In the early 1970s the bike industry was booming and bike theft was on the rise. Thieves could cut chains and padlocks in seconds with basic bolt cutters available at most hardware stores. Cyclist Michael Zane was intrigued by a newspaper article he read in 1971 about Stanley Kaplan, a bicycle mechanic who had designed a new U-shaped lock, and reached out. Zane and Kaplan ended up going into business together later that year, making use of Zane’s father’s sheet metal business and expertise.
In 1972, Zane purchased the lock idea from Kaplan and, with $1,500, founded the Kryptonite Corporation. For the first few years, Kryptonite was managed out of the back of Zane’s Volkswagen van as he traveled the U.S. hocking his U-locks at bike shops, on college campuses, and to law enforcement. With little money for advertising, Zane staged a publicity stunt, locking up a bike in New York’s Lower East Side for a month. The resulting press helped launch the company into prominence.