How to prevent bike theft (Part 1): Where and How bikes get stolen

A large number of bikes are stolen each year. It sucks to see the road bike that you spent your hard-earned money on get stolen in an instant.

We tend to think that expensive bikes get stolen by professional thieves, but that is not always the case. Online platforms have made it easier for anyone to resell bikes and parts anonymously, perhaps encouraging a wider range of people to become bike thieves.

5 most common places road bikes get stolen

When looking at bike theft cases, you will see that there are locations where incidents occur more often than others. While it is best to avoid or minimise the time spent parked in these areas, you might not always have a choice. Understanding where these locations are will give you the chance to take extra precautions.

1. Your Home

According to data from the Office for National Statistics, more than half of all reported bike thefts occurred at people’s homes. Your garage or the bike shed in your apartment complex can be a hotspot for thieves. Stealing from home at night is not only less noticeable, but it also tends to make it harder to identify the thief on security cameras.

2. Large and highly visible shopping centres

Due to it being highly visible to other people, some may believe that places like large shopping complexes are less of a target. However, many cases of thefts reported on social media took place in these areas. Even if the cycle parking zone had CCTV, it is difficult to monitor all bikes at all times.

3. Parking areas at train stations and schools

Due to the fact that people who ride road bikes often use them for their daily commute, bike parking areas at train stations and schools are like advertising to thieves. The reason there are so many cases of theft from these parking areas is probably because criminals are more likely to notice bikes that are often parked in the same place for extended periods of time on a regular basis.

4. Shopfronts

There have been some reported cases of theft in places where people stay for only a short time such as cafes and restaurants. You can’t be too careful in cafes where many cyclists gather. Opportunistic thieves may target these places so no matter how quickly you intend to return to your bike, be sure to take precautions.

5. Large exhibition events and shops dedicated to bikes

Events like The Cycle Shows and EUROBIKEs can be a cause for concern regardless of their size and perceived safety. When safe places to lock your bike get used up i.e. locked to an unmovable object in a monitored area, it becomes difficult to find a secure place to lock your bike. Also, due to the nature of the event, many road bikes with expensive specs are gathered in one place. This can be enticing for thieves who can potentially make a lot of money either stealing whole bikes or just taking parts that aren’t secured. There are theft cases when groups of thieves target only these events. So stay alert even though you are there with other like-minded people.

How thieves steal your bike

Whether you are making a café stop, or even simply leaving your bike inside your garage, there are some thoughts on how those bike thefts are carried out. By being aware of these common motivations and methods, you can reduce the risk of having your road bike stolen as much as possible.

1. Preparing to steal bikes they see often

Drop handlebars and boldly painted frames on road bikes are eye-catching in their own right. As we have discussed in the “5 most common places road bikes get stolen” section, when these road bikes are always parked in the same place, they stand out and become easy targets for thieves. Habitual thieves may monitor particular cycle parking areas and wait for certain bikes to be left unattended. The fact that they know where you park regularly allows them to prepare ahead of the time and act quickly and decisively.

2. Cutting off the locks

In the UK, 40% of bike thefts were locked by chain, cable or shackle. Cutting off such locks does not have to be done by professional thieves. Anyone can easily cut most locks (not just wire locks) with power tools.

3. Bikes that are not secured to an immovable object

Locks are not always destroyed where the bikes are parked. Road bikes are very light and can be easily carried and stored. If the bikes are easily lifted from the parking area, thieves might first take your bike to somewhere that is less visible to others by car to give themselves more time to cut the lock. Locks should always be wrapped around somewhere that is secured to the ground to ensure that they cannot be carried away.

4. Taking only a part of the bikes away

Many of the parts that make up road bikes are expensive. Rather than taking the entire bike, there are a number of cases where only certain parts get stolen. Lights and cycle computers can be removed very easily. Although wheels are one of the most expensive parts, they can be easily taken off as most of them have quick releases and do not require tools for removal.

How to prevent bike theft

Avoiding your bikes to be stolen by thieves may feel like it is impossible. However, by understanding their method, and taking the right countermeasure, it is possible to reduce the likelihood of it occurring drastically. Our next article will talk about those specific countermeasures against the theft methods discussed here.