We were skeptical before we use this lock, and with good reason. We really liked the portability and lightness of the OTTO DesignWorks Ottolock Cinch, but we weren't quite sure how such a light lock would stand up to cutting tools used by bike thieves. After months of testing, we loved that this lock coiled to a size that fits into a jersey pocket, a saddle pack, or an extra pack. What we didn't love was how it stood up to an attack by tin snips, small plier-like cutters than can easily fit into a jacket pocket. One cut in less than 2 seconds and we were through the lock. This means that it might not even deter some "snatch and grab" thieves and unless you're like superman (who's super quick) in the bathroom, this lock might not even protect your bike when nature calls. However, if you're a bike commuter in a small town, and you ride primarily during the day, we found the Ottolock sufficient security for our needs (no bikes were lost in the process of testing).
OTTO DesignWorks Ottolock Cinch Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, easy to carry and use, flexible
Cons: Can be defeated in seconds by tin snips
Manufacturer: OTTO DesignWorks
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Our Analysis and Test Results
In the world of bike locks, there exists constant tension between a lock's portability and its ability to actually keep your bike from being stolen. And, to some degree, this makes sense: while a 10' chain and some electric current might keep a sneaky thief's fingers off your bike, that sort of thing is hard to carry around in your jersey pocket or backpack. So, you have to choose: how much do you want to carry versus how much do you want to risk that the lightweight option just wasn't enough to save your bike?
The Ottolock Cinch attempted to find the right balance between bulky security and ease of transport with its multiple layers of steel and Kevlar® bands that coil up to a 3-inch circle that can fit into a saddle bag or backpack. In terms of portability and weight, it's stellar: it can fit into a jersey pocket, which is great. Unfortunately, in terms of security, this lock has a major Achilles heel.
As a plastic-covered steel band secured by a combination lock, the Ottolock offers about the same security as the HipLok Z-Lok, which is much less than your standard U-lock. For cyclists on the search for a lightweight lock weighs in at a mere 5.3 ounces, which makes it easy to carry around whether you have a backpack or in your jersey pocket. Our testers were more than happy to carry this lock with us on our training rides, joy rides and commutes, which made it more likely that we were using a bike lock at all-- because even the most secure lock won't do a bit of good if you leave it at home because it's too bulky/heavy to go along for the ride.
To be fair, the company itself doesn't market this lock as the end-all to bike security: the website for this particular model clearly states "Ottolock is not a replacement for a U-Lock. For maximum security, use a redundant locking method with both a U-Lock and a secondary lock." We appreciate their honesty, and based on our testing, agree with them: this is not a high-security lock at all. Given the results of our testing, we're not even sure we feel comfortable recommending it for medium risk areas, either. Granted, we used the lock in a small mountain town and had no issues. But, you should always remember to take anecdotal bike lock stories with a grain of salt.
We couldn't beat this lock with wire snips or a hacksaw. It was destroyed by a hammer, but if you keep the locking mechanism away from the ground when securing your bike, such a feat would be nearly impossible (another reminder to follow best locking practices). With our 36" bolt cutters, it took our "thieves" about two minutes to actually cut through it. The Kevlar wrapping around the flat steel band proved to be an effective way to slow the inevitable defeat. However, a pair of tin snips (which cost less than ten bucks) cut the band in just over a second, which is why we aren't rating this lock very high in terms of security. Needless to say, an angle grinder also got through this lock very quickly.
Ease of Transport
At only 5.3 oz, the flexible Ottolock easily coils into a jersey pocket, backpack, around your seat-post or into a larger saddlebag, making it an easy companion on most recreational and commute-rides. We were skeptical about the claim that this would fit into your back pocket (talk about an easy way to make that bike saddle uncomfortable!) the Ottolock was nonetheless much easier to transport than U-locks and the TiGr mini included in this review.
We also got around town with this lock cinched to our bike frame, making it quickly convenient to access and not weighing down anything noticeable.
Ease of Use
On the surface, this lock seems pretty straightforward: it's a steel-coated band covered in Kevlar with a combination lock on it. The end slides through the lock and, when you depress a small, silver button, the band slides in or out. As designed, the lock is easy to use and unless you forget the combination, you're probably golden. Setting and resetting the combination is super easy when following the included instructions.
We appreciated the soft band, which won't scratch the paint off our frames, and can be made to go around both tires, the frame and a bike rack (as long as you remove the front wheel and put it next to the back one). The combination was easy enough to use and sometimes quicker than a key (except for the cases when we forgot the combination, but that has more to do with the inside of our skulls, rather than anything wrong with the lock).
The only downside to a combination lock was in low-light situations, so make sure you carry some sort of light with you so you can see the numbers on the lock.
Our reviewers loved the cable-like design of this lock that enables more creative locking solutions than the more rigid U-locks. By removing the front wheel of your bike and locking it next to the rear, the lock enabled our reviewers to secure both road and mountain bikes, which we thought was pretty awesome. Even though it grants a wide range of locking options, we caution you to know where you're locking your bike. As we mentioned in the Security metric, a savvy thief can destroy this lock within seconds.
The price is a lot to pay for something that can be defeated within seconds even when you factor in how portable it is. There are other locks on the market that are around the same price point that will offer you just as much portability and the type of security you should expect from a lock that costs this much.
We were disappointed by this lock which claimed to offer medium security, but that was defeated within seconds when faced with tin snips. We wouldn't recommend this for any high-security situations, and definitely not for anything overnight. The bottom line: if you have any reservations at all about where you're leaving your bike, don't leave it in the care of the Ottolock.
— Rebecca Eckland