Difference in carrying heavy bike lock on bike frame or on my body?
January 29, 2013 8:39 AM   Subscribe

How does it influence my riding if I carry my 3.5 lb bike lock in my bag on my back instead of on the bike frame? Not an athlete, but I like riding fast.

New biker here who basically knows nothing about bikes. I am not an athlete or doing races, but I like to keep my bike light and drive as fast as my body (160 lb) allows.

I have a 26 lb trekking bike (or hybrid bike, commuter bike, they seem to be called differently in different places), so a 3.5 lb lock does add noticeable weight.

I will test this myself as I go along, but I guess experienced bikers already figured this out.
posted by arhammer to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total)
The general rule is that having the weight higher / on your body is more frustrating. The centre of gravity gets higher which in this case won't be a big deal, but if you can put it on your frame that'd be better.

It would have a better effect if you could remove all of the weight from your body - if you could avoid having a bag on your back at all, by using panniers. Bags, I find, trap the sweat and heat on your body, making you really uncomfortable.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:43 AM on January 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

The location of the weight will have everything to do with your balance, center of gravity, riding posture, etc. I would keep the weight on the bike, due to personal experience. I can't ride with anything on me.
posted by TinWhistle at 8:44 AM on January 29, 2013

On your body, it will affect your balance and motion. On the bike, you won't notice it, as it's fixed and near the center of gravity rather than swaying over the top of it.

(On the other hand, You won't notice any kind of difference riding a "heavy" bike and a "light" bike until you're really conditioned - there will come a point where you know you can go faster, but the bike won't let you. That point requires a lot of time in the saddle to reach.)
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:46 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Given all of the money people spend to shave grams off the unsprung weight of their bikes, I'd go the other way. For instance, I far prefer to carry my water in a Camelbak than in bottles on my frame. And I've ridden with any number of people who paid a few grand for a bike that was a lb or two lighter who could lose 10-15 off their waist.

If I were carrying panniers and serious touring kinds of loads I'd go with the bike, but for a lock when you probably have everything else you're carrying in a pack or messenger bag, put it on your body.
posted by straw at 8:48 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Depending on how heavy it is, you will want it on your body to improve ride quality. Basically, the bike and anything on it is unsprung mass, and generally it is beneficial to reduce that.

That said - it's your comfort - I prefer backpacks, but my wife prefers panniers. If it sucks digging it out of the bag all the time, then leave it on the bike. If it affects the ride quality too much, then put it in your bag. The right answer is what is easiest and most comfortable for you.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:55 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

The lower the better. I used to use a mount on my frame to keep my lock in; it was very nice balance-wise. You're not really going to be able to avoid having it slow you down a bit, but the less it shifts around the more stable you'll be. If you're putting it in a backpack, the heaviest things like the lock should be closest to your back and at the bottom of the bag.
posted by asperity at 8:59 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

It depends on your lock, but if it is anything other than securely fastened (like a D lock with a bracket) then IMHO bag is best because otherwise it is will move about and disrupt the handling or feel of the bike.

I commuted for some time with a heavy lock in my rucksack and it was fine (although I'd have preferred it wasn't there and obviously prefer riding with no bag). When I start commuting again I'll probably get something like this Carradice saddlebag and get the best of both worlds.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:05 AM on January 29, 2013

in my experience, any additional weight that you carry on your body will add to your effort. Everytime you want to stand to pedal, you're going to be spending some energy to lift that bike lock that's attached to your body. The lock in your bag will add to the weight that your back muscles are supporting while also keeping your body stable over your handlebars.

Put the lock on your bike and while the total weight that you are moving doesn't change, the work of having to support the weight of that lock has moved from your muscles and bones to the metal frame of the bike.

