Sales of Bic pens will have increased last week but Kryptonite is looking down the (plastic) barrel of some serious write-offs: not only will the US company stump up for cross-bar upgrades it will have to downgrade sales expectations for its new lines because so many consumers, who may have bought the new, more secure locks, will be getting them for free.
Bike owners may also lose their machines to pen-touting ne’er do wells.
And, whilst Utah-based Joe Gardner, founder and owner of Bikeforums.net, has benefitted in visibility terms from the posting made via his website, it’s meant he’s had to fork out for the extra bandwidth needed to cope with the rush.
Gardner told BikeBiz.com he knew the orginal posting by Chris Brennan, a San Francisco bicycle-owning computer security specialist, was going to cause ructions:
"I was able to open my personal u-lock just minutes after the video was online," said Gardner.
"That’s when I knew this would be big. Our bandwidth went up 2500 percent, from 3 gig of data transfered daily to 75 gig a day."
Mainstream news organisations soon picked up on the story, with an Associated Press article hitting the wires on Thursday and quickly placed on US newspaper websites. Further strain on Gardner’s server came when the story – and direct links to Brennan’s posting – was carried by CNN.com, Wired.com, Slashdot and major newspapers such as the Boston Globe and the New York Times. The movie makers also became overnight news stories, with some appearing on TV stations and syndicated radio news programmes.
With public interest in the story snowballing, the hits on Gardner’s website quickly swallowed his monthly gigabyte allowance. He was forced to lease more server space to keep his site running.
He dropped $1000 on some short-term gigabyte rental.
"I think the worst is over," said Gardner, noting that hits on bikeforum.bet were tailing off.
The mainstream media may not revisit the topic but Gardner doesn’t think hardcore cyclists will forget so easily.
"I am sure it will be an on-going topic of discussion, online and offline, for months to come," he said.
Gardner works for a large mutual fund trading company. He started Bikeforum.net in 1999. It now has 25 000 members, with about 150 new members a day joining each day last week, five times above average.
To pay for the site, Bikeforums.net displays Google ads – including randomised ads for Kryptonite locks and lock-picking websites – but these ads disappear if members upgrade their membership by donating $25 via PayPal.
"The site usually breaks even at the end of the month. Some months are better then others, but the revenue is not close to paying a living wage."
The extra hits to his site last week were therefore welcome, but expensive.
"When all is said and done, this cost me just over a grand," said Gardner.
He is now sitting on a site much better known than this time last week, and Gardner is happy his site brought an important security issue to the fore.
"It’s great that owners of bad locks know about the issue. I expected the word to spread around the cycling community. I was not expecting it to make front page news on the New York Times," said Gardner.
"I am sure dozens of bikes have already been stolen using this information. I fear dozens more will be stolen in the coming weeks. It was amazing to see the information spread from my website to thousands of individual blogs, internet communities and news organisations in the matter of days. As one forum poster said: ‘You used to only learn about this stuff in jail!’"
Kryptonite execs did not sign on to bikeforums.net and communicate directly with forum members but Gardner reckons the company reacted quickly and responsibly.
"I think Kryptonite handled this issue great, they recognised the problem, and offered a solution."
However, referring to the fact that the Bic-pick of tubular cylinder locks was first publicised in New Cyclist magazine in 1992, Gardner said "none of this would have come up if they took care of the issue 12 years ago."
Unlike some of the more hot-headed of his forum’s members, Gardner is not anti-Kryptonite.
"This is not just a problem with Kryptonite locks. Just about every u-lock manufacturer uses the same ACE and ACE-II lock mechanisms."
Quite apart from donations, Gardner would like to see more industry involvement on his site. He has eight volunteer moderators but would like more, especially from the bike trade:
"I could use a bit of help answering all these ‘what bike should I buy…?’ questions. I would love more industry members on my site, but don’t expect breaking news daily, the Kryptonite story is a once-in-a-lifetime event for a website like mine."
To help bikeforums.net pay for the extra GB needed for running with the Kryptonite vs Bic story, click here: