Wondering how to stop your bike being stolen? There’s no guaranteed way. But there are lots of things you can do to make it less likely.
Sadly we’ve experienced a bunch of bike thefts in the area around Singletrack Towers. We’ve had bikes stolen, as have riding friends. We’ve also had some near misses. We don’t like to sound too dramatic, but bike theft isn’t confined to just breaking into sheds under cover of darkness, or lopping locks on unattended bikes at the supermarket. Some of the scenarios we’ve seen recently are rather more immediate, so make sure you stay safe and remember it is a bike. In the event of a robbery, your own well-being should come before that of your bike, no matter how much you love it.
Based on our real life experience, here are some measures you could consider taking to decrease your chances of being a victim of theft.
On a ride
1. Look out for being followed
Whether you’re driving home with bikes on the car, or riding home straight from the trails, look out for people following you home. That might be a little easier if you live down a private land or up a cul-de-sac. Make a note of any licence plate, and call it in to the police on 101 if you suspect thieves are checking you out for a theft. Maybe they’re going to make a grab for your bike as you go to unlock the garage, or maybe they’re spotting where you live so they can come back at a time that suits them.
2. Secure your Strava
Don’t leave a digital trail to your home, or work, or other regular ride end points. Set a privacy zone so that you’re not leading thieves straight to your door. Strava might invite you to list the bike you’re on, but do you really want to be giving thieves a menu?
3. Don’t use Strava on a regular group ride
If you end your regular ride in a regular spot – the pub maybe – add the location to your privacy zone. Otherwise you’re advertising to thieves that every Tuesday there’s a big pile of bikes at the Red Lion. Make Strava secrecy – or other route tracking app – a rule for your group rides.
4. Mix up your routes
Especially if you ride alone, you may want to consider mixing up the routes you do (while not forgetting to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back). If you’re predictably to be found riding down that quiet back lane at the same time every Sunday morning, you’re making it a lot easier for thieves to corner you and rob you.
After a ride
5. Tell your friends not to have Strava leading to you
Maybe your house is a hub for friends dropping in after a ride for a cup of tea, or before it. Maybe you store a friend’s bike in your shed? Make sure they switch off any route tracking and keep your house secret.
6. Don’t leave your bike on your car
Don’t leave your bike even for a couple of minutes. That’s all it takes to whip your bike off the rack and clear off with it.
7. Lock your bike to a fixed thing, not another bike
You might think that locking your bikes together is secure enough, but as we’ve seen, aggressive thieves can bundle them together and drive off with them. It’s not just the thief on foot with a pair of bolt croppers you’ve got to watch out for. Make sure your bikes are locked to an immovable object.
8. Lock your bike in a really public place
It’s tempting to lock your bike out the way so no one will spot it in the first place. The reality is that gives a thief lots of cover while they saw through your lock, or dismantle your bike and make off with your wheels, brakes, bar, stem… leaving you to come back to a sadly stripped frame. Lock your bike in as public a place as you can, looking for good lighting, CCTV, and plenty of human eyeballs.
Improve your security
9. Know your neighbours
Do your neighbours know when you’re away? Do they have your number if they suspect something is up? Would they challenge someone or take a photo of a suspicious vehicle or person? If you suspected you’d been followed, could you ask them to keep an eye out over the coming days? It’s worth being friendly with your neighbours – you don’t have to go the whole hog and join a formal neighbourhood watch (though you could).
10. Make life difficult
Use multiple locks, make it difficult to get in and out of your garage, put a crap bike you don’t care so much about on the top of the pile. The more difficult it is for thieves to get to the good stuff, the more chance there is that they’ll give up, or be disturbed in the process.
11. Fit ground anchors
Locking your bike to a ground anchor is a really great way to slow down progress, especially if you can use a great big chain to go with it. Not only is a chain tough to get through, it covers the bolts and helps prevent the ground anchor from being drilled out.
12. Keep your tools away from your bikes
Don’t leave your bolt croppers or your hacksaw sitting out waiting to free your bikes for you.
13. Keep your keys somewhere out of sight
Don’t leave the keys to your garage, or bike locks, just inside your front door, neatly in a bowl waiting for a thief to grab them and let themselves in. Keep your keys out of sight.
Prepare for the worst
OK, so if all that doesn’t work, here are a few things you can do that will make it easier to get your bike back, get the police on the case, or get your insurance to pay out.
14. Write down you frame numbers, and serial numbers on any expensive forks or shocks.
Go and do this now! Now! It won’t stop your bike being nicked, but it will make it easier to prove it’s yours if it gets stolen.
15. Fit a tracking device
If your bike gets stolen, a tracking device may help you locate where it is, especially if you later manage to track down a suspect seller. If your tracker tells you your bike is in a property, it’s going to be very hard for them to deny the police access, or for them to claim it’s not yours.
16. Insure your bike, and check terms
Is your bike actually insured? Your current bike, with the carbon wheel upgrade – not the one you had last year, or with the old wheels on it. Do you have to lock it with a certain standard of lock, or behind a certain type of door for your insurance to pay out? Don’t find out after the event that your insurer won’t pay out due to a technicality.
17. Take photos or videos of your bike, describe components, scratches, non stock things.
Again, it won’t help you stop your bike being stolen, but it might help you get it back. You can use the pictures to help people look out for your bike, and the video is a handy way of reminding yourself – and the police or public – what distinctive features might highlight it as being yours, rather than someone else’s.
18. Consider video or Facebook Live if you catch a theft in progress (though stay safe while you do!)
If you do catch a theft in progress, video evidence is a great way to link thieves to the crime. All too often, if a bike is recovered there’s no means of connecting the person with it to the actual theft. Plus, if they’re being filmed, they might just get scared off and make a run for it.
Hopefully, armed with these tips on how to stop your bike being stolen, you won’t become the unhappy victim of bike theft. Don’t sit there and think it’ll never happen to you – because once it does, it’s usually too late. The recovery and prosecution rates are low.
- If you see a crime in progress, or someone’s following you, call 999.
- If you realise after the event that you’ve seen something suspicious, call 101.
- findthatbike.co.uk is a handy site for keeping an eye on adverts for bikes that might be yours.
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