Top-Five Rules to Protect Your Bike From Theft. (Put a lock on it!)

Know how to prevent this from happening.
Know how to prevent bike theft from happening.

Having run a local crowdsourcing site on Facebook for almost two years now, I can honestly say I know a lot about bike theft. A lot.  I’ve been interviewed on TV showing how you can prevent your bike from being stolen.  I can tell you where the hot spots are, what people are stealing, what types of locks were compromised, and which pawn shops the thieves will likely take your stolen bike too.  But what I can’t tell you is why more cyclists don’t follow these five-simple rules to prevent their bike from being stolen in the first place.

Rule #1: Record the serial number.  Yes, I know this isn’t going to protect your bike from being stolen, but this is absolutely the first thing you must do.  This is the most important thing you can do to recover your bike if it is ever stolen.  Where is my serial number you ask? Normally, it is at the bottom of the frame where your down tube and the seat tube meet.  This is directly under the pedals.  Record the serial number, along with taking picture of your bike and recording any special details and email them to your self with the subject line “My Bike”.  It will be easily accessible by doing a search of your email for “My Bike” if you ever need it.  Another source for your bike’s serial number is through your bike shop but do not rely on them as record keeping methods may consist of paper stored in a shoe box to a computerized database.  Knowing your luck if your bike is stolen, your local bikes shops method would be a shoe box.  In fact stop reading this and do this step now and come back and finish reading this article.  Go ahead, we’ll wait….

Rule #2:  Determine the safest place to store your bike and then put a lock on it.  Having run a local bike recovery group with over 500 members, I can tell you in our area most of the bike thefts don’t occur on the street.  They are bikes stolen from unlocked or poorly locked garages (especially if there is alley access), laundry rooms or private storage areas in apartments or condominiums, or front and rear porches.  All seemed like safe places, but there are two rules almost none of the owners followed.  The first rule is out of sight, out of mind.  If thieves don’t see it they won’t steal it.  Case in point, locking a bike on your front porch is much more visible than your back porch, but even that is more visible than if stored inside.  Or, if locked in a garage, make sure they can’t look through the garage door windows and see what you have. In fact, adding motion detector lights on your porch, yard, or even inside your garage will help deter theft.

According to the National Bike Registry there is over $350 million worth of bikes stolen annually.
According to the National Bike Registry there is over $350 million worth of bikes stolen annually. A U-lock and cable would redcue this greatly.

Just because your bike is locked in a garage or other safe place doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take extra precautions.  It is easy to break into these areas.  Most often the lock on a garage door or door jam or cheap and easily can be breached with one kick.  Now that the thief is in and he sees your bike he thinks he can just ride off into the sunset with your bike.  And if you haven’t locked that bike inside your garage, then he probably will be riding off into the sunset.  But, if you took and extra ten seconds to lock that bike, making it unrideable, or better yet locking it to a workbench, lawnmower, etc will make things quite difficult for the thief to be able to steal it.  Worst case scenario they will have to work very hard to break the lock and in doing so will make noise and possibly get caught.  Best case scenario they steal your hedge clippers instead or move on to an easier mark. Also, make sure any tools such as a hacksaw, wire clippers, or bolt cutters are out of sight and away from your locked bike.  I am a fanatic about locking my bikes in my garage, but one day looked over to see my bolt cutters hanging above my workbench with a big sign above it saying “Use these to steal bikes”. Now I can’t even find my bolt cutters when I actually need them.

Rule#3:  When locking your bike always use the Sheldon Brown method. This method basically makes your bike unrideable, as to remove the lock illegally, you would have had to damage the rear wheel.  It also only requires one U-lock, however a modified version includes a 4 foot cable to secure the front wheel too.  Two other suggestions include: If your U-lock has enough room, insert it through the seat tube and the rear wheel.  This would also require the thieves to have to cut the lock and not just your back tire.  Also, to protect your seat, you can either remove it with a quick release and take it with you, or remove the quick release altogether, which would require the thief to at least have the proper allen wrench with him to remove it. Amazon.com actually has a package of what I use, which is a Kryptonite, Series 2 U-Lock with a 4 foot cable on sale.  I also have a Kryptonite Evolution Mini U-Lock which I use as well.  It is a little more as you are paying for reduction in size and weight but can also be bought at Amazon.com.

Alternative Sheldon Brown locking method with auU-lock and added cable.

Rule #4:  Insure your bike.  My bike, like many of you will cost more than many used cars.  Yet, we insure used cars and the police treat stolen cars as a higher priority than they do bikes.  Call it Coplogic, meaning it makes no sense.  There are many insurance programs that will cover your bike, helmet, and even provide rental insurance if your bike is damaged in transit or stolen from before a race or organized ride.  Companies like Big Ring Insurance offer a quick quote (It took less than 10 seconds to find what my $2,600 Giant Defy 1 Road Bike in the state of Ohio would cost per month.) Or if you already have homeowners or renters insurance, you can get a rider attached to your policy.  In addition to theft, my policy cover damage to my bike such as on my roof rack when I go through Wendy’s drive-thru (I have also hit my bike on the signs of KFC and White Castle too.  Luckily I avoided damage all three times) or even damage to my bike by a thief trying to compromise the lock.

Rule #5:  This is simple.  If your butt isn’t on the bike then your lock should! Don’t assume you can run in and pick up that one item from the store, while keeping an eye through the shop window.  All it takes is two seconds and the thief is off with your bike and I know you can’t outrun him.  If you absolutely have to leave your bike unattended and unlocked-just don’t.  Seriously, come back and run that errand another time.  It’s not worth the hassle of having to get home another way.  No one wants the mess and hassle of having to find another means of transportation for your commute,  file a police report, search pawn shops, or possibly have to eat Vienna Sausages for a month or two until you can save up enough money to replace your once loved bike that you will never get back.  Just slap a lock on it and your bike will treat you well for a long time.