Pinhead Locking Skewers

1 11 2010

2 skewer and seatpost Pinhead set...

Quick release skewers are convenient when you need to remove a wheel, but they are also easy to steal.  I’ve been meaning to try out a set of locking skewers for a while and grabbed a set of Pinhead locking skewers from Bow Cycle this summer.  I finally got around to installing them a couple days ago on my Surly Big Dummy.

Security key and coded end of skewer...

The principle is simple you get set of skewers with a unique coded end and a security key that matches.  With the key installing removing a skewer is easy…without the key it’s pretty tough.  Pinhead sells sets of skewers in various configurations depending if you want a seatpost lock and/or a headset lock or just skewers for your wheels.

Smooth side of skewer...

Installation is easy.  Just remove your QR skewer and slide in the Pinhead skewer.

Locking end of Pinhead skewer coded to your key...

Then use the key to turn the locking end of the Pinhead skewer until it is tight.  You’re done.

Seatpost skewer...

The Pinhead seatpost skewer works with my Surly seatpost clamp, but it looks fugly for sure.  On my Big Dummy I don’t care – fugly is kinda what I am going for, but on a less franken-bike I might not be okay with it.  Even with this skewer in place someone can unbolt my Brooks B17 so I’ll add a short steel wire cable to the saddle itself…err…when I remember where I put it!

Omm and Pinhead don't play well in the front...

I couldn’t use the front Pinhead skewer due to the fact my OMM rack needs a really wide skewer – essentially a rear skewer.  I could order an extra rear skewer coded the same as my key, but frankly my front wheel is not anything special…just a cheap machine built Shimano unit I can replace easily without any heart ache.  I’ll replace the zip ties in the image a above with a hose clamp when I’m at the hardware store next time.  That will provide enough security for the quality of my front wheel.

My Pinhead set up close...

So the question is are locking skewers worth the [~$70usd] cost?  Well when your rear hub is worth $1500+ not having to bother locking it up with an extra cable is nice.  I use my Big Dummy a lot and the ability to lock just the frame is a real benefit for me.  I think you’d have to weigh the cost/benefit vs. something cheap like hose clamps on your wheel QRs.  The right answer really depends how much the parts on your bike are worth, how often you have to lock up your bike and how much you care about having to carry/use extra cables to secure your wheels.

Just a few Pinhead tips:

  • you can buy sets or individual parts from Pinhead that are coded the same as an existing key which is handy so you don’t have to carry several specialized keys and key them with the correct bike.
  • if you register your key with Pinhead [free at their website] you can order replacement keys if you lose yours.



17 responses

1 11 2010

thanks for the thoughtful review. per a tip from a mechanic, i have used hex skewers and dripped wax in the hex hole. i don’t carry a lighter around all the time though, but you can poke out the wax with a smaller hex. could this stop a wheel thief? seems like it could. wheel thieves are a ‘lesser order of thief’ than a whole bike thief 🙂 could also work for the seatpost.
i don’t have to lock up outside much, and broke those hex skewers, so i am back with the ole qr’s. i have a dyno wheel build in progress, so i might do something else for it.

1 11 2010

Ya I’ve heard that tip as well. In the thread about locking my Dummy below someone suggested using hose clamps over the QR levers. That’s probably the same if not more hassle to open than wax, but easily removed if you have the time to twirl a screwdriver a bit. Nice thing with the hose clamps is the thief can see them from 6′ away and may well just pick a new target.

I think locking strategies really have to address the bike, the situation and how much you care about security vs. hassle. If you are locking your bike with other similar bikes you just have to make your rig a bit less desirable than the one next to it.

1 11 2010
Bow Cycle | Vik’s Picks » Pinhead Locking Skewers Review

[…] You can check out my review here. […]

2 11 2010

I’ve been rocking out Pinheads on my Big Dummy for over a year and love them. Don’t have ’em on my seatpost though, just the front and rear wheels. Getting a flat without the key is a nuisance, but as long as you don’t blow out the tire, you can repair without removing the wheel.

Also, they still haven’t fixed the keychain design/attachment. That dinky little loop will rip open, potentially having your key fall off the ring. Do yourself a favor and rig your own chain loop or drill a hole in the key end.

And yes, it’s worth the cost for those of us with Rolhoff hubs or other high-end gear and the peace of mind it provides.

3 11 2010

BTW – I just noticed MEC is selling the same set I show in my post for $45cdn – that’s ~45% off US MSRP.

