Cycle Theft

Dealing with it

The larger the city, the larger and more active the cycle theft community, especially areas where drug/alcohol use is prevalent. If you live in or are passing through urban areas, are downtown, near a University, a shopping especially vigilant to minimize the risk of theft.

The best thing you can do is to prevent your bike from getting stolen in the first place.


  1. Always lock your bike: even in a secure garage, apartment stairwell, or college dorm. Don't pop into a store, a bathroom, or turn your back on it for a minute without locking.
  2. Lock wheels and frame to a fixed, immovable object 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. Position the U-lock as high off the ground as possible so thieves cannot get leverage for a bolt cutter.
  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. If you use a regular padlock, use one with at least a 7/16" shank.
  11. Don’t lock to anything posted illegal. Check with area law enforcement agencies for local bike parking regulations.
  12. Always check your lock before leaving your bike to be sure you have secured it properly.
  13. If using only one lock, don't use a cable lock. In high-theft areas, they are only good for securing the front wheel to the frame. They are easy to cut. Use U-lock or case hardened, tempered boron-manganese chain with hexagonal shape.
  14. Only buy a U-lock with a flat or disc key. Cylindrical keyed locks are more easily picked.
  15. If one lock is good, two or more are better. Thieves like to discreetly remove locks and ride off. If using a quick release axle, remove wheel, lock it too, and take the axle with you. Use pitlocks, a cable and saddle leash, chain, two U-locks.....
  16. Beware of locking to “sucker poles” that are loosely bolted down and can easily be removed.
  17. The longer it takes a thief to get through your bike security, the less likely your bike will be stolen.
  18. Remember: even the most secure locks can be defeated if given enough time – so, don't leave your bike outside for hours on end, especially at night.
  19. Many bikes are stolen from private garages, pouches, or even forth floor balconies. Keep the bike locked and use other home security devices to detect break in.
  20. Google 'bike theft' + 'your area' for local knowledge of theft hotspots to avoid or take maximum precautions in.
  21. Register your bike. One option: The National Bike Registry that costs about $1/year and you get a decal telling the thief to remove the decal and grind off the serial number (the decal may detour some however and the chance of recovery is slim anyway) or pay $1 after bike is stolen to help police recover it.
  22. Free:

Other security measures:

  1. Use a motion detector alarm. The cheap ones on Amazon work.
  2. Use a GPS tracker. If stolen, you tell police where it is. Even if you have a 44 Magnum and are dying to say “Go ahead punk, make my day,” let the police handle it.
  3. Remove the status symbol labels. Thieves, the successful ones, have smart phones. If they know make and model and google it, they know the value in seconds.
  4. Ugly up the bike. Remove decals, add funky ones. Paste wax the bike but don't buff it out. The film will ugly up the bike, will help protect the paint job, and can be removed should you decide to sell it. Add hose clamps, etc., make it look like a DIY home build.
  5. Personalize the bike. Paint it and be cheap and creative—use a coarse brush. Before painting, add blobs of sealant around joints to make them look like bad welds. Glue on trinkets. Add custom decals and signage. Mark your territory. A thief would have to reverse what you do to sell it.
  6. Using a glue that you know how to dissolve, glue ball bearings inside all hex head fasteners. Thieves can afford a set of hex wrenches to remove stuff, but few carry universal solvents.
  7. Remove quick releases and replace with hex head fasteners or purpose made security fasteners.
  8. Remove all detachable items like lights, bags and quick release parts and take them with you
  9. Engrave an identification number (such as your driver's license) upon the underside of the frame and on each wheel. Coat your engraved number with clear nail polish to prevent rusting. Keep a record of the number.
  10. Take photos and type in your serial number and email it to yourself. That way, it's stored in your inbox forever.
  11. Bike thefts are a “crime of opportunity.” Don’t give them one.
  12. Plan to spend about 20% of the value of your cycle on security measures.
  13. Whether you are a renter or homeowner, many insurance plans cover the loss of a bicycle. Check in with your Insurance provider to see if your bike is covered.

After the Theft

If your bike is stolen, there are some steps to follow to give yourself a shot at getting it back.

  1. Report to local police. Check police impound lot every 60 days or before bikes are auctioned off.
  2. Look to see if there was a camera nearby. If so, contact the building owner to see if they can provide you with footage to help identify the thief.
  3. Add your bike to It works best if you have your serial number, so be sure to write it down when you get your bike. Should you fail, check with the shop where you bought your bike to see if they have a record of it.
  4. Post a photo and description of your bike on Craigslist.
  5. Check Craigslist, both local Craigslist and nearby big city lists as stolen bikes may show up there (your cycle may have been repainted).
  6. Print flyers about the stolen bike and take them to local bike shops.
  7. Check local pawn shops, swap meets, flea market areas for your bike.
  8. File a claim with your insurance company, if you are covered. Call your agent to see if you will need a police report and coordinate as appropriate.

The following information helps:

Serial # :
Number of gears:
Wheel/frame size:
Type of bike/trike (mountain, road, tandem, cruiser, recumbent, BMX, cargo):
Handlebar (straight, dropped, sprint, mustache):
Brakes (hand, foot, coaster):
Where purchased:
Where stolen:
Type of lock(s):
Police Report #:
Unique traits:
Theft description: