OHIO RIVER TRAIL COUNCIL

“Joining communities through fitness, recreation, heritage and transportation networks”

Bike Theft Prevention

Bike Theft Prevention

Estimates for stolen bikes in the U.S. are between one million and two million per year, and the bikes are difficult to recover because most people do not record serial numbers or register their bikes. The annual value of stolen bikes is as much as $350 million, according to the FBI and the National Bike Registry. The good news is that with a serious lock and proper locking technique we can all meet again at the trailhead when the sun rises tomorrow.

Most bike thefts occur due to unlocked or improperly locked bicycles. Proper locking is the first defense to deter bike theft. Locking smart will allow you to stand out from the thief-tempting masses. Following the “Sheldon Technique” will help prevent your bike from being stolen, however, none of these tips, recommendations, and methods are infallible.  Bicycles and bike parts can still be embezzled when locked. Even high-quality locks will not stop the most ambitious thieves. If they cannot steal your whole bike, they will steal the wheels. If they cannot steal the wheels, they will take the seat.

  1. Bicycles & Bike Parts – Never leave your bike unlocked, not even for one second. Anything not locked can be stolen including helmet, lights, bags, air pumps, quick release parts etc., consequently remove all detachable items and take them with you.

  1. U-lock – A U-lock is the primary lock. Secure the rear wheel and the frame, the two most valuable components of the bike to replace, with a small, hardened-steel, high quality, modern U-lock inside the rear triangle. Locking only the front wheel to a bike rack element is a good way to lose a rear wheel or the rest of the bike. Consider a second U-lock to secure the front wheel for additional protection. Front wheels are less expensive than the more complex back wheels which have gears, so if you can only protect one wheel safeguard the back one. However, for the best security remove the quick release front wheel and lock it to the rear triangle and rear wheel. Use the smallest lock possible as a tight lock leaves little room for thieves to insert a tool that can break open the lock. Do not place the bike lock near the ground where it is easier to leverage for an attack.

    Only lock to a solid immovable object like a bike rack that is firmly affixed to concrete not a fence, railing or tree. A locked bike can be lifted over the top of a signpost or pole. If there is no secure object to attach to, lock the rear wheel to your frame, so the bike cannot be ridden away but it obviously can be carried away. Locking your rear wheel, with permission, to a friend's rear wheel and frame if possible, is another good option. Bike thieves may not carry away two bikes locked together when there is sufficient pedestrian traffic.

  1. U-Lock Keys – Purchase a U-lock with a flat or disc key only. A bike lock with cylindrical or barrel key has a pickable lock mechanism and a combination lock can easily be deciphered. 

  1. Bike Chain – A massive heavy-duty titanium reinforced chain with a short shackle U-lock offers good protection.  The safest way to lock your bike is to pair a high quality U-lock with a heavy-duty chain when the theft risk is particularly high. To defeat this combination, a bike thief may need multiple techniques and tools – a leverage attack on the U-lock with a hydraulic bottle jack and a cutting device for the chain.

  1. Quick Release Parts – Replace quick release skewers with keyed locking front and rear hub skewers, and locking seat post bolt to ensure wheels and saddles are securely fastened to the frame. 

  1. Cable Lock – A cable can be used to lock the seat and the front wheel. Do not ever rely on just a cable to keep your bike secure. Cable locks are not very effective since inexpensive bolt cutters can certainly remove them. The cable acts as just one more layer of security to discourage opportunists.

  1. Bike Seat Lock – Add a bike seat lock. You do not want to try riding home without a seat. Taking the saddle with you makes the bike less rideable by a criminal or even better take the front wheel too.

  1. Personalize Your Bike – Thieves are very attracted to the subtle stock bike. The more you make a bike your own, the more recognizable it becomes. This measure will not prevent the theft of your bike, but a friend may spot the bike, which makes it simpler to recover. A few signature design touches to make it really stand out from the pack could be just the deterrent you need. It is also harder to sell an easily identified bike. Use a marker to write your name or initials twice on each tire (on opposite points of the circumference), and/or onto the top of the frame. Use durable laminated adhesive vinyl stickers to place your printed name on the bicycle frame. An alternative is to use a Dremel tool and engrave your name on the frame.

