John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
For people who are really, really sick of having their bike stolen.
To prevent a thief from ganking your bike, you can try securing it with a U-lock or heavy-duty chain. Or, for fans of the bombastic approach, there’s now an alarm that detonates when disturbed, rousing the whole neighborhood with an echoing boom.
The “Bike Mine” is the dastardly creation of London’s Yannick Read, a longtime bike-hacker who’s also made a cycle with a deafening train horn and another that shoots flames at motorists who get too close. The device consists of a bit of titanium wire, a spring-loaded trap, and a “saluting cartridge” typically shot off at military ceremonies and royal birthdays. It latches onto your frame with Velcro and, when somebody moves the bike, detonates in a 150-decibel cacophony of sparks and smoke, like so:
The purpose of the “Bike Mine” isn’t to inflict semipermanent tinnitus on thieves, though that might be a side effect—150 decibels is as thundering as a jet engine and reportedly can rupture eardrums. Rather, Yannick hopes the explosion will both wake up the owner and cause bandits to panic and flee:
In the war against thieves, your goal should be to get them caught in the act.
For example, with motorbikes, the most common technique they use is lifting it off of the ground and loading into a van. Quick. Easy. Quiet. Think your bike is too heavy to be lifted in this way? Thieves have thought of that. They lash a scaffold tube to the front and back of the bike and share the weight between four. When it comes to bicycles, it’s even easier.
BIKE MINE is extremely hard for a thief to detect and when they do, it’s too late: You are awake. Your neighbour is awake. They are running away as fast as they can.
Yannick’s put the project on Kickstarter (about $70 for a “Bike Mine” and three cartridges), where he hopes to raise enough cash to make each device himself. Here’s hoping in the future he’ll release public schematics for the bomblets, so bike owners can sow terror in the hearts of thieves the world ‘round.