Let’s talk about how to prevent bike theft. I’ll share some bike theft prevention tips, review the best bike locks on the market, show you how to lock your bike correctly, and list the steps of what to do if your bike is stolen.

And I’ll sprinkle in some lessons learned from others who had their bike stolen.

Register your bike

Remember this:

  • Even when locked, your bike may still be stolen.
  • Experts estimate that it takes 7 seconds to steal a locked bicycle.
  • Less than 3% of unregistered stolen bikes are returned to their owners.

Those are just a few facts I found at the National Bike Registry website. It’s startling, but true. Bike theft does happen, and it’s bound to happen to you someday.

Edit: National Bike Registry is now the 529 Garage project.

For a small fee, you can register your bike, greatly increasing the chances that it will come back to you if it is found. (Note that unfortunately, this does not increase the chance that your stolen bike will be found in the first place.)

It is basically a serial number database linking you, your bike, and law enforcement.

Thousands of bikes are recovered, but very few are returned to their owners because they cannot be found. I figure the only thing worse than having your bike stolen is having your stolen bike found, but not being able to get it back.

National Bike Registry solves that problem!

The price isn’t bad. Just $10 will cover your bike for 10 years.

(If you are in the UK, there is a similar service there – BikeRegister.com.)

Get a good bike lock

Here we have an assortment of bike locks from various manufacturers. U-locks or chain locks, key or combination, these are some of the best ones money can buy.

Browse the list and see which one looks best for you.

Kryptonite NY Chain Lock

The biggest, burliest lock I’ve ever seen. It also happens to be my personal lock. I’ve been using it in Massachusetts, and there have been no signs of anyone trying to break it. Most likely, if someone sees this lock, they just pass it by. (It sure is heavy, though.)

The coolest thing is that it comes with a lighted key if you’re ever left in the dark!

Kryptonite NY 3000 Lock

Bicycling Magazine Editor’s Choice Award May, 2002

You can’t argue with Bicycling Magazine. The New York locks are expensive but worth it if you live in a high crime area. If you want to keep your bike, Kryptonite’s NY locks won’t let you down.

Topeak OnGuard Beast Lock

It looks pretty beefy, kind of like a Kryptonite NY lock. It costs about the same, too. To tell you the truth, I would stick with a Kryptonite NY lock. (I haven’t used this lock or heard from anyone else who did, so I won’t discuss much about it.)

Kryptonite Kryptkeeper Lock

Flexible, self-coiling steel cable, long enough to lock both wheels. It’s a basic cable lock, a good choice in low crime areas.

OnGuard Combo Titan Lock Cable

This heavy-duty, self-coiling cable comes with the ultra tough M-Cylinder locking mechanism with a thick hardened steel anti-drill plate for added protection. Vinyl coated with easy to use mounting bracket that fits most bikes. Includes five keys.

Real talk: You don’t have to have the best bike lock, just a better bike lock than your neighbors have. (You know, the whole “you don’t have to be faster than the bear” saying.)

How to lock your bike

Here’s a quick how-to guide to locking your bike so it doesn’t get stolen.

1. Get a lock.

Obviously, you need a lock, or this whole plan falls apart! Head to your local bike shop to purchase a good lock.

2. Check out the pictures of correctly locked bikes.

Having a lock is good, but you must use it correctly for it to help you out. So take a look at these photos of correctly locked bikes to get a good visual on what it takes to lock your bike securely.

Here are a few pictures of correctly locked bikes, and explanations of why they are locked correctly.

[coming soon!]

Here are some examples of how NOT to lock your bike.


3. Put the lock through the bike frame, the rear wheel, and/or the front wheel.

Using one or two locks, secure every part of your bike to a solid object. Generally this means locking the frame and both wheels. (In some cases, remove the front wheel and place it next to the frame before locking it all down.)

To be extra safe, you may want to take all quick release parts with you, especially if you have a $100+ saddle.

Then what?

Practice locking your bike to various objects, and then try to steal it. You don’t need to carry bolt cutters, but look at your bike and see if you could fanangle a quick way to steal it. If you think you could, lock it a different way!

Tips to avoid bike theft

Here are some tips to prevent your bike from being stolen:

1. Always lock your bike.

A lot of people feel that if their bike is inside their home or garage, that it’s safe. But that’s not the case at all. Statistics show that most bikes are actually stolen from your dwelling, so keep that bike locked up no matter what!

