Bike theft, unfortunately, is a common occurrence. Between April 2014 and March 2015, there were 381,000 reported incidents of bike theft in the UK. It might well be even higher than that as. Stolen-bikes.co.uk estimates that approximately 75% of people who have had their bike stolen do not report it to the police.
Read on for top tips, bike lock recommendations and where best to secure your bike.
Lock it up
Unsurprisingly, 58% of people hadn’t locked their bike when it was stolen. Your bike lock is the single most important tool against thieves – and clearly without one your bike is much more likely to be stolen – but with so many on the market, which one should you choose?
Barry Mason, noted cycling activist stated in a video for LondonCycling that a lot of bike theft is down to poor locking. He recommends having two good locks with a Sold Secure bronze, silver or gold rating.
It can be hard deciding which lock to use, so you may be tempted to purchase a cheap, light lock. However, this is a false economy. Here are our top tips on what kind of lock to buy:
- Don't just rely on flimsy cable locks: a thief can clip through them in seconds with a pair of shears or even rip them apart in some cases.
- Buy two locks and secure the bike frame and both wheels to an immovable object. When you lock the bike frame, make sure you do it lower down.
- Use two different locks - ideally by different brands. This means the thieves would need two different types of tools and are unlikely to be carrying both.
- Get a D-lock with a cable and one with a solid, meaty chain.
Richard Cantle, founder of Stolen Ride London, also recommends you “be extra vigilant if you notice any attempts to cut your bike locks, and never leave your bike if you return to it and find it has a puncture. It is a common technique to puncture a tyre to make you leave it overnight.”
Cycleplan, specialist cycle insurers, require you to have a Sold Secure approved lock to validate your policy. Cycleplan also recommends pairing the value of your bike with the standard of the lock, as this helpful table indicates.
|Bicycle Value||Minimum Sold Secure Lock Rating|
|£500 - £1,000||Silver|
Where you park your bike matters
Where you lock up your bike matters, whether it’s commuting, going for weekend rides or hitting the mountain trail. Your lock should be your last line of defence. You can lock up your bike, but if it’s secured to a short post that a thief can just lift your bike over – you may as well not have bothered.
Bike Register, the National Cycle Database, recommends you park your bike in a well-lit area, where it can be easily seen by passers-by.
“Make sure the locks go through the bike frame as well as both wheels and the post you are securing it to. Otherwise, a thief may steal the bike and leave the wheels behind. Also, make sure it isn’t possible to cut through the post, or for the bike to be lifted up over the top of it.”
If you use your bike for commuting and your place of work doesn’t have a secure bike area, don’t lock it up in the same place every day. Thieves take note of people’s habits and are more likely to target you if you are securing your bike in the same bike park or railings day after day.
If you don’t want your bike parked on the street, there might be other options, such as a secure bike park. Many railway stations have secure covered bike sheds, so your bike is also protected from the elements while not in use.
For example, Merseyrail, one of the biggest Merseyside railways, has free secure cycle storage at 56 of its 67 stations. These storage units are covered by CCTV and can only be accessed by a security fob.
Similarly, if you live in London, you may have seen ‘bike hangers’ popping up around the city. These secure, weather-proof bike storage units only take up half a parking space and can store up to six bikes at once.
Bike parking facilities vary from place to place so check with your council, bike shop, local train station or local cycling club to find out where your nearest secure bike park is. If it’s not an option, then take some advice from Stolen Ride’s Richard Cantle:
“If you are parking your bike every day in a high-risk London spot, consider having a separate cheaper bike for Monday to Friday. Keep your pride and joy at home for your weekend adventures.”
More than half of all cycle thefts in the UK occur in and around the victim’s home, most often stolen from gardens, and passageways between houses and outbuildings. To help minimise the risk of your bike being stolen from under your nose, here are some handy tips to secure it while at home:
- Lock the bike in a shed, garage or basement.
- Even when it’s locked in one of the above areas, secure it to something immovable using a Sold Secure approved lock. Guardian reporter Peter Walker for instance, installed a hefty ground anchor and attached his ‘small fleet’ of bikes to it with a long motorcycle chain.
- If you don’t have outside space to park your bike, you can buy a bike stand to secure your bike flat against the wall. There are also pulley systems that enable you to secure it to the ceiling or high up on a wall.
Register your bike
Register your bike on Bike Register: The National Cycle Database. By registering and marking your bike, it makes it a less attractive target for thieves. Plus, if it is stolen and then recovered by police, your bike can be returned to you.
It’s free to register your bike and your details are held on a secure online database, which all police forces in the UK can access. All you need to do is go to www.bikeregister.com, submit your details, mark your bike with the Bike Register security marking kit and then add a warning sticker to deter thieves.
Social media and cycling apps
It’s very tempting to post images of your bike and favourite regular rides on social media or cycling apps, but thieves can use this information to their advantage. Police are advising cyclists to be more discreet and keep their cycling habits to themselves.
For example, if you use Strava, the app’s GPS tracks and displays your exact route on the map. And if you’ve started from your home, then that helpful little red line will show anyone you share it with the exact location of your house. Strava does have the ability to create an exclusion zone around your home, though, so make sure you use it. Also, if you have synced your Strava account with Instagram, any images of your ride will be geo-tagged, so avoid posting images such as this. The same goes for Twitter and Facebook.
Here’s a summary of our top tips for how to keep your bike safe:
- Always use two approved locks, preferably from different manufacturers.
- A cheap cable lock is a false economy; buy the best locks you can afford.
- Lock your frame and both wheels to an immovable object.
- Make sure you remove all accessories such as lights. They’re an easy target for bike thieves.
- Register your bike: A registered bike is less likely to be targeted. Particularly one with a warning sticker.
- Avoid leaving your bike parked on the street in the evening or night time. This is when it’s most likely to get stolen.
- Don’t post your ride locations or bike information on social media or cycling apps.
- When possible, use secure bike parking.
- Make sure your bike is secured in a shed, garage, bike storage or inside your property when it’s at home.
For peace of mind, always insure your bike. Don’t assume that your home contents insurance will cover it either. Only 5% of contents insurance policies will cover your bike while it’s outside of the home, so if you’re regularly using it, then specialist bike insurance is vital.
"Specialist insurance is easy to forget, but is very important if you have a high-value bike," said Richard Cantle. "I chose to take a risk and not insure mine and it left me unable to afford another bike for a long time after it was stolen!"
When looking for a policy, make sure it covers you when you’re out and about, has ‘new for old' cover and will protect you if you have an accident.
If you are a regular commuter, have a high-value bike or are a mountain biker, then the risk of theft, damage or loss makes insurance an even more important consideration.
Cycleplan’s insurance policies include ‘New for Old’ replacement of lost, damaged or stolen bikes up to three years old. Cycleplan also offers protection against personal accidents, and Public Liability cover if you’re out and about. Worldwide cover is also available, should you wish to take your bike on holiday.