For short distances and a 3.5 lb weight, that's relatively negligible, but over time and with more weight, it's almost a relief to put all of that stuff into saddlebags or something else. Any handling penalty that you may feel due to the unsprung mass notion above tends to be negligible by comparison.
posted by bl1nk at 9:19 AM on January 29, 2013

I am not a biker, so take this with a grain of salt. But, last summer in Portland, I sure did see a lot of people tuck their U-locks into the back of their belt. Assuming you're commuting in pants and not in a bike jersey, this might be a nice compromise between having the lock high on your body/making your back sweaty and attaching directly to your frame/unsprung mass like Pogo_Fuzzybutt mentioned. I can't imagine this being pleasant for longer rides, but if it's just a commute you're after, perhaps this would work?
posted by wondercow at 9:19 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

ProTip: If you commute consistently to work and you have to lock it to a bike rack, consider leaving a lock on the bike rack so you don't have to carry it. This only works for some people though.
posted by captaincrouton at 9:46 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the case of a bike lock, the weight really isn't all that significant. What's more significant is carrying the lock in the way you find least annoying, in terms of rattling, accessibility, etc.

The brackets that come with many U-locks for carrying the lock inside the main triangle I find to be pretty annoying. I used to carry my lock on the rear rack (some racks are designed so that you can drop the lock straight down into a gap between a center panel and a side rail, otherwise you can bungee it to the top). Lately, I've been carrying it in a backpack. I think the jury's still out on which is less annoying.

Some people use U-lock holsters on their belts (as wondercrow mentions), although these work best with small U-locks, and kind of marks you as a hipster.
posted by adamrice at 9:48 AM on January 29, 2013

I mounted a rear rack on my commuting road bike and attached a rack pack. I use a road bike because, like you, I also like smooth, fast rides. I minimize the weight on my body by tossing all my gear into my rack pack and attaching my U-lock to that. If I'm using my cable lock, I'll wrap it around my top tube. Either method works pretty well and my rack pack can convert into a backpack. (I wouldn't recommend using rack packs as daypacks if it's heavy, though.) Also, not having a backpack with my gym/work/hiking gear on my back during humid summers frees me from back sweat. I rarely ride with enough gear/groceries to justify attaching panniers; the rack pack is perfect for my needs.
posted by mayurasana at 9:53 AM on January 29, 2013

I try to spread the weight out some, myself. I wear a messenger bag, since it's more convenient around campus than a set ot panniers, but I also have a heavy lock and I keep that down on the bike. I used to ridenwith it in the bag, but with my laptop and books and all that crap already in there it was just too much. Moving it down to the frame made a big difference for me.

You should just experiment a bit and figure out what works best for you.
posted by Scientist at 10:30 AM on January 29, 2013

I avoid carrying sharp or heavy items on my body because they really suck to land on if I fall down. I have learned this the hard way on motorcycles.
posted by workerant at 10:52 AM on January 29, 2013

Personal preference, really. I like to attach stuff to the bicycle and carry as little as possible on my body, to get freer movement. I know people that would rather wear a well-secured backpack or messenger bag to keep the bike as light feeling as possible (i.e., no heavy loads to change characteristics of the bike, especially while riding out of the saddle).

There are probably minor physics differences related to center of gravity, etc., but in the end it comes down to what *you* feel is better.
posted by Doohickie at 11:30 AM on January 29, 2013

Only the novice rides a bike while wearing a backpack -- cargo is what your rack is for.
posted by Rash at 11:56 AM on January 29, 2013

Thanks for your help, guys!

Most of you like to carry the lock on the frame, a few in their bags. I will try both in the following weeks and see which I'm more comfortable with. Thanks.
posted by arhammer at 2:58 PM on January 29, 2013

Longtime commuter here. Carrying the load on your person will make for a generally faster ride, but having weight on your back and shoulders takes a toll. Carrying the load on the bike will make you somewhat slower, but your upper body will thank you.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 3:02 PM on January 29, 2013

I just keep my mini u-lock in the back pocket of my jeans. That only works for a mini u-lock, though.
posted by akgerber at 10:04 PM on January 29, 2013

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