A few months ago, I was in a small bind. Okay, I had to pee. I was on my bike on a solo ride, in a suburban area with no parks whose bathrooms I could use. But there were plenty of Starbucks and other potential public rest rooms, only I didn’t have a bike lock. I mean, who wants to carry a heavy lock on a ride? I came home determined to pick up materials at Home Depot to make what I was calling my #1 Lock (as in, I gotta go…).

My wife, who’s infinitely smarter and more practical, used the Google and found the Ottolock from Otto Design Works. It does what my DIY lock would have done, only orders of magnitude better and more securely.

The Ottolock is a spooling, steel- and kevlar- reinforced combination lock that will fit in a jersey pocket or wrap onto parts of your frame. It comes in three lengths, 18 inches, 30 inches, and 60 inches. Weights are 120 grams, 155 grams, and 235 grams. I ended up getting two, the 30-inch (which you can see in orange) and the 18-inch (which is in black).

I have used both Ottolocks often. The smaller one sits on my bike at all times, strapped around my saddlebag. It’s always available, but doesn’t hinder my riding or bump against my legs. If I’m I need—perhaps for ingestion of caffeine rather then elimination—I simply loop the lock around the top tube and the nearest fixed object. In the case of Starbucks, Peet’s, and a whole lot of other establishments, that’s often one of those metal trash cans with the vertical slats.

ADVERTISEMENT

The three-number combination is customizable—there’s a tiny hole on the side of the lock to reset it and create your own. I found it a little tricky to push the tongue through the lock itself—when you press the bottom to release the locking mechanism, it feels as if it doesn’t move fully out of the way—but it’s a minor complaint. That I’ve found a lock that weighs almost nothing and is always on my bike makes my rides significantly better.

The Ottolock is not a long-term security system for your bike (or any other object you don’t want to walk away). Numerous online reviewers have complained that their bikes were stolen after they left them for hours. Well, duh. I see it as a lightweight deterrent for short-term situations. It’s just enough security to get a chocolate croissant and triple espresso with your back turned or to run into the restroom to powder your nose. I probably wouldn’t use the Ottolock in the city and I wouldn’t use it to lock my bike to the rack for an extended period. But for those emergencies, or slightly less than emergencies, or when I’m bonking and need calories situations, it’s tough to beat.

$55 – $75 • BUY