Bikes are easy to resell, hard to identify and they are their own getaway vehicle, so it is not hard to see why an immense amount of bikes are stolen each year. It is hard to get a firm number but it is estimated somewhere between 750k and 2 million bikes are stolen in the United States alone.
With some very simple steps, you can help make sure your bike is not stolen and if so make sure you are part of the 5% of people that end up getting their bike back.
Document Your Bike
According to BicycleLaw.com, around 50% of stolen bikes are recovered by police but only 5% are ever returned back to the owners. It is important that if you report your bike stolen that you have the information needed to make sure you are part of that 5%.
Every bike will have a serial number on several places. Make sure to record this number the day you purchase your bike. Store this number with your other documents such as receipt/invoice and pictures of your bike. The serial number is your only 100% method of uniquely identifying your bike, spend the 30 seconds to write it down. If you are lazy like I am simply take pictures of the serial number and bike and store that in a folder on your computer and phone.
Register Your Bike
At the very least make sure you register your bike with a nationwide registry. You can also register the bike with the company you bought it from and a lot of cities now a days are getting their own local registry.
Home Owner / Renter’s Insurance
Make sure to add your bike to your home owner or renter’s insurance policy. If you do not get your bike back, at least you can get yourself a new one. This kind of coverage comes standard with most policies, you just have to remember to add it to the policy.
Personalize Your Bike
Personalizing your bike to help it from being stolen has a number of benefits. Similar to having security lights on your house to have thieves rob your neighbors house instead of yours, having a unique looking bike will help do the same.
Making your bike easy to identify will speed things up if you need to look for it. Nobody wants to be the guy that falsely accuses the dude on Craigslist of being a bike thief and be wrong.
Easiest method is going to be stickers. Like to drink or travel? Get yourself some stickers and start slapping those on your bike. If you want the stickers to hold up, wash the area first and then hit it with a layer of poly. Those things will last forever and like putting a bunch of bumper stickers on your car, they will for sure be noticed.
Paint is also a good choice, but that can make it look more gaudy sometimes. If you have a generic looking bike though, a little bit of color never hurt anybody.
Lock Your Bike up Correctly
This not only involved locking your bike up in a way that makes it hard to steal but also always making sure you lock up your bike. Most bikes end up being stolen even though they were left unattended “only for a minute”. It only takes seconds to take your bike, lock it up if that bike will not be in your possession.
Get The Right Lock
If you want to actually deter a thief from taking your bike, there are really only two lock types for you to consider.
- Heavy duty U-Lock
- Heavy duty chain and lock combination
You are welcome to use a cable lock or a light duty chain but know that these are really only for show and can be cut in seconds. A cable lock is useful in making it slightly more difficult if you use it with a u-lock as your primary lock. If you are in a high risk area I would suggest getting both a u-lock and a chain + lock combination. Using both will usually encourage a bike thief to move on to easier steal bikes.
Proper Locking Technique
Now that you have the right lock it is important to know how to use it. We have all walked by and seen a bike where the only thing left is the front wheel that is still locked to the bike rack but everything else is gone.
When locking your bike up, you want to look for something unmovable that you can easily get your locks around. A bike rack is the obvious choice as long as it is securely bolted to the ground. Failing to find a bike rack you want something that is attached to cement or that can not be easily dismantled or cut. Thieves have been known to remove the sign from a traffic pole and slide the whole bike up and over the pole. Similar issue with small trees or wooden structures, if they already have a hack saw to cut through a lock, its nothing to just use that hack saw to cut through a small tree.
Pick a well lit area for locking up your bike with a decent amount of walk by traffic.
When locking your bike, try to leave as little extra room as possible between your lock and what you are locking too. You do not want to give them leverage to easily get their cutters into your lock.
One of the features of most bikes is the ability to easily remove the wheels off of a bike. This is really nice in a lot of circumstances but really not that great if you would like your wheels to not be stolen off of your bike. If you are in a high risk area I would suggest switching out your quick release on your wheels with locking skewers instead.