Exploding bike lock: Interesting concept, questionable execution

Michael Lambourn gives cyclists one more bullet in the barrel with his SmartLock design. It's a cable lock with colored liquid inside that explodes everywhere if the lock is cut.

Justin Yu Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals
Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.
Justin Yu
3 min read
Something has gone horribly wrong Mike Lambourn

Justin Yu

As an avid cyclist, my biggest concern about riding my bike in New York City isn't king-size potholes, wayward pedestrians, or even the hordes of aggressive cabbies itching to smash me into gray matter, but rather the constant fear of getting my bike stolen. I've been a victim of bike theft in the past, and it literally feels like the loss of a limb (not good), so I'm constantly researching new ways to deter thieves from snatching up my precious Surly Cross-Check. Whether it's making my bike ugly with stickers or carrying around extra locks in my bag, there's only so much you can do, because if a thief wants what you got, they're gonna get it no matter what.

Mike Lambourn

Michael Lambourn gives cyclists one more bullet in the barrel with his SmartLock design. It's a cable lock with colored liquid inside that explodes everywhere if the lock is cut. It's a clever idea, and one almost certainly hatched after a freak skunk accident, and I applaud Michael Lambourn for making an effort to make cycling safer for paranoid city dwellers like myself. The goal is to achieve peace of mind while your bike is locked up, and the SmartLock is definitely a step in the right direction. If this product is successful and helps get people out of their cars and onto the bike, then I'll get behind it 100 percent. I just have a few critiques to make in the meantime.

  • The colored liquid inside the lock will literally cover everything in close proximity to the bike, including poles, passersby, the bike itself, and the street surrounding it. Aside from the fact that this is a street cleaner's nightmare, Mike claims that the dye will identify the thief to the proper authorities. Quick question: has anyone alerted the authorities that anyone with paint on their clothes should immediately be thrown in jail for bike theft? What about innocent people walking by who get sprayed by this stuff? They're going to hate you, the lock, and your bike. And I bet legit painters definitely won't appreciate all the accusations that will inevitably be thrown their way.
  • The dye washes off! Can you really call it a stain if a cup of Tide, five quarters, and some elbow grease will make it disappear? Of course, Mike contests that "invisible Smartwater lingers on perpetrators and can be detected by ultraviolet scanners used by the police." Smartwater? Didn't I buy a bottle of that this morning? And a mysterious fluid that can only be identified by ultraviolet scanners? I think I've seen this episode of 20/20 before. Anyway, let's not get overzealous here and haul anyone with random stains on their pants to jail; New York would be empty within the week.
  • Finally, check out the video of someone cutting through the SmartLock with a pair of bolt cutters. I'm no locksmith, but maybe we should focus our efforts on a bike lock that can't be defeated by a tool that can be purchased from any hardware store across the United States? The fact that this lock "surrounded by a hardened steel casing, which is in turn encased in a DuPont Hytrel moulding" looks so flimsy that I could probably chew through it if I hadn't had breakfast doesn't exactly convince me to invest in the design.