Liteloks are made from a light, innovative material called Boaflexicore. But what is Boaflexicore?
Boaflexicore is the invention of Professor Neil Barron, an aeronautical engineer with a passion for cycling. Whilst working in London, Neil became increasingly frustrated when his bikes kept getting stolen, so he set about designing a bike lock that fitted his needs.
“Bikes are getting lighter and lighter, yet bike locks were getting heavier. I just thought there had to be a better way to keep my bike safe than carry a heavy chain around.” - Professor Neil Barron
Wanting a bike lock that was light, flexible, and strong, Neil used his engineering background to completely reinvent the bike lock. Doing away with heavy materials, he developed a patented metal and polymer composite to act as the lock strap. This became known as Boaflexicore.
The origins of the name itself derived from imagery of the Boa constrictor. Neil wanted a name that evoked strength and stealth but also flexibility, so combined Boa, Flex, and Core to create Boaflexicore.
“Boa constrictors are fascinating creatures. They’re strong, stealthy, and flexible which I found quite inspiring when designing the Litelok. I love the idea of a powerful snake looking after your bike, like Kaa in The Jungle Book”. - Professor Neil Barron
Boaflexicore consists of multiple components, including 200 strands of high tensile steel. These allow Boaflexicore to be strong, yet flexible. One of the most popular tools for your common bike thief is the bolt cropper, so it was very important to Neil that the new material he was developing could hold its own when attacked with this tool. Bolt croppers are very effective at cutting chains and D-locks because their material is continuous metal, meaning they consist of an uninterrupted series of atoms. Bolt croppers can then create a nick that turns into a crack which can spread through the material, leaving the lock broken. Boaflexicore defends well against bolt croppers because it’s non-continuous. So when an attempted cut is made with bolt croppers, Boaflexicore shifts so more material is placed in front of the cut making it incredibly difficult to get through.
The bolt cropping resistance of Boaflexicore is a cutting load of 148kN (33,000 lb) which is the equivalent to the weight of an F-18 Hornet fighter jet focused through a sharp point. The tensile strength of Boaflexicore is even greater at 177kN (40,000 lb).
However, innovating does come along with some problems. When being cut to size, Boaflexicore was blunting the cutting tool. To get around this the team progressed up through the grades of tool steel finally realising that only sintered tool steel provided a workable durable, practical option.
The Boaflexicore strap was then fixed to a patented harden steel lock and the Litelok was born. This combination can not only withstand constant attacks from common theft tools but is also very resistant to torsion attacks. If you were to twist a secured Litelok with a crowbar or tire iron, energy would build up within the tensioned Boaflexicore material which will cause it to spring back and unwind violently if let go.
The below video compares the Litelok Silver Flexi-U to an equally security rated D-lock in a torsion machine specially developed with Swansea University College of Engineering (Prof Stephen Brown - Head of Engineering, Prof Nick Lavery, and Dr Adam Philo).
As it shows, the Boaflexicore strap can withstand a force far greater than even the strongest of humans possess.
“The mantra whilst developing Boaflexicore was always Light I Flexible I Strong. Locks like D-locks and padlocks are light and strong but not flexible, chains are flexible and strong but not light, and cable locks are light and flexible but not strong. I really wanted to develop a material that fully encapsulated all three of those words.” - Professor Neil Barron
Liteloks have been independently tested by the UK’s premium testing house, Sold Secure and have been highly rated. Litelok Silver Flexi-O and Litelok Silver Flexi-U have been awarded Sold Secure Silver and Litelok Gold has not only been awarded Sold Secure Bicycle Gold but also Sold Secure Motorcycle Gold.
Thanks to Professor Neil Barron’s creative thinking, Boaflexicore has revolutionised bike security. Litelok started life on Kickstarter in 2015 and raised over £232,000. Then in 2018, Neil launched Litelok Silver, which became the world’s lightest insurance rated bicycle lock. As Litelok grows, this affords Neil the opportunity to continue to innovate and design new security products using Boaflexicore which can further help people all around the world.