I’ll come right out and say it, I really don’t like locking my bike up when it’s out of my eyesight. But, as I ride quite often solo and need to stop to refuel (read-eat cake) it’s sometimes unavoidable. I do choose venues that allow me to see the bike when it is leant up outside though.
My normal life job location means I can’t easily commute by bike so I don’t need a big lock to leave at work or in a bike shed and I certainly don’t want to haul a heavy lock around with me on pleasure rides so I take what I call a cafe lock.
My definition of a cafe lock is something that I can strap around the bike frame to an immovable object while I’m inside buying pastries (but can see the bike through the window). Which will stop the opportunist thief walking past and wheeling my bike away while I’m busy.
No lock is impregnable, given enough time anything can be grinded (ground?) snipped, levered or bolt cut and the two here on test are no different. What they will do, and it sounds harsh, is deter the thief who likes easy pickings to leave your bike alone and take one that isn’t locked up.
So the lock needs to be long enough to go through the frame but not be unwieldy, be light enough that you’ll actually take it with you and have an easy lock-unlock system.
Straplok 10 fits all the wanted criteria and the set given to me comes as a three pack for £44.99 or singles at £16.99 so pretty good value. The length is 450mm so easy to lock a gravel or road bike to say some railings, even a standard mtb. Full suspension or Ebikes with much fatter frames or complicated designs might be more of a creative exercise.
The lock comes with what Squire call a “dimple key” and this just needs to be inserted, not turned and then the sliver bar depressed to release the lock. the lock has a nylon/plastic covering over a 10mm stainless steel core so it shouldn’t do damage to your paint work. The lock is easy to pop in a bar bag or thread through some of the daisy chain webbing you get on bags these days. Pull the lock through tight and it’ll fit in a jersey pocket.
Straplok Combi 10 also fits all the criteria and comes as a single unit at £19.99. Again, length is 450mm with a plastic covered 10mm stainless steel core so all the comments about the key entry Straplok with regards to capacity and ease of carrying apply here too. Where the combi differs though, you probably guessed from the name, is that it has a combination lock. 3 digits on a rotating barrel lock and open it.
Retrac Max again meets all my needs and also has a combination, this time 4 barrels. It has a plastic case that houses 900mm of PVC coated steel cable. You pull out the cable and press the button on the side to retrac(t) it. The plastic feels brittle but has not cracked during the test period and I’ve dropped it on the floor a few times. It is small enough to easily fit in a pocket or bag and is less intrusive than the other two designs
All these locks will 100% do the job asked of it. it will be a very mild deterrent to the casual thief but no more than that. In my circumstances though, that is all i need.
Out of the two locks I much prefer the combi versions compared to the key operated lock for the simple reason I know I would definitely lose the keys! Both combi versions are much better as a take one thing solution to the problem. I like the simplicity of the strap combi to the blue plastic one though. The Retrac is clever with its one button reel-in feature but those inner workings put me off in the event of a jam or weather ingress (neither of which happened during the test I have to add) and to that end after the first few uses of the key entry lock and the Retrac I’ve used nothing but the Combi 10. It threads nicely through the cords on my bag or sits inside my other bag and is very simple to use which is good on a freezing day when hinger knock has struck and you don’t want to be messing about with keys etc. Think of it as a very big lockable cable tie and it gives me a little piece of mind while I choose the best cake to have, and that’s always the hardest thing on my rides!