Thursday, September 15, 2011

Not Reinventing the (Bike) Wheel, Just Making It Useless

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 10:56 AM

If you see a guy with a chainsaw, take one last good look at this tree—and this bike.
  • If you see a guy with a chainsaw, take one last good look at this tree—and this bike.

Car theft is a major problem across the world, but the outcome isn't always dire. Security systems like LoJack make car recovery likely thanks to electronic tracking, as well as the fact that a LoJack system can be hidden among a vehicle's thousands of hoses, wires and mechanical parts.

There are also methods for stopping thieves in mid-theft. In 2009, GM equipped some of its models with Stolen Vehicle Slowdown and Remote Ignition Block, systems activated remotely through cars' OnStar systems. SVS was designed to help police prevent the catastrophes inherent in high-speed chases. Or, once a car is reported stolen, RIB allows OnStar to prevent the car from being started.

Bicycle theft may not be the billion-dollar industry car theft is, but it's still a major bummer for the bike owner. Systems like LoJack, SVS and RIB aren't options, so cyclists have to rely on locks. But no matter how strong the lock, a savvy thief with a set of tools can bypass it—years ago, someone cut down a sapling in front of Pengilly's to get the expensive bike chained to it.

Andrew Leinonen has decided to use the "you may get my bike, but you won't get far" method of preventing bicycle theft. He has designed a bicycle prototype that integrates the lock into the seat and the back wheel. Apparently, if the lock is broken, the chainstays won't work, and the bike will essentially collapse beneath the dirty, rotten thief.

The bike is currently still in the beta testing phase, but Leinonen's idea is getting a lot of mileage on the information superhighway—Wired, Gizmodo, Endgadget, Trendhunter and Treehugger (ha!) and several other websites have posted the story. Nearly every story has a comment section, which means both supporters and detractors can have their say about the StayLocked ... but so can Leinonen.

One commenter on the suggests Leinonen's bike won't stop a determined thief, but it will stop hipsters:

Nothing I can't fix with a cordless drill, a few self tapping screws, and some cheap metal brackets. As usual, this is tech built by someone who has never gotten their hands dirty in real life. It may disable use to him and his hipster bike riding friends, but the average joe with a set of tools could bypass this "security" in a minute, maybe less.

Leinonen also commented, wanting to clarify that he still has work to do:

Andrew here, the bike's designer—I'm pretty flattered at the amount of discussion around the idea! I'd like to try and allay some of the criticism by saying that this is merely a prototype, not a final template for a production design. Instead of just producing some pretty renderings, I wanted to make something that was actually a proof of concept that I could ride around town. As a result, I used an old frame that was lying around with a broken chainstay, repaired it, and put the rest of the design together as cheaply as I could.

There's a very easy solution to the aspect that most people dislike the most (the self-destruction part), and that's simply to put a pivot point on the chainstays at the bottom bracket. Without the rigid connection of the lock shackle to complete the rear triangle, the wheel would simply harmlessly pivot up until it hit the seat tube, doing no damage to the bike but definitely ensuring that it is unrideable. I considered it, but it would have required more fabrication that I didn't want to do for the first version.

As it is, the bike rides really nicely and I use it day to day. I'll beat on this bike until it breaks, and then on to StayLocked v2.0, complete with pivot point.

Whether the StayLocked Bike is ultimate un-steal-able bike, the idea is an interesting one. And if it saves even one tree, then it has done its job.

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