4 11 2010

Hey Vik

Have you seen these –

No tools, no keys, very simple and effective.

4 11 2010

wow, hadn’t seen those zefal qr’s. that’s a great idea. they would be a pain on the BD but i might pick some up for my cross check.

5 11 2010

@Alan – Thanks that looks cool. I’ll keep my eye out for a set of those QRs.

10 11 2010
Big Dumb Security… « The Lazy Randonneur

[…] I followed a suggestion made in the comment section of one of my recent Surly Big Dummy posts and installed a hose clamp on the front QR of my Dummy.  Because the OMM rack [which I love] requires a really long skewer up front I couldn’t use the Pinhead locking skewer I had [it will probably find a home on the front wheel of my Surly 1×1].  Rather than get a hold of a Pinhead rear wheel locking skewer coded to the same key I already have I figured this was a reasonable alternative.  Although it can be opened it takes a lot more time/hassle than a QR and since the OMM rack requires the whole skewer be removed to take off the front wheel I think this is enough theft deterrence given the low cost of the wheel. […]

16 11 2010

Bought an old Cannondale off ebay for the boy when he started State; it came with a rear aerospoke wheel. I knew that wheel would be too much temptation for any “lesser order of thief” and got the pinhead locking skewers. His bike is molested about once every two weeks and they still can’t get the wheel off. Last guy was banging on the wheel so hard he damaged the tire.

I looked at the zefal at the time and decided against them. It seems to me that once you know the “trick” the wheels aren’t really locked. Thieves aren’t dumb, just soulless. As for others, I figured that a pair of vice-grips would be enough to clamp on to the release end and act as a lever. Pinheads have nothing to clamp onto.

And, after 18 months of constant attacks, are doing just what they said they would.

2 03 2012

Unfortunately, the Pinhead locks can be opened easily with a universal socket, such as the $11 Gator Grips one which can be found at Home Depot.

2 03 2012

@Foober – as with all things bike security there is no perfect solution. The best you can do is make your bike hard enough to steal that it’s not worth the effort. If a thief decides they want your bike and has the opportunity to select the tools they need and has the time they’ll defeat any lock.

27 06 2013

The Gator Grip hack that Foober mentioned is real. But Pinhead has a fix. Go to their website and order the free “POG security washers”. Last I saw, they charge shipping for them, but I got them and they defeat this security issue.

25 07 2013

Hey I love your blog and have been following it for a while.

I was considering getting some pinheads for my bike friday pocket rocket (which I use to commute in NYC). I was specifically wondering if you could comment if the seat clamp pinhead will work on the handlebar assembly for the friday.

Thanks a lot and just so you know- your blog is amazing. I’ve been ghosting over it for over a year now

29 07 2013

@Roman – sorry I am not sure. I don’t have my NWT so I can’t look at it to check. I would ask Bike Friday directly for the answer.

18 02 2014
Aaron Goss

The POG skewer upgrade washers tabs can easily be broken off with needle nose visegrips. Model 6LN also about $11. I have been using and selling these skewers at my shop (Aaron’s Bicycle Repair) for years. I did not know about the Gatorgrip defeat until I called the company and asked what they funny black washers were for. I had never used them because I KNEW they would make the skewer vulnerable to visegrip defeat. Still, they are better than then Pitlock which can easily be defeated by jamming different size allen keys in the head and turning with a visegrip. Why do I know how to “steal” wheels you ask? Because customers almost always forget to bring their key when they drop off their bike for service. The Gatorgrip is a godsend for bicycle mechanics. One more thing on the Pinhead. Always cut off the excess skewer flush. If you leave it stock it is even easier to get your wheel off by clamping visegrips to the stub and twisting. Pinhead or SOMA or Surly needs to make a pinhead specific fork with a collar around the lock head like they make for their seatpost clamp. The Gatorgrip does not work on that.

12 08 2014

I was able to use a Gator Grip wrench to get the Pinhead bolts off my bike, even _with_ the POG washers on. It’s clumsy, but it works. I lost my key and got extremely irritated with the essentially non-existent customer service at Pinhead, and resorted to trying this. All in all, the Pinhead system is definitely better than using quick releases, since not all bike thieves carry around a Gator Grip. I don’t have a high end bike, so this is about the level of security that I’m comfortable with.
If you have Pinheads, get a replacement key right away. Don’t wait until you unexpectedly lose it. You might be waiting for weeks to months for it.

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