consumers should decide in the market place, not the investment round. If I have a loose $5-50 I’m going to send it to Sacred Stone Camp to protect water and native rights. Not a company with a slick logo.

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  • GlowBoy September 14, 2016 at 10:33 am

    No one’s claiming this would be primary security in higher-risk areas.

    As some others have said below, this would be a great thing to carry in situations where people might not carry a lock at all: rural road rides, for example, or even suburban rides where your only stop is likely to be a quick run into a coffee bar or something.

    Personally, I use a U-lock most of the time, but even when I don’t I carry a cable lock. So that if I do make an unplanned trip into a store, or maybe my bike breaks down and I need to hitch a ride somewhere and come get it later in the day, someone would actually need to go to some effort to steal it.

    Also, this would be a great secondary-security option to lock your front wheel after securing the frame and rear wheel with a U-lock. My two main bikes have locking front skewers, but for other bikes I use an 8mm cable lock to secure the front wheel, and this product would be a good alternative.

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