Bike theft is unfortunately a very real reality, whether it’s outside the cafe, locked up in the street, or stored in your garage. In many circumstances, the best bike locks will make sure your bike is still there when you come back. That said, if a thief wants enough of your bike, even the larger D-lock won’t stop them.
Alterlock is an alternative approach to bike security, offering alarm and long-range GPS tracking and communication functionality that should allow you to find and recover your bike if the unthinkable happens.
However, how does it perform compared to the best GPS bike trackers? Is it a game-changer or should you always go for the best bike insurance you can find to be on the safe side?
Mounting is as easy as mounting a bottle cage and, unless you have a very unconventional frame, it will fit road, gravel and mountain bikes. As the Alterlock adds 9mm of depth, you won’t be able to use your standard bolts, but Alterlock includes extra long bolts with 3mm hex wrench heads. Once installed, it is secure and out of the way. Another advantage of being under the bottle cage is that it is protected from projections from the front wheel, although the Alterlock is rated IP66 (waterproof), so you shouldn’t have to worry about riding through all of them. time.
For those concerned about aerodynamic considerations, Alterlock says the device only adds a Cd value of +0.00062 at 40 km / h. Meanwhile, if weight is an issue for you, Alterlock weighs just 50g, still making it a lighter option than even the best lightweight bike locks.
The process of the system when in use has three phases. Once locked, if the Alterlock detects vibrations, it emits an audible warning and sends a notification to your phone. If vibrations continue to be detected, the 95 dB alarm will be activated and the Alterlock will begin transmitting its position. Subsequent vibrations will not reactivate the alarm and, instead, the Alterlock will silently inform you of its location after each subsequent vibration so that you can track its last location.
Tracking is done via GPS and WiFi to try to cover as many bases as possible. GPS provides precise location services and if the bike is hidden inside, the Alterlock will use Wi-Fi to determine its location. While Bluetooth is used to connect to your phone, once out of range the Alterlock switches to Sigfox communication which is capable of sending location information over long distances with low power consumption. The lithium polymer battery is charged via a USB-C cable and designed to last 1.5 months, giving you plenty of time to locate your bike.
The app itself is pretty self-explanatory to use. It is divided into two main tabs: one for controlling and tracking the Alterlock device, and another for bike information and maintenance data. Recording maintenance and component data is a good idea, and the amount of data that can be documented is comprehensive enough to help you keep track of everything from the last cleaning of your chain to upgrading your handlebars. . There is also access to account data and settings.
While the alarm will certainly deter some opportunistic thieves or at least alert you or alert someone else to intervene, it will not put off some brazen thieves. This is obviously where the GPS and Sigfox features come into play and allow you to track the bike. The effectiveness of this is in the hands of the thief however. If they are too annoyed with the sound of the alarm, or are keen on cycling tech, the thief can simply remove the alarm with a 3mm hex wrench and throw it away at the nearest convenience. Obviously the thief would need a multi-tool handy and using the security bolts would make this much more difficult (but they are an additional cost at the time of purchase). If the thief is very tech-savvy, he might just press the physical button on the Alterlock before setting off with your bike and you potentially wouldn’t be any smarter until you came back to find your missing bike.
The customization of the vibration detection sensitivity is a nice touch that should extend the range of use of the Alterlocks, this means that it is not limited to protecting your bike while you are sneaking around the shops but also if you wish. use it in the back of the car or van.
GPS accuracy will always depend on location, and if the thief piles your bike inside a building to wait for the heat to dissipate, you will lose signal. This is where the Alterlock switches to using Wi-Fi networks to determine its location, although this is obviously not as accurate as GPS and gets worse if the thief lives in a densely populated area. It is also not able to distinguish the upright position, so if your bike is in a multi-story building, it would be very difficult to locate it as well.
If you’re looking for a way to regain your pride and joy, getting the Alterlock installed will probably be your best bet. The trifecta approach to location tracking, paired with the battery-saving accelerometer, should hopefully give you enough time and precision to organize your local authorities to retrieve your bike. The shape is neat too, simply fitting under the bottle cage with almost no effect on the performance of the bike. The app offers lots of customizations for functionality and sensitivity as well as the actual setting of the alarm and bike tracking.
That said, other than an annoying sounding alarm and the resulting stampede of bike shoes on the floor of a cafe, there’s nothing stopping an opportunistic bike thief from trying their luck. Meanwhile, products like Hiplock’s FX Cable Lock cost just £ 20 (less than the annual subscription needed for Alterlock) and create a tangible barrier that keeps someone from straying away on your bike. Keep in mind that Hiplock’s FX lock is going to be cut off easily, but if a bike thief walks around with a set of bolt cutters, they probably won’t be put off by an alarm either.
Thinking about getting your bike insured? Compare bike insurance to find you the best deal.
Technical specifications: Alterlock anti-theft tracker
- Price: £ 114.99 / € 134.99 (£ 3.49 / € 3.99 monthly subscription, £ 34.99 / € 39.99 per year)
- Weight: 50 grams
- Location detection: GPS, Wi-Fi
- Service area: Europe
- Color: Black