By Brandon Bilyeu
- Small and lightweight, easily fits in a jersey pocket
- Easy to use, quick to open/close
- Multiple can be combined for added length
- Nylon coated stainless steel won’t damage bike finish
- Flexible for odd shapes and routing
- All Z Loks use the same key
- Only secure enough for quick stops
- Small locking diameter
Cost: $12 (Single), $20 (Twin Pack)
How obtained: review sample from company
Available: online, retail
Colors: Red, Lime, Black, Cyan, Orange
RBR Sponsor: no
Sizing: 16 inch (400 mm) locking length, max diameter 5 inches (125 mm)
Hiplok – Locking it Down Since 2011
Based in the UK, Hiplok released their first bike lock in 2011 in the form of a heavy-duty chain lock that is transported by wearing it around the hips like a belt. They even designed an adjustable waist mechanism so you don’t have to actually lock the chain around your waist, because if the key gets lost nobody wants to wander around town looking for a bike thief who can get the ‘belt’ off or suffer the laughter of firefighters breaking out the jaws-of-life.
Over the years Hiplok has expanded their product line to include numerous other bike security options including D locks, cable locks, and home locks/anchors. While all these options are great their size, security, and weight are designed with urban commuters in mind. Commuters typically must lock their bikes in densely populated areas for long periods of time — and that’s prime hunting ground for bike thieves.
As a roadie who likes to go on long rides with quick stops for coffee and nature breaks, I need something that provides moderate security in a small and lightweight package. Hiplok has an answer for this in the Z LOK.
Zip Tie for Your Bike
The Z LOK design was inspired by a product that most people are familiar with, the humble zip tie. Zip ties are a serrated strap (typically nylon) with a ratchet head on one end. When the strap is inserted into the head, forming a loop, the ratchet allows the zip tie to be tightened around objects. The ratchet only works in one direction, so the zip tie does not loosen and must be cut to be removed.
For added security and ease of use the Z LOKs are made with a stainless-steel core covered by a nylon outer and have a release key for the ratchet. The serrations are in both sides of the nylon and two steel ratchet levers lock the strap in place. The key simply inserts and releases the ratchet, no need to twist the key.
Versatile Quick Stop Security
I’ve never actually carried a lock on road rides before and have just tolerated the inconvenience and unease of quick stops. My security strategies range from taking the bike into the café/bathroom with me, to parking it in line-of-sight from inside the coffee shop, to using a buddy system where one member of the group always stays with the bikes.
Using the Z LOK has simplified these situations and reduced my anxiety level. My preference is to lock the bike to a solid object, still in view if possible. The flexibility of the strap allows easy routing through the bike frame, wheels, and anchor object, though the rather small locking diameter of 5 inches (125 mm) can prove too small. In cases where one Z LOK is not long enough it is easy to combine two Z LOKs to double the size.
If an anchor object is not available, the Z LOKs can easily render a bike impossible to ride. Simply thread the lock through the frame and a wheel but be sure to keep the bike in sight as someone can still pick it up and carry it away. I have also used the Z LOKs in conjunction with my heavy-duty commuter lock, using them to secure wheels, helmet, bags, etc. They can also be used as added security on car bike racks, locking up skis, a tourniquet, keeping an extension cord coil together, a little fun in the bedroom, etc.
Fits in a Jersey Pocket
The Z LOK easily fits in a jersey pocket and the spring effect of the stainless-steel core makes for a snug fit that doesn’t move around. It weighs 20 grams so it’s hardly noticeable stuffed in a pocket with a 68 gram Clif bar. Alternatively, you can transport the lock attached to your saddle bag or anywhere else it can be cinched around.
Durability has been great as these locks have been exposed to my salty sweat in jersey pockets and to winter road grime/salt. The stainless-steel core, nylon covering, and ratchet mechanism show no signs of corrosion and work just as smoothly as day one.
Understand the Limitations
The Z LOKs are designed as a highly portable deterrent for casual, opportunistic thieves looking for a quick grab and go. This lock with not withstand an attack from typical bike thief tools. Its ideal application is for short stops, and even then, probably better to avoid use in know hot spots for bike thieves. Great for stops at a small-town Café, not so much at Starbucks downtown in a major city.
One concern I have with the Z LOK is that all Z LOKs use the same exact key, and key is a strong word for what is simply two tapered pins that get inserted into the lock to pry open the ratchet levers. First problem is that if you lose/forget the key you can’t unlock your bike. Second problem is the lock is easy for thieves to identify and extra keys are cheap to buy and/or make.
Hiplok does offer a more secure solution though, the Z LOK COMBO ($25). In the COMBO the key is replaced with a three-dial combination lock. No key to lose or available for a thief to buy. I didn’t get a chance to test the COMBO, but personally I would opt for this version based on the elimination of my concerns listed above.
Different situations call for different levels of security and Hiplok offers a range of products that cover most scenarios. The Z LOK range is a good option for roadies who would like to carry a lock but don’t want to lug around a beefy U-lock on their fancy carbon steed. I think the Z LOK works great, but would upgrade to the COMBO to avoid any key related issues.