Author Topic: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride  (Read 159281 times)

Andre Jute

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n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« on: January 31, 2012, 03:29:54 AM »
n'lock is a stem which takes a novel approach to bike security: it uncouples the front wheel from the handlebars and thereby makes the bike unrideable. The casual, rideaway thief has no further interest in the bike. n'lock has a version with a plug for a cable so that the bike can be locked to something as well; the cable unlocks with the same key that restores the bike to rideability. n'lock is a wordplay on unlock. Accessories to n'lock build into an impressive security kit. I bought a complete kit for an experiment.

This is an interim description, since there are people currently interested in bike security in a thread that I won't hijack in case someone wants to take it in a different direction. Note that I haven't fitted my kit yet, as I have special requirements; the kit as received would go straight onto your average Thorn or any other bike with either an Ahead or a quill headset.

n'lock http://shop.nlock.ch/ is a product of the Swiss Brain People, manufacturing engineering consultants, reputable people according to my protege Dakota Franklin's husband, an inventor himself. Distribution is via a German company so you escape the high tariff and exchange rate levied on a Swiss product. The design is Swiss, and so is the manufacturing supervision. n'lock tells one that their first attempt at manufacture in China was a failure and that they moved production to Taiwan for better quality control.

I have experience designing very expensive hi-fi components for British, German and Japanese boutique makers. On the whole, because I don't recognise "good enough" as acceptable quality, I prefer the Japanese precisely because they are obsessives. The Swiss aren't far behind.

CHOICE

There are two n'lock stems, adjustable and fixed, each in versions with or without a cable plug. n'lock makes accessories for their stem, a handlebar with a 600mm cable in it which locks to the "Plus" version of the stem, and a 1.5m free cable with a loop at one end and at the other a plug for their stems.

Currently n'lock sells complete kits, assembled by use (city, trekking, MTB -- all that differs is the handlebars), for 99 Euro per kit. Each kit includes an n'lock Plus Adjustable stem, a handlebar with a cable locked into it to suit the stem, and a quill shaft adaptor for the stem, a very useful item as I will explain below. The saving is somewhere between 40 and 70 Euro on buying the parts separately.

I ordered the city kit because even on my country bikes I use North Road handlebars, which have the most ergonomic shape and angles, though the amount of bar given to curves really robs the gadget space; swings and roundabouts; Thorn sells a gadget bar to solve exactly this problem. The n'lock city handlebar is in fact the AL-092 Kalloyuno I already have on several of my bikes. But the n'lock version has the built-in cable that slides back into the handlebar after use.

DELIVERY ADVENTURES
I asked that my kit NOT be delivered from Switzerland or Taiwan, for fear of customs, tariffs and additional VAT, and, most of all, swingeing courier charges for fill in customs forms that can kill the pleasure of the finest components. n'lock is familiar with this request and offered to have my kit delivered from their German distributor.

The kit arrived within two or three days, breathtakingly fast.

I expected a black kit, and the box in which the stem came was labelled black, but the stem was white. Clearly a packing error in Taiwan. When I told n'lock designer Franklin Niedrich of this, he offered me a black stem. Only problem was, they were out of adjustable black stems in Germany. I could have an adjustable black stem from Switzerland or a fixed one from Germany. n'lock would pay for both the delivery to me and the return of the wrong stem. The embarrassment was tangible.

By this time I'd already measured the white adjustable stem. My bikes are very carefully fitted to me, to within millimetres. The adjustable stem was too long by 22mm. (It is approximately 120mm centre to centre.) That's a very long stem even on a big bike for those of us who sit upright.

The fixed stem is 100mm eye to eye. So I chose to have the fixed black stem sent from Germany, and it arrived within the same week. (By comparison, a fortnight later I'm still waiting for a chainring ordered  before the n'lock from a British dealer. The British Post Office can't spell service.)

THE QUILL ADAPTER

The quill adapter is supplied by n'lock for bikes with quills, in both the 22 and 25mm sizes. I shall use it differently, to give a bike which already has a threadless stem further upwards adjustment.

The fixed n'lock stem is essentially a horizontal 100mm stem, give or take only a couple of degrees. The stem currently on my everyday bike, a Utopia Kranich, is 100mm angled at about 30 degrees. The n'lock stem will therefore place the handlebar on the same arc, but too low by something around 20mm. This is where the quill adapter comes in.