2. Lock your bike in an open, well-lit area that can be seen by pedestrians and passing motorists.

In this day and age, thieves will swipe your bike from anywhere, even right under your nose. But the more public you make your bike, the less likely it is to be stolen.

Try to put it in an open area, near a window, and/or near other bicycles.

3. Always secure your bike to a SOLID object.

Remember, a small tree is not solid!

Small trees, chain link fence, wooden posts, and other objects are easily broken by thieves. Keep in mind, if they’re willing to steal your bike, they’re not going to think twice about damaging public property in the process!

4. Be sure to secure any quick-release parts such as wheels or seatpost.

Locking your frame doesn’t do a whole lot of good if your expensive parts can be swiped in seconds.

If you have quick-release wheels, make sure you have a cable lock strung through them. If you have a quick-release seatpost, consider taking it inside with you.

5. Do not leave your bike in a rack overnight.

If you leave your bike outside overnight, you’re asking for it to be stolen. That just makes it too easy for a thief to steal your bike undetected.

6. Do not lock your bike where you are not allowed.

If you come across a sign that warns you not to lock your bike to a certain object (usually hand railings), heed their warning! The property owner or police may “steal” your bike!

Follow these tips and it’s less likely your bike will be stolen. Thieves like easy targets, so the harder you make it, the better off you are.

What to do if your bike is stolen

Having your bike stolen sucks. It’s like an emotional kick to the groin.

But if it happens, you need to remain calm and act quickly if you want any chance of getting it back.

Here is a little “to do” list for you to help get your bike back:

1. Contact your local police department and file a report.

If you want any help from the police, or if you plan to file any sort of insurance claim, it all starts with a police report. Give them as much information as possible, and be sure you write down the report number they give you!

2. Post missing bike flyers in your neighborhood.

This is a very old school method, commonly used for lost cats and dogs, but it might just work for your stolen bike. This strategy actually works very well in cases where the thief “borrowed” your bike for a ride around town and dumped it somewhere.

Post flyers on local college campuses, coffee shops, telephone poles, bicycle racks, etc.

3. Alert all local bike shops to be on the lookout.

Sometimes thieves will take your stolen bike into a shop to try to sell it to them. Or they might even take it in for a repair job to get it ready to sell on eBay. If your local mechanics have a description of your bike, there’s a chance they will spot it and alert the police.

4. Alert all local cycling clubs to be on the lookout.

Chances are slim, but your bike thief might be dumb enough to show up to the local group ride on “their” new bike. If the club recognizes that as your stolen bike, it’s entirely possible a lynch mob will ensue!

5. Blog about it.

Blog about your stolen bike as much as possible. Post on Facebook and Twitter, your personal blog, and anywhere you can get the word out online. (Sometimes friends of friends of your friends seeing your photos posted online is a good thing!)

6. Watch eBay for bikes for sale in your zip code.

Be sure to set up alerts on sites like eBay and Craigslist to notify you of any similar bikes listed for sale in or around your zip code. If you see your bike listed, contact law enforcement immediately.

7. File an insurance claim.

Your bike is likely covered on your homeowners or renters insurance policy. If you have submitted a police report, you can submit an insurance claim.

You can also buy extra coverage applying specifically to your bike.

Hopefully those tips will help you to recover your stolen bike!

Horror Stories of Real Life Bike Theft Occurrences

Learn from others’ mistakes.

“You’ll Never Catch Me!”

Several years ago, in the middle of summer, I locked my trusty single speed mountain bike with a Krypto cable. I ran in to grab a coffee and while I was paying, one of the coffee regulars yelled at me that my bike had just been ripped off. I ran out and saw the junkie furiously pedaling away. I gave chase and watched with amusement as the chain fell off the sprocket and the junkie went splat in the middle of the intersection. Several other couriers with me jumped on the guy and held him down until the police showed up (they had been called by our buddy at the coffee hut).

A few war wounds on the bike, but I recovered it. Since then I have gone all out with my security system. I now use a 4 foot length of Grade 70 Transport chain with 3/8″ thick links. It takes a hydraulic cutter to snap these links and no bolt cutter will touch it. I pair this up with either an ABUS Discus lock or another lock I’ve got that is a little bigger (1/2″ thick shackle).

