Chemical bike lock causes vomiting to deter thieves

  • Published
The U-shaped bicycle lock shown in a vice in the workshopImage source, Skunklock

Have you ever had a bicycle stolen? Well, a new company thinks it has a funky way to combat the crime - by creating a bike lock which spews foul-smelling gas.

The "Skunklock" is a U-shaped steel bicycle lock with a pressurised, stinking gas inside.

The gas escapes in a cloud if someone attempts to cut the lock.

The company claims its "noxious chemical" is so disgusting it "induces vomit in the majority of cases."

Even better, it claims, the gas causes "shortness of breathing" and impaired eyesight.

Image source, Skunklock
Image caption,
The company's crowdfunding campaign video contains a colourful reconstruction of its intended effect

The idea - which tries to make stealing a bike as unpleasant as possible - is raising money for production on crowdfunding site Indiegogo.

"Our formula irreversibly ruins the clothes worn by the thief or any of the protection they may be wearing," the company claims on its crowdfunding page.

Since stolen bikes sell for a fraction of their true cost, replacing clothing or equipment could make the theft more trouble than it's worth.

Skunklock says it has tested its foul gas, and it even penetrates high-end gas masks - though most thieves are unlikely to go to such lengths.

But the company said that the compressed gas is perfectly safe - and can only be released "by trying to cut through it with an angle grinder".

Image source, Skunklock
Image caption,
If all else fails, the Skunklock is still a solid piece of steel

If the chemical countermeasure is released, it is a one-time only use, and the lock - which costs over $100 - will have to be replaced.

But the hope is that the unpleasant experience will cause them to abandon the attempted theft, leaving the bicycle behind.

In San Francisco, home of Skunklock, bike theft is common - with an estimated 4,085 bikes stolen in 2014, or more than 11 each day.

In the same year in London, more than 17,800 were reported stolen - but campaigners claim most thefts go unreported, and the real number is closer to 100,000.

Even so, the average user might have some concerns about loading a chemical weapon countermeasure on their morning commute.

But the company claims it's ahead of the legal issues, having already reviewed United States laws on the product.

Image source, Skunklock
Image caption,
Daniel and Yves co-founded the Skunklock

Some states have limitations on shipping chemical compounds like pepper spray, so Skunklock has an alternative formula ready for some customers.

They're also already looking at selling it in countries with high rates of bike theft - including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Denmark, Finland, Belgium, Sweden, and Japan.

In a marketplace where stronger and harder locks seem to have made little impact on the number of crimes, the unique idea is getting attention - the crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo has raised over $8,000 of its $20,000 target in its first day.