Here comes the 'unstealable' bike: solution to a global problem?

The frame on the $500 Yerka bicycle forms a steadfast lock around any tree, pole, or bike rack. To steal it, thieves would need to saw through the frame itself, rendering the bike worthless. 

Courtesy of Yerka
Screenshot from company video.

If you've ever had your bike stolen you know that stomach-dropping feeling of returning to the place you left your bike securely locked (or so you thought) – only to find that it’s gone.

But have no fear, the “Yerka” is here.

A Yerka is an “unstealable” bike designed by three young Chilean engineering students, first announced in 2014. The theft of two bikes from one of the inventors inspired the students to tackle bike-lock engineering as part of a project for a college class. A video showcasing the prototype received several million views, prompting the team to drop out of their engineering program and dedicate themselves to the Yerka Project, reports The Washington Post.

The concept is pretty simple. The bike’s lower frame splits in two to allow the seat tube to form a steadfast lock around any tree, pole or bike rack. To steal it, a would-be thief needs to saw through the frame – making the bike useless. The tires are attached by a locked bolt, so they are safe, too. The icing on the cake: It takes only 10 seconds to lock it, claim the designers.

Last week the Yerka team put in their first order to produce 300 of the bikes, CNN reported, marking the beginning of what they hope will be a successful business. As of Wednesday, the entrepreneurs had sold 197 bikes through their campaign on Indiegogo, a crowdfunding website. About half of the orders were placed by customers in the US, a third went to Europe, and a small handful were snapped up by Australia, Hong Kong, and New Zealand. Only 15 percent of the bikes were sold in Chile, the founders’ home country.

Cristóbal Cabello, the start-up’s CEO, said, "I think it’s the culture. In Chile we haven’t got the culture of riding a bike as a commuter and the infrastructure and bike lanes aren’t good. But that is changing."

And this change – a shift that is also happening in the US – could spur the Yerka’s success. A recent government survey found that the number of Americans who bike to work increased from about 488,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 in 2008-2012, a larger percentage increase than that of any other commuting mode. Only 0.6 percent of workers commute via bicycle, but the percentage was higher in Western cities like Portland, Ore., and San Francisco, Calif.

So will the Yerka's sales take off? Some may be put off by the price tag. CNN reports that the first 100 bikes sold for $400, and then the price was increased to $500.

But Mr. Cabello isn’t worried.

"In the next four years, our goal is to sell a container of almost 300 units each month worldwide," he told CNN. "But the most important goal is that our customers say, 'This bike is great. We love the bike you sold us and we will spread the word!'" 

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