Review: TigrLock Bike Lock
Let me preface with this review by saying 1) I live in New York City, the bike theft capital of America, 2) I've been the victim of theft, or attempted theft, three times in the past two years and 3) I'm a bike commuter. As you can imagine, having a good bike lock not only matters to me, it's essential.
Imagine my intrigue, then, when I heard about the TiGr. Developed by John Loughlin, a New Jersey-based cyclist and lock inventor (along with his father, Bob), the design was unlike anything I've ever seen. Instead of using a chain, shackle (U-lock) or cable, it uses a titanium band secured by a titanium-encased rotary disc cylinder lock. It's long enough to thread through both tires (on a road bike), the frame and a post. Plus, it's super lightweight and tough, and attaches to your bike's top tube using Velcro straps when it's not in use. At the time, it was an unproven Kickstarter project with a hefty $200 projected price tag, but having just bought a new bike, I threw caution to the wind and sprang for it.
The TiGr Lock in action, on my bike.
After six months of real-world use, the TiGr seems to live up to a lot of the speculative hype, with a few small drawbacks.
There are a number of advantages to the TiGr's build. First of all, it's more secure than most locks. The tough-as-hell titanium can really take a beating. The band is quite flexible, which means that it can't be popped open using leverage from a car jack or 2x4 the way a traditional U-lock can; instead, it will bend. Hack saws have a tough time with it because it vibrates so much compared to a u-lock or heavy chain. And titanium stands up to grinder or bolt cutter attack much longer than hardened steel (Loughlin has proved it to be resistant to a 48-inch bolt cutter).
Second, it's lighter, which means it's easier to carry. Probably half of all New York cyclists ride around with 10-pound Kryptonite brand chains wrapped around their waists like belts. It's fashionable, sure, but they also weigh 10 pounds. The highest-security U-locks weigh in at four to five pounds. The burlier, 1.25"-wide version of the TiGr, on the other hand, weighs in at a scant 20 ounces.
Third, its flexibility gives the rider more locking options. I can lock both wheels and my frame to a solid, grounded object using a single lock (rather than two U-locks), or lock two bike frames and their front wheels to the same when my wife and I cruise the city.
EASE OF USE
It takes time to perfect locking a bike up with the TiGr. It's a bit awkward reaching around your bike to thread the band through both tires—especially when you're locking to a crowded rack—lining the loose ends up very precisely in order to fit them into the cylinder lock. But once you've got it down, it's probably easier than attaching multiple U-locks.
Stowing the TiGr's band works pretty well with the included Velcro straps. It wraps around the head tube and runs the length of the top tube to the seat tube. Using both straps, you can attach it securely to the top tube, where it's out of the way and, for the most part, out of your mind. The Velcro straps weren't made to last, though. I snapped one of mine after just three months and have since resorted to either strapping the band to my backpack or hanging it vertically—and precariously—from my top tube. Also, despite being wrapped in clear PVC, the band vibrates against the frame on bumpy roads, scratching the paint.
The TiGr Lock stowed.
The cylinder lock, which weighs in at five ounces, must be carried in your pocket or in a bag.
So far I've been happy with the TiGr. It's sturdy and flexible, is so light that it feels like I'm not carrying a lock at all and, most importantly, I still have my bike. Beyond that, it's pretty to look at and is a conversation piece (I can't lock up without somebody—cyclist or otherwise—asking me about it).
The biggest drawbacks are its high price (though $200 is still cheaper than buying a new bike) and flimsy carrying/stowage system. I've only encountered one other TiGr user on the street so far (his was 0.75"), and he had the same complaints—flimsy straps, and the lock was scratching his frame. Neither he nor I have come up with a proper workaround, but I'll update this review when I do. In the meantime, you can use the TiGr with confidence knowing that, if you use it properly, it'll probably never even have to prove itself because bike thieves will opt for a cheaper/more familiar lock. Now that's elegant bike security.
Hits: Lightweight, flexible, tougher than other locks, bike thieves haven't cracked it
Misses: Expensive, mounting straps aren't durable and once they break it can be awkward to mount, the lock tends to scratch the frame when mounted
MSRP: $200 for 1.25", $165 for 0.75"
A few more views of the TiGr: