I consider myself a pretty happy and positive person, but if there’s one thing I do hate with a fiery passion that consumes my soul, it’s bicycle theft. I’ve lost two bikes in my life (two and a half if you consider that one was an electric tricycle), and I’ll never forget that feeling of anger and violation. That’s why ever since I’ve made sure to follow a number of steps to prevent anyone from stealing my electric bikes again. One of those methods is to use multiple locks of different styles, which led me to discover this neat little bicycle wheel lock.
Before I go any further, I want to make something clear: this isn’t a primary lock. I would never use ONLY this lock. This is a secondary lock; something to add another layer of protection to your bike.
Ok, now let’s get to the specifics.
The wheel lock itself looks like a cross between a long shackled padlock and a U lock. It is designed to mount on the rear of a bicycle frame and lock through the spokes, meaning that the wheel can’t spin without destroying all of the spokes.
But wait, THERE’S MORE!
It also has a vibration alarm. More on that soon.
Bicycle wheel lock installation
The lock itself mounts very easily to the bicycle with just a couple of machine screws. I put it on the seat stay (the frame member that connects from the rear wheel up towards the seat) though in theory you could probably mount the lock on the front fork as well. However, mounting on the fork might require a modification to the mounting plate.
Once the bicycle wheel lock is mounted to the bike, it just sits there, holding its own shackle in a second set of holes. This convenient feature means you don’t need to unlock the shackle each time you want to use it, you just slide it out of the holder.
A ball-and-spring clamp inside one of the holes securely holds the shackle in place so it can’t bounce out while riding. A firm tug is enough to free the shackle when you’re ready to use it.
To lock the wheel, you slide the shackle out of the holder, turn it 90 degrees, and slide it through the wheel from the opposite side of the bike. This can all be done from the lock-side of the bike, meaning you don’t have to walk around the bike to lock it. Just give it the ol’ reach around.
You’ll probably catch at least a couple spokes in the shackle, but the ingenious design of the lock means that your wheel is secure even if you don’t actually capture any spokes in the shackle. To ride off on the bike, the wheel would have to turn and break all the spokes, rendering the wheel useless. And if someone tried to unbolt your expensive hub motor wheel and remove it, they’d actually have to saw through the rim and tire to slide it out, butchering the wheel.
So yes, while someone can still technically steal your wheel this way, they’ll have to do all of that work with an alarm ringing in their ears. And not just any alarm, but a terrible, shrill, make-you-want-to-turn-that-saw-on-yourself type of alarm.
It’s not just the volume (which is loud but not earsplitting) but rather that it’s simply a terrible noise, with a combination of screeching and high pitch sounds firing in rapid succession. I accidentally set mine off in my driveway and then went running for the key on my kitchen table before my neighbors could try and kill me.
One feature I really like about the alarm is that you can choose whether or not to arm it. Generally I leave it armed, but sometimes when I lock to a busy bike rack or a bench that I know will make enough vibration to trigger the alarm, I leave it unarmed. It’s still a good lock even without the alarm.
To choose whether the alarm is armed or not, you insert the shackle flipped 180 degrees. One of the legs has a groove, while the other is fully round. The round leg depresses a switch in the lock to arm the lock, while the grooved side clears the switch and leaves the alarm unarmed.
The need to inspect the shaft to locate the arming side each time I locked the bike quickly became annoying, so I added a strip of red electrical tape on one side. Now I just remember “red-rear” for arming. If the red strip is towards the rear of the bike, the lock’s alarm will be armed. This definitely helps in low light situations too where differentiating the small difference in the ends of the shackle would be even more difficult.
I’ve always wanted to use a wheel lock on my electric bicycles, but I don’t have disc brakes, where nearly every type of wheel lock is intended to mount. This style of wheel lock is exactly what I’ve spent years searching for. It allows anyone to lock a wheel on their bike, regardless of the style of brakes they use.
Functionally, I have only one, complaint about the lock. When locking the shackle, you have to insert the key and turn, you can’t just shove the shackle in and call it a day. My main chain lock doesn’t require a key to close it, so I only have to take my keys out of my pocket to unlock my bike, not to lock it as well. It’d be nice if the locking mechanism on this wheel lock were spring loaded so that a key is only required for unlocking, but perhaps making it this way creates a more secure mechanism.
Other than that single complaint, which is admittedly trivial, I have only praise for this bicycle wheel lock. It simply works great and is very easy to use. If you leave the alarm unarmed, you just set the lock and go. If you arm the alarm, you hear an audible beep when the shackle is inserted, signifying that the alarm is armed (and that the batteries aren’t dead, I guess). From that point you have a 15 second window before the alarm will sound from a vibration. I’ve found that’s enough time to disconnect my battery and remove it from the bag, plus let any little vibrations die down from the locking process.
The couple times I moved to0 slow and didn’t get my battery out of the bag in time, I accidentally set off my own alarm, proving that if I did leave my battery unattended, my wheel lock’s alarm would go off when someone unzipped the battery bag. I probably won’t take that risk, but it’s nice to know.
One important thing to note is the potential to cause serious damage to your wheel if you forget about your lock being engaged and try to ride off, especially if you hit the throttle on a powerful hubmotor. If you set the alarm, there’s no way you’ll be able to ride off, as your ears will be bleeding the instant your butt hits the seat. But if you didn’t arm the alarm, you can be in for trouble if you forget to remove the lock. That’s why I added a reminder cable to mine.
Reminder cables are usually meant for disc brake locks on larger scooters and motorcycles, where a wheel lock combined with the weight of the vehicle is enough to prevent nearly all theft. The brightly colored cable, usually yellow or orange, is placed on the lock and strung up to the handlebars, serving as a visual reminder for absent minded riders. It also has a secondary benefit of drawing the eyes of would-be thieves to the lock.
This lock makes a wonderful secondary lock, as I mentioned earlier in the article, because it functions entirely differently than your main lock. You should already have a heavy chain or U-lock securing your bike to an immovable object. But just in case some thief thinks he can test his luck on your main lock, seeing a second lock that inhibits riding the bicycle is another strong deterrent. Suddenly a thief is going to need to be extra lucky to get through two locks.
In reality, this wheel lock itself isn’t the most secure lock in the world. The tumbler could probably be drilled through in about 30 seconds, and a pair of large bolt cutters could probably get through that shackle. But the instant that alarm goes off and everyone turns to see some dude standing frozen next to your bike with a drill or bolt cutters, I’d say the situation has definitely changed for him.
Where to get your own
I got this lock from the Chinese website AliExpress.com, which if you aren’t familiar with it, is like a combination of Amazon’s online convenience and Walmart’s intense-competition-driven low prices. I don’t know what this lock is called, mostly because there isn’t a single word of english on the package.
Here’s the link to the exact product I bought, which at the time cost me $14.60 with free shipping.
Many items for sale on AliExpress have a way of coming and going, for example this similar lock which was available a few weeks ago but right now is currently unavailable.
That one, while similar to the lock I reviewed here, is designed to mount to the front fork, lacks an alarm and has a different lock mechanism. I didn’t test that lock, so I can’t vouch for it’s effectiveness.
If you’re going to pick up one of these locks from AliExpress, be prepared to wait anywhere from 2-5 weeks for it arrive on the slow boat from China. Mine took about 3 weeks. Also, consider picking up one of those reminder cables while you’re at it.
Lastly, remember that this is only a secondary lock, meant to add protection on top of a heavy duty main lock. To learn more about bicycle locks, check out my article on the best locks for electric bicycles.
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