When a friend's bike was stolen during a short lunch break—not long after the friend had dropped more than $100 on the best lock on the market—two entrepreneurs decided to design something more secure.
Their solution: A lock that emits chemicals that make would-be thieves throw up and run away.
"We realized that there's no real solution on the market," says Daniel Idzkowski, who created the new lock, called SkunkLock, with engineer and fellow cyclist Yves Perrenoud. "As the locks get bigger and stronger, so do the tools that break them. So the only real solution we could think of was some sort of fundamental deterrent."
If a thief starts cutting into the lock, when they're a little less than a third of the way through, they'll puncture a seal on a pressurized chamber, releasing a cloud of chemicals that are all legal, but extremely unpleasant.
"The smell is hard to describe," says Idzkowski. "The closest description to it is an extremely concentrated version of vomit. The initial reaction to the smell of vomit is vomiting."
The mix of chemicals can also impair vision and breathing. The lock will be plastered with warnings, saying that it's illegal to cut, even for the owner, and that it could cause harm. If someone ignores the warnings and begins slicing through the lock, they won't be able to stay in the area long enough to finish the job.
Each of the chemicals is at a concentration low enough to meet government regulations (the designers created two versions to meet differing state laws in the U.S., and a third for the European market).
"They act as an effective deterrent, but they're not illegal because they're not powerful enough to do permanent harm to anyone," Idzkowski says.
Their hope is that the locks will let people start cycling more often, because they're not afraid to leave their bikes outside.
"We wanted to build something that could give us our freedom back," he says. "The freedom to ride our bikes around, and be flexible, and actually park outside without having to worry about it and check on it every 20 minutes or so."
The lock is crowdfunding on Indieogogo and has very quickly reached its funding goal.