How to prevent bike theft

This article is brought to you by Velosurance

As cycling has spiked in popularity this year, so too have incidents of bike theft. Nationwide, police departments estimate bike theft is up 25% compared to this time last year. J Allard, the founder of the bicycle register service Project 529, estimates that 2 million bikes are stolen in the U.S. each year. Bicycle theft is common, but it's not inevitable. Taking a few precautionary safety measures can save you from the headache of having to deal with a stolen bicycle.

Common bike theft scenarios

Like the majority of thefts, bike thefts are frequently crimes of convenience. Leaving your bike unlocked while you grab a quick coffee on your commute to work, leaving your garage door open while you're doing yard work, or not locking your bike to the rack on your car are common bike theft scenarios.

How to prevent bike theft

Like the majority of thefts, bike thefts are frequently crimes of convenience. Leaving your bike unlocked while you grab a quick coffee on your commute to work, leaving your garage door open while you're doing housework, or not locking your bikes to the rack on your car are common bike theft scenarios.

Less common, but often more costly, are targeted bike thefts. These thefts occur when thieves know what an expensive bike looks like and where you keep yours. Targeted thefts often take place when bikes are locked to public or vehicle bike racks, secured within a vehicle, or stored in a home or garage. In these instances, bike thieves often come prepared with break-in tools, lock picking equipment, or battery-powered angle grinders that can cut through many locks in less than a minute.

Last but not least on the list of bike theft scenarios are accessory thefts. In these cases, the bike itself is left locked, but items that can be quickly removed and easily concealed are taken. Bike lights, cycling computers, and saddle bags are common targets. In addition to these small items, thieves may also make off with unlocked wheels, quick-release seatposts, and e-bike batteries.

How to prevent bike theft

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of bike theft, you need to be proactive about keeping your bike secure. Keep in mind that a highly-motivated thief can break through even the toughest of locks if given enough time and privacy. The goal is to make your bike a less desirable target in the hopes that they move along. You should have a plan to combat every bike theft scenario and stick to it consistently.

Keep a lightweight cable or folding lock with you any time you think you might stop on a ride. Even if you're leaving your bike outside for "only for a minute", lock it up-preferably within your line of sight. Lights and expensive cycling computers can be pocketed in a matter of seconds, so you should always take them with you. If you've developed the habit of leaving the garage door open all day, now is a good time to break that habit. By keeping your garage door closed, you also keep your bikes out of the sight and minds of would-be criminals.

How to prevent bike theft

Keep a lightweight lock with you any time you think you might stop on a ride.​

When it comes to preventing targeted bike thefts, owners should be diligent about locking up bikes within their homes and garages. Even when your garage door is closed, it's a good idea to secure your bikes with a sturdy cable lock through an anchor bolt in the cement floor of your garage. Homeowners should also consider installing motion-activated security cameras to catch thieves in the act. Strava and other fitness apps allow you to create a privacy zone around your home. If you are a frequent commuter, you should also make privacy zones around your workplace and any other frequent stops.

If you live in an apartment or college campus where you must lock your bike up outside, be sure to invest in a sturdy lock that can pass through one wheel as well as the front triangle. Double down on security by threading a cable lock through the frame and the other wheel, as well as the first lock. Do your best to secure your bike in a well-lit, high-traffic area, and be sure to remove any accessories that could be easily stolen. If you can find an area with security camera coverage, even better.

How to prevent bike theft

Thieves have also been known to follow drivers with expensive bikes on their racks and steal them when they stop for gas or a meal, so taking preventative measures-even on those quick stops-is a must. Whenever possible, park your vehicle in a spot that is within your line of sight and always lock your bikes to your vehicle's rack with a chain or a cable lock.

Related: What type of bicycle lock works best?

What to do if your bike is stolen

How to prevent bike theft

While you can do a lot to deter thieves, you should still consider bike theft a very real possibility and act accordingly. Keep a file in your home, or better yet, digitally, with your proof of purchase, your bike's serial number, and other supporting documentation such as photos and a list of components to prove that the bike in question does, in fact, belong to you. You can also register your bike with Bike Index and Project 529.

Now, if you do find yourself the victim of bike theft, your first step is to contact the local authorities and file a police report. In order to file a police report, the documentation discussed above will be needed. Oftentimes, filing a police report is a prerequisite to filing an insurance claim-more on that later. Once you've alerted the authorities, you can post your bike theft to local and regional Facebook groups. Be sure to monitor Craigslist and eBay and similar marketplace websites to see if your bike shows up.

What should you do if you find your bike being resold online? First and foremost, do not try to set up a sting operation on your own. For your own safety, leave the bicycle recovery to the police.

Does bicycle insurance make sense for me?

We buy insurance for the unexpected. We all hope our bike never gets stolen, but bikes are valuable and can be snatched up by a thief in a matter of seconds. It often takes an insurance claim to see how badly home insurance covers high-value bikes, if at all. It makes sense to insure your bike with a stand-alone bicycle insurance policy designed to cover theft as well as accidental damage. There is no more need to attempt bike coverage with a cobbled-together add-on to another insurance policy when you can buy a policy that is specifically designed to cover your bike.

How to prevent bike theft

Insuring your bike costs less than you probably think. Velosurance offers free estimates so you can choose the plan that makes sense for you. Visit to learn more.