Shutterstock

Mobiloc says it's invented the first GPS-enabled bike lock.

Maybe we should skip the "what if" and head on to "then what" when we talk about bike theft in cities. That’s the gist of the MobiLoc, which claims to be the first frame-attaching, lightweight cable lock rigged with a hidden GPS tracker.

Mobiloc, set to launch in January, made an appearance last week at Interbike, the yearly bicycle trade show in Las Vegas. The MobiLoc on display was about the size of a grapefruit, though Interbike reps assured it will be sized down before it hits the market. The lock is made from 18 gauge powder-coated steel and comes in six colors. Alone it will run about $40, with the optional GPS tracking chip, $160. The chip has a three-year lifespan and syncs with a smartphone or computer app.

The two versions of the Mobiloc are outwardly indistinguishable, so “the criminal will be unable to tell whether you have purchased the GPS tracking option." Once the MobiLoc is bolted to the bike frame (yes, bolted, using breakaway bolts), the six-foot retractable braided steel cable can be looped through wheels, signpost, and maybe even a seat –– particularly useful for discouraging someone from stripping a bike for parts while you’re grabbing coffee.

In some ways, this little lock is a big step forward for bikers. Having something bolted to the frame sidesteps the annoyance factor. And the retractable cable makes securing the easily steal-able components a no-brainer. But there are a few glaring drawbacks, too.

The GPS tracker is activated when the bike moves from where you locked it up. But cut the cable to steal the wheels, no movement to trigger the GPS. And best case scenario: the bike is stolen, the GPS bleeps its way across town on a Google map delivered to your smartphone. As you watch your bike being Pied Pipered from you, the next step is...what?

Police have a dismal record when it comes to bike recovery, so getting backup to retrieve your property probably won't be forthcoming. As one Interbike attendee suggested by the pool, you can always pretend the bike thieves are armed. But, you didn’t read that here. This is the real problem that plagues Mobiloc, and other GPS systems that can be attached to a bicycle.

The hope of the MobiLoc company, however, is that something like an electric bark collar for dogs, the mere sight of the powder coated steel lock in any one of its iconic colors will deter thieves from even attempting to steal a bike –– that is, as soon as the MobiLoc becomes a household name.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

  2. black children walking by a falling-down building
    Equity

    White Americans’ Hold on Wealth Is Old, Deep, and Nearly Unshakeable

    White families quickly recuperated financial losses after the Civil War, and then created a Jim Crow credit system to bring more white families into money.

  3. Life

    Why Are America’s Three Biggest Metros Shrinking?

    After a post-recession boomlet, the New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago areas are all seeing their population decline.

  4. a photo of a country music performer in Nashville.
    Life

    Is Country Music Still Nashville’s Sound?

    A historian on the Ken Burns documentary Country Music explains why the Tennessee capital’s bond with country music endures, even as the city has boomed.

  5. An architectural rendering of a large new development in Manhattan, set against the New York skyline.
    Design

    Why Essex Crossing Is a Model Mega-Development

    With a large share of affordable housing and restrained architecture, the six-acre project seeks to fit into—rather than shake up—New York’s Lower East Side.

×