Solos Grid backpack and Otto lock.
Solo Grid backpack and Otto lock.
A review of the Solo Grid backpack and Otto lock, accessories for riding to school.
When you’ve got a young child who is starting to ride their bike to school, you’ll likely have the basics covered. You’ve thought about the bike. (Check out my review of the Priority Start.) And you’ve found a great helmet. Now it’s time to accessorise!
There are other things they’ll need, though, and you might not have thought of them all. You’ll need a way to lock up your child’s bike, and you’ll need a great backpack. Details matter, and these are items that can make or break the experience your child, and by extension you, have. With that in mind, I took a look at the Otto lock and the Solos Grid backpack.
A lock has unique requirements when it’s being used for a small child. A great U lock is definitely the most secure option, but when your child only weighs 40-50lbs, a lock that weighs two or three pounds just isn’t going to work. And how does a full size U lock even attach to a child’s bike when not in use? On the other end of the spectrum, a cable lock is so easy to cut that while it’s easy to carry, it’s almost useless for actually securing a bike.
The Otto lock falls somewhere in between the two. With only a three digit passcode, it wouldn’t be impossible to just “learn” the passcode given enough time. A thief could also cut through an Otto lock with the right tools, but you’ve got to think of the bigger picture. It’s kind of like the parable about being faster than a bear. You don’t have to be faster than the bear, just faster than the other people running from the bear.
When I park my child’s bike at school, it’s among a sea of cable locks being used incorrectly. You’ll often even see a few bikes without any lock. The Otto lock might not be the most secure option available, but it’s stronger than a simple cable lock, and that’s probably enough for the situation. At the same time, it’s exceptionally easy to pack. Roll it tight, and it fits into the main triangle of a small kid’s bike and is lightweight weighing in at only 0.3lbs (150 grams).
Given the amount of security it provides, this is a reasonable trade-off. If you are considering it for an adult bike, think about it for long rides where you might want to grab a quick coffee, or the restroom, without leaving your expensive bike completely unlocked. It’s even small enough to fit in a jersey pocket.
While the Otto lock stands alone in terms of features, the Solo Grid backpack stands alone because of its visual design. The truth is that there are other backpacks available that offer similar features, but just as the Otto stands out in a sea of cable locks, the Solo backpack stands out in a sea of cheaply made, character driven, backpacks. It’s well designed and offers lots of great features for people of all ages.
Some of my favourites are the laptop compartment, which works well for items that need to be kept separate in the main compartment even if you aren’t using it for a laptop, and the perfectly sized for a water bottle side pockets. The water-resistant bottom is especially useful when biking without a fender through a Portland winter. There are two front pockets and a zip-down organiser section with a key clip.
The rear of the pack features thick, but well ventilated, padding. My scale showed 720 grams for the whole package. There are certainly smaller backpacks available, but the Solo Grid has generously adjustable straps. There’s enough adjustability that it works for the little one, but I can also adjust it up, so that I can use it for after school trips to the market.
School has already started, but as we head into the holiday season, you might be thinking about some accessories to make your child’s cycling more successful. When children are young, small details can really make or break their experience on a bike. The last thing you want them to discover after a school day is a missing bike.
The Otto lock sells for $60 and is a great way to bridge the gap between an unmanageable U lock and a useless cable lock. The Solo Grid backpack sells for $49.99 and represents a well made option that lets your child stand apart from the sea of vinyl backpacks with characters that are unlikely to last even a single school year, and it’s got the features and adjustability to be appropriate for kids ranging from the smallest all the way up.