How to Protect Your Bike from Thieves in 4 Steps


My bike is extremely basic. It cost me £120 new and is probably now worth a generous £40. But, that hasn’t stopped people trying to steal it before, as you can see from the picture below.

Cut Bike Lock

(Some thieves are cretins. In this case, they managed to cut off my cheap spare lock that wasn’t actually attached to anything, while my solid D-lock looked after my bike.)

Fortunately for me, nobody has successfully made off with my entire bike yet (although they have managed to enjoy my front wheel and rear light before now). But that’s not to say they won’t in the future…

Bikes are an easy target for thieves. They – generally at least – aren’t particularly hard to steal and don’t have alarms or registration plates. Unless you’ve locked your bike up with a series of D-locks like a daisy chain most bikes are – as depressing as it is – pretty simple to steal within just a few minutes or even seconds.

Extremely Secure Bike with Many Locks

And getting your bike back is, at best, unlikely, with thieves quickly selling them on either in their entirety or as separate parts. Passersby also tend not to notice people stealing bikes, as most people assume it is that person’s property and they are simply fiddling with the lock.

See an interesting social experiment below as to how long it can take for someone to notice and approach a potential bike thief.

Although there are a few nice stories about people leaving notes to bike thieves and occasionally having their bicycles returned.

Dear Bicycle Thief

Sad Bicycle Theft Facts

  • A bicycle is stolen nearly every minute in the UK
  • Only 5% of stolen bikes make it back to their owner
  • 20,000 bikes are reported stolen in London alone each year

Okay. Everybody feeling suitably depressed and down-trodden? Me too.

But, will we just sit back and let people take our stuff? And not just our stuff, but our bloody bicycles!?

No!? I didn’t think so. VIVA LÁ CYCLING RESISTANCE!

So what options do we have? Well, quite a few actually. Some old classics as well as some fancy new ideas. And it’s not necessarily a choice of one or the other, a combination of methods will enhance your fight. Think of it a bit like mixed-martial arts: would you rather fight the guy that can box a bit or the Jiu-Jitsu master who also has a taste for Muay Thai, kickboxing and Judo?

Locks

When it comes to creating a physical blockade to stopping some scallywag having off with your wheels, there’s still not much better than a good old lock, or should that be locks.

Below you can see a great video from LCC about how you should – and should not – lock up your bike.

Key points to locking your bike:

  • Two solid – ideally gold Sold Secure rated – locks
  • D-locks or specially hardened chains tend to be best
  • Spend around 10-20% of your bike’s worth on locks is recommended
  • Secure both wheels
  • Secure frame to something immovable
  • Secure or remove any valuable accessories
  • Try to avoid leaving your bike in the same place every day

I tend to use a d-lock for my day-to-day cycling, but I have been punished for not secure my wheels before, as you can see below. Pretty annoying.

Stolen Bicycle Wheel

If you have quick-release wheels, you really should secure them – particularly if they’re worth a few quid. You can replace the quick release mechanism with wheel skewers, or alternatively – or jointly – you should lock both wheels to your frame when you’re parked – especially the front wheel as this is the easiest to remove.

Bicycle wheel Skewer

Dependent on where you park your bike, you can normally use two d-locks to secure your whole bike. One attached to your wheel and frame, with the other securing your back wheel to your frame and whatever it is you’re locking it to. Use your best lock to secure the bike to whatever you’re attaching it to.

If you also have a quick release saddle, then London Cyclist wrote a great post last year on how you can secure it, either with an old chain, a cable lock or a seat lock.

Try not to leave your bike in the same place every day – potential thieves will be alert to this and recognise when it will be safer for them to try and take your bike.

Remember: Always lock your bike up – even if you’re just popping into the shop for a minute. Don’t let the opportunist thief take your wheels.

Think like the thief – my friend lost the key to his d-lock a while ago and managed to smash it off with a rock that was lying nearby. While he got his bike home, this is a clear sign that his lock was not good enough. Think how you would steal your bike if you needed to. If you can think of a way, so can any potential thief.

