Don't be a victim of bike theft

Posted: 20 Oct 2011

Firstly, ensure you have Bike Insurance

You can claim on stolen bikes, under certain conditions, so if you have returned to the spot you parked your bike only to find an empty space is a stomach churning feeling, one that is even worse if that space happens to be your garage. The feeling that someone has invaded your garage – your personal domain – and taken your bike is hard to shake.

So how can you avoid becoming a victim of bike theft?

The sad fact is that if a bike thief wants your bike they will stop at nothing to have it. No matter how many locks and barriers you put up, a determined thief will still find a way around them. The trick is to make it as hard as possible to steal.

Make stealing your bike as much hassle for them as possible and the chances are they will move on to a softer target. If there are two bikes side by side in a bike park and one has a lock and the other doesn’t, a thief will take the unlocked one.

The key to avoiding bike theft is making sure your bike is the hard target. As with anything in life you pay for quality. Don’t skimp on a cheap chain for your £8,000 bike. Pay for a quality lock and chain from a recognised brand with Thatcham or Sold Secure approval.

Your bike

Most modern bikes come with immobiliser systems as standard. These may be suitable for preventing casual thieves, but professionals will not be deterred, so don’t rely on them.

Many OE immobiliser systems, especially older ones, can be over-come in seconds and the bike ridden away. Alarms are effective at creating a noise, but how often do you ignore car alarms? If you park your bike on the street under your window then an alarm may alert you of a potential thief, but the chances are that if you are away your neighbours will ignore it.

There are various tracking systems currently on the market that can be incredibly effective. The only problem with these is that, fairly obviously, the bike has to be stolen before they are of any use. You will almost certainly recover your bike, but what state will it be in? Prevention is the key so how do you stop your bike being targeted by thieves in the first place?

In a public space

Most bikes stolen from bike parks are either wheeled away or lifted into vans. A thief will put old mattresses in the back of a van, stop by a group of bikes, two thieves will jump out, and they will lift the bike they want to steal, throw it in the back of the van where the mattresses cushion its fall and prevents damage.

In less than 30 seconds your bike is gone and so are the thieves. A disc lock, immobiliser or alarm will not stop them. Who can hear an alarm in a van at 70mph on the M25?

Those thieves, who may be looking for a field bike or stealing to order, will generally break the steering lock and push the bike away. An alarm may stop them but by the time they discover the alarm they have already damaged your bike, which is frustrating.

Locking your bike to a solid object will generally deter thieves. Run the chain through a part of the bike that can’t easily be removed such as the frame or gap in the swingarm where the shock runs through then to a solid object such as a lamppost.

Just looping it through a back wheel and to something solid isn’t effective, removing a wheel will take a thief less than a minute, it may slow them down but it won’t stop them – taking a frame apart is far trickier! A lot of owners simply loop the chain through the rear wheel, again, what use is this when the bike is being lifted up?

In some bike parks where solid objects aren’t available, owners can ‘daisy chain’ their locks, which involves looping your chain through your neighbour’s one. This is effective as long as the bike next to you doesn’t leave before you do! If you are on a ride with a friend this is a great preventative measure, although better still is to link the bikes directly.

If your bike is properly locked up and a thief really wants it, they will pour glue into the bike’s ignition lock. If this happens to yours, hire a van and get it away quickly as the chances are this isn’t petty vandalism. The thief has immobilised it so they can return with cutting tools under the cover of night.

Outside your home

Many of us don’t have the luxury of a garage, so if you have to park your bike on the street make sure it is covered as well as chained up. Anything that helps it not stand out is good. If you can, try and install a ground anchor to chain your bike to. Most landlords won’t mind if you explain why you are doing it.

Ground anchors are relatively cheap and fitting simply using a masonary and specialised drill bit. Try and locate the anchor onto a wall or concrete floor, in a corner or tricky to reach position. Thieves break chains by spraying them with a freeze spray that makes the chain brittle before hitting it with a hammer to break it. A tricky to reach chain and anchor is harder to attack.

Never leave the lock or chain unattended. When you are out thieves have been known to glue the lock or steal the chain, meaning that you can’t secure your bike when you return. Another trick is to fool you into thinking the chain is secure when it isn’t. Chains often have cloth covers, when you are out a thief will cut the chain and use a cable tie to make it appear that the chain is still intact. The cut link will then be hidden by the cloth cover, meaning all the thief has to do is snip the cable tie and wheel your bike away. Always secure your lock and chain, for example inside your house when it isn’t in use.

In your garage

Don’t assume your garage door is secure, it isn’t. Metal ‘up and over’ doors are flimsy and can easily be forced open. Extra locks are available that help prevent this but the most secure solution is a solid bar style horizontal lock at the base of the door. The only problem with these are they shout ‘look at me!’ and may arouse a thief’s interest.

Paint it a matching colour or cover with a bag so it doesn’t stick out. If you are away for a long period of time park the car against the garage door to help prevent intruders.

Inside your garage is a potential minefield. The problem is that most of the tools a thief needs to steal your bike are the same as you need to work on it! If you can, lock up your tools in a secure container. As with a bike parked outside a ground anchor is the best security, again installed in a tricky to attack position.

If you have several bikes then lock them together, lifting a single bike is simple, carrying six all chained together is tricky. Some people use blank shotgun cartridges attached to trip wires to alert them of a thief in the garage, a CCTV or even baby monitoring system is equally as effective and less scary! Some people have been known to hang fish hooks from the ceiling to deter thieves, this is bordering on the illegal…