Monday, September 27, 2010

Ranking Bike Locks

from SLATE:

Avoiding the Bicycle Thief
The best locks to protect your wheels.
By Scott Elder

I put up with the hassle of owning a car in traffic-jammed Washington, D.C., for a few years. But when I lost my free parking space, I sold the car and made a bike my primary means of transportation. Now that I cycle most every day, I rely on a lock to keep my bike mine. Given the genuine threat of bike theft in the city, I always feel a twinge of fear when I leave my bike on the street, worried that upon my return, I'll find nothing more than a busted U-lock.

I don't have anything against the U-lock. If Kryptonite hadn't introduced it in the early '70s, the pinnacle of bicycle security might still be a cheap length of chain and a padlock. And it's evolved some since then—in the fall of 2004, bicyclists discovered that many round-key U-locks could be picked with the plastic barrel of a Bic pen. Kryptonite, which caught the most flak from the scandal, exchanged more than 380,000 locks for pen-proof, flat-key models free of charge, and lock competitor OnGuard, which had already phased out round keys, got a big sales boost. Today, flat keys are the norm.

Key style aside, most bikes are stolen because they're not locked at all ("I'll just be in Starbucks for a minute …"), or because the locks are used incorrectly. But plenty of properly locked bikes still get nabbed. To find out which locks work best, I pitted nine locks against each other from Kryptonite, OnGuard, and Master Lock: five U-locks, two woven steel cable locks, and two heavy-duty chain locks.

Next, I assembled my bike-jacking arsenal: an 18-inch crowbar, 30-inch bolt cutters, a hacksaw, three special blades, and my trusty claw hammer. I used only hand tools because 1) if a criminal crew with the proper power tools and a van wants a bike, it's as good as gone, and 2) I probably would have hurt myself. I was very eager to find out how the various locks compared. And to break stuff.


1) Security (20 possible points): To see how the locks would hold up in street conditions, I locked them around the frame of a very obsolete bike and around a steel handrail outside my apartment. I attempted to break through each lock with each of the tools, and did my best not to damage the bike. Busted locks received a maximum security score of 10.

2) Portability/Ease of Use (10 possible points): Even if a lock is unbreakable, is it practical? Cyclists usually transport U-locks with mounting brackets attached to the bike frame, in bags, or, if the locks are small enough, in their pockets. Locking chains are carried in bags or worn around the waist or over the shoulder. I took each lock for a ride and evaluated how difficult it was to carry and lock up.

3) Value (based on this formula): If a less-expensive lock can do the job, it deserves some recognition. To calculate value, I used the following formula: Add up the previous two scores, multiply by 10, and then divide by cost. I added one extra-credit point for every thousand dollars of free anti-theft coverage the company provides for a year after purchase. (Be sure to read the fine print and register with the proper documents; if you don't, you aren't covered.)

RANKINGS (worst to first)

Akita and Kryptonite Gorgon, both $39.99
Pertinent Thickness: Both 20 mm Woven Steel Cables
Weight: 2.6 and 2.4 pounds, respectively
Free Anti-Theft Warranty: Both $0

Despite their tough looks, I slayed the Gorgon and the Akita with both the hacksaw and the bolt cutters. Note that these locks have zero theft protection, which shows how little faith their makers have in them. Although they represent some of the thickest cable locks on the market, they didn't stand a chance. "Cable locks are a surefire way to get your bike stolen in the city," the manager of my neighborhood bike shop, City Bikes, told me. Spend your $40 on something else.

OnGuard Akita
Security: 2
Portability/Ease of Use: 5
Value: 1.8
Total: 8.8

Kryptonite Gorgon
Security: 3
Portability/Ease of Use: 5
Value: 2
Total: 10

Master Lock Force 3 STD U-lock, $29.99
Pertinent Thickness: 13 mm
Weight: 2.2 pounds
Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $1,000 for one year

The Force 3 got a perfect 10 for portability because the included mounting bracket works great and is built to last—it's much, much sturdier than those supplied with the other brands' U-locks. (Note to Kryptonite and OnGuard: Please go back to this old-school design! It works!) But security-wise, it can't be depended upon: Of the three $30 U-locks, the Force 3 performed the worst. The metal in the shackle (the "U") is of low quality and the locking mechanism in the crossbar broke off quickly and easily. All U-locks are not created equal.

Security: 5
Portability/Ease of Use: 10
Value: 6
Total: 21

Kryptonite KryptoLok STD U-lock, $29.99
Pertinent Thickness: 13 mm
Weight: 2 pounds
Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $0

The Kryptonite KryptoLok showed some heart, but with the right tool even Lois Lane could bust it. It took me less than a minute to break through, since the steel in the shackle is so soft and vulnerable. The included mounting bracket is flimsy plastic junk: One of the "EZ Mount Brackets" broke when I was putting it on, resulting in a two-point portability deduction.

Security: 8
Portability/Ease of Use: 8
Value: 5.3
Total: 21.3

OnGuard Bulldog STD U-lock, $29.99
Pertinent Thickness: 13 mm Shackle
Weight: 2.4 pounds
Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $1,251 for one year

I neutered the Bulldog with relative ease, but its failure may have been a fluke. The manager at City Bikes tried the same breaking technique on two other Bulldogs, and both took the punishment without busting. And while my hopes were high for the sturdy-looking OnGuard mounting bracket, the City Bikes staff assured me it would eventually snap off. In fact, just as they said this, a customer entered with a broken OnGuard mount asking for a replacement—1.5 points off portability. (All warrantied OnGuard locks also lost one bonus point for value because bikes stolen in New York state, and bikes jacked with power tools, aren't covered by their warranty, nor are bikes swiped from bike messengers or deliverymen.)

Security: 10
Portability/Ease of Use: 8.5
Value: 6.4
Total: 24.9

OnGuard Beast 3-feet 7-inch Chain, $89.99
Pertinent Thickness: 12 mm Links
Weight: 9.5 pounds
Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $3,501 for one year

The Beast lives up to its name—it weighs almost 10 pounds and can take a serious beating. Unlike less hefty locks, the hacksaw and the bolt cutters barely ruined the finish on the chain. However, I did wound the Beast with the hammer. My battering dented the padlock and made it impossible to open without a screwdriver.

Apart from stowing it in a bag, my only options for transporting the Beast were to wear it as a belt or shoulder it bandolier-style, both of which were uncomfortable due to the weight. The padlock's small shackle comes completely free when you turn the key, and to lock it up you need to keep your hands on the lock, both ends of the chain, and the shackle, which I kept dropping. The design may make for a stronger lock, but the Beast was hard to control.

Security: 17
Portability/Ease of Use: 3.5
Value: 4.8
Total: 25.3

Kryptonite New York Chain With EV Disc Lock 3-feet 3-inch Chain, $79.95
Pertinent Thicknesses: 10 mm Links, 13 mm shackle on mini U-lock
Weight: 6.1 pounds
Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $3,000 for one year

The New York Chain lock is much easier to use than the Beast. The two ends of the chain are held together by a tiny U-lock, which, unlike the Beast's padlock, doesn't separate into two pieces. It's tough, too: I didn't think this little lock could handle a full-fledged beat-down, but it shook it off and continued to work like new. I appreciated the added flexibility that comes with a chain lock—they can fit around wide things like lampposts—but I was a little disappointed with its portability. While it's definitely lighter than the Beast, it's still a load to carry. Take this for a test ride before you buy.

Security: 17
Portability/Ease of Use: 4
Value: 5.6
Total: 26.6

OnGuard Brute STD U-lock, $69.95
Pertinent Thickness: 16 mm Shackle
Weight: 4.5 pounds
Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $3,001 for one year

The Brute is the toughest-looking lock in the bunch and one of the toughest-acting. I gave it everything I had (almost kneecapped myself with the hammer), but I only did cosmetic damage. Sawing on the 16 mm shackle for five minutes only got me about 3 mm deep. At that rate, it would have taken me more than 35 minutes to cut through. It falls short, however, in proper mounting hardware: It comes with the same bracket as the 2.4-pound Bulldog, which doesn't hold up since this monster weighs 4.5 pounds. While the Brute is mean enough to scare off real bike thieves, portability—or lack thereof—weighs it down.

Security: 18
Portability/Ease of Use: 5
Value: 5.3
Total: 28.3

Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock, $89.95
Pertinent Thickness: 18 mm Shackle
Weight: 4.6 pounds
Free Anti-Theft Warranty: $4,500 for one year

If I were a pro bicycle thief, I'd skip any bike protected by a poison-frog-yellow New York Fahgettaboudit U-lock (or the NYFU). It took its beating with the poise of a journeyman NHL defenseman. At my hacksawing rate, it would have taken 42 minutes to cut through the 18 mm shackle. (It didn't get a perfect 20 score for security because my assault managed to jar a spring loose inside the crossbar, but that wouldn't affect lockup strength.)

I wasn't too surprised: The NYFU is made with so much hardened steel that it could moonlight as a dumbbell. But weight aside, its small size makes it easy to carry. The only drawback of "mini" U-locks like the NYFU is that the small stature means you can only lock the bike frame to an object—there's no room for also locking wheels. Kryptonite has enough confidence in their new flagship lock to back it up with a $4,500 anti-theft warranty. (Not that I've ever seen, much less owned, a bike worth anywhere near that much.) It's pricey, but the NY Fahgettaboudit is worth the dough.

Security: 19
Portability/Ease of Use: 7
Value: 7.4
Total: 33.4

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Biking Over the Brooklyn Bridge On A Sunday Morning

I've been jealously watching NYC get more bike-friendly, remembering back to years ago when I rode in Manhattan with no bike lanes, paths, and few compatriots. So, I put the bike in my hatchback and took the Holland Tunnel into the city. I left at 8 AM and arrived at Church and Walker at 8:35. Church turned out to be a great place to park because it's a few blocks from the entrance to the Holland Tunnel, it was easy to find street parking, and it's just a short jump to the Brooklyn Bridge.
I locked up my car, and rode to the pedestrian/bike path entrance. Way more pedestrians - mostly tourists, it seemed, crossing the bridge. The bike path was clear - pedestrians really stayed on their side. I was mostly concentrating on my riding and not the view, though I had enough peripheral vision to get the thrill of this iconic panorama. There are bike lanes heading off the bridge into Brooklyn Heights. I saw many bikes locked to posts, leaning against store windows, lots and lots of riders. I met a friend for coffee and a brioche with orange custard (wow). The trip back to South Orange - bike ride and drive - under an hour. Highly recommended.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Used Bike Collection

Every year, affluent Americans buy 22 million new bicycles and discard millions of old ones, abandoning many more unused in basements, sheds, and garages. Most of these end up in our already overburdened landfills. Meanwhile, poor people overseas need cheap, non-polluting transportation to get to jobs, markets, customers, and schools.

Max Gladstone and his family are organizing a Pedals for Progress used bike collection, where they will be collecting adult and kid bikes to send to Nicaragua, Ghana, Moldova, Uganda and Guatemala.
Bikes should be rust-free. No trikes, but bikes with flat tires in need of some repair are accepted. We're also collecting sewing machines in working condition.
A $10 minimum donation with each bike or sewing machine is required. The $10 and the bikes are all tax-deductible.
Date: Sunday September 26th
Time: 1PM - 4PM
Location: The parking lot of Beth Hatikvah temple - 36 Chatham Road, Summit, NJ 07901
For more info please call us at 973-951-8222
Hope to see you there!
Please feel free to share this with other people in the area who might have bikes or sewing machines to donate!
Thank you!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

ride for a good cause

On October 3, 2010, there will be at least three organized rides for raising funds for worthy causes. These large group rides are a lot of fun and a great place to make friends, as well as raise money to combat some pretty awful conditions.

The ride to address melanoma and other skin cancers is called the Enright Health TREK 2010, and it will start in Berkeley Heights, NJ. See their web site at for details.

The Multiple Sclerosis Society is holding two rides, one in Tarrytown, NY, and the other in Manhattan. See for information. I'll be riding in the one in Manhattan.


Enright Foundation Trek Ride

My name is Chip Madsen and I’m organizing a bicycle ride (Metric Century, 20 mile and a family ride) for the Joseph E. Enright Foundation for Sunday, October 3, 2010 at the Berkeley Heights campus of the Summit Medical Group. Money raised will go to help eliminate Melanoma and other skin cancers. Not only do I happen to be a melanoma survivor, but also Executive Director of the Foundation. The trek’s website is and any help you could give us to find bikers who are willing to solicit money supporting this cause would be enormously helpful. I can be reached at 973-715-0886 for more information.

Many thanks!

William “Chip” Madsen
Executive Director
Joseph E. Enright Foundation

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ride your bike to the beer garden

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign and Brick City Bicycle Collective are joining forces and have organized a bike ride from Newark to the Biergarten at the Deutsche Club of Clark.

