Tuesday, 25 August 2020

How to help stop your bike being stolen

As demand for bikes rises and supplies plummet thanks to the pandemic, bike thefts are on the up, and there were already nearly 300,000 thefts a year! Bike crime is very lucrative: imagine £200 a pop with no financial outlay, and if you can steal enough then they’ve got a better street value than many drugs! That’s why now, more than ever, you need to take steps to protect your bike.

Broadly speaking, what you can do splits into two categories: steps to prevent the bike from being stolen in the first place, and steps you should take just in case the bike is stolen.

What you should be doing now, just in case the bike is stolen:

Unfortunately, you never know when your bike might be stolen, so your very first focus should be on measures you can take to combat that eventuality. Here we share tips that will help police recover your bike if they can…

Log your bike and then register it online:

The very first things you should do are to log all the key features of your bike and then register it online.

Logging your bike: Logging your bike simply means taking the time to note down and photograph any key, identifying features of your bike; something which you should also do every time you upgrade a component as well. This is as simple as noting down the make and model, the frame number, frame size, any distinguishing features which are typical of the bike, as well as any distinguishing features that are unique to your bike, any upgraded or high-spec parts, any non-manufacturer additions such as pannier racks, baskets, mudguards etc.

Hopefully, you will never ever need this log, but if your bike is stolen, these details will be essential to its recovery. We can’t tell you the number of times we spot people sharing on social media that their bike has been stolen, but they share a stock image and don’t have any key details. Bikes of the same make, model and colour will look the same, so the more you can record about your bike specifically, the more likely it is to find its way back to you.

Registering your bike: An immediate step following logging your bike is to register it online with the Bike Register website . They work closely with the police, take bike security very seriously, and also have some cool features like a bike logbook where you can register changes, use it as proof of ownership and log servicing etc. The best thing about it is that if your bike is stolen and ultimately recovered by the police, this website is one of the best ways to get it returned to you. They also have a stolen bike reporting system so you can specifically highlight that your bike has been stolen.

Get it marked:

Bike marking is a process of applying an indelible identifier to your bike frame so that it can be identified and returned to you if stolen. There are various methods for doing this, but the most common are to attend a Marking Event hosted by your local police force, or to request a kit to do it yourself from the Bike Register. Either way the bike will have an irrefutable mark that it is yours and the police will have grounds for an arrest. As part of the marking process, you will likely also have a warning label applied to the bike, warning would-be thieves that the bike is registered and marked; these bikes often turn up dumped after thieves realise they’ll be harder to shift!

We are running a bike marking event here at the Bicycle Hub on Saturday 5th September 2020 with the local Police & Neighbourhood Watch. At the same time, we are also offering free safety checks for your bike to ensure that it is roadworthy.

Some people also opt to etch their postcode into the frame of the bike, but this is obviously permanent and can affect both the resale value and the likelihood that you will be reunited if you ever move to a new house.

Get insured:

It doesn’t matter whether you list your bike and its value with your home contents insurer, or take out specialist bike insurance, just make sure you have it insured! Insurance is often seen as an unnecessary cost, if you don’t get your bike stolen, but if you do, it can be an absolute lifeline. Not many of us can afford to outlay hundreds of pounds on a whim, so why take the risk? Just make sure you comply with your insurance policy must-do’s so that you don’t end up voiding your own policy!

What you should be doing to help prevent it getting stolen from your home:

Security starts at home and although many people assume bikes are only stolen when you’re out and about, they really aren’t! Lots of bikes get stolen from sheds, gardens and hallways, and 50% of bike thefts report that the bike wasn’t locked up at the time that it was taken. That’s why you should ALWAYS make sure your bike is:

  • Locked: it doesn’t matter where you keep it, make sure it is locked up and locked to a very very heavy or preferably immovable object. Check out our lock tips blog for choosing the right lock (summarised below), but ensure that you’re not sacrificing your security, simply because you feel safer at home.
  • Out of sight: don’t assume that just because a bike is locked, it won’t get stolen. A lot of bikes are kept in front gardens and on driveways because it is easier for your commute, but that also means they can be seen from the road. Locks and cables can be cut – particularly under the cover of darkness – so putting your bike out of sight is always best.
  • Behind closed, locked doors: the best possible place to store it is inside your house, but we appreciate this isn’t always possible or ideal. Make sure wherever you lock your bike away, it too has a lock (and preferably an alarm), be that a shed, garage or bike storage. Check your insurance policy here too, because often garden sheds are excluded because they are easy to break into and the bike is not then secured inside.
  • Never advertised: we might feel like we want to shout about our gorgeous steed, but sharing pictures on social media, where you may later share an address or indicate an area where you live, allows thieves to calculate areas of high probability for thefts. If you do share on social, make sure your privacy settings are high and you don’t share lots of info about where you live. Thieves really don’t need a treasure map with X marks the spot! Top tip: ride sharing apps like Strava are a beacon for bike thefts, so make sure you add an ‘exclusion zone’ to your rides which privatises the mapping in a radius around your front door.

What you should be doing to help prevent it getting stolen while out and about:

One of the best things about bikes is the ability to hop on and go somewhere without too much delay and without having to sit in traffic. However, bikes are also much easier to steal than cars which means you need to take extra precautions when out and about. Here’s our top tips:

Location, location, location:

It’s totally common sense, but take the time to think about where you’re parking your bike and why. Look around the locale and choose well-lit areas, preferably with CCTV, in a high-footfall area, with other bikes around if possible. None of these tips are infallible, but they all help to reduce the risk of theft a little bit. Next time you’re out and about, try to spot where other bikes are parked; you’ll likely be surprised how many are in quiet, secluded spots when there’s a bike parking area a few hundred yards away!

Lock it properly:

  • preferably with two locks: It might sound like overkill, but two locks are probably better than one. While there are reported cases of thieves using angle grinders in front of passers-by right in the middle of the day, in reality, most thieves want to be discreet and quick. They’ll pick easy targets so adding a second lock is a pretty good deterrent
  • invest in quality: ultimately, the best lock you can buy is a D-Lock because they are hard to cut through, difficult to break and offer the best security relative to other locks. The problem is that they also restrict where and how you can lock your bike up because they’re not that big. We’ve written a comprehensive guide to picking a lock  which gives you more details of the options. Don’t forget, always select a Gold Standard Security lock for maximum security.
  • secure it in the right way: going around town, we cannot tell you how many bikes we see that are ‘locked up’ in a way that makes them really easy to steal. Putting the lock through the central bar and locking it to an object with a cable lock means the bike can be lifted, pulled and wheeled and the lock can be easily broken, not to mention parts stolen without even lifting the bike. At minimum, put the lock through the back tyre, around the frame and then connected to an immovable object, to offer maximum security. If you can, add a second lock which does the same, but through the front tyre. The harder you make it, the less likely you are to lose your bike. 
  • remove anything loose: if you can, avoid having quick-release parts on your bike, and take anything with you that can be easily removed. That way, you won’t lose expensive parts to light-fingered opportunists.

Think about a smart lock:

Smart locks connect your bike to your smartphone and will notify you when your bike is in motion, at the same time tracking the bike’s location. At minimum this helps you to help the police identify a crime in progress, and means you can track the bike should it be dumped. There are also more sophisticated models which emit loud sounds or smelly gases to deter thieves that are caught in the act.

Be vigilant:

A common technique with thieves, particularly on high-end bikes, is to immobilise the bike until they can come back later. If you return to your bike and find the tyre punctured or some spokes broken, don’t leave it unattended; make arrangements to remove it immediately, even if you can’t ride it. Often thieves hope you’ll leave the bike until you can come back in a car, and will use this window to complete the theft when less people are around.

Be wary:

Many people report bikes being stolen in the day or night following an excursion, particularly if they don’t use their bike that often. This is likely by opportunists who spot you riding home, so when you get home, don’t hang around, having a rest, get your bike in and put away as fast as possible and follow our tips above for minimising the risk of theft from your property.

What you should be doing to help prevent it getting stolen if you commute to work:

Try not to be predictable:

Commonly, people follow the same route to and from work and park their bike in the same place every day, but this allows organised criminals to identify and record patterns and look for windows of opportunity when there is less observation. It also gives them time to research which bikes have the best value and potentially even line up a buyer to steal to order. Try to take different routes throughout the week, enter from different approaches and move your bike to different parking locations to make it harder to spot and watch out for. Naturally, this depends on your workplace and isn’t infallible, but it’s worth bearing in mind if you can. 

Ask your workplace for better security:

Many workplaces provide immovable objects like cycle racks for employees to store their bikes already. If a lot of your team is cycling, ask your workplace to consider upgrading the security, for example adding CCTV, setting up a security cage or adding it to guard patrols. All of these provide a deterrent and help prevent thieves from making a grab.

If your workplace doesn’t provide something like this, then ask them for a safe, preferably indoor space in which you can store your bike as an alternative to leaving it unsafe.

Consider having two bikes:

We know money doesn’t grow on trees and people like to have a high-quality bike for their commute, but if your commute isn’t that far, why not consider having two bikes: a cost-effective workhorse that you can commute to work on, and a high-end specialised bike that never leaves your sight for those weekend rides? That way, you’re less likely to lose a high-end item that will cost a lot of time and take a lot of effort to replace.