Product - DataDotDna for Bicycles
Where Bought - Clarence Street Cycle Sydney, Frasers Cycles Taren Point, etc
Also available at Ashfield Cycles, and any Giant Bicycle dealer in Australia. Use Giant's online dealer locator to find the closest store to you: http://www.jetblackproducts.com/DEALERS/?IntCatId=10
How it is used
Dozens of Datadots are applied to your bicycle frame and major theft-worthy components, and a warning sticker affixed to the bicycle. Product packaging gives you the unique code on the dot, and you log onto the web-site to register identification details - or can return a form via post to the company.
Datadots are theft deterrent protection for bicycles. They are small almost black microdots (<1 mm in size, smaller than a pin-head) with a unique code etched on them in incredibly small writing. The dots are glued to your bike with a white UV light sensitive adhesive that dries transparent. A sticker is provided for attaching to your frame to alert police and potential thieves to the use of dots.
Once you've bought the product and applied the dots to your bike, you register the unique code in a DataDotDNA database giving ID details that police can trace back to you and the specific bike you put it on.
The Datadots are supplied in CD-shaped package which houses a small plastic vial of adhesive and a plastic vial containing the dots. A single cotton-wool bud is supplied for applying the dots. The pack also contains a form and instructions for registering your dots.
The product is excellent value and likely to be a real deterrent to thieves as well as assistance to the police in re-uniting stolen bikes and parts with their rightful owners. Subaru has been using datadots on all their vehicles for over 5 years, and insurance premiums for them have fallen as a result. Datadotdna's web-site presently claims that Cyclecover Insurance will halve the theft excess on bicycles using the product and registered with DataDotDna.
The kit description suggests it contains hundreds of dots. This is so many that finding a removing them from the frame would be an onerous task. Could possibly leave ugly scratch marks etc.,. that would seriously detract from saleability - although I haven't tested this.
The dots are so small and unobtrusive that they do not detract from the appearance of the bike. They are smaller than the typical specks of dust, road dirt, and grease that you get from riding your bike.
The registration process and web-site service is straightforward and quick. The company offers privacy guarantees. You give just your product code and one of several ways to ID's yourself to the police - eg drivers license no, or medicare no. Your address is not required, so you're not going to get spammed or junk-mailed.
Kit instructions are quite poor and applying the dots will take you some time. In fact, there were no instructions in the pack other than how to register the product. Nothing at all about how to use the kit to apply the product.
The product is cheap - you can't even buy a decent padlock for that price. What really costs is your labour in applying the dots.
While the pack claimed there were hundreds of dots, and one LBS suggested it contained enough to do 2 bikes, I'm not convinced. The dots are so small they are hard to count reliably, but my quick assay of the dots on the side of their vial suggested there might have been around 100 dots, possibly slightly less. I think you need to put them all on the one bike to make removal so tedious that a thief won't have time to do it properly or will excessively damage the bike in trying.
Don't try applying the dots out in the wind - the dots are very very light and easily blown out of sight.
My first attempt was applying a kit to a Cell Blade bicycle, which had a matt black finish. I tried just using the kit supplied components - i.e. one cotton wool bud. It was nearly impossible to tell whether a dot was successfully applied - even using a ten times magnifier loupe. I could only tell that I had managed to apply them effectively by checking with a 30x magnifier and a UV compact fluoro light (which cost $40). As well, it got very difficult trying to transfer dots from the cotton wool buds as the adhesive began drying out on it.
I gave up after applying about a dozen, then emailed datadotdna for support. They responded quickly, and suggested that a small dollop (about 3 to 5 mm round) of adhesive be scooped out onto a piece of plastic, then dots sprinkled nearby. Each dot should then be mixed in with the edge of the adhesive pool and quickly transferred to the bike. Aim to keep the dollop of adhesive small enough to be able to apply the dots before it dries out.
I found the cotton-wool bud very ineffective, and used a small (kiddies' artwork) paintbrush instead with a white cable-tie end useful in helping some transfers. I also used a piece of glass (drink coaster) with white backing paper for mixing rather than plastic as suggested by DataDotDNA.
For my recently bought Cannondale, application was a lot easier - the dots are much easier to see against the red, silver and white backgrounds. Still tough to see on the black cranks and wheel rims, but once you get into a rhythm applying them you can do it "blind".
For cars, the dots are applied by spray-gun. Even if it cost lots more, this would be a good option for bike shops or bike makers to offer for time-poor cyclists or those without the patience to DIY.
Of course, for the product to be effective, the police have to be able to scan stolen products and trace the owners. Even at 100x magnification, you still can't read the labels on the dots - I needed a 750x microscope to confirm the dot's matched the package code.
While it would be reasonable to expect that datadotdna have made the necessary equipment and info available to the police, it's difficult to know how enthusiastically police will use it with resources being stretched in difficult economic times. At least one insurance company seems to believe it will make a difference and have effectively given it a vote of confidence.
Recommendation (Sep 2009)
Definitely worth buying
Recommendation (Feb 2011)
Would not buy it again
Quality 5/10 The product concept is top-notch but instructions and method of application need a bit of work. The stability of the clear glue needs a huge amount of work. It discolours dreadfully as it ages. This is not a problem on a black framed bike, but is a serious fault on my red Cannondale bike.
Performance Only acceptable on one out of two bikes, so I'll give it half marks 5/10.
Value for money 3/10
edit: 18th Feb 2011 - Amended recommendations due to aging of colored dots producing ugly discolouration.