***

UNLESS YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'RE DOING, LET YOUR DEALER DO THIS FOR YOU. DONE BADLY IT WILL BE EXPENSIVE IN WRECKED HEADSETS OR EVEN FRAMES, AND COULD BE DANGEROUS, A FACEPLANT OR WORSE

Once a common Aheadset stem is locked onto the steerer tube of a bike, it holds the fork in place by pressure against the headset, and the star washer can be removed. If you then replace the stem with a locking collar (a seat post collar might do duty, though most have a stopper ridge that must be either planned for or removed), you can use this assembly with a quill inside the steerer, the quill locking itself on by its wedge or expander, NOT by the locking collar. Let me say this again. The locking collar holds the threadless steer tube in place against the aheadset top bearing. The quill holds itself in place inside the steer tube but contributes nothing to the preload on the headset bearings. Confusion of these functions could lead to a nasty accident. In addition, the quill must not be pushed into the steerer far enough for the wedge or expander to coincide with the tube butting at the bottom.

The quill to ahead adapter supplied by n'lock has a ridge around it which I expect can be used with judicious cutting to length of the steer tube, or judicious choice of spacers, to obviate the need for the locking outside collar, with the quill and its wedge or expander then replacing the functions of the locking collar. (BBB sells a quill to Ahead adapter that when used as an Ahead to Ahead lengthening device works in this manner, according to a dealer of my acquaintance.) I'm a belt and braces man, so I'm not about to try it. In any case, this would work only for a fixed handlebar height determined by the extent of the quill above the ridge, because the ridge MUST in this scenario fall on top of the steerer tube to pretension the headset bearings.

In my locking collar and quill plan, the quill can be at any height, but not lower than defined by the butting inside the steerer or the ring around the n-lock quill, whichever touches first.

I still need to decide on a collar before I can fit my n'lock kit. I shall report further when I do.

In the photographs below, the captive cable is shown extended a little from the handlebar but fits in all the way, and the 1.5m freestanding cable is extra to the kit.

n'lock kit of stem, handlebar with captive cable and quill adapter, 1.5m free cable extra

The hole in the middle is where the cable plugs in.

Two hands are required to decouple the handlebars from the steering but locking it up again requires only one hand on the key.

Brain People, Switzerland, a solid metal tag, not a stickon. These are people who take pride in their work.

Andre Jute
http://coolmainpress.com/BICYCLING.html
« Last Edit: July 26, 2012, 01:14:55 PM by Hobbes »

Danneaux

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2012, 05:09:33 AM »
An outstanding report, Andre, and I look forward to seeing it mounted on your steed and for the long-term report to follow.  I am interested in its use to deter theft as well as its everyday workability as a stem.

It has certainly been helpful to read your thorough analysis and see your photos; it makes both the concept and execution more clear than the website portrayal.

You've thought this out well Andre, and can rest assured your concept is sound.  Sheldon Brown did something a bit similar by eliminating the star-fangled nut and spacers, using a seat-tube clamp to hold the steerer in place ( http://sheldonbrown.com/handsup.html ).  He mentioned rocking the bike back and forth while weighting the steerer to take up play in the headset bearings. Alternatively, one could get the tension adjustment spot-on using a removable top-cap anchor like the one available from Tout Terrain ( http://shop.tout-terrain.de/epages/es117678.sf/de_DE/?ObjectPath=/Shops/es117678_tout_terrain_Zubehoer/Products/837-011-022 ).  On his own Thorn Raven, Sheldon mounted a quill stem inside the threadless steerer to fix a second (straight) handlebar above the first (dropped) handlebar ( http://sheldonbrown.org/thorn/ ).  

If I may gently proffer the suggestion, I think it is possible to accomplish your goals with less effort and hardware.

Andre, if the quill stem n'lock version doesn't work to your satisfaction, I believe the threadless n'lock could be easily and elegantly adapted to give the height you need using the clamps and adapter tube from a version of the Syntace VRO stem riser: http://www.syntace.com/index.cfm?pid=3&pk=389# Going this route would preserve all the original features of your threadless steerer, while eliminating the problems associated with the loss of a top clamp and addition of a locking clamp, and quill.  Your headset could be adjusted and clamped as originally intended, but with the anti-theft capability of the n'lock. It wouldn't be hard to mill a set of similar clamps from aluminum stock.

Thanks for letting us know about your experience with n'lock; can't wait for more!

Best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2012, 06:16:06 AM by Danneaux »

Andre Jute

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2012, 07:57:50 AM »
Thanks for that, Dan. I had a bit of a giggle at the idea of spending another 99 Euro to regain 20mm in height... While I don't mind paying for innovation accompanied by solid engineering, as in the n'lock, I wouldn't in a million years give Syntace my money. They're in the fashion business (more precisely in the fashion-correction business) and I'm no one's fashion victim. You're right, I'd design and get something better run up locally. (You might say we're both here because Thorn doesn't mind giving the customer the full length of the steerer tube...)

