How to Prevent Bicycle Theft

Lock your bikes folks. We're not in Kansas anymore.

Bike theft is a huge problem! We hear about it almost daily at the bike shop. Customers tell us about their bikes being stolen from their homes, off their front porches, from secured parking garages, and even from second story balcony’s. (The record height so far is from the fourth floor.)

The great majority of bikes are stolen because they are not locked. They're often stolen from places that are assumed to be a safe when in reality they are not, like balconies and secured parking garages. Sometimes people leave their bike unlocked for just a minute while they run in the store, only to return and find their bicycle gone. Sometimes bikes are stolen even though they were locked. That’s usually because the bike was improperly locked or because the lock used was not adequate for the circumstances.

Evidence as to what happens to stolen bikes is mostly anecdotal; however, the drug trade seems to drive a lot of bike thefts. Bikes are very liquid merchandise on the street. It’s estimated that they sell for 5% to 10% of their original value. Stolen bikes rarely surface in bike shops. We’ve only recovered two or three since we’ve been in business. They’ll pop up at pawn shops once in while, but the majority of stolen bikes seem to be sold on the street within a short time of the theft and never seen again. Chances of recovering a stolen bike are, unfortunately, slim.

According to Kryptonite, the original U-lock guys, New York has the “best” bike thieves; (apparently it takes a New Yorker to succeed where Superman fails). Universities and urban areas are favored hunting grounds. Boston has the most bike thefts. Fortunately, and surprisingly, Atlanta did not make the top ten on the high-theft list.

Nonetheless, here are some tips from Kryptonite to help you avoid being the next victim of a bike theft.

  1. Always lock your bike: even in the garage, the apartment stairwell, or college dorm.
  2. Lock to a fixed, immovable object like a parking meter or permanent bike rack. Be careful not to lock to items that can be easily cut, broken or removed. Be careful that your bike cannot be lifted over the top of the object to which it is locked.
  3. Lock in a visible and well-lit area.
  4. Lock in a location where there are other bikes. The chances are better that there will be a bike with a less secure lock than yours. Thieves will usually go for the easiest target.
  5. When using a U-lock, position your bike frame and wheels so that you fill or take up as much of the open space within the U-portion of the lock as possible. The tighter the lock up, the harder it is for a thief to use tools to attack your lock.
  6. Always position a U-lock so that the keyway is facing down towards the ground. Don’t position the lock close to the ground. This makes it easier for a thief to attack it.
  7. Always secure your components and accessories, especially quick-release components, with a secondary cable lock.
  8. Don’t lock your bike to itself (i.e. put the lock through the wheel and frame only). Lock it to something. Otherwise, it can be easily lifted and carried away.
  9. Don’t lock in the same location all the time. A thief may notice the pattern and target your bike.
  10. Don’t lock to anything posted illegal. Check with area law enforcement agencies for local bike parking regulations.
  11. Always check your lock before leaving your bike to be sure you have secured it properly.
  12. For the greatest theft deterrence, use two locks such as a U-lock and a locking cable. The longer it takes a thief to get through your bike security, the less likely your bike will be stolen.
  13. These last two are from me. Never lock your bike at a Marta station. Take it with you on the train.
  14. Register your bike. Check out The National Bike Registry

A lot of these tips are common sense, but keep them in mind. We don't want you coming to tell us about how your bike got stolen. Thanks for reading.

Happy Trails

Mike

9 Comments so far...

Now you tell me. Just last year, I was on my way to cobb County to purchase a car from A Ford dealer on Sout Coob Parkway. I rode my Trek to the Art Center train station and lock it on the bike rack with a cable lock. I drove the newly purchased car back to the art Center station after a 4-5 hour transaction. When I drove up I saw nothing at all on the bike rack, My beautiful Trek was gone- lock and all.

-Posted on May 3rd, 2008 by Donnie from Detroit

Hey Donnie. Sorry to hear about what happened to your Trek. Unfortunately, there are bike thieves around here who use bolt cutters to cut through cable locks. At Georgia Tech, the police department recommends all students use U-locks to lock up their bikes--they're much tougher to break. My rule of thumb is to use cable locks only in low risk areas (in the suburbs) or if I'll be gone less than an hour. Otherwise, I'll use a U-lock.

-Posted on May 4th, 2008 by David Wu

I'm a fan of the low-jack idea! A thread was started about bicycle low-jacks on halfbakery. One guy had an even better idea though - "How about if the bike is pedaled away without entering the secret code (rear brakes twice, backpedal one revolution, then front brakes once) a spike shoots up out of the seat. Wouldn't have to go very far at all to retrieve your bike then..." :)

-Posted on Jan 28th, 2009 by Andrew Goodman

I do agree with using a u-lock as the primary and a cable as back-up. Both take different tools to break them, so that is another factor in making your bike less attractive for theft. At Georgia State we do have a few bikes stolen from the racks that are visible in front of the Student Recreation Center. You would think that with 2,600 people a day walking past them nobody would steal a bike, but they do. As we review video of the thefts, all are on cable locks. Typically anything 6mm or less can be cut in less than 5 seconds. 8-10 mm takes about 30 seconds. I used to use just a cable for times that I was running in and out of places, but after watching how easy it is to cut a cable, I never leave it without at least the u-lock. Bulldog does make a smaller one for just the frame and back tire if you are concerned about size and not your front tire.

-Posted on Jul 31st, 2008 by Melissa

I rode my Giant Boulder to Arts CTR since it is only a few blocks from my house. I secured the bike (so I thought) thoroughly at the stand next to the Entry Way. Came home after work. Was gone. The bike was a Black and Blue Giant Boulder 17" frame. My son's Bike Trailer Hitch was on the bike. Had a Topeak MTX carrier rack on the back.

-Posted on Oct 17th, 2008 by Durmeyer

Grrr. Bike thieves at Emory. Emory! The place with more money than God and constantly asking people to ride transit, walk, or bike to work. Now my wife's bike is probably being traded on Buford for some meth. Is it nuts to microchip a bike like pets are microchipped? Would it allow remote sensing like a low-jack?

-Posted on Oct 30th, 2008 by Effed

Use two locks if you have to leave your bike all day. I lock mine at Peachtree Center near the Marta entrance. I came down one evening to find that my cable lock had been cut 3/4 of the way through, but not completely. There is ALWAYS someone from building security or an Atlanta Ambassador within 15 feet of those racks, but someone still tried to take it. My U-bolt hadn't been tampered with. If they had gotten through the cable, they could have stolen my quick-release seat. When I got home, I bent the cable back and forth a couple times and it snapped in two. That's how close it was.

-Posted on Feb 18th, 2009 by Joan

Also a good (and free) site for proactive bike registry can be found at: BikeRegistry.com.
They also have a good deal on a REALLY stout bike chain w/ monobloc padlock for only 35 bucks, inclusive of shipping.

-Posted on Jul 31st, 2009 by GeoBasin

Here's another way to avoid your bike getting stolen. Never lend it. Never loan it. Don't loan it to your friend. Don't loan it to your neighbor. Don't loan it to anyone. Trusting soul that I am, I learned this one the hard way.

-Posted on Sep 9th, 2009 by Kit