How to stop your bike from being stolen
How to stop your bike from being stolen
Bike security is a serious concern for cyclists and anyone who's thinking of taking up cycling - thousands of machines are stolen every year.
According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales victimisation survey, there were an estimated 288,000 incidents of bicycle theft between April 2017 and March 2018, it's a lot but is down about 54% on 1995.
Not every bike theft incident is reported to or recorded by the police. Over the same period, the police recorded 100,000 bicycle theft crimes.
The sad thing about bike theft is that stolen cycles are hardly ever recovered and research by University College London shows many people just give up cycling when their bike is taken.
If you cannot park your bike behind a locked door whenever you leave it, you need a bike lock. Some locks are truly awful. Some cable locks can just be cut with a pair of scissors. U-locks with cylindrical keys have famously been picked with a Biro pen top, forcing a mass recall by a manufacturer. And very cheap U-locks can be sawn through with a junior hacksaw in minutes.
While any lock is better than no lock, it helps to be aware of the level of protection you’re buying.
In the UK locks can be – but aren’t required to be – tested by Sold Secure, a not-for-profit company administered by the Master Locksmiths Association. They rate locks Bronze, Silver or Gold in ascending order of security. The locks should hold out for one, three and five minutes respectively against progressively more determined and tooled-up attacks.
Even without power tools, a thief with big bolt croppers or a stubby bottle jack can break open Gold-rated locks in under a minute. That doesn’t mean locks are useless. Most will stop an opportunist thief and good ones can make it hard enough work for professional thieves that they’ll look for easier pickings.
How do I lock my bike?
The key, (if you’ll excuse the pun), is to use the lock wisely. First of all: always use it. If you turn your back on your bike even for a few seconds, lock it. Lots of cyclists have just nipped into a shop only to find their bike gone on coming out. Without a lock, anyone can steal your bike. If it’s locked, only lock-breakers can attempt it.
Lock it through the frame to a solid, immovable object such as a bike stand or iron railings. Make sure the object is a closed loop, so the thief can’t lift the bike over the top, and don’t use anything flimsy or the thief will cut that instead of the lock.
If you’re using a U-lock, it’s better to lock the bike low down around the bottom bracket or seat-tube rather than over the top-tube, where the thief can get at it easily. Fill the shackle of the lock with as much bike and street furniture as will fit, leaving as little daylight in the lock as possible. It makes the lock harder to attack. A shorter, narrower lock is harder to attack than a big one, though it is more awkward to attach in some situations.
If you’re using a flexible lock such as a cable or a chain, wrap it in such a way to keep it fairly taut. Again, this makes it harder for the thief to attack it with cable cutters or bolt croppers.
Location, location, location
Thieves don’t like an audience, so lock your bike in a public place rather than down an alleyway. Try and lock your bike somewhere covered by CCTV. Always choose a place that is well lit.
More than half of all bike thefts are from the owners' property. At home, if you have space in your house, keep your bikes locked inside. If you use a shed or a garage, consider using a floor or wall-mounted anchor lock for extra security. A battery operated alarm for your shed is also a good idea to deter thieves. Buy a decent lock for your shed, one that can't just be unscrewed with a screwdriver.
What lock should I buy?
What else can I do?
What to do if your bike gets stolen
- If, despite your precautions, your bike does get stolen, report the theft to the police. Dial 999 if the theft is in progress.
- Dial the police non-emergency number 101 or visit the local police station if it has happened. It’s unlikely the police will catch the thief red-handed, but it’s a requirement of insurance policies. Don't forget to ask for a crime reference number. This will help you trace the progress of your case.
- If your cycle is stolen from a train or tube station call the British Transport Police on 0800 405 040.
- Check Ebay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace to see if it is being sold on. You can sign up for alerts for bikes that match your stolen bike's description.The bike may also be broken up and the parts sold on via these sites.
- Share the fact your bike has been stolen on Facebook and Twitter.
- Let your local bike shop know too, in case someone brings it in for repair.
Strava security top tip
Those who use dedicated fitness/sports apps to track their exercise should be aware that if the technology uses GPS tracking it’s very likely that your start/end point (home!) will be easy for people to identify if viewing your workout.
For those using Strava, one of the most popular apps for fitness tracking, a very useful option exists for you to hide your location within the Privacy Controls that exists in the Settings, as follows.
Enter the Settings screen within your Profile and open Privacy Controls
Within the Privacy Controls open the Privacy Zones screen and enter the location you wish to hide (e.g. post code of your home address)
You can set the radius of the address you wish to hide from 200m to 1km