I've done this business with the quill conversion before. I like quills, particularly Gazelle's toollessly adjustable Switch quill stem. In practice what I propose takes less time than my description. You simply insert and fix the quill in the steerer tube, attach a handlebar, and use this as leverage to get the slop out of the system, then bolt on your collar. As you say, Sheldon was there before us, as he was most cycling places. We'll see how well it goes onto the Utopia when I have a collar in hand and time to fit it, most likely over the weekend when I will have a helper. You wouldn't happen to know of a collar without a stopper lip, preferable with double bolts or, failing double bolts, wide rather than narrow? The Problem Solvers smaller collar isn't available from my parts pusher and the so called micro adjust collar doesn't turn me on as it requires carrying a 32 or 36mm wrench, a necessity I though I left behind ten years ago.

http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=8213 is what I use for a seat post clamp. In real life it is less garish, all black. But it has a ridge at the top to hold it on top of the seat tube which must be either ground out or planned for by putting the clamp on top of the steerer and arranging spacers under it to leave a small gap on top of the pipe when it is tightened. In fact, at the top of the steerer may be the tidiest place to put it, if not the most convenient from a fitting/working perspective -- see what Sheldon, assuming the collar will rest directly on the headset without spacers intervening, says about sliding the stem right down onto it.

Unfortunately, an in-use report will have to wait for better weather. It is miserable here, rain all the time.

Andre Jute

Danneaux

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2012, 08:49:14 AM »
Quote
...You might say we're both here because Thorn doesn't mind giving the customer the full length of the steerer tube...
<nods>  You're right there, Andre!  Greatly tipped the scales in favor of Thorn when selecting my Sherpa.  A critical point for me.
Quote
You wouldn't happen to know of a collar without a stopper lip, preferable with double bolts or, failing double bolts, wide rather than narrow?
Yes, I do: Discontinued most places, seemingly available here but only in a 30.0mm OD: http://www.jejamescycles.co.uk/dmr-double-bolt-seat-clamp-id38974.html
Pic here makes it appear lipless: http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=135 May be available in other sizes elsewhere.

Have you seen the Problem Solvers Locking Headset Spacers? http://problemsolversbike.com/products/locking_headset_spacers/  <-- This may be the one you can't get? They also offer this double-bolt/double-clamp apparently lipless model: http://problemsolversbike.com/products/double_klamp_seatpost_clamp/

I stacked two single clamps to secure the captain's seatpost on my tandem against the stoker reefing on their extension stem/46cm handlebars and possibly twisting my saddle under me.  I just milled the lip off the lower of the two clamps.  A quick job, soon accomplished with an expanding cylinder hone, though my Dremel would have worked as well or a decent sanding drum or flap-wheel in the drill press.

As for this...
Quote
...assuming the collar will rest directly on the headset without spacers intervening
...I would suggest a thin spacer between the clamp and upper headset cup, to serve as a thrust washer if nothing else.  If you place the clamp atop the stem, then I would suggest no washer between clamp and stem.

Sorry to hear the weather has put a hold on things; hope it clears up soon for you.  Keep us apprised; this is interesting.  Knowing your care and attention to detail, I have every confidence you'll come out fine.

All the best,

Dan.

Andre Jute

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2012, 01:51:25 AM »
Sorry for the long delay. I was in hospital and then had a long recovery, so occasion to photograph the n'lock in use didn't arise until recently.

I decided to fit the n'lock, and its accompanying handlebar, first as a normal ahead threadless stem, without using the custom quill converter that came in the special "all the options" package. By doing so I lost about 10-20mm of handlebar height but for the moment that does not concern me overly much as all my rides are short. Later, when I start taking longer rides again, I shall also be able to fit the quill and raise the handlebars above their previous height as it would be good for me to sit more upright than before. The point is that the full package from Brain People, Switzerland gives you every opportunity to tailor your installation to your needs. (It also saved me about a third of the price by buying the package rather than the component parts.)

The n'lock is fitted like any other stem, the only trick being that you should lock it before you attempt to fit it otherwise you will not be able to fit it correctly. There are no installation instructions as the n'lock is sold mainly to manufacturers who fit it as standard. According to Franklin Niedrich, the designer, the standard bicycle stem torque ratings I applied are perfectly suitable as all the bolts are high-tension parts, and the n'lock stem can be arranged with stem spacers at whatever height you like as long as the steerer has an insertion length of at least 40mm. In short, if you have fitted a stem before and haven't crashed because of it, you can fit an n'lock. Or it shouldn't take your LBS more than 15 minutes to strip your old stem and handlebars, and fit the n'lock and its handlebar, if you're fitting that as well (I did). Just fitting the n'lock in the place of your old stem is probably no more than a five-minute job for anyone who wields a spanner for a living.

