How to Prevent Bike Theft: 17 Priceless Bicycle Security Tips

Woman locking bike with text: "Make your bike unstealable"

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For those of you that have had your bike stolen, you’ll know how irritating it is. 

Perhaps you only left it unattended for a brief moment when you thought it was safe. Maybe you even locked it and thought that it would be secure, only to return to a broken chain and an empty space where your bike used to be.

In this article, we’re first going to look at some of the reasons why bike theft is so common. 

Then, we’ll get into the mind of the bike thief by looking through their eyes at potential weaknesses in your security system.

Finally, we’ll give you 17 tips on not only how to prevent bike theft, but we’ll also look at the steps that you can take to increase your chances of a quick recovery and a return to two wheels.

Why is Bicycle Theft So Common?

Bicycle theft is so common because of the combination of opportunity and value. They are often targets of theft due to poor security measures, such as low quality and easily penetrable locks, a high resale value and, unfortunately, a low rate of prosecution. 

According to an analysis by Lawtons, only 1% of bike thefts lead to prosecution. This is understandably maddening to cyclists, who are too often left to fork out for a replacement bike all without punishment for the perpetrator.

So if bike theft is so tempting to prospective criminals, what is it that makes a bike more tempting to a potential thief, and what do thieves look for when deciding what to take?

What Do Bike Thieves Look For?

Bike thieves look for, ultimately, the bikes which are the easiest to steal. They are most interested in bikes which are poorly secured, valuable, or left in a location with low visibility. Employing proper locking practices and parking in visible areas are the easiest deterrents. 

Whilst it is often the case that the higher the value of the bike the higher the risk of theft, the predominant cause of bike theft is opportunity. The easier it is to steal a bike, the more likely it is to be stolen. 

How Do Most Bikes Get Stolen?

Most bikes get stolen due to their locks being broken or the bike being left unattended, even for a brief period. To deter and prevent bike theft, invest in quality locks, secure them properly to an immovable object and avoid leaving your bike out of sight of cameras and passers-by.

The type of lock is a big factor. In 2020, 49% of bikes stolen in England and Wales were locked with just a chain, cable or a shackle. These are often targeted by thieves as they are prone to cutting with bolt cutters or ‘leverage attacks’, where force is used to split weak links apart. 

image credit: lawrence goozee

You’d also probably be surprised to find out that more than half of the bikes stolen in 2020 were stolen from homes, whilst only 9% are taken directly from the street. The lesson to learn from this? Your home is perhaps not as secure as you may think. 

17 Bicycle Security Tips

At this point you’re probably beginning to despair, but fear not! Here are 17 tips on how to increase the levels of security for bicycles and prevent bike theft. 

1. Know How to Lock Your Bike

There’s no use in investing in good locks if you don’t know how to use them.

We recommend, at the very least, using the Sheldon Brown technique. Position your bike next to a fixed object, insert a D-Lock through the rear wheel rim, between the rear triangle of the bike frame and around the fixed object. This protects the two most valuable parts of your bike.

Image Credit: Lawrence Goozee

The key is to leave as little wiggle room as possible, minimising the space for any thieves to use their tools. Make sure the key access to the lock is facing down and give it a firm tug to make sure it’s securely locked. 

2. Lock Both Wheels and the Frame

Locking your bike doesn’t just mean securing the frame. Whilst you should generally lock in order of value (frame, back wheel, front wheel), you’ll want to secure as much of your bike as possible. 

Securing both wheels of the bike and the frame to an immovable object can protect opportune thieves from stealing parts. This is especially true for bikes with quick release wheels. Of course, you’re probably going to need more than one lock to do this effectively.

3. Secure Quick Release Parts

Quick release parts, such as the wheels and the seat, are often easy targets for thieves as they can be removed in just a matter of seconds. If your seat is attached with a quick release mechanism, it’s only a matter of time until an opportune thief will take advantage.

For quick release wheels, we’d advise to at least lock the wheels and the frame together. This is normally done with a secondary ‘cable’ lock, where the frame is used as an anchor point and both wheels are locked to it. 

However, a safer option is to replace the quick release mechanism with either security skewers or locking nuts, both of which require specific tools to use.

As for the seat, use at least a non-quick release seat clamp that requires at least basic tools to open. This is not foolproof by any means, but certainly adds another layer of protection. 

A better solution still is to invest in a lockable seat clamp which requires manufacturer specific tools to open. This makes stealing the seat an arduous process; a great deterrent indeed.

4. Choose Secure Locks

Invest in good locks. It’s far too common that we see valuable bikes secured with locks that just won’t do the job. If you’re concerned about the cost of good locks, bear in mind, they’re significantly less than the cost of a replacement bicycle. 

There is an enormous variety available, from those resistant to angle grinders, to smart locks that can let you know on your mobile when your bike is being tampered with.

Image credit: Lawrence goozee

Using a number of different locks is a great way of protecting your bike from theft. Cycling unfortunately comes with the risk of bike theft, so it’s always worth considering your locking system as part of the cost of your bicycle

5. Double Up on Locks

Whilst one good lock will probably suffice for a short trip to the shop, if you plan on leaving your bike unattended for a prolonged period using two different locks, such as a D-lock combined with a cable lock, is an excellent way to protect your bike. 

It isn’t just that there are more locks to break for thieves, but also that different types of locks may require different tools and methods to break. Having a combination of different locks is a great way to complicate the process for the would-be thief, and is another great deterrent. 

6. Lock to Fixed Objects

When locking your bike, make sure to choose a sturdy, immovable object, such as a bike rack or a post.

It is essential that you make sure that what you’re locking your bike to isn’t already broken and cannot be easily manipulated. And just because it’s fixed doesn’t mean your bike can’t be stolen. If the bike can be lifted along with the lock, for example above a freestanding post, don’t put it past a bike thief to give it a try. 

Image Credit: lawrence goozee

A great solution for home, or maybe even the workplace, is a wall or ground anchor. These can be bolted or concreted into the wall or the floor, providing a great and secure base to lock your bike to. This is well worth doing, even when leaving it at home.

7. Stickers

Stickers and duct tape are a great way to prevent bike theft for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, you can use them to cover up any brand logos. Expensive branded bikes are more likely to be stolen than cheaper ones. If you’re fortunate enough to have a premium, it might be worth concealing any branding as it could draw unwanted attention.

You can also use them to make your bike more distinguishable, that is to say, more recognisable. Whilst stickers and tape are removable, they do make a bike more individual and may make it easier to spot, especially if your thief is trying to make a quick sale online after the crime.

8. Use a Bike Cover 

Taking concealment one step further, a lockable bike cover can disguise the appearance and brand of your bike. 

As the old saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Thieves are more likely to focus on easily accessible bikes and may be tempted by another more visible target, especially if the brand and value of yours can’t be easily discerned. 

They also provide a layer of obstruction by adding an extra layer of difficulty to the crime. A lockable bike cover is a great additional element to your security system, deterring the potential thief as they would need to remove the cover before dealing with any other potential measures.

9. Choose a Spot with Good Visibility

When it comes to leaving your bike unattended, an area with good visibility will help to keep it in sight of not just people, but of surveillance systems as well. 

Whilst the concealment of a bike cover could work in your favour, leaving your bike in a dimly lit spot will not. The darkness is a perfect cover for a potential thief to hide themselves whilst they get to work on stealing your bike. Keep your bike in a well lit location, especially if you plan on leaving it out at night.

Consider also locking your bike near security cameras. This not only deters theft (as the perpetrator risks being caught in the act!), but can also make the criminals easier to identify afterwards if they are successful in stealing it. 

10. Opt for High-Traffic Areas

Lock your bike in areas with a high amount of foot traffic. Bike thieves generally want to work discreetly, without drawing too much attention to themselves. By opting for an area where lots of people pass, the number of potential witnesses increases.

When locking your bike outside, public spaces like parks, shopping centres and train stations can be a good option. These places normally have a high amount of foot traffic and dedicated parking facilities for bicycles, meaning that your bike should be more secure than in other discreet locations.

11. Store Indoors Whenever Possible

Whenever possible, store your bike indoors. A bike which is more difficult to access will be more secure than one which anyone can interact with. 

When at home, lock your bike inside your house or your garage. Generally, it’s better to avoid keeping your bike in communal areas in an apartment block as it’s exposed to more people on a regular basis. 

If you’re cycling to work, try to keep your bike inside if the company allows it. It’s worth speaking to management or HR for guidance on where the most secure and convenient places are to leave your bike. If there aren’t any, perhaps it’s a good idea to suggest some. 

12. Vary Your Parking Spots

For those leaving their bikes outside, it’s a good idea to vary where you park your bike. This is especially true if you’re keeping it in a particularly visible location.

Whilst some bike thieves are less discriminating, taking any bike that they can on the street, others are more calculated. Potential thieves often observe patterns and routines and if you park your bike in the same location it makes it easier for them to plan the theft. This is especially true if you have a particularly expensive or notable bike. 

It’s also a good idea to vary your spots so that you can find better places to park your bike, noting which ones are maintained well and are potentially more secure. 

13. Remove Valuables and Accessories

Remove anything that’s valuable and can easily be taken, such as panniers and lights.

Bike thieves aren’t picky, they’ll take whatever they can get their hands on. You should remove expensive bags – even if they’re empty – before leaving your bike. Just think, if you weren’t cycling, would you leave a £50+ bag unattended on the street?

Accessories that can easily be removed and kept with you whilst you go about your day always should be. 

14. Register Your Bike

Register details with local authorities and online databases.

Many cities across the UK have online bike databases where you can log your bike’s details. You can often find these in your workplace, your university if you’re a student or even with your bike lock manufacturer. In the case of theft, police can usually gain access to this information, making it easier to track down your bike.

When registering your bike, you’ll want to make note of your serial number, brand and model and your contact information. It’s also not a bad idea to regularly take photos either.

15. Insure Your Bike

Insure your bike to avoid the stress of the aftermath of a bike theft.

Usually, you can add some essential insurance cover to your bike under homeowners insurance. However, consider going one step further.

Commuter bike insurance is a great way to give yourself some piece of mind. If you couldn’t easily replace your bike if it was stolen, it’s probably worth spending a few quid extra a month. As a bonus, some policies also include coverage to insure either yourself or others if you’re involved in an accident.

16. Track Your Bike

Install a GPS tracker to help increase the chance of recovering it if it’s stolen.

A GPS tracker uses global position technology to determine the exact location of an object. This is normally connected to a central server or a mobile app, allowing you to see precisely where your bike is.

GPS trackers are easy to install and are usually discreet, meaning they’re easy to conceal. There might also be some benefits to your insurance policy if you invest in one.

17. Change Your Bike

If all else fails, maybe consider changing your bike. 

An expensive bike will always be attractive to a bike thief. A cheaper bike, whilst not immune, is a less attractive target, drawing less attention and having a lower resale value.

If you commute on your expensive mountain bike, maybe it’s worth purchasing a cheaper, second hand bike for the task instead. This way, you’ll be less disappointed if it’s damaged or stolen, and you can keep your premium cycle safe for your weekends.

How to Prevent Bike Theft

The best way to prevent bike theft is to deter a bike thief. Invest in good locks, know how to lock your bike, be vigilant, and be prepared in the case of a prospective theft with insurance and a GPS tracker. 

Unfortunately, no bike lock guarantees absolute protection, so it is important to evaluate your whole security system and know where to keep it. Stay informed about bike crime in your local area, invest in quality protection, and, ultimately, think like a thief in order to protect yourself from one. 

READ MORE: Most Secure Bike Locks in the World (RANKED)

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