It’s pretty difficult to come up with a bike lock that offers something that really sets it apart from the usual selection. I mean, apart from security, what else do you need a lock to do? After all, there are plenty of secure locks out there.
Carrying a lock has always been a compromise. Secure means heavy, and if it’s not weighing you down in your backpack, then it’s an unsightly mess on the bike. The last thing you want on a decent bike is a bracket clamped to the frame, getting in the way, ruining the lines, and potentially damaging the paint. Or how about dangling from your handlebars? No thanks. I’ve always kept my locks in my backpack, but what do you do if you don’t need to bring anything else and want to travel without a bag sweating up your shirt?
I’ve worn my locks for some time already, as have many people. I’ve had heavy (like, really heavy) chains with super heavy-duty shackles and smaller cable locks (of the non-coiling variety) that I’ve draped around me in the messenger-bag position as well as wearing around my waist like a belt. The problem with the cable locks is that although they are flexible, they are not nearly flexible enough to be comfortable to wear. They don’t conform to the shape of what they are wrapped around and dig into your waist – and that’s assuming that you are small enough to fit into one to begin with (usually a 32″ waist at best).
If the lock is of a reasonable security rating then it’s going to be fairly hefty, so wearing it over one shoulder is going to be uncomfortable and you also then have a lock that keeps swinging down in front of you, getting in the way.
Enter the Hiplok. The concept isn’t exactly brand new. Sure, there haven’t been very many (any?) locks that have been marketed with the idea of wearing them up until now, but it’s how Hiplok have gone about designing how they are used that is new.
It’s such a simple idea actually, that it’s weird to talk about it like it’s a new approach. Combine a lock and a belt and that’s it. How hard is that?
Difficult or not, they’ve done it, and there are clear benefits to their creations.
Here’s the Hiplok deal:
It’s not the concept, it’s how well it’s been executed. As the wearing of the Hiplok is what sets it apart from regular locks, we should start there.
First, it’s comfortable. This isn’t Hiplok’s biggest/heaviest lock, but even if you factor in a bit of extra heft, once it’s on, you hardly notice it at all. The nylon outer casing is substantial enough to keep you from feeling each hardened steel link against you but not enough to add unnecessary bulk, and the shackle is shaped well enough to be a non-issue as well.
What allows the Hiplok to fit snugly around nearly anyone is the stoke of genius that is the adjustable loop that Velcros back on itself. This lock will fit waists from 24″ to 44″ in diameter and is even easier to fit than a belt. Loop it around one end of the shackle, stick the Velcro together, and go. When you arrive, pull open the Velcro and it’s off. It’s idiot proof.
The Velcro is where my only negative lies, but then, you could also write that off to user error. If you position it so that the shackle is in front (which I found more comfortable), then your arm can and will periodically brush the rough exposed Velcro that remains (unless you have a 24″ waist). Solution: turn the Hiplok around a bit so that the Velcro is to the rear. Done. Just beware that if you are wearing something a little more delicate and don’t want to tuck your shirt or jacket inside the lock, then the exposed Velcro may want to stick to it and start turning it a little fuzzy as Velcro is prone to do.
The locking part
Like any lock, you get what you pay for. Thicker and harder means more difficult to cut, and Hiplok has gone with Sold Secure rather than an in-house testing system to verify their product, meaning that you can compare the security to other locks on a more level playing field. The Lite gets a Bronze rating.
The Hiplok Lite is a lighter lock than the Original (which is an 8mm chain/10mm shackle vs. 6mm chain/8mm shackle), and there are both smaller and larger, heavier locks available if you need or prefer, up to a Gold rating (10mm/12mm). The key’s have a unique curved shape and the engagement is smooth. I don’t have any data on how effective it is against picking or freezing, but it looks well made, for what that’s worth (to a novice, opportunistic thief, that’s usually all you need…).
Here’s the obvious: nearly any lock can be defeated, given the opportunity, and there is an inevitable compromise for most people between security, weight, and price. Hiplok locks appear to be all case hardened, where the outer layer (0.02″-0.03″) is hardened through a heat-treating process. This is better than regular steel, but not nearly as good as core or through-hardened steel (hardened all the way through, unsurprisingly). These locks are much more expensive, however, so take that for what it’s worth.
Basically, this is to say that Hiplok offers a range of locks that will fit the security needs of most people and match what other brands of locks offer, but are not the best locks that one can purchase. Their product is not unique in its level of security, but that’s not what they set out to do. So…
Having used the Hiplok Lite for long enough to know if it is successful at what it set out to do, my verdict is positive. I quite like it, actually. It’s easy to operate, appears secure enough, is actually secure enough to handle moderate security situations, is long enough to accommodate a reasonable selection of objects to lock your bike to, and can easily include your front wheel in the mix.
Crucially, it’s comfortable to wear, which is the point. It’s cliché to say, but you truly forget that it’s there. Your waist offers a lower centre of gravity than your back, isn’t swinging around like your legs, isn’t getting in the way of backpacks or taking up space in your bag and squishing your lunch or work clothes or whatever else you may have that shouldn’t be squished, or rattling around on your bike. Your hips are the ideal place to put a lock, really. The fit can be made tight or loose if you want to wear it a little lower on the hips, and the ease of which you can put it on and remove it, as well as adjust it, could not be more simple. As a bonus, there are a few small reflective bits just to add another slight benefit while riding at night, while the Superbright series offers large quantities of reflectiveness should that appeal to you.
As far as fulfilling the brief, Hiplok has nailed it, and in doing so have solved one of the most annoying problems with bike locks.
Header image: The Sticky Bidon