The rest of the story can be told in photographs:



Here's my bike wheeled out of my townhouse onto the pavement/sidewalk, n'locked and the key taken inside with me. You'd have to be a right moron to attempt to ride away on so broken a bike. This is the key to the n'lock, that it makes the bike visibly unrideable. A professional thief, with an order for the bits on your bike, will steal it whatever locks you have. This one is very convenient and quick to use.



The n'lock unlocks with two hands, by swivelling the knob and turning the key. You cannot do it accidentally. It locks the steerer and the handlebars together again with only one hand on the key but there are two parts to the process, in that the handlebars must be straightened to 90 degrees over the wheel and click audibly before the indicator shoots fully back to match the green word RIDE to the green dot.



Here the bike is parked on the busiest corner in my town. If the bike locked only to itself, there is the danger (here rather remote, perhaps not so remote in the States) that some chancer will throw your bike onto the back of his truck. The cable is pulled from the handlebar, to which one end remains attached, passed through the frame and around a handy pole, and pushed through the hole in the n'lock, where it is then locked in place (when you remove the key) with the same knob you must swivel to unlock the steerer tube from the handlebars.



The handy handlebar cable, showing where it docks into the n'lock from underneath and is secured by the failsafe/indicator knob.



The cable is returned to the handlebar by simply pushing it back.



This 1.5 meter cable, with a loop at one end, and an n'lock tongue at the other, is extra to the kit I bought; it costs around a tenner. It is probably superfluous on my bike, which is too heavy to pick up and doesn't disassemble anything at all without special knowledge and special tools and much longer undisturbed than I'm ever away from the bike, but might help with a lightweight bike with quick-release everythings as an added deterrent. I bought it as a visible deterrent.



There's a visible indicator of when the n'lock is safe to ride. The knob sits sideways and the green dot matches the green word RIDE. It's a belt and braces job, as you feel the positive click as the handlebars lock on.



n'lock ready to ride. Note the pin beside the hole for locking in the cables. It is typical of the superior engineering of this clever Swiss stem, solid and firm. Amazingly, this n'lock stem is lighter than the (adjustable, solidly German, multi-certified) X-Act stem it replaced, yet, despite being lighter, it feels as firm and positive and secure as the German stem of undoubted provenance.

You can no doubt tell that I like the n'lock. What I like best is a) not carrying well over three pounds of Abus Granit 54 X U-lock, through I shall no doubt miss it the next time an impertinent Range Rover comes too close, and b) not bending over to attach and remove the Abus 54 X, and c) not having my bike's historic and irreplaceable paintwork and coach lining scratched by the Abus 54X.

For a hundred Euro for the complete kit, which is less than roadies pay for grim fashion and boutique stems of doubtful engineering probity, n'lock as a concept and as engineering and as clever security that doesn't weigh extra, rates the full five stars out of five. Recommended.

Andre Jute

Photographs and text copyright 2012 Andre Jute
« Last Edit: May 06, 2012, 02:50:04 AM by Hobbes »

Danneaux

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2012, 04:37:13 AM »
Andre,

I am sorry to hear you've been under the weather (hospital!) and very much hope you will soon be fully recovered and restored to health once more.

I am glad you've been able to work on the bike and to get out on it to a degree. You've produced a marvelous photo-essay on the n'lock, and it is very helpful to see the entire package fully installed and in operation. Impressive as it is in execution, I think the appearance of a "broken bike" is the greatest theft deterrent of all. It makes it appear for all the world as if the bike has been in a severe accident, and one's first thought is "what a pity" -- it completely removes any theft attraction and this is made obvious by your photos. Then, to have the assembly swivel freely clearly signals Something Is Wrong to even the more determined thief to whom initial appearances count for little. Andre, I think you have found an ideal solution for your needs. I only wish it were compatible with my Tout Terrain The Plug 2. You are also fortunate to live in a place where snatch-and-grab aiding pickup trucks are relatively rare. Still, it is a very nice approach.

Andre, I look forward to hearing how the handlebars serve your needs over time. They are a very attractive design and fit well with the overall ethos of your Kranich.

Please, can you explain a bit what prevents the theft or removal of the stem itself and then the bike? It appears the cover could be prised from atop the steerer cap and the lot removed after snipping the brake and gear cables, leaving the security cable and handlebars behind and still secured to an object. No doubt the n'lock's designers have a failsafe in place to prevent this very thing, but I can't picture it from the photos. True, the bike would then be extremely difficult to wheel away and is still unridable, so perhaps this concern is moot except where it could be dumped in a truck and driven away.

Thanks again for putting so much effort into a very clear presentation. As an aside, the n'lock is far more attractive installed than I would have imagined. A wonderfully designed and executed security solution, and wholly congruent with your Utopia Kranich! Given the other design features on this wonderful bike, I cannot imagine a more complementary theft deterrent.

