My long suffering wife and family have put up with my bike in the hallway for some time. Apart from the issues of mud and oil on the carpet the main problem is of course that the bike takes up so much room and it gets in everyone’s way as they go about their daily business. I messed around with small wheeled folding bikes for a while as a potential solution but ultimately I found them not as robust and slightly harder to ride than a regular bike for my 7 mile commute. One day as I was battling past the bike with four bags of groceries, I was thinking if only I could find a way of folding the handlebars out the way, the problem would be greatly reduced. So began my quest for a set of folding handlebars.
I started googling and asking around on the bike forums to see if anyone knew of a product that would allow handlebars to be folded. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much choice for products that solve what I thought must be a very common problem. The first I came across is called the flipphandle.
This looked perfect in that it should allow the bars to be swivelled by 90 degrees for convenient storage. Unfortunately, it seems the product never made it to production. Next, I was pointed in the direction of these folding handlebars designed by Joe Wentworth. They take a slightly different approach in that they allow handlebars to be folded in half and then locked together at the bar ends, quite literally doubling up as a security device. I emailed the designer to find where I could buy them but sadly these never made it to production either.
Just when I was about to give up I came across the n’lock device. This is a design by a small Swiss firm that allows the handlebars to be swivelled to any angle (“n’locked”) and requires a key to lock it again. Again, this is also for the aspect of security so that any would be thief attempting to ride away on your pride of joy would soon come a cropper as the swivelly handlebars renders the bike unrideable. I got in touch with the owner of the company and after a short email exchange, got my order in, and it turned up a few days later.
The n’lock is a replacement stem. A number of versions are available providing compatibility with headsets and handlebars of most bikes. My Trek 7.3fx has an A-head set with oversize bars. It took only 5 minutes with an Allen key to whip out the old stem and fit the n’lock in its place. With the wide handlebars conveniently swivelled away against the wall, our hallway was instantly transformed! No longer do we have to turn sideways and breathe in to get past the bike. Gone are the days of snagging ourselves and swearing every time we come back with supplies. Instead we have now regained this expansive palatial hallway space suitable for all manner of functions and events. I might be exaggerating slightly but you can see it makes a big difference.
As an engineer I can appreciate the quality of the design of the n’lock. It has an incredibly rugged feel. It’s quite heavy (approx 500g) but this only contributes to the feeling of quality. It has a double action (key + rotating knob) unlocking mechanism to ensure it doesn’t accidentally get unlocked while in use. The spring loaded knob also acts to eliminate all play in the mechanism, something at which it’s extremely effective.
I got the ‘classic’ version but newer versions are available which build on the security aspect of the design, for example by integrating a cable locking device. I don’t think I would trust this instead of a regular D lock but it’s all good as an extra deterrent.
Details of where to purchase can be found on the n’lock web page. Pre and post sales support from Franklin Niedrig, inventor of n’lock was excellent. He clearly takes pride in his product and does all he can to ensure his customers are satisfied.