More information --> here <-- with map. Family friendly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Activists Call for Lift on South Mountain Reservation Mountain Bike Ban

from Patch:

Activists Call for Lift on South Mountain Reservation Mountain Bike Ban
DiVincenzo: County will keep open mind in expanding recreation opportunities.
By Karen Yi

The mountain biking community in Essex County has been relentless in prompting the county to lift the mountain biking ban in South Mountain Reservation.

Three years ago, mountain bikers began volunteering with the South Mountain Conservancy that works with the county to upkeep the park. They have since poured more than 1,500 hours into the maintenance of the reservation — picking up garbage, fixing up old trails and dedicating every first Sunday of the month to sustainable trail construction.

This commitment by cyclists garnered the support of the South Mountain Conservancy for an 18-month pilot program to permit mountain biking on a section of the reservation.

"We've really convinced some pretty difficult people of the merits of trying a pilot," said Don Schatz, who began as a cyclist and is now a board member of the South Mountain Conservancy.

While the group may have jumped on board, county officials aren't quite coaxed.

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said in a statement, "Volunteer groups like the Conservancy and the Bicycling Association have demonstrated their commitment as stewards of our open space by contributing an invaluable amount of time and energy to restore trails, address erosion problems and enhance the natural beauty. We have made significant progress in South Mountain, but there is still more that has to be accomplished before we end the moratorium. We will continue to keep an open mind about expanding recreation opportunities in the reservation to include mountain biking."

Since the program was proposed in 2008, volunteer cyclists have built nearly four miles of new multi-use trails, made to withstand hikers, bikers and equestrians. Yet, mountain biking activist said the county's been lethargic in responding to the pilot program.

"They still haven't taken any action, no response, no assertion, no time frame," said Michael Feldman, another cyclist from the South Mountain Conservancy. "They don't want to do anything now because it's too politically sensitive."

Feldman said he last met with DiVincenzo and Dan Salvante, director of the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, in May to discuss the proposal but since then has not received an official response.

Salvante could not be reached for comment.

Arguments against mountain biking list trail erosion and the incitement of conflict between different users.

Activists said it's not users that damage the trails.

"Erosion is caused by poor trail design, not by users," said Schatz. He said the group has been working with expertise of the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) and the Jersey Offroad Bicycle Association (JORBA) to build trails that will last regardless of the user.

"There's a science to building sustainable trails that requires minimal maintenance and is multi-use," said Schatz.

Mountain biking was banned nationwide in the 1980s due to its "young, macho" image, said Frank Maguire, regional director of IMBA, based in New Jersey. "Tear down, do bad things — that sort of perspective was a popular one and there was trail closures all over the country."

South Mountain Reservation, a 2,040-acre property bordering West Orange, South Orange, Millburn and Maplewood, was one of the earliest parks to close on the east coast. Currently, mountain biking is banned in all parks owned by Essex County.

Contrary to the general perception, mountain biking can be positive for the community, said Maguire, and reaches a broader spectrum.

"Bikers tend to be a younger and more involved demographic and, so for park managers, they provide a lot of maintenance that's needed for trails and they're able to bring a new constituency to actually advocate for open space," he said.

Right now, about 80 to 90 percent of South Mountain's volunteers are mountain bikers. But Feldman said he worries the county's inaction will dissuade the reservation's volunteers.

"There's frustration among them," he said. "The number of volunteers has been cut in half in recent months. I expect more volunteers to drop out if the county does not quickly take explicit steps to adopt the Conservancy's proposal."

Jeffrey Mergler, executive director of JORBA, said the volunteers have been working on the reservation "without even being allowed to ride in the park."

The proposal addresses policing, user conflict, trail maintenance and trail construction, in addition to mountain biking.

"It's been a little slower than we'd hoped, but we're confident that the county will make the right decision for the residents," said Mergler.

SOMbike General Meeting, Tues., 9/14, 7:30 PM, The Baird

We'll be talking about the bike parking survey in our school district, repaving on South Orange Ave., Green Day, family bike rides, and more. All welcome!

Time: 7:30 PM
Place: The Craft Room at The Baird, 5 Mead St., South Orange 07079
Date: Tuesday, 9/14

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Thomas Edison Museum Ride, Sunday, 9/5, 10 AM Meet-up

Everyone welcome. The ride is an easy three miles. We'll meet at the Baird Parking Lot. Tickets are $7. for adults and free for kids.
Also, Huzefa is planning a longer ride at 7 AM Sunday. Contact him if interested.