All the best,

Dan.

Andre Jute

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2012, 05:53:16 AM »
I understand what you're getting at, Dan. I asked Franklin Niedrich if he recommends a Pitlock for the two hex bolts in his n'lock and he wondered when I last saw a thief with the correct size of Allen and a spare XXXX of the right size. You can replace those with security bolts of whatever religion you practice if you worry about a thief unbolting the stem and shaking out your front wheel. However, removal of the n-lock leaves the bike unrideable, and so does even destruction of the n'lock. The thief must arrive with the right tools and spare components. Seems unlikely. But a  professional thief stealing your bike to order, or the routine ad hoc thief with a truck, comes complete with cable cutters. Snip and your bike is gone. Even the Abus Granit 54X will yield to a correctly wielded angle grinder.

You have to decide what level of thief you want to defeat. Thing is, nothing on my bike comes off without special knowledge, special tools, and considerable time; there are no quick releases on a zero maintenance bike intended to be serviced by a specialist dealer with factory training. Even the thief who takes off the easiest thing to steal on my bike, my Brooks saddle (and he won't -- the wider sprung versions are simply not fashionable) discovers that the huge, heavy, leather saddlebag is immovably attached to the saddle until he can find another specialist tool. He drops it and walks away. And I'm never so far from my bike that the alarm (I fitted the one you recommend, thanks) won't bring me right on top of him before he even takes off something as simple as a saddle. And, come to think of it, no thief weighs himself down with two large wrenches the same size, which is what the Brooks saddle requires, and my front wheel requires two even larger and heavier wrenches also the same size. And then, unless he understands precisely how these German lawyers' lips work, he will shake until the cows come home and the wheel will still sit in the fork. The rear wheel doesn't come out no matter how many obvious bolts are undone: other components must first be rearranged, and in a certain order.

I worked through this carefully and concluded that the n'lock with a single security skewer will do for all my needs; either or both of the n'lock accessory cables are just gilding the lily. Your mileage will vary according to your circumstances and the specific bike you want to secure.

Nobody steals an item obviously not fit for purpose.


Danneaux

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2012, 06:05:48 AM »
Quote
I worked through this carefully
Thanks so much for the fuller explanation, Andre, and I can see the careful thought you've put into this. You have developed a true systems approach to whole-bike security few of us can match.

My hat is off to you Sir; well done! Well done, indeed! Most impressive.

Best,

Dan.

Andre Jute

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2012, 03:40:54 PM »
One more line of thought.

There are three classes of bike thieves:

1. The casual thief who wants transport for a few blocks and will then drop the bike and forget about it. Serious cyclists who buy bikes in the price range we're trying to protect already have some means of discouraging such thieves. If this thief is dumb enough not to notice the n'lock at work when I've just popped into the library, he is rewarded for his larceny with a well-deserved face-plant within paces.

2. The ad hoc thief who sees a bike with shiny bits and wants to steal it to keep or to strip down. May or may not have cable cutters big enough to cut the n'lock cable. Unless he already knows about the n'lock, it looks like a broken bike, as you say; he passes by. If he doesn't pass by, he's defeated by the n'lock, and marked by the alarm attracting attention to him; he can't move the bike and moves on. He may in his frustration do some damage to the paint or the ancillary equipment.

3. The professional bike thief. I'm not at all certain this thief even knows what a Thorn is (and only in Germany would he know a Utopia). Even to this thief, a Thorn doesn't shout "expensive bike" (especially if you don't fit drop bars to it...) Thorn signage in for instance grey outline on black is pretty discreet; I was inspecting a forum member's very worn Carradice saddlebag  outside a pub not too long ago, and didn't even notice it was a Thorn until just before he came out of the pub and found me bending over his bike. This particular Thorn owner won't mind me saying I noticed that his bike was dirty enough to have travelled a fair distance before I noticed it was a Thorn, and I've had Thorns on my shortlist for a decade now! However, this thief, if he's attracted to your bike or, worse, has an order for it or some part off it, will steal it regardless of your security measures. All they will do is delay him or give him second thoughts about the next bike being less risky to steal. That's the purpose of matching the cheap alarm to the superb engineering of the n'lock. But my thinking is that even this thief, seeing a bike with the  steering "broken", decides that an owner who maintained his bike so badly that such a critical part broke would probably have neglected everything else as well -- and moves on, especially if he can't instantly get it on the truck (the purpose of the lightweight cable) and doesn't want to be noticed wielding cable cutters (the purpose of the alarm). With the professional thief, that is all an Abus Granit 54X U-lock does, slow him down until he can put an angle grinder on it, and battery powered angle grinders are now common; I inspected a lightish one on a building site last year. But the Abus weighs over three pounds and the n'lock in the one application I'm familiar with (mine) actually saved a little weight over the stem it replaces! I'm happy to admit that with the professional thief, the Abus will probably slow him longer and save your bike in a larger number of instances (and will anyway pay for itself at the first instance). If I ever notice many professional bike thieves where I live, I'll use both the n'lock and the U-lock. The security skewer on the rear wheel is another indication to the professional that here's an owner who intends to leave nothing in his hands for the risk except ashes. And that sums up what you can do to prevent this thief stealing your bike: tell him you're serious and dangerous.

4A. Professional bike thieves who steal your bike from your home, worth a sub classification because it might be a growth industry. A few years ago there was a frightening statistic out of France, that 70% of bike thefts were made from people's homes. The n'lock as a space saving device is a good security lock inside the house as well, and makes it very awkward indeed to wheel the bike out of the door.

5. In all these cases, what you don't want to do is attract the attention of the thief to your bike. Yellow Ortlieb panniers are wonderful safety devices for your person, but they're probably also theft magnets. It may be worth paying for a dull black Rohloff and SON (my polished aluminium ones attract a good deal of attention), but red ones are an invitation to miscreants, etc. On the other hand, in active safety devices, a point arrives very soon where any additional security adds outrageous expense for pretty marginal gain (Pitlocks for Paranoids!), and the added weight of real security (hardened stainless steel U-locks, for instance) is simply impossible on a pedal bike. Being a bicyclist is about balance in more than one sense.

Andre Jute
« Last Edit: May 06, 2012, 03:03:50 AM by Hobbes »

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2012, 05:35:38 PM »
Good observations all, Andre. I would add one further class, based on my immediate locale:

The tweaked-out methamphetamine addict.

They are driving nearly all property crimes here, eager to acquire and turn anything for their next fix -- and without the good sense or judgment to be deterred by common sense or professionally-acquired experience. They seem completely oblivious to pain while high, and also resistant to police Taser attack so the local constabulary have adopted a policy of zap twice, then shoot. A woman was shot four times in just that situation two nights ago. Along with them is going all metals with value on reclamation for recycling -- aluminum and copper, primarily. Several times this last winter, local businesses were flooded because thieves stole bronze water valves and copper plumbing. Public Works has now placed 2,500-lb concrete blocks over the underground utility-vault doors after thieves stole several miles of copper wiring that powered the bike path lights. Thieves outwitted them by stealing a Public Works backhoe and coveralls, lifted the blocks off, and continued their operations. If such thieves get a bike, they either use it to ride to street-corner begging gigs ("signing" for smokes money and alcohol), or cut it up with a carbide saw to go as a lot for metals recycling. New legislation requires showing identification when recycling metals (I was fingerprinted when I brought my old electric hot-water heater in a couple months ago), but it hasn't helped much. Bike parts all look pretty much the same when they're apart from their frames and tossed in the bed of a pickup truck to be weighed on the scales as net weight, and the frames are explained as the byproducts of another bike shop fallen prey to a bad economy. There are under-bridge cottage industries where the insulation is removed from copper wires by toasting it over a fire. And, there's been a number of inadvertent electrocutions in the course of plundering wire from rural electrification facilities. Occupational hazard. As proof of bad judgment, there's few phone-utilities boxes left unmolested, and there's not enough copper in those hair-fine wires to matter.

Compounding the problem in this economically depressed area is a local citizenry who regard police funding as a bad return on investment, so they...don't. For the last two years, city police and county sheriff have announced to the world (thieves included) that property crimes will not be investigated, only major crimes. There is no funding to maintain the jail and most felony holds last no more than 4 hours. It appears we have lost all funding for the 12 sheriff's deputies that must cover a county the size of the state of Connecticut. Stolen property reports -- necessary to validate homeowners' insurance coverage -- are available by filling out an online form.

In such an environment, one really is on one's own insofar as protecting property, and bicycles and laptop computers are on the "most stolen" list. Of course, no property (or its loss) is worth one's health or life to protect, but I take pains to never leave my bikes unattended if at all possible. I take them into restrooms with me, locking them inside if the facility is intended to serve more than one person. Sometimes, they go in the stall with me. Unless i am in a truly rural setting, the bike gets U-locked when I step away from it to take a photograph (a number have been snatched this way on our bike paths). This level of hyper-vigilance is exhausting. That's why I am hoping the relative obscurity of a ring-lock might actually help and would certainly prevent a roll-away while stopped just meters away from the bike.

