If you ride a bike, there’s a pretty good chance you’re locking it up wrong. Most urban cyclists don’t really want to lug around two heavy locks every time they ride–or take the time to lock two wheels together–so it’s common that at least one wheel ends up completely unsecured. Every year, thanks in part to bad locking habits, an estimated 1.3 million bikes or parts are stolen in the U.S.
One way to stop a bike thief? Better nuts. The typical bike wheel is attached with a quick-release skewer or a simple nut that a thief can easily remove with a wrench. The Nutlock, by contrast, is a unique nut that can only be unlocked with a key. Once it’s installed, you won’t have to lock up that end of your bike.
The design was the brainchild of two roommates at USC, who had five separate bikes or wheels stolen between them; after one incident, they watched security camera footage as a thief came into their garage, stole the front wheel from one bike, the back wheel and frame from the other, and then put them together and rode away.
“The fifth time, we sat down that night and said, ‘What are we doing wrong?'” says Nutlock co-founder Amir Atighehchi, who was a junior at the time. “We realized that with a wrench, you can steal pretty much any wheel. It’s pretty lucrative for a thief, because it’s about 30 seconds of work for $20 of value.”
The shape of the new Nutlock is designed to repel any tools used to steal bikes, from wrenches and bolt cutters to gator grips and screwdrivers. “We’ve tested out a ridiculous amount of theft tools–even tools that are not commonly used for theft,” says Atighehchi. “Even though it’s very unlikely that someone’s going to bring a $600 tool to steal your wheel, we’re still testing as much as possibly can.”
It’s not the first design of its type, but the students point out that some competitive products are easily hacked and can cost almost twice as much. For $25, a cyclist can get a set of nuts from Nutlock, along with a special key that doubles as a wrench, and, because the designers are college students, also doubles as a bottle opener for beer.
The Nutlock isn’t 100% foolproof; though there are several variations of unique nut designs, theoretically, there’s a small chance that a thief might happen to buy the correct key themselves. But it’s unlikely that thieves will want to buy and carry around a full keychain of possible options, or take the time to try each key. The Nutlock follows a common rule of good bike security: Make your bike just a little harder to steal than the next bike on the rack, and you should be okay.