What to do if your bike is stolen?
As more and more people rediscover their love of cycling, or discover that love for the first time, bikes have become a premium commodity. Increased demand combined with supply-chain disruption means that bikes are becoming more and more sought-after, and are selling online for higher prices than ever before. Unlike cars, bikes don’t automatically come with an identification logbook, which means that stolen bikes for sale are much harder to spot, and therefore bike thefts have sharply risen as criminals seek to make a quick buck. That means now more than ever your bike is at risk, and perhaps worse, that criminals are getting more brazen, stealing them anytime, anywhere, anyhow. Check out our top tips for keeping your bike safe(r) from theft...
So, your bike’s been stolen? What next?
According to annual data releases, there are around 285,000-300,000 bike thefts a year in the UK, but tentative recent figures suggest that this year will be much higher. What’s more, Home Office data indicates that just 1 in 50 bike theft crimes are solved, even when there is CCTV, DNA or social media posts to help find the bike. The problem is that the police are overstretched and under-resourced, so often bike thefts are solved by happenstance when a criminal is arrested for something else, assuming they haven’t already flogged your beloved two-wheeler on a selling site! So, what should you do?
Report it stolen to the police:
We know, we just said that the police don’t have time to investigate, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t report it. At minimum, you’ll get given a crime case ID number which you can then give to your insurance company to help secure a pay out, or if you are lucky, you’ll end up being the one in 50 that does get their bike back. Hopefully, you’ve taken advantage of our security tips which means you have more than just the make and model, but try to report as much as you can including where, when and how the theft happened, the frame number, bike type, brand and model, any specialist parts that you have added and any unique features that you’re aware of. If possible, also provide pictures of the bike - ones that are as recent as possible. It’s also worth noting that although 1 in 50 bike recoveries sounds small, when you multiply that up that’s still more than 5,500 bikes a year recovered, so it isn’t as bleak as it perhaps first sounds! What’s more, many bikes are not returned to their owner, simply because the owner never reported them stolen. Worryingly, according to stats on Stolen Bikes UK, a whopping 71% of people who’ve had their bikes stolen don’t bother to tell the police.
List your bike as stolen online:
Although not everyone will check out whether a bike is stolen before they buy it, diligent cyclists will, and listing it stolen also helps to ensure the bike doesn’t end up being sold by a retailer. Bike Register is one place to list it as stolen; Stolen Ride is another; and Stolen Bikes a third. You should do this even if your bike was never registered because it makes it easier to match up reports and return bikes to their rightful owner should they be recovered.
Notify your insurer:
Do this as soon as possible, not least because the sooner they pay out, the sooner you’ll get a replacement for your trusty steed. We appreciate bikes have sentimental value and many frames have been upgraded far beyond their original spec, but some financial contribution has to be better than nothing! Preferably, you should do this within 24-hours of having it stolen, as that’s usually a condition of your insurance.
If you haven’t taken out specialist bike insurance, then check your home contents policy because often, some or all of your bike value will be covered. You’ll need the crime reference number we mentioned in the police reporting step above and proof of purchase if your bike doesn’t have specialist cover.
Alert your local community:
Spread the message via social media, share it on noticeboards, notify residents’ associations and get the news out however and wherever you can. People power should not be underestimated and the more eyes you have looking, the better. Other people may spot your bike and notify you, which gives you more hope of retrieving it.
As a top tip, it is worth casting your net wide here. Some criminals will be opportunists, seeing a bike on the street, nabbing it, and trying to flog it again locally, but mostly, bike theft is a very lucrative, organised crime. Assume an average sale value of £200 with no initial outlay and it can have a better, safer return on investment than selling drugs! Most commonly, bikes from Cheltenham / Gloucestershire will be moved as quickly as possible to cycling hotspots with good transport links, such as Birmingham (M5 North), Bristol (M5 South), Swindon (M5 / M4), Oxford (A40), and Cardiff (M5 / M4). That means your bikes is likely to be much further afield than you are looking, so think about sharing info into these communities too.
Let your local bike shops know:
This is a bit of a long shot, but it is also worth letting any local bikes shops know; at least the ones that deal in second-hand bikes. At the moment, we are averaging around 10-20 stolen bikes per week being reported to us and although we can do little to help, we do keep our eyes peeled.
Scrupulous operators like us always check any bikes offered to us against the Bike Register website, and we request and copy the ID of the seller, just in case the bike comes back stolen at a later date. The system isn’t infallible, but it is the best way of remaining legitimate. To put this into context, we have only ever received one stolen bike into the premises (which we worked with police to recover for the owner), as criminals are more likely to sell online where they can make more money. You really never know though, so it is always worth a shot.
Search the regional marketplaces:
Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and even Ebay can be hotspots for stolen bikes, simply because they allow a user to list a product and assume that the user is legit. Set up alerts on the sites with a pretty large radius around your location, and keep checking back in to see if any pop up.
Tip: If you see your stolen bike for sale
You do need to be sure that the bike is yours, because not every bike matching your make and model will be yours. However, Bike Register provides you with proof of ownership (assuming you registered your bike) and if you’re sure the bike is yours you can ask the police to investigate / intervene with that sale specifically. Don’t try to recover the bike yourself as things can escalate quickly and dangerously, but you can do some initial investigations to check that the bike is yours.
Buy a new bike
Sad as we are to list this, 1 in 4 bike theft victims report giving up cycling altogether after losing their bike and we simply can’t have that! See this as an opportunity to fall in love with a new make or model and put your best wheels forward on your cycling journey.
Don’t forget, prevention is ultimately the best solution, so check out our security top tips blog for more info…