  1. Attach a GPS tracker – For especially valuable or sentimental bikes, spend the extra money on a GPS tracker designed to attach securely to your bike. If the device detects movement, the owner is alerted via text, at which point you can pull up a map on the phone or computer and start tracking. This will allow you or the police to track the bicycle's location in case of theft. This measure will only help prevent the theft of your bike if you are located nearby like at a restaurant.

 

Selecting a bike parking Location that is a well-lit area with plenty of foot traffic can make it harder for a thief to break your lock, unobtrusively. If possible, place your bike in view of a nearby building's video surveillance camera. Even if this fails to deter a thief, you may be able to obtain footage of the theft to aid in recovery. Do not leave your bike outside in one place for a protracted amount of time, unless it is within sight. Lock your bike in a different place each day, since unscrupulous eyes may be coveting a bike that is secured in the same spot day after day. Do not use a train station or other mass transit locations, since professional thieves know where commuters typically leave their bikes unattended for a full workday, and will be more confident about spending an extended length of time to steal a bike. Never lock your bike on the end of a bike rack, since this part of the rack is more visible to thieves, its best to lock it in the middle.

 

 

If you park in a high crime area, it is encouraged that you use a less expensive bike. The resale value of a bike frame and its components is what makes the bike a target worth pilfering. Another option that might make your bike less appealing is by disguising your fancy new bike by wrapping easy to remove electrical or masking tape around parts of the frame, seat, and handlebars.

Most importantly, protect your investment by registering your bike in advance with local police.  Provide the appropriate information including make, model, color and serial number. Professional bicycle thieves frequently sell stolen bikes in other cities and states because of the difficulty in tracing the owners. Enroll your bike with the National Bike Registry (NBR), a national database, which helps recover stolen bikes.The NBR database is accessible to law enforcement throughout the country. No matter where a bike is stolen, or where it is recovered, the owner can be identified. The NBR Certificate of Registration can be used as proof of ownership if your bike is recovered, or for your insurance claim if the bike is not found.

When buying a second-hand bike, always ask for the serial number in order to check the internet registries like the Stolen Bike Registry and the National Bike Registry to confirm that it is not stolen.

Bicycles are covered by homeowners or renters insurance, usually with a $250 - $500 deductible. Once you purchase a bicycle, keep the receipt for it and any accessories and take photographs. Store these documents in a safe place and alert your insurance professional to your new purchase. If you own an expensive bike, consider purchasing an insurance floater. A floater costs approximately $9 for every $100 of the bike's value and there are no deductibles.

If your bike is stolen: 

  • Call 9-1-1 and file a theft report in person at the nearest police station. The police will ask for identifying information about your bike including pictures. The serial number is stamped on the bottom bracket.
  • Register your stolen bike with safebikes.org,stolen.bikeindex.org,bikeindex.org, and nationalbikeregistry.com.
  • Create an alert on iftt.com.
  • Return to the area where your bike was stolen and look at nearby buildings for video cameras. If you find any, ask the owners if you or the police can review the surveillance tapes to help identify the bike thief.
  • Check Craigslist, eBay, flea markets, or pawnshops since these are the sources where most of the stolen bikes are sold.
  • Post stolen bike notices on telephone poles and online. 
  • Post the bike as “Stolen” in bikes section of Craigslist, and other social media.
  • Keep an eye out for similar bikes sold online.
  • File a claim with your renter or homeowner’s insurance company.
  • If you used a high-security lock, contact the manufacturer regarding their anti-theft guarantee.
  • If you receive a tip or locate your bike, call the local police immediately and ask them to assist in the recovery. Do not take any risks to obtain the bike yourself! 

Please click on the banner below to register your bike with the National Bike Registry.

 

 

 

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