Cycle security tips

Reducing the risk of bicycle theft

updated 20th June 2013

The same tips apply whatever type of bike you have – cheap or expensive, child’s, adult’s, BMX, touring, racing, road, town, mountain, hybrid, folding, recumbent, electric or motor-assisted, tandem – or even a trike or an ordinary (the proper name for a penny farthing, in case you were wondering).

  1. Don’t knowingly buy a stolen bike, as that feeds the crime business. Ask the seller for the frame number, then you could ask the police, or check on various databases of stolen goods, such as Checkmend or Bike Register’s home page (scroll to the bottom). Of course, if the bike’s not listed, it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been stolen, so you need to weigh up the chances yourself too. Be wary of eBay and other sales and scams, and check out the ‘stolen’ list on websites such as Cycle Chat’s and Bike Radar’s ‘stolen’ sections.
  2. If your pedal cycle was stolen, could you report full details and identify it if the police found it? Could the police trace the bike back to you?
    Do these things and hope you never need them:

    • Make a note of the frame number (unique – usually under the bottom bracket), brand name and model name, type of bike (racer, tourer, BMX, adult, child etc), frame (size, materials, colour), year of manufacture, make/number of gears, saddle details, identifying scratches, paint jobs etc.  See our checklist of essential info.
    • Record all this info somewhere at home or on a secure web page of your own, or use Immobilise’s.  Or register the info on Bike Register.  Or do all three.
    • Take a photo of it.
    • Add an identifier to your frame such as your postcode, or paint on some security microdots. Be sure the prospective thief is aware by adding warning stickers or other permanent identifying markers (from Bike Register).
    • Or embed electronic tags, such as Datatag or ImmobiTag in the frame. These tags are passive transponders (i.e. they respond to a localised detector – unfortunately they are not active transponders for tracking and locating your bike).
  3. Out of sight, out of mind – either store your bike out of sight in a locked building or in a cycle locker or your workplace.  Or use a compact folding bike, which is easier to take with you and if it’s bagged, is acceptable in most places.
  4. Lock it properly, or lose it.  If you have to leave your cycle in the street, secure it to something immoveable.  And not something that the bike plus lock together can be lifted off.  This is because organised thieves take bikes that are quick to move, throwing them in a van and dealing with any cycle locks later.  Always protect you wheels too, by locking them along with your frame to an immovable object.  Try to lock your bike where it’s in full view of people in a shop or office, and in a well-lit place if at night. Check out Lock it and still lose it? (scroll down to find the 14th Feb 2008 entry).
  5. Use a decent lock for a decent bike. The dilemma is that the more valuable your bike, the lighter it probably is. But better locks are usually heavier and more awkward to carry around.  And expensive.  Specialist cycle insurers have lists of approved locks, but remember Lock it and still lose it? info on thief-resistant (not) locks.  Buy locks from your local cycle shop or an online shop such as Wheelies.
  6. Make your bike melt into the crowd. Don’t let it draw the attention of casual or determined thieves. Hide any decals declaring expensive components or brands with insulation tape (peels off without damaging the paintwork).Or use an old or cheap (or both) bike with uncool design (mudguards, chainguard, rust…) if leaving it regularly in a quiet place.
  7. Do you really need your saddle, wheels and any other expensive bits and pieces to be quick release? If so, it might not be you who is doing the quick releasing. Remove removable items (lights, batteries, pump etc) and take them with you into the office or wherever, and replace quick release fittings with nuts and bolts. You always need a spanner or two in your kit, so it’s not a big deal.