Q: What do you get when a cyclist, an engineer and a businessman walk into a bar?
A: A stolen bike.
At least that’s how the joke used to go before the OttoLock came along.
Designed and engineered in Wilsonville by Otto Designworks, the company got started in 2015 after a successful Kickstarter campaign for their first product: an app and tool that helped people adjust derailleurs. With the OttoLock, the company seems to have found its stride.
Word-of-mouth for the product ignited early on in large part because one of the idea generators and spokesmen is professional cyclist Jacob Rathe (whom you might recall from our story on him when he made the U.S. National Team in 2008). We first covered the OttoLock nearly a year ago when it was still in the prototype and design phase. Now that it’s starting to show up in bike shops around the country, it’s time for a closer look.
Here are my impressions after using it for several months…
Stronger than a cable lock, more convenient than a u-lock
Quick errands? Popping in and out of shops to drop things off or grab a quickie? Bike rides with your mates that inevitably end up at the burrito place or coffee shop? Yeah, we all do this and we all know the feeling of leaving our bike unattended for a few minutes as we peer back from the coffee counter hoping that if someone grabs it we’ll still be able to outsprint them even with our slick bike cleats on. Well, read on, those worrisome moments could be over.
The OttoLock is a lightweight, flexible strap that’s compact and durable and works without a key. Right off the top the weight and size factor equals major convenience compared with a regular u-lock. Throwing this thing in a bag or putting in your back pocket is never a problem. This isn’t to say the OttoLock is a replacement for a good u-lock. The latter still provides a much greater degree of protection from bike thieves. Even so, since standard cable locks are still a part of the bike security mix, the comparison is noteworthy.
The OttoLock weighs around 160 grams. That’s one-fifth the weight of a leading brand’s mini u-lock that weighs 980 grams. Since the OttoLock is basically a strap, it rolls up to around 2.5″ in diameter and about 0.5″ thick. Compare this with a mini u-lock which is approximately 6″ x 4″ by 0.75″. This means the OttoLock can end up in smaller pockets and combined with it’s low weight means you can easily put it in your hoody or lightweight jacket pocket — none of which is possible with a u-lock.
If you mount a u-lock to your bike, you really don’t have a ton of options: They sit in a bulky holder somewhere on the frame. The OttoLock is much more flexible whether I carry it on my body or on my bike. This is mainly due to the fact that it is a strap which means I can strap it to my bike or strap it around my saddlebag or use it’s provided rubber mount. Tons of flexibility. I also love that thing has no key. That’s one less thing to remember. Thumbs up on that feature.
The frame mount (OttoMount, $8) is also well thought-out. It’s a simple ladder-strap design made from high-grade stretchy elastomer. The elastomer mounts have multiple nubs (for the ladder loops) that offer many tie-down points. Since the OttoLock is so light, a hard plastic mount isn’t needed and you don’t need any tools to install it.
Another convenient feature of the OttoLock is how flexible it is. When wrapping around a wheel, your frame, or an odd shaped pole or tree, the design really shines.
Is there a security sacrifice?
Otto Designworks doesn’t recommend the OttoLock as a primary lock. It’s only intended to protect your bike for short periods of time. Even so, it’s super strong. The strap is constructed from layers of steel and kevlar wrapped in a plastic case. The layers are not welded or locked together which means when they are under attack from a cutter, they slide. This is an important point because the sliding causes difficulty with cutting devices that use shearing or scissor type actions. Thus the lock is very safe from
snips and bolt cutters.
Compare this technology to regular chain or kevlar rope locks and the OttoLock is a hands down win.
Ottolock’s body and combination code area are made from an aluminum housing. As seen in their security video, if the lock is attacked with a hammer, the aluminium simply deforms, compresses and makes it even more difficult to open the lock, because the strap passes through the head.
Opening up the strap, you can see there is lots of Kevlar (the yellow stuff) – Kevlar is extremely hard to cut and penetrate, it’s used in many military applications. Kevlar dulls knife edges in one fell swoop and cannot be cut with scissor-type actions. Amongst the kevlar are multiple layers of steel, to thwart other cutting tools.
On the scales the Ottolock is small and light. Just 152 grams for the 30-inch version compared to a 1000 gram traditional u-lock. This makes a big difference in portability.
The $6,000 test
Just to test my confidence I locked up my prized expensive bike at 5:00 pm on a weekday outside a large supermarket while I grabbed a loaf of bread. To me this was it, I hardly ever lock up my expensive bike. But I was $6,000 confident enough for 15 minutes with the OttoLock. In the past, this would never have happened, but now this is opening opportunities for things I would not have done and keeping my bike a lot safer. Win-win
This lock is light and small, which opens up all sorts of activities on the run where you would not have normally had a lock with you and would not have done such a thing. If you’re a cyclist, buy one. Heck, buy two!
Don’t be foolish
Since I love bikes and never wish to see them stolen, I must conclude with a down-to-earth reality check: This lock will not defeat a determined bike thief. I’m not sure any lock will when confronted with the right tools — whether its a chain, cable, or u-lock; it doesn’t matter. If a pro bike thief wants it, they will have all the tools to get it. OttoLock is very resistant to bolt cutters and this is a very common bike thief tool; but please always use common sense when locking your bike. For bike theft prevention and recovery tips, see the city’s website and follow the Portland Police Bureau Bike Theft Task Force on Twitter @ppbbiketheft.
$55 for the Lock
$8 for the optional mount
3 colors: Orange, Black and Lime
3 sizes of lock. 18″, 30″ and 60″ (I tested the 30″ version)
Made and assembled in the Portland area