Biking is a great form of transportation with one huge drawback — theft. With enough time a skilled bike thief can get through just about any lock. Three Chilean students, well-acquainted with the anguish of having a beloved bike stolen, are developing a clever solution to this problem.
Sure, a thief can beat any lock, but what if the bike is the lock? Sawing through a bike’s frame to steal it ruins its resale value. There’s less incentive to steal a bike when you have to break it in the process.
Childhood friends Andrés Roi Eggers and Cristobal Cabello met Juan José Monsalve at Adolfo Ibanez University in Santiago, Chile, and set out to create the “unstealable” bike in an engineering class. They call it the Yerka Project, which “has a similarity with a Nordic word that means strength,” Monsalve told me.
“We wanted to use as many components of the bike as possible, so as a rider you don’t have to carry any lock whatsoever to secure your bike,” Eggers said.
The lower beam of the frame consists of two arms that can be opened up to wrap around a pole for locking purposes. The bike is then secured by using the seat post to connect the arms.
The prototype is the result of two years of work. They experimented with a PVC model of a bike frame before buying a bike for a rideable prototype. The group tried using the upper crossbar to serve as the two arms, but found that didn’t work.
The prototype in their video uses a key to lock the seat post once it is slid in place. But Eggers said they are building prototypes that lock with combinations, and through a smartphone. (Using Bluetooth to control a lock has been done before.)
The group is also designing prototypes for a bicycle with a step-through frame, and a bike with gears.
While they claim the bike can’t be stolen, what about the wheels and handlebars? Plenty of thieves are happy to make off with just a wheel. That’s why many cyclists, myself include, use a cable that connects to a U-lock and loops through both wheels.
Eggers points to options such as locking skewers, which offer better protection for wheels.
“This might be an option, but we are also working on our own way or method to secure them,” he said. “The idea is to secure as many components as we can, making a comfortable bike to ride, that is safe and that has the slick look of a traditional urban bicycle.”
Eggers expects their first batch of bikes to be available within six to eight months. The guys are also planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign by December to raise funds for mass production and global sales. The start-up is working out of Garage UAI, which provides work space, advice and business connections.