A few hundred thousand bikes are stolen every year in the UK. Don't let yours be one of them. Here are some top tips on bike theft prevention.
Updated May 2019
Think like a bike thief: your bike is cash on wheels. Don't let it out of your sight unless it's locked or in the care of someone you trust. It takes seconds to pinch an unlocked bike and scarcely longer to cut a feeble lock. You can't make your bike 100% safe, but you can help avoid bike theft by making it too much trouble to steal. Protect your bike and secure your bike.
How Common is Bike Theft?
Research from Cycleguard found that over one in ten (14%) cyclists have had their equipment stolen in the past and a further 16% have damaged their equipment irreparably.
To replace or fix equipment can be extremely costly - and having to subsequently change your preferred method of travel, such as switching to driving or having to catch public transport, creates further expense. And this doesn’t even take into account the emotional cost of losing a key method of de-stressing for some.
Of course, there are steps that can be taken to minimise the risk of theft or damage to your equipment.
Shut The Door On Bicycle Thieves
The best security for any bike that's out of your sight is to store it behind a locked door. That's easy at home, where you can park your bike in your bedroom if you want (and your partner agrees!) - however you’ll probably want to consider other cycle storage solutions.
At work, a bike store with a lockable door is the best solution. If that's not available, ask the office manager if you can park anywhere else indoors. An unused storeroom perhaps?
Get support for any bid for facilities from fellow cycle commuters. If nothing suitable is provided, you'll have to park outdoors (see below). You can't walk in with a bike at most places – not unless it's a compact folding bike. Then it can sit under your desk.
Don't Lead Bike Thieves Home
Be careful if you use ride-sharing apps or websites such as Strava. Logging your rides and making them public means that anyone can see where they start and end. That tells a thief there's a bike – or multiple bikes – where you live and work. If you've listed the brand and model of the bike, they'll even know what's there.
Go to Settings > Privacy to set a GPS exclusion zone around your home and your office. Give your bikes names that give no clue to their value, such as 'road bike'.
Shiny Attracts Magpies
Any bike is easily stolen but not all bikes are worth stealing. Thieves most want bikes that will command a decent price and/or can be easily sold. Expensive-looking road bikes and mountain bikes top the list. Roadsters and hybrids with practical features such as mudguards are less likely to be pinched.
A great way to prevent your best bike being stolen is to leave that at home and commute on something cheaper: a 'hack bike'. You can get a second bike through Cyclescheme once your first salary-sacrifice period has ended, or you could get two bikes at the same time if the combined prices are £1,000 or less. How about a utilitarian £300 workhorse and a £700 thoroughbred?
Alternatively, you can 'dress down' your better-quality bike to make it look more like a hack bike. Electrical tape or old innertube wrapped around the frame tubes to cover logos makes the bike look tatty and is a good bike theft deterrent.
A great way to prevent your best bike being stolen is to leave that at home and commute on something cheaper: a 'hack bike'. You can get a second bike through Cyclescheme once your first salary-sacrifice period has ended. Or you could get two bikes at the same time if the combined prices are £1,000 or less. How about a utilitarian £300 workhorse and a £700 thoroughbred? Alternatively, you can 'dress down' your better-quality bike to make it look more like a hack bike. Electrical tape or old innertube wrapped around the frame tubes to cover logos makes the bike look tattier and can deter opportunistic thieves.
Outdoors: Lock It or Lose It
Whenever you park your bike outside, even if it's only for a minute, secure it with a good bike lock. Lightweight cable locks are only useful for things like rural cafe stops, or to augment other locks. The best way to lock a bike in high-crime areas is to use two locks of different types: a
D-lock and a chain. That forces the thief to take more time and use more tools.
However there’s more you should be doing to protect your bike outside than simply locking it up.
Select a parking place in clear public view so any potential thief can't work unobserved.
Lock your bike through the frame to a solid piece of street furniture.
Make sure the anchor point is a closed loop; it's no good if the bike can be lifted over the top of a post.
With a D-lock, lock the frame low down and make the interior of the 'D' inaccessible. This makes it hard for a thief to use a pry-bar or jack.
With a chain, wrap it repeatedly so it's taut. Loose chains are easier to cut with bolt croppers.
Parts and Accessories
The wheels and seatpost (and thus the saddle) are vulnerable on bikes that employ quick-release levers. These can be undone in moments without tools – as can through-axle hubs.
One option is to remove the front wheel, place it alongside the bike, and arrange the D-lock shackle or chain so that both wheels, the bike's seat tube, and the anchor point, are all locked together.
But what about preventing bike seat theft?
You'll have to carry the saddle and seatpost away, or cable them to the frame through the saddle rails. The removed wheel skewer goes in your bag.
A better option for any bike that will often be locked up outdoors is to use more secure fittings. Some bikes, such as singlespeeds and bikes with hub gears, already have axle nuts that can only be undone with a spanner.
On other bikes, quick release wheel skewers can be replaced with hex-keyed Allen bolt skewers. Better still are security skewers from the likes of Pinhead or Pitlock. These require a special 'key' to undo.
Anything that isn't bolted to the bike needs to go with you. For example: battery lights, computer, water bottle, pump, seat-pack, and any other luggage.
Getting a Stolen Bike Back
If your bike is stolen, the odds of getting it back are not great. Here’s what to do if your bike is stolen:
1. Report your stolen bike to the police
The first step is to report the fact your bike has been stolen to the police by calling 101. You can also find your local station by visiting http://www.police.uk/.
Ideally, you need to know the make, model and frame number. You should also tell police if the bike has been marked and registered to BikeRegister, the national cycle database, as this will increase the chances of the police being able to trace your stolen bike back to you if it is recovered.
2. Report the theft to BikeRegister
BikeRegister is the UK's leading online bicycle identification and registration initiative aiming to reduce cycle theft, identify stolen bicycles, and assist in owner recovery. It is the UK's largest cycle database and is used by every police force in the country. If your bike is registered with BikeRegister, they can help you get the word out about your stolen bike to their community members via social media. You can register here and also report your bike as stolen at: www.bikeregister.com
3. Report the theft to your insurer
A dedicated cycle policy usually offers a better deal than general household insurance, which may only cover bikes up to a certain value. If you’ve got bike insurance, you’ll need to report the theft to your insurer within 24 hours of discovery. The crime reference number the police will give you, combined with a receipt for your bike will help you make a claim.
4. Alert second hand bike shops
Contact second hand bike shops in your area and let them know the details of the stolen bike in case the thief comes into the shop and tries to offer the bike for sale.
5. Put up flyers
Hey, it’s worth a shot! A few well-placed flyers in your local neighbourhood could help find your bike. Depending on how important your bike is to you, you may consider offering a reward.
6. What to do if you spot your stolen bike for sale
There are countless stories about people who spot their stolen bike for sale on online auction sites. However, meeting up with the seller can be dangerous and is not advisable.
If you find yourself in this situation, contact the seller of the bike via text message and arrange a meeting. Then, contact the police and tell them where you’ll be meeting the thief. The police can’t pose as buyers, but they can act on information about a thief and have been known to intervene in these circumstances
Before considering locks and security, make sure you have adequate insurance in place should the worst happen and your bike is stolen. Don’t assume that your household insurance will cover your bikes as often the value is limited or you have to declare the bikes and pay an extra premium. Check what security your policy calls for, whether it covers your bike away from home and that you’re meeting these criteria. Many insurance companies will specify a Sold Secure rating for any locks you use. Cycleguard are Cyclescheme’s preferred cycle insurance provider and can help make sure cyclists have the cover they need, with cover for bike theft as standard and the option to protect cycle accessories up to £500 as well.
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