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Revealed: The secret technique used to steal bicycles

Posting in Cities

Sure, those big, heavy-duty steel U-Locks seem like they'd be more than sturdy enough to deter would-be bicycle thieves. But Popular Science recently demonstrated a method thieves can use to hammer their way to a re-possessed bike thanks in part to a simple flaw.

While steel is tough to the point where it's seemingly impenetrable, the materials' rigidity actually makes it weaker than softer materials that are capable of absorbing the energy when taking a pounding. Rubber is an example of such a flexible, yet strong material. That's why many locks are case-hardened, with a soft inner core encased in a brittle outer layer that can resist cutting.

However, a way around this is to freeze the lock to the point where it's so cold that everything becomes brittle ( –13°F), which can easily be accomplished using widely available cans of compressed air. You know, the kind sold as dusters for laptop computers. As you can see from the video, all it takes is a few strong knocks and the frozen lock ends up busted open.

So what's the solution? I really can't tell you other than common sense tips like storing your bike indoors overnight and chaining it at locations that make it harder for crooks to carry out such a procedure so discreetly.

Oddly enough, some videos are advocating the freezing method as a way of breaking a bike lock in case you lose the keys or forget the combination, though it remains duly disturbing as it is helpful.

The latest in high-tech crime prevention:

— By on September 27, 2012, 10:05 PM PST

Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure