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- Price $115 on on tigrlock.com
- Weight 0.9lbs (408g) + 1.4oz (39g) for mounting clip
- Made in USA
Living in the suburbs of Tokyo, commuting by bicycle is a big part of my life. I got my Tokyobike SS in the first couple of months I moved to Japan and it's been with me ever since. I even rode the single-speed bicycle 220km to Karuizawa in Nagano and back.
While Japan is generally very safe, bicycle thefts do happen. While most feel safe enough to leave their laptop unattended in Starbucks, few would leave their bicycles unlocked. While a minimal amount of deterrence is often enough in Japan, not quite so if you living almost anywhere else. Even in Singapore, a country known for being very safe, bicycle theft is pretty common and the key to prevention is having a good lock.
The bicycle lock I've been using for the past five years was none other than the standard-lengthed TiGr bow. I got the TiGr bow during their Kickstarter campaign for the shallow reason that it just looks so cool. Little could I have anticipated that the TiGr bow would blow past its Kickstarter goal of $37,500 and closed at $108,000. This validated the concept and proved that there are others like me who want a bike lock not only works, but looks great while doing so.
This review is on the newer, more compact version, the mini. There is also a plus version that offers more leeway in terms of locking space.
In this article, I'll be making some comparisons to the original bow and the mini+ version to help you choose the right one.
The TiGr is, without a doubt, an elegant bike lock. This elegance is largely due to the material. As the name of the brand suggests, it's made of 100% titanium. The construction of the lock just gives off a high-quality impression.
At the time of this review, there is a high carbon blue steel version in the works which also looks pretty sweet.
There are two main titanium components of the lock. The body, which is a single piece of titanium, and the cylinder lock. The shape and form is intriguing of the Ulock, and design is classic and timeless.
With the mounting clip, you'll attach the lock to the body of your bicycle and it'll be one with your bicycle and likely to draw looks. I'm not exaggerating when I say that everyone who has seen my bicycle has asked me what it was and complimented on how crazy cool it looks.
When it comes to branding, there is a logo and the link to their website on it. The bluish tint on the lock adds to the industrial flavor it has.
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If I were to nitpick, the plastic body of the mounting clip does throw the look off a little. The contrast with the titanium is just so big that I can't help but to feel the disparity.
The main material of the lock is titanium, milled from a single piece. Titanium has a great reputation of being strong, light and rustproof. It's stronger than aluminum but not as strong as steel. The main point is that titanium cannot be easily cut with bolt cutters. Unless the thief is a pro that wants to risk the attention of using a circular saw on the lock, just the material is enough to be a formidable deterrent to most casual criminals.
Exactly how secure is the TiGr mini? Well, there is actually a standard for bike locks assigned by an authority called the ART foundation and the TiGr mini has been awarded two stars. The ART foundation assigns star value based on the security of the lock as follows
- 1 star is minimum security (“take-along security”)
- 2 stars for bicycles
- 3 stars for mopeds
- 4 stars for motorcycles (on the road)
- 5 stars for motorcycles (stored at home)
So, as you can see, 2 stars is the amount of security that most bicycle locks will achieve. So instead of bothering about the number of stars it has, you just need to know that the TiGr mini has been tested and awarded an industry-standard quality mark. The quality mark has expired as of July 2020, but it's probably because the ART foundation needs these brands to renew it to make money. It's safe to assume that the TiGr mini still meets the requirements.
There is also a PVC coating on the titanium to prevent it from scratching your bike frame.
The mounting clip is plastic but supported by a stainless steel inside to prevent flexion.
In this section, I will write about several key aspects of the usage and make comparisons to the other two versions.
Installing the mounting clip
When I got the TiGr mini, I was eager to put it on only to have my excitement dashed when I realized that my bicycle did not come with bicycle cage fixing holes. The mounting clip requires you to screw it into the two holes on your bicycle frame meant for a bottle cage. This also means that you have to forgo the use of a bottle cage if you want to attach the mounting clip on your bicycle frame.
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If you are in the same boat as me or want to still be able to use a bottle cage, then you'll probably need a bottle cage adapter. I got one called SKS Bottle Cage adapter from Amazon (also available on TiGr's site).
I read some reviews about the SKS adapter coming off easily. While it seemed pretty secure to me, I added some cable ties for extra security. If you use an adapter, you can secure it to either the top tube, seat tube, or down tube. I personally have it attached to the seat tube.
One thing to note is that you'll have to pull the Ulock in a direction to unhook it from the mounting clip, so you should make there is ample space to do so when installing an adapter.
Mounting the lock on the bicycle
For the mini and mini+, a mounting clip is provided. This is the biggest reason why I wanted to switch from the bow. The cinch straps that came with the bow quickly broke and I replaced them with the same cable ties used to secure the SKS adapter. While this works, the bow will shift around and sometimes drop, which can be the most irritating thing when you are touring.
While the titanium has been coated to prevent scratching, the PVC coating will come off easily and the bow will cause your bike frame will suffer some pretty horrible scratches.
Unless TiGr comes up with a bow-specific mounting clip, I would not recommend the bow for this reason.
However, on the mini and mini+, the mounting clip was the exact solution I was looking for. It is secure and doesn't move around or come off even when riding on the harshest of terrains.
Unlike the bow where you have to keep the lock separately since you can't cinch it to your bicycle frame with it locked, the mounting clip lets you keep your Ulock and its accompanying cylinder lock as a set when mounted.
Using the Ulock
Compared to the mini+ and bow version, the mini is the least versatile in terms of locking. It comes down to the locking area. This limits the distance your bicycle has to be from the rack or pole that you attach it to. This also limits the parts of your bicycle you can include.
For example, the TiGr bow will let you secure both the frame and the wheel to a rack. While this almost never happens in Japan, I know that in some countries thieves will detach the wheel from the body frame if you only secure the wheel to the rack.
In Japan, most bicycle racks are designed in a way where it lets you lock only the front wheel to the rack. When a designated bicycle parking isn't available, I would lock the bicycle frame to a rail along the street. Where a fixture is not available, I would lock the wheel to the frame, or just the wheel.
There are plenty of options available if you are okay with just attaching one point of your bicycle to the rack. If the fixtures available in your city are not as standardized, you might want to look into the mini+.
While the bow is probably the most versatile, it is also the most attention grabbing. Including the problems with mounting, I cannot recommend the bow unless versatility and security is your number one priority and you can overlook all the problems I listed.
Using the cylinder lock
Each TiGr lock comes with a cylinder lock. The lock is interchangeable no matter what version you have. Each lock comes with two keys. The keys have a unique number that you can use to get replacement keys from TiGr.
For all versions, what really stands out to me is the ease of locking and unlocking. You don't need the key to lock the cylinder. Unlocking the cylinder lock doesn't even require a full turn. Compared to my SO who uses a Kryptonite lock, I can lock and unlock at a fraction of the time.
As mentioned, the 100% titanium lock will likely last you for the rest of your life. While you will see some aging as the years go by, it looks beautiful and rustic. Since I have been using the TiGr mini for just a few weeks, here's a picture of how the TiGr bow looks like after about five years.
While you would probably never have to worry about the durability of the lock, the PVC coating is another matter. It'll come off eventually causing the lock to look like a python shedding its skin.
Even when it's brand new, the PVC coating starts to separate from the ulock in some parts. This takes away a little from the minimal aesthetics for me.
This is how the PVC coating on the bow looks like for me after about five years.
TiGr offers free re-coating of the PVC, but seeing that you have to send it in, you would not be able to use your bicycle in the meantime if you don't have a spare lock.
The TiGr mini, as described, is elegant and highly secure. At $115, the price tag seems high, the timeless aesthetic and made-in-USA quality makes it worth it for me. You'll likely never have to replace it for the rest of your life.