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Review: TiGr Bow-Locks

T-1000 would be so proud

I’m not sure which is a more powerful force, a first impression or resistance to change.  That said, the TiGr bow-lock can be a fairly polarizing piece of bicycle hardware.  It’s not shaped like, nor made of the same material as, nor sitting at a similar price point to any other lock on the market.  These attributes, along with others, can make either your jaw drop or  your lip sneer.

The TiGr website has all of the information you need to know about the locks, so I’m going to just give just a brief description.  TiGr offers titanium bow-locks that comes in six different models (two different widths and three different lengths) ranging from 1 to 2 lbs.  The locks looks similar to big BBQ tongs with a small cylinder lock on the end.  Since they’re titanium, they’re incredibly strong (try to cut titanium), deceptively light, and about as stylish a lock as I’ve ever seen.

As for security, the two available widths are .75 and 1.25.  The 1.25 models are the only ones rated by the ART Foundation (the .75 can be cut with strong bolt cutters).  The ART Foundation is a Dutch organization that rates high quality bicycle locks (they do not rate lower end models).  The 1.25 TiGr bow-locks are rated (currently) as 2 stars out of a possible 5.  To help you gauge what that means, here’s a list of some common locks that you’ll find in or around Philadelphia, and their corresponding rating.

  • Kryptonite KryptoLok Series 2 (gray lock cylinder), Kryptonite Evolution Mini (orange lock cylinder, mini version), ABUS Bordo 6500 (folding lock) – 2 Stars
  • Kryptonite Evolution 4 (orange lock cylinder) 3 Stars
  • Kryptonite New York Series (yellow lock cylinder) 4 Stars
  • Kryptonite New York Legend Chain (the biggest Kryptonite chain lock) 5 Stars

Please note that I’m not trying to play favorites with Kryptonite; they just happen to be the most well known and commonly seen ART-ranked brand in Philadelphia (here’s the full ART list).

Strength-wise, TiGr bow-locks are comparable to the locks I most frequently see in Philly (based purely on personal observation), the KryptoLok and Evolution.  This fact means I’m probably about to lose the interest of anyone that carries a Fahgettaboudit or stronger.  Well, stick around for a few more paragraphs because TiGr is an interesting new breed of lock.

For this review, I was able to get my hands on a 24 x 1.25 lock to do some testing around the city. Here are my thoughts:

Style There is a reason the tagline for TiGr is elegant bike security.  This lock, if anything, is pretty.  It’s a titanium body with a clear plastic coating (to prevent it from scratching your frame).  I felt like my bicycle was dating out of its league with this lock.  Over the course of a few weeks of use, multiple riders asked me about it.  At one point, a person was even standing at my bike staring at my lock when I came to unlock it.

Flexibility = Versatility Imagine Gumby and the T-1000 had a love child.  And that love child happened to be a bicycle lock.  A TiGr bow-lock would be that love child.  Since it’s made of titanium, it can flex itself around wide poles and trees, meaning you won’t be searching all around the block for a spot to lock up.  Furthermore, if you have a 24 model or longer, you can lock up your frame and both wheels quickly against any standard size street post.

T-1000 would be so proud

Weight The 1.25 wide x 24 long bow-lock that I tested weighed in at 1.68 lbs.  Alternatively, a Evolution mini 5 with 4′ cable is around 3.25 lbs, and isn’t as secure for the tire locked in the cable.

Learning Curve This is a lock unlike any you’ve ever used.  That said, there is definitely a bit of a learning curve.  Here are the areas that I had to adjust to the most:

  1. Opening / Closing The first thing you need to learn is how to remove and reconnect the lock cylinder (the actual lock and unlock steps are easy).  Since the cylinder lock is designed to prevent pry attacks, you can’t just wiggle it off.  You need to squeeze the titanium bars together under the lock, and then tilt the lock off.  This takes practice, but within a few days you’ll be doing it without thinking.  Putting the cylinder back on just involves lining up the bar ends the same way you did when removing.
  2. Mounting The recommended mounting location is on the top tube with the provided velcro straps.  This would not work easily for me.  My touring frame has canti brakes and a fork mounted headlamp that always got in the way.  Luckily, this lock is flexible, so I just hitched it from below my seat tube water bottle cage to just behind my seat post (seen above).  This worked very well, but definitely took a little longer to remove and replace.
  3. Locking Up U-Locks mount in a very specific way.  Either they fit around the sign post and your bike or they don’t.  You don’t get very many options.  The TiGr bow-lock, though, can fit around most posts, so the question shifts from whether or not to how much.  The how much refers to how much of the bike can be locked at once: frame, frame and a wheel, or frame and both wheels.  Learning the different ways a TiGr bow-lock can be secured took some time and experimentation.

All the important parts

Speed of Use With the TiGr bow-lock, it’s definitely a little slower than a U or chain lock to get from parked to locked.  Depending on how the lock is mounted to your frame, it will take a little longer to unmount.  After that, if you’re locking the whole bike, it will take some more time to make sure you secure both wheels and the frame.  Overall, we’re just talking about a difference of less than a minute, which should decrease as your familiarity with the lock increases.  It did for me, at least.

Cost Titanium is not cheap, and neither are these locks.  The price tag for these flexible, durable locks ranges from $125 to $200.  When talking about the 1.25 locks, they start at $160.  The lock I tested specifically was $175.  The full price list can be found in the TiGr Store.

Overall Impression All things considered, I liked this lock.  The style aspect doesn’t matter that much to me, but the versatility does.  I liked being able to lock up my wheels to my frame as much as I liked being able to lock to a medium sized South Philly tree.  The weight is an attractive bonus for touring, as well as the fact that it can be creatively mounted to the frame.  Also, in a pinch, this lock has considerable reach should you ever need to swing it.  The only detraction for me was the cost/security ratio.  This lock is as secure as the lock I’m currently using, but costs considerably more.

Conclusion This lock isn’t for everyone.  This is a boutique lock for people interested in more than just overall security.  If you are purely function and are not concerned about form, spend your money on a chain or a diesel U.  But if you’re looking for a city-safe lock with style and built-in versatility, this could be the lock for you.  And if form is of the utmost importance, and you require a lock that is stylish as you are, this is your lock.

Don’t let your preconceived notions about what a bicycle lock should and shouldn’t be dissuade you from buying a TiGr bow-lock.  At the same time, don’t purchase one based on style alone.  Take into consideration what matters most to you in a lock, and then decide which lock is right for you.

On a final note, please remember that locks are only effective if they’re used properly.  And the proper way to lock your bike is to the leg of a heavily armed guard, preferably one with military training and a strong stance on the immorality of theft.  If that’s not a possibility for you, at least try to follow this advice:

  • Don’t ever leave your bike unlocked outside.  If you do, you’re just being lazy.  Is ten seconds of lazy worth hundreds of dollars?
  • Don’t lock your bikes to something less secure than your lock, like removable scaffolding or a wooden rail on your front porch.
  • Don’t leave your bike locked outside overnight.  Always bring your bike inside.  The longer it sits outside, the higher your chances of it being stolen.  Again, don’t be lazy.
  • Use common sense.  If you’re uncomfortable standing around where you’re locking up, you probably shouldn’t leave your bike there.
  • If you can, get locking skewers for your wheels and a bolt on seat post clamp.  If you’re not sure how to secure the different parts of your bike, just ask at your local shop and they’ll help you out.
  • Don’t buy stolen bicycles.  If you do, you’ll get no sympathy from me when it’s stolen back.

All Photos Courtesy of Troy Mustache

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