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 bikebiz.com, 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
bikeforums.net describing how easy it is to break into Kryptonite
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
“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 www.kryptonitelocks.com 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