How to: Protect your bike

Cyclescheme, 23.11.2017

How to: Protect your bike

A decent lock isn’t enough on its own. Here’s what else you can do to keep your bike safe.

First of all, do get that lock. Unless your bike is always parked behind a locked door or never leaves your sight, you’ll need one. Buy the best you can afford. You can include locks in your Cyclescheme package, so there’s no need to scrimp. A good rule of thumb is to spend at least 10% of the value of the bike on security – a £50 lock for a £500 bike and so on. Lock your bike whenever you turn your back on it. It takes seconds to steal an unsecured bike. 


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How’s your parking?

More than half of all cycle theft in the UK takes place in and around the home. ‘Around’ means on your property but outside the main dwelling – gardens, sheds, garages, outbuildings, etc. Many of these locations are ridiculously easy to break into. If your bike won’t be in the house, or behind doors and windows that are just as secure, lock the the bike through the frame to a ground or wall anchor from the likes of Abus, Squire, or Kryptonite, or (if it’s a wooden shed) to a Pragmasis Shed Shackle. See also our guide to storage at home.

At work, you’re limited by the facilities that your employer provides. (Not good enough? Form a Bicycle User Group and ask for better ones.) Use your own lock as well, even if there’s a dedicated cycle store.

When you lock your bike in public, resist the temptation to hide it away. Thieves prefer to work unobserved, so choose a visible location. Lock the bike through the frame to a dedicated cycle stand or a solid piece of street furniture. Be aware that thieves may steal parts or accessories – sometimes known as a piranha attack, because only the bike’s skeleton remains.


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Fending off piranhas

Quick release levers undo easily without tools. On commuter bikes, they’re a gift to thieves. Either take one or more extra locks with you to secure quick releasable parts or swap out the quick releases for something more secure. Allen-headed wheel skewers from the likes of ETC, Halo, M:Park, and TransX are inexpensive, as are Allen-bolted seat clamps.

Better yet are security skewers and bolts that require a unique tool rather than an Allen key to open. Various models are made by PitlockPinhead, Atomic22 and others. As well as lockable seat clamps and wheel skewers, Pitlock and Pinhead can also secure the headset, which prevents the fork being stolen, and Atomic22 can protect the drivetrain and brakes.

As for accessories, anything not bolted to the bike needs to go with you when you park – lights, computer, pump, bottle, bags, you name it. Note that all dynamo lights and some battery lights can be bolted on, which saves you time and hassle.

Protective camouflage

The less desirable your bike is, the better. It’s easier for thieves to shift popular bike types, such as road  and mountain bikes, and ones with popular components, such as disc brakes and suspension. Conversely, practical accessories like mudguards and pannier racks can make a bike less attractive to thieves. Roadsters, budget hybrids and touring bikes are thus lower-profile targets.

Any bike can be made less desirable if it looks downbeat and tatty. You could repaint the frame with a tin of brown Hammerite, or wrap old innertube or tape around the frame tubes, covering up logos. Let the bar tape fray. Don’t wash it, just keep it lubricated. The idea is to have a good bike that only looks cheap.

There’s safety in numbers when it comes to parked bikes. If there are several others for a thief to prey on, the odds of yours being picked go down – especially if your bike is unprepossessing and has a good lock.

Stolen bike recovery

A stolen bike is likely gone for good - but not always. You can log it for free on Bike Register, the Police-approved national cycle database, enabling you to prove it’s yours if it’s found. BikeRegister sells marking kits and warning stickers too, to make identification easier and to deter theft in the first place.

It’s possible to put a tracker on your bike so you can tell the police where it is. The tracker is hidden, typically in the handlebar, and it links to an app on your phone that locates it. Some work by Bluetooth, whose short range requires someone else with the app on their phone to pass nearby; Tile is the best-known example. GPS trackers are more effective but more expensive, and usually have a monthly fee. Examples include Sherlock, SmrtGRiPS and Boomerang.

Whatever methods you use to protect your bike – locks, parking strategies, trackers - it’s essential it’s insured. Then you can replace it if the worst happens. Household contents insurance often covers bikes but do check the small print: many policies exclude bikes above a certain value or only cover the bike when it’s locked up at home. Cycle-specific insurance such as CycleGuard tends to be more comprehensive and more suitable for higher-value bikes.

To find out more about protecting your bike whilst commuting, or for a quick quote visit www.cycleguard.co.uk/cs15.


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Cycleguard is a trading style of Thistle Insurance Services Limited. Thistle Insurance Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Lloyd’s Broker. Registered in England under No. 00338645 Registered office: 68 Lombard Street London EC3V 9LJ. Cyclescheme Limited are Appointed Representatives of Thistle Insurance Services Limited.

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