Sep 272004
Authors: Lindsay Reiter

Stealing a bike may be as easy as taking a pen out of a

backpack, according to new reports, which show that many U-locks

can be unlocked using an empty pen cylinder.

“There has been a new method perpetuated on the Internet where

some tubular cylinder locks can be opened using the pen method,”

said Donna Tocci, public relations manager for Kryptonite lock

company, a prominent manufacturer of U-locks.

According to a video featured on “Good Morning America,” the

locks can be easily picked using the empty shaft of a Bic pen in

about the same amount of time it would take to unlock the bikes

using the key. The pen works because it has the same diameter as

the lock and is hard enough to hold its shape yet pliable enough to

mold into the key shape.

Although Kryptonite is one of the most popular U-lock

manufacturers, any U-lock that has a tubular cylinder key can be

picked in this way.

According to, John Stuart Clark first identified the

problem with the U-locks in the October 1992 issue of New Cyclist

magazine. The article is now being cited in a lawsuit filed in San

Diego against the Kryptonite lock company. The lawsuit states that

Kryptonite should have corrected the problem in 1992, rather than

continuing to sell faulty locks.

The problem surfaced in the United States last Sunday when Chris

Brennan, a cyclist from San Francisco, posted a message on describing how easy it is to break into Kryptonite

bike locks.

There are at least four different videos circulating on the

Internet showing how easy and fast it is to pick the U-locks.

“Before about two weeks ago, everyone recommended U-locks. There

was even a big push for freshmen to buy U-locks at orientation,”

said Sam Moes, manager at Recycled Cycles in the Lory Student


Ian Barrett, a junior forestry management major, has a

Kryptonite U-lock.

“I have a lock so someone can’t pick my bike up and just walk

off with it. My lock cost me about $25, so I’m not going to buy a

new one. If someone really wants to steal my bike they will find a

way,” Barrett said.

Capt. Bob Chaffee, of the CSU Police Department, said the police

department will not be doing anything different in light of the

lock problem, but it will continue to carefully monitor bicycle


“We have always had a significant bike theft problem here,”

Chaffee said. “Make it as hard for a thief to steal your bike as

possible. Use both a cable lock and a U-lock to lock up your bike

and if you see someone stealing a bike, report it to the police

department because it could be your bike next time.”

Moes agrees with Chaffee.

“Cyclists should use either a U-lock without this type of

circular key or a heavy duty cable lock. The cable lock is the

safest choice and should be strung through both wheels,” he


Recycled Cycles is offering a promotion to help cyclists secure

their bikes against theft.

“We will give anyone who drops off their old U-locks a $10 store

credit, even if the lock wasn’t bought here or the customer doesn’t

have a receipt,” Moes said.

The Kryptonite brand, a well known and respected in the biking

world, already has a solution for the problem. The company is

offering to replace the tubular cylinder locks with a comparable

lock that cannot be broken. It is in the process of developing a

disc-style cylindrical lock. To get the new lock, customers must go

to and follow the directions on the


“It is not only bicycle locks that have this tubular cylinder

lock,” Tocci said. “Elevators, vending machines, security products

and some motorcycle ignitions can be picked using the pen method


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