Recommended locks:

The Best

Gold Rated: Kryptonite New York 3000 – approx. £55

Gold Rated: Abus  Granit-54 X-Plus – £50-100 (depending on size)

Mid-Range

Silver Rated: Abus Sinus Plus D-Lock and Cable Set – £26.99

Abus U-Grip 585 Chain Lock – £25.19

Bronze Rated: Abus Facilo 32 30cm D-Shackle Lock – £20.99

My cheap and – as yet – undefeated lock

B’TWIN 720 D-Lock – £17.99

Bike-Lock ABUS

GPS Tracking

Okay, so maybe you locked your bike with two gold star d-locks against a iron-clad post, or maybe you just popped a lightweight lock on it – just this once – and that dreaded moment has arrived. You’ve returned to where you left your bike and it’s… “I did leave it here, didn’t I?” “I’m sure I did…” “$%*&!!!!”.  Some little twerp has had off with it. Maybe he had a chain saw, maybe he picked the lock. Either way, the bike is gone. Is that the end of it? Maybe…

…or, you have invested in a GPS Tracker (and it must be said that this can be a BIG investment – usually in excess of £90 – so only really worth it for high-end bicycles.)

Covert GPS Trackers come in various shapes and forms. Some look like bicycle accessories, while some can be inserted into tubes.

Essentially, if your bicycle goes on a journey without your say so, you can monitor it using the GPS linked to your computer or mobile – helping you – or the police – to track down your bike and unsuspecting thief.

GPS Tracking Options:

Spybike – £92.50-97.50

  • Comes in various covert forms: Top cap, light, seatpost
  • Sends an SMS is movement is detected
  • Track online/mobile

Helios – approx. £200

  • Replace handlebars on your bike
  • Built-in headlights/rear LEDS
  • Stylish design
  • Bluetooth capability for smart features (speedometer, navigation etc)
  • Turn signals

Register Your Bike

If you want to stand any chance of retrieving your bike in case you’re ever unfortunate enough to have it stolen, then you NEED to register it. Otherwise, even if you see someone with your bike, it can be very hard to prove that it is actually yours.

You can do this at Bike Register for free. If your bike is stolen, you can then flag it us as so, with Police Forces across the country having access to the database. This also restricts the thieves opportunity to sell it on, especially over the internet, and allows buyers of second-hand bikes to check whether the bike they intend on purchasing has been listed as stolen.

There are also various ways to ‘mark’ your bike, some of which you can pay for – such as QR Codes. But you can also mark your own bicycle by – carefully – engraving your name under the frame (this can be done delicately with a drill) – so that a simple paint job won’t be able to hide this – or with a UV marker pen.

Andy-Toy-Story

Insurance

Unfortunately, only the blindingly ignorant could ever say something –especially a bicycle – is theft proof. There’s always a way.  So the final frontier in protecting your bike, doesn’t actually protect your bike. But, if the worst comes to the worse, it will replace your bike: Insurance.

Many home insurance policies will allow you to include your bicycle, but you should check with your own insurance company that this is the case.

There are various companies to check out when it comes to specialist bicycle insurance, some will protect your bicycle, while some will also cover injury to you as well. There are loads of companies to check out, but CyclePlan are well worth a look (and currently have 20% off), as well as Evans Cycles Insurance and CTC.

So, there we have it. Outwit the thief to keep your bicycle in your life.

Do you have any other tips or tricks to protect your bike? Comment below.

Funny Bike Lock

Image by Jack Hebert


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2 thoughts on “How to Protect Your Bike from Thieves in 4 Steps

  • Peter Morgan

    Thanks for a great post – I’ll definitely be investing in a second D-lock to secure both wheels and my frame. I’ve never realized how poor cheap coil locks are till I forgot my key on a cycle tour and had to rip through my own back up lock with a pair of pliers at the airport – only took a few minutes.