by Bryan Hance
Topics: Bike Theft
Topics: Bike Theft
Bike Theft season is upon us
Bike Theft season is here.
It happens every year - as the weather gets warmer, the thieves come out in droves and 'bike theft season' officially kicks off.
There has always been a seasonality to this that we watch here at Bike Index - and this year is no different. It is like clockwork. Very, very depressing clockwork.
So: What to do?
We are seeing that seasonal rise again - right now - so we wanted to publish this post and provide some quick tips to help you get ahead of this year's bike theft season.
These are quick, free tips that literally everybody can do right now. We'd love it if you could send this to any cyclists/shops/friends and social media circles that you can, because the more we get folks engaged right now, the more bike thefts we can stop.
First: Register your bike
Let's get the easy one out of the way: Registering your bike is simply the most obvious, easiest, fastest thing you can do right now.
Grab your phone, take a couple photos of your bike, and then pop on over to bikeindex.org and register your bike. Better yet, include a selfie of you with your bike, so there's little debate about proof of custody/ownership later on.
This gets it in the Bike Index system, fully documented, and drastically reduces any thief's ability to resell or fence that bike later on. And it's all free - and fast.
You would think we still wouldn't have to beg people to do this one simple thing, but we still have stolen bike entries come in every day that lack both a photo and a serial number. And these victims are usually kicking themselves for not taking two proactive minutes to register with us before they suffered a theft.
I guarantee you if those theft victims had registered earlier, we'd be getting more bikes back. So we're begging you: get your bike registered with bikeindex.org right now.
Harden your bike's storage environment
Where is your bike right now? Is it in a garage? Is it in a basement? Parked at work? Take a moment and ask yourself "How can I harden my bike against theft in this place"?
We see countless bikes getting stolen from garages, apartment building parking, and businesses. In fact, we wrote an article about this that you may be interested in reading. The upshot? Bike parking is a prime target for thieves, building management doesn't care, and countless bikes get stolen from apartment garages because they are easy pickings.
Garages: garage thefts are a favorite target for bike thieves, because once they've defeated whatever simple mechanisms (the door, glass, or cheap locks) to get into your garage they basically have the run of the place. This makes them very 'low hanging fruit'.
1) Lock the bike to something/ use anchor bolts: real simple, if your bike is left standing unlocked in your garage, this makes it easy to steal once a door is breached.
Make sure you're locking it to something sturdy, thick, and impossible to cut through. Even better, use an anchor bolt of some kind to make sure they bike is securely locked to a floor bolt and not going anywhere.
2) Security cameras: consumer grade security cameras are so stupidly cheap right now! They're worth buying. Get some, add them to your garage, and set up motion alerts. Get two: make one very overtly visible, and make the other one well hidden and placed at head height.
3) Motion detectors: A while ago I went looking for the cheapest WiFi connected motion detector that I could find, and I found this. For $22 you get a motion detector that audibly alerts on motion and also alerts your phone, and can be controlled via an app.
It isn't much, but for $22 it's a great cheap defense for a garage space that will likely scare off any casual burglar with a loud alarm and also alert your phone.
Now - go disable that latch on your own garage door.
Apartment Buildings: we see a lot of bike thefts stolen from apartment 'bicycle parking' rooms. Again, it's a long subject and we wrote a whole article about it, so we won't reiterate all those points here. Go read that article if you want the lowdown.
Solution: Many people ignore their building management and keep their bikes in their apartments, instead of the basement bike parking. We're big fans of this.
If you are forced to use the building's parking, double the number of locks you are using, make sure you're locking to something solid (and not the cheap racks often supplied by buildings) and pester your building management about getting better security mechanisms installed - and ask them about their insurance policies. Make them nervous, which will make them take the problem seriously.
Next: Engage your community & register more bikes
Registering one bike is great, but registering a hundred bikes is epic. And the thing is - it's not even that hard.
Do you belong to a cycling group? Point them towards BikeIndex.org, or send out a link in your local mailing list, and ask everybody to register their bikes for free, right now. Not sure what to say? We'll help you put a blurb together, if you want some help.
Are you a member of a cycling Facebook group? Same thing - Drop a link to BikeIndex.org in your next post, comment, tweet, email, communique, manifesto - whatever! Let them know Bike Theft Season is here, and they need to get proactive.
Are you a student? Tell your school about Bike Index! A shockingly large number of the stolen bikes we see are taken from campuses and schools who sadly don't have the best security setup with their bike parking. It's simple, fast, and free to get your school signed up with Bike Index.
Tell your local Bike Shop about Bike Index! Better yet, get them signed up to register bikes via their point of sale system - and you'll be responsible for registering thousands of future bikes.
Tell your local city about Bike Index - but be prepared for slow progress
We would love it if you engaged your local city about bike theft. We'll be honest though: The thing about cities is, they move slow. And we know that cities move slow. But Bike Index lets you move fast.
With Bike Index, you don't have to wait for your city to 'form a committee to investigate the possibility to examine the implementation of a community bike theft effort' which, in all reality, would probably be implemented sometime in 2045 if they start right now.
What you can do though, is everything above this paragraph that we've already listed. And you can do it right now - with no city assistance required.
And in no time, you can tell your city "This is what we, the cycling community, are already doing to help fight bike theft here. We invite you to come join us and pitch in."
Come hunt bikes - and thieves - with your community!
The strongest anti-theft communities are those that have people actively 'bike hunting' and coordinating with victims in their local communities.
This means they have people checking the usual crop of online fencing sites and apps - Facebook Marketplace, Offerup, and Craigslist - and cross matching stolen bikes from Bike Index against those bikes posted for sale. This kind of sleuthing can be done quickly and safely, from home, without ever leaving your chair.
This is an incredibly easy way to spot stolen bikes - especially on Offerup, which is a chronically terrible repeat offender and the single largest place thieves are fencing stolen bikes (and stolen everything) these days.
Other communities have people that go to 'known hot spots' - usually swap meets or flea markets with dubious reputations - and surreptitiously check the bikes for sale there against Bike Index listings. This is a little more involved, but there are enough cyclists out there that are fed up with the thefts in their community that they are making it happen.
Point being: If you want to get move involved, it's always possible. Drop us a line and we can usually point you towards the folks doing this work in your area.
The best part about all of these suggestions? They are all free! Everything I've just listed is completely free, free, free. As it should be.
Thanks for reading - and thanks for getting ahead of this year's bike theft season.