I'm guessing it might be an even footrace between a tweaked-out thief carrying a heavy Sherpa and me, pursuing in cleated cycling shoes with a heart full of murderous intent. Hopefully, I'd regain my senses in time to simply let him flee, bike and all. No bets, however. Adrenaline might just match meth for fueling Bad Judgment. Yes. No. Yes, I'd...let it go, valued as it is. I've been a target of violent crime, and know how long it takes to heal. No bike or derailed tour is worth that.

Quote
He may in his frustration do some damage to the paint or the ancillary equipment.
Ah, but Andre...for those of us who truly care about our bikes, this is nearly as bad as outright theft. Sigh.

Best,

Dan.

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2012, 11:56:07 AM »
That looks like an amazing piece of ingenuity Andre, and the price is right!

It also looks to be an ideal piece of kit to go with a frame with S + S couplings, flattening the front end somewhat for stowage.  Do you think the n'lock could be liable to damage while in the unlocked from handlebars position - rattling about in the boot/trunk of a car?

Andre Jute

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2012, 02:26:32 AM »
That looks like an amazing piece of ingenuity Andre, and the price is right!

It also looks to be an ideal piece of kit to go with a frame with S + S couplings, flattening the front end somewhat for stowage.  Do you think the n'lock could be liable to damage while in the unlocked from handlebars position - rattling about in the boot/trunk of a car?

No, not at all. The n'lock is not exposed at all. At the outside it is protected by the handlebars and the gear on the bars, on the inside it is protected by the frame. It could maybe pick up a scratch on the backside, but then your steel head tube will also be scratched and be of far greater concern.

There is a possibility of damage but it is not to the n'lock but likely to be done by an n'lock accessory, the cable that slides into the handlebar. You need to leave a bit of the lock end of this sticking out to grip it by to pull it out again. We've had several instances of this catching on sports gear, to the point where we now keep the bars on my bike parallel to the bike as before, but "wrong way round", with the fullness of the bow on the people side and the pointy bits on the wall side. It's still a space saving in the passage of several inches, but not as many inches as a "right way round" parking. This applies only if you use the optional handlebar with the cable inside; you can use the n'lock without the bar, or get a bar without the cable too. And the n'lock that doesn't take the cable is itself cheaper. (However the deluxe kit with everything is such a terrific bargain, it will probably be cheaper to buy it and just not use some of the parts, as I didn't in the end use the quill conversion kit which is included.)

Incidentally, in theory at least, the n'lock needn't "rattle about". There's a detent at 90 degrees (to normal riding position) on mine, and IIRC my original reading of the literature, you can also choose other detents at 30 degree intervals. The detent is not very strong, but there's no reason that you shouldn't ask Franklin Niedrig, the designer, whether the weak detent is a safety measure or simply a comfort/operating measure, and whether he can make the detent stronger for you. In any event, on a demountable bike one more small velcro strap among the packing gear will be no hardship, especially for so handy a device.

Frankly, for trips in the boot of your car, I don't see the handlebars needing restraint because they'll just park themselves on the floor parallel to the wheel. Inside a case or a carton and being shipped in an unknown orientation, might be a different story.

I love my n'lock, and consider it well worth the money, certainly better value for money than the Abus Granit 54X, which is itself good value for money as a famous known deterrent to thieves, and Range Rover basher. There's a hidden feature that Brain People Switzerland don't make much of: that you don't have to bend over to operate the n-lock, which matters to me, or get your hands dirty in the rear wheel, with perhaps consequences for your clothes, which matters to those of us who cycle in street clothes.

Andre Jute
« Last Edit: January 14, 2014, 11:11:27 AM by Andre Jute »

Andre Jute

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2012, 01:48:24 AM »
n'lock IN USE: It works, and how!

I've had several examples of the n'lock doing its thing: to me.

My bike stands in the hallway of my townhouse. I n'lock it at night. A few times I've forgotten to relock the steering. Grabbing the handlebars and trying to wheel the bike backwards is an absolute disaster. The first time the bloody bike, turning around the loose front wheel, got between my feet, tripped me, and I would have fallen, the heavy bike on top of me, except for the wall holding me up. The clatter and the noise was such that my family came running in to see what happened. Nobody's going to steal that bike from my house without waking up the house!

Nor is trying to wheel the n'locked bike forwards any more agreeable or even possible. The thing just won't cooperate. It's a great big heavy bike, and if it catches a thief unaware, he'll go sprawling, very likely with the bike on top of him, because the natural inclination is to hang on.

Even if the bike is held up by something, it really is very awkward with that loose front wheel. Example. At the supermarket I normally leave the bike n'locked in a packing space all to itself, locked to nothing. But on this occasion I had stuff in the pannier basket that I didn't want to take inside with me, and didn't want to get wet, so I locked the bike with the handlebar cable (see the photos further up this thread) to a handrail under the roof for the trolleys, basket to the wall side. The purpose of the cable was just to make it awkward for an impulse thief to reach across the saddle bag into the basket low on the pannier rails and against the wall under the handrail. But it also meant when I returned with my hands full of bottles that I couldn't get into the basket to arrange stuff without moving the rear of the bike only three or four inches. Read that again. Three or four inches were all I needed. But when I tried to drag the rear of the bike out, the front wheel flopped all over the place, and the bike, hanging rfrom the rail by the handlebar security cable, became entirely unmanageable, and soon I had an audience of no fewer than five people for the comic show. A lady eventually took my stuff from me and put it in her basket, and I relocked the n'lock and straightened the bike out so I could get at the basket. I asked a gentleman watching while his wife shopped to turn his back to me and describe me, and guess what, the police would have no problem finding me if I were a thief. Of course, a smart thief would be long gone.

Conclusion: The n'lock does what it says on the tin, it makes the bike impossible to steal by riding it away, and a very unattractive, even dangerous proposition to wheel even as far as a truck. It's what I paid for, and I'm eminently satisfied.

***

A couple of notes:

The n'lock is packed with grease. Some of it will come out at the joints for a while (I presume it will be only a while) and needs to wiped away. I wouldn't mention this but the n'lock is intended and priced for bikes for the elite. I take the view that the grease you see exiting expensive engineering is proof that it wasn't built on a Monday morning by someone too hungover to walk to the storeroom for a new can of grease, but others may be less charitable. It's a tiny thing, but n'lock is such a pleasure to handle that getting oil on your hands even once (it happened to me only once) jars perhaps more loudly than is really justified.

When you use the cable and then relock the n'lock (remember, the normal, operating mode is locked, the anti-theft mode is unlocked, opposite way round from a car steering wheel), the pin of the cable cannot be pulled until the second stage of the procedure is concluded and the wheel and steering tube click together again. This could, conceivably, be a nuisance if the cable is tightly fitted to something and the handlebars thus difficult to swivel. Hasn't happened to me, though. You soon become used to turning the key and swinging the handlebars before you take the cable out of the lockhole.

Though I've taken care to give a full description, which takes far longer to read than performing the functions, either locking or unlocking the n'lock is as fast as operating a key in a car, much, much, faster than fitting a U-lock, faster too, though not by as much, than using one of those permanently attached Dutch ringlocks.

In use, the n'lock earns five stars out of five for convenience.

For the less than hundred Euro I paid on a special offer for a complete kit of parts and adapters, n'lock seems to me to be better value euro for euro than any other bicycle lock I've ever owned.

Copyright 2012 Andre Jute
« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 05:42:46 AM by Hobbes »

Danneaux

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2012, 03:24:03 AM »
This is a really helpful follow-up, Andre, and one I read with some avidity.

I'm sorry you were bit by your own snake, so to speak, but I suppose that was the point of it all, and you have now tested the efficacy of the n'lock in a variety of scenarios -- really, well done! Nothing like field research to gain insight.

I am concerned about the grease leakage and its possible effect on your very nice gloves should it continue. If it becomes an ongoing problem, might it be possible to disassemble the unit, clean out the present grease, and replace it with one of higher viscosity?

I have to admit to wincing when I considered the possibility of a fleeing thief falling with the bicycle and the substantial damage (cosmetic, functional, structural) that can result. Replacing, say, brake levers can be expensive and time-consuming, as well as mirrors, handgrips, bar-end plugs, etc. Far better to have slightly smarter thieves who figure in advance it is a lost cause than the dumb/hurried ones who give it a go only to find it's a bad prospect.

Still, it sounds like a fine approach to theft-prevention and dovetails nicely with your whole-bike, systems approach to keeping the bike yours. Do you still activate the motion-detecting alarm and use the ring-lock on occasion? As I recall, you use nutted axles, but are there any other means to secure your dynohub and Rohloff?  The bike really doesn't sound suited for a quick-grab of the wheels, and carefully choosing your parking location and time there probably go farthest to mitigate that threat.

Nice review!

All the best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 05:52:01 AM by Danneaux »

Matt2matt2002

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Re: n'lock -- bike security by making the bike impossible to ride
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2012, 10:37:19 PM »
Hi Andre and folks, good posts and comments on types of thief out there.
May I have you thoughts on frame colour since colour of pannier has been mentioned.

I was thinking of going for yellow on my intended Nomad.
My reasoning being that any thief would not want to ride away on such a visible piece of hardware.

Correction, "any thief", of course there will always be one nutter out there!

Types of thief? Somewhere between 1 and 100 I guess. But is there any hard evidence from police etc.on this subject?

To be honest, I am torn between a dull black scruffy look or the yellow.

Advice please folks.
Never drink and drive. You may hit a bump  and spill your drink