Tech is a funny thing, quite often very bright people put a lot of money and hard graft into creating and marketing something that is arguably an answer to a problem that doesn’t need solving (don’t get me on Kickstarter projects).
The AlterLock arrived and at first, I didn’t get it. Now I do. Firstly, what is it? What does it do? And, is there anything out there what does what it does already?
Before we get into that – you can check out the installation of use of the AlterLock in this video:
The Alterlock, what is it?
A small thin device that weighs very little (54 gm when we weighed it in the video. We did include the weight of the bots, however, please remember that bottle-cage bolts will be on your bike anyway – so, sub 50 gm is the net weight).
It sits below your bottle cage and is secured with two bottle cage bolts that need a special tool to tighten and remove them. Meaning, it’s difficult, with the wrong tool, to remove the AlterLock if you have stolen the bike.
What does it do?
The device has GPS tracking and once moved, an alarm sound is emitted from the AlterLock. The deters anyone from tampering with your bike and the AlterLock app on your smartphone is altered that your bike is being moved.
If the person perists in stealing your bike, you have a means of tracking it.
Is there anything on the market already like it?
The Apple Airtag comes to mind. None Apple users may not be best pleased with this Apple product reference. However, I did try out the dark side of Android smartphones and I quickly returned to Apple. Yes, I’m stuck in their ecosystem and I love it!
With that in mind, iPhone users can hide the £29 Airtag on/in their bike and can live track it and hopefully recover it. However, the Airtag doesn’t emit an alarm sound from your bike in attempt to try and deter someone from tampering with your bike.
Locks, Context and Where The AlterLock Sits in the Bike Security Labrynth
Firstly, let’s get the elephant out of the room. Price – the AlterLock is (at the time of typing) £96 GBP AND there is the next to pay a subscription to activate the tracking. This costs circa £4 per month with Cycle Guard.
Context and alike…Why would anyone consider the AlterLock?
Imagine that you are a super-keen cyclist (you may not need to imagine, you are!) and you have a a road bike that has cost you financially and emotionally – you want to protect it, right? You have probably insured it and you know that if you drop it / crash you are covered AND if it’s stolen you are covered.
However – you will know that most cycle insurance companies need you to use a solid secure gold lock and fix your bike and lock to an immoveable object.
We really like this website for informaiton on bike locks https://thebestbikelock.com/
A really decent solid secure lock will cost you circa £90 GBP and it might weight 2.7 kg (roughly 6lb in old world measurements). This is where context comes in and probably also a dash of wilful blindness….
You go out for a club ride, on your 7kg bike – you watch your weight and you love your bike. You will of course visit a café and you will leave, along with all of your club-mates, your bikes outside, whilst you go inside in the warm for a coffee and cake. The café windows steam up and you are all lost in conversation, talking about the next club trip to Mallorca.
Your bikes are vulnerable.
Are you going to carry a 2.7 kg bike lock? Are you going to struggle off the back on the climbs, knowing that if you jettison the £90 bike lock, you will be back mixing it in the bunch? What will you secure your bike to when you get to the café?
So, you won’t take the lock and you currently don’t take a lock.
You then leave your bike outside the café and hope for the best.
Afterall, thieves might take someone else’s bike instead of yours! This is where the AlterLock comes in. If someone messes with your bike, the alarm goes off, You get the notification and you can then attempt to sprint (in your £300 carbon cycling shoes that are even difficult to walk in) and apprehend the thief.
A top tip here – do a run a week and also strengthen your feet during the day by walking barefoot. You might need it at the café!
Just having the AlterLock on your bike may very well mean that your bike is left alone. Yes, I reckon that an Apple Airtag is better for tracking and it costs a lot less. However, there is no alarm.
Akin to the percentage weight increase of a bike by adding a lock, consider the percentage price increase of your bike by adding an AlterLock AND and Apple Airtag?! A 38% weight increase in terms of adding a lock to your race bike and a 6% price increase and that’s even having a very modestly priced £2,500 bike.
Even when our bike is locked, it’s still possible to get a wheel or both wheels away. Let’s say that you have a pair of reasonably priced Parcours Passista (with Kogel bearings – after all, you can’t be late for the café) wheels at circa £1,179). That’s some loss, if stolen.
In the video, I talk about the Hiplock is a great lightweight solution for the café and it is. However, not for your wheel security (one or both) and remember your insurance and the need for a solid secure gold standard lock?
The other contextual use of the AlterLock is the commuter who has to lock her/his bike outside of a building and is concerned that even when locked, the bike might be tampered with.
You parked your bike up and on the app, ‘lock’ the AlterLock. This then ‘arms’ the alarm and if someone moves the bike – boom – 95dB of noise is emitted. How much is 95 dB? Is you use a smart trainer, is louder than all of the common models, even when you are trying.
What we did here was to send of our top test pilot, Griff, with the AlterLock and to stay away from base for the weekend. His market-leading Owen Productions, were busy doing the sound and lighting for live events, so that was easy. Perioidically, my iPhone got pinged with location updates and I was able to see where the bike was.
Initially, I was not getting location information. This was easily solved by alerting the AlterLock app settings. ‘Periodic’ transmission was slid to the right. Compared to tracking an Apple Airtag, it’s not the same. As Apple users will know, you can see a device on the move. The AlterLock sends you the location when the device stops and it either uses a local Wi-Fi for location, or failing that GPS. AlterLock states that this is to save the devices battery. (Post script – we’ve have had the AlterLock out on the road for a week now and the battery has eventually drained).
- An on bike alarm that is very light
- The sound emitted is loud enough to alert an nefarious person that you are on to them
- You receive tracking notifications when the bike comes to a rest and updates when it is moved
- The optional bottle-cage bolts ensure that any who wants to remove the AlterLock will struggle
- A level of piece-of-mind when you leave your bike
- On it’s own, it will not prevent a determined person from stealing your bike
- Design wise, I’m unsure that the speaker and USB charging ports are in the best place – a minor niggle.
- Tracking is not as live as with an Apple Airtag on-board.