The beauty of using a chain like this is you can wrap it around a lamp standard and secure your bike. To date, there have been many attempts to cut the chain, but it is futile to try. I once interrupted a thief in the garage and his 5 foot long bolt cutters had snapped at the pivot. A little scar on the chain, that was it.

You can go to Home Depot or Acklands Grainger to buy the chain. Ask for Grade 70 Transport chain, 3/8″ thick links. Go to the lock section and ask for an ABUS or MASTER disc lock. Get the slightly larger one so both ends of the chain fit into it.

I have seen many attempts to break these locks by hammers, punches, bolt cutters, etc., but no success in actually breaking them. You can buy a Kryptonite chain and lock, but who wants to spend $100+ on a lock. I spent about 35 bucks for mine…….. happy trails.

Vancouver, BC, Canada

“I’ll Just Take The Kona, Thanks.”

Last Saturday, I pulled my Kona Kikapu Deluxe out of the basement after a long winters nap. I rode it for about 10 minutes that morning and put it on my back porch for an hour. I then placed it in my garage and locked the doors with a “Master” padlock.

The next morning my son (3) and I went out to get our bikes to go for a Sunday morning ride. The lock was gone on the garage…I knew what was to come. I opened the door and my son said “Daddy… where is your Mtn Bike?” It was stolen within 24 hours of it coming out of my basement.

They did not steal my three other bikes in there or any of my snowboards or skis – just my Kona. Its kind of a creepy feeling to know we were watched that closely.

Owen Sound, Ontario

“Thanks For Keeping The Air Clean. Too Bad About Your Bike.”

I was recently visiting my mother in St. Pauls hospital in Vancouver and took her out for a one hour outing. While I was there, someone stole my Giant Mtn Bike that I used to take my son out on his trailer bike. Thankfully I took the seat off and took it in with me as it has the hitch from my son’s trailer bike on it.

It was in a highly visible area and had 2 locks on it. Once cable, one Kryptonite U-lock. It is discouraging when the city encourages you to keep the air clean and get some exercise by riding your bike, yet we seem to have little protection from the criminals stealing our bikes. It is a little unfortunate. I think I will take the advice of the person that emailed in about the chain and lock etc that cannot be cut through. It is a shame we have to do this.


Another Day, Another Bike Stolen

I’ve had 5 bikes stolen, 4 of which were locked up. All at different times. I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma and obviously bike thieves are everywhere here. I’ve tried every kind of bike lock out there and nothing stops them. I prefer walking or bicycling, but I can’t seem to keep a bicycle long enough to enjoy it. Once, a bike I had just bought (I rode it ONE TIME!) was stolen the next day. It had a name-brand bike lock on it…

U-locks aren’t safe either, another bike I had locked up with a U-Lock, both U-lock and bike were gone without a trace. I’ve never recovered any of these bikes, even after filing police reports with serial numbers. You don’t see too many people riding bikes here, because of the high theft rates, and if they do ride bikes they are cheapo bikes, because riding pricey ones is too risky. When I have enough saved up for yet another bike, I’ll try the idea I read here from Otto…

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Is One Lock Enough?

I am an unemployed copy operator from New York City. Money is tight, as I am currently on unemployment. I started to save money by riding a nine year old, but still in excellent condition, Royce Union mountain bike to the unemployment office that is a good eight miles from my home. I did this as often as I could, in order to save money on subway fare.

To make a long story short, I used to double lock that bike in front of the office every day. The one day that I do not… I leave that office to find out that I no longer own a bike. I got so comfortable, with that false sense of security, that on the day my bike was stolen, I had stupidly chosen to secure it with one lock, a kryptonite cable lock (which was cut clean through,) over the heavy abus chain lock, that I had decided to leave home that day.

New York, NY

Thief Strikes in Open, High-Traffic Area.

When I was in college I always locked my bike up in the front of the dorm at Cal State University Hayward’s Carol Bee Hall. I thought it was a safe place since there was a lot of traffic going by there at all times of the day and night. My bike was a french Grand Touring Motebecane. One morning as I excited the dorm, I observed my bike was gone and the lock was snapped in two and laying there where my bike once was. I decided from that day forward, I would never leave my bike some place unless it was a bike I could afford to lose.

Today, I have a new carbon fibre bike that is worth over $3K and I will never trust it to any lock.

Cal State

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