Bike safety and security – beat the bicycle thieves

Stop theft and track stolen bikes with police advice

More than 100,000 stolen bikes were reported in the UK in 2012, and police have warned cyclists that expensive bikes are targets because they represent a lucrative market for criminals. BikeRadar spoke to policeman Tom Llewellyn and John Moss, founder of Stolen-Bikes blog, about what you can do to keep your bike safe and secure. 


“It’s a case of being as savvy as you can and being aware that expensive bikes are a big target,” said PC Llewellyn, who is investigating a stolen goods conspiracy involving high value bikes. “They’re the easiest thing for people to take.”

1. Create a logbook

When you buy your bike, note down serial numbers for your bike and take photos. As it gets used, log paint chips, scratches and new components as they replace old ones.

“Put a folder together of all the information that makes your bike personal,” said Llewellyn. “We do recover a lot of bikes, but a lot of the time they don’t get identified because the information we get from people who report crimes is often not good enough to identify them.” 

He said many police authorities offer free postcode marking services such as SmartWater. In the event of the stolen bike being recovered, these forensic tools can help reunite it with the owner. 

Alarmed padlocks can be useful additions to your standard locks:
Future Publishing

2. Store the bike behind a locked door 

The majority of bike thefts are opportunistic raids on sheds, so deter criminals by making sure your bicycle is kept behind a lockable door, in a garage or the house. A padlocked, wooden garden shed won’t do, said Llewellyn: “A padlock can be bolt-cropped in five seconds.”

If your shed is up to the job, securing the bike a second time behind the locked door is worthwhile. Fixings sunk into concrete floors are a good option, as is installing CCTV cameras and security lighting in the garden.   

“Thieves will look for the easiest opportunity for theft,” said Llewellyn. “They won’t go, ‘I want to get into that address.’ They might try five or six addresses before they get one that’s easy access or it’s got something inside that they want. If you have something really precious and you haven’t got those security measures, I would put my bike in the house until I’ve got them in place.”

John Moss suggested using an alarmed padlock in addition to standard bike locks: “In addition to your usual bike locks it can be a useful tool when stopping bike thieves from plucking bikes out of your shed or garage. When it goes off it’s unlikely thieves will hang around to see if anyone has heard it.”

Read more on how to make your shed more secure.

A bike lock for out and about:
Future Publishing

3. Be savvy with ride sharing

Some police forces have linked ride sharing platforms such as Strava, MapMyRide and Endomondo to bike thefts. Moss said: “If you use Strava or other ride logging applications, set up exclusion zones around areas you regularly store your bike. They don’t typically affect your ride statistics, but turn off the mapping features when you’re within the boundaries of one.”

If you’re planning on leaving your bike unattended, make sure it’s secured with a good quality lock. We recently reported on thieves tailing riders to a café and stealing an expensive mountain bike off the roof rack. Watch the BikeRadar video guide on how to secure your bike properly

4. Contact the police and do some DIY tracking

In the event of a theft, Llewellyn said your first move should be to contact the police and pass over the logbook details. However, he said victims should visit websites to find the bike – or parts of it – themselves. 

Telltale signs that a for-sale bike might be stolen are short auctions (to move the goods quickly), a bike that deviates wildly from build specifications, or a seller with a short or non-existent history.   

“If it was my bike I would trail auction websites such as eBay,” said Llewellyn. “A lot of bike handlers will cut and chop bikes together. People who sell [stolen] high end bikes will go through a second party, and the second party will try to hide the identity of the bike. If you can identify your saddle, handlebars, pedals and so on, and you’ve got documentation, then we can start to make enquiries.”

He warned people not to be put off by item locations: “If people are sending stuff in the post or by courier it makes no difference where it’s coming from.” 


Moss added that it can be constructive to trawl sites such as “It collects bike ads from around the UK and puts them all in an easy-to-search gallery,” he explained. “If you do spot your bike for sale online, it’s really important to keep hassling the police to take action, but be ready to prove that the bike is yours.”