Bike theft is becoming increasingly more prevalent, where even the toughest of locks are not deterring would-be thieves. Nowadays crooks come armed with hacksaws and crowbars and take only minutes to free a bike from its lock. More determined criminals even use sophisticated equipment, such as blow torches and angle-grinders to steal the bike of their choice. And when you consider that around 1.5 million bikes are stolen annually around the world, this is a serious problem.
One company who are fed up with getting their bikes stolen has decided to hit back, with an innovative device they are calling the SkunkLock. The SkunkLock is designed to emit a foul-smelling gas whenever it is cut. The gas sprays from the incision and according to its inventors, is ‘pretty much immediately vomit inducing’.
One of the founders of SkunkLock explains why the company came up with the invention: “Basically we were fed up with thefts,” said Daniel Idzkowski from San Francisco. “The real last straw was we had a friend park his very expensive electric bike outside a Whole Foods, and then went to have lunch and chat. We went out and his bike was gone.”
There were two locks on Idzkowski’s friend’s bike but even that had not deterred the criminals. Idzkowski was furious: “I blurted out, ‘why didn’t it blow his balls off?’”
It did get him thinking however. Most locks can be cut, and in seconds, and this is where the problem lies. Researching bike thefts he found out that thieves talk in the seconds it takes to free a bike: “a 15-second bike, a 20-second bike, and it goes up to 30-60-second bikes, with Kryptonite locks that require two cuts, each about 25 seconds”.
After discussing with his friends, they all realised that no lock would ever be 100% fool-proof, but a lock that causes the potential thief to give up, and not pursue stealing the bike could work.
“I realized there really is no solution to this problem,” he said. “The biggest problem in this industry is that people don’t know that the lock that they bought for $20 is absolutely worthless. It costs at least $100 to have at least somewhere close to where you can at least curb the chances of a thief wanting to steal your bike.”
If most locks can be cut, and this is the way many thieves are stealing bikes, why not fill the hollow chamber of the lock with something noxious to deter the thief?
Co-founder Yves Perrenoud helped to design a U-shaped lock made from carbon and steel. The lock has a hollow chamber that contains three pressurized gases, specifically created by the team.
As soon as someone cuts into more than 30% of the outer shell the gas emits forth, spraying the thief.
“It’s pretty much immediately vomit inducing, causes difficulty breathing,” Idzkowski said. “A lot of similar symptoms to pepper spray.”
The founders have tested the lock by cutting into it themselves and have been the unlucky recipients of the noxious spray at different distances, including two feet (60cm), five feet, 10ft and 20ft.
“At two feet it was pretty bad. It was absolutely vomit inducing in 99% of people. At five feet it’s very noticeable and the initial reaction is to move away from it. At 10ft it’s definitely detectable and very unpleasant.”
The SkunkLock is made from high tensile strength steel, hardened medium carbon steel with deterrent and uses a lock with keys to open it.
Idzkowski said that it was not a bike lock as such, but a bike deterrent, as in his opinion, no lock was fool-proof. He used the keys as an example, saying that someone could pick the lock, but it would take them around half an hour, long enough for them to be noticed. A thief could also return to the bike, once they had cut off the lock, after they had showered to get rid of the vomit. But Idzkowski thinks that this would have put off potential thieves, who would probably move onto an easier target. Exactly what the SkunkLock is designed to do.
“You’re basically just puking on yourself the entire time,” he said. “They could change all their clothes, shower, if the bike is still there come out and cut the remaining 75% of the lock. You can’t prevent a theft 100%, so that’s why we call it a deterrent lock, not a solution.”
As for the chemicals used, they are all legal and have passed the relevant compliance testing.
The SkunkLock is being crowd funded on Indiegogo so is not available at present. The team hope to start delivering to their backers as early as April 2017, but are guaranteeing a June 2017 shipment due to compliance processing.
Early backers will receive the SkunkLock at a discount of 38% for $99, these pledges have now all sold out. The next option is for $109 at a discount of 32%.
As Idzkowski says: “All you have to do is be better than the bike across the street.”