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Kryptonite Bike Locks' Weakness? A Bic Pen

September 18, 2004|From Associated Press

BOSTON — Bike lock maker Kryptonite struggled to reassure customers and protect its reputation on Friday after the disclosure that its famous U-lock could be opened by a ballpoint pen.

Kryptonite said it would accelerate introduction of a pen-proof version of the vulnerable locks. In a statement, the company also said it would give owners of the flawed locks an upgrade "where possible," though it offered few details.

A company spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

Paul Dickard, a spokesman for Kryptonite's parent company, Ingersoll-Rand, said Kryptonite executives were working to ease concerns but did not expect the problem to affect earnings. Kryptonite products account for less than 1% of the $10 billion in annual sales at Ingersoll-Rand, which makes other security products such as door locks.

"It's a fairly small business, but an important business in terms of the community it serves," Dickard said.

A design flaw enables thieves to open Kryptonite U-Locks with the hollow shaft of a Bic pen. The pens can beat the tubular cylinders used in some Kryptonite locks, including the Evolution and KryptoLok series.

The company said it was upgrading the locks to a disc-style cylinder that was pen-proof and was already used in its top-of-the-line "New York" lock.

New York City bike shop manager Ismael Torres took the flawed locks off his shelves the minute he read about the problem -- though he was still selling the "New York" lock. He added that a Kryptonite representative later advised him to remove the flawed locks from display, and to refer concerned customers to Kryptonite's customer service number.

The problem could cost Kryptonite his business, Torres said.

"I kind of don't trust this manufacturer now," said Torres, who works for Gotham Bikes in Manhattan.

Attorney Marc Weber Tobias, a security expert, said Kryptonite should have been using its pen-proof design in all its locks.

Kryptonite offers insurance policies that promise reimbursements of up to $3,000 -- depending on the lock model -- to replace bikes stolen while secured with one of its locks.

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