Keeping your bike in your own hands is, sadly, easier said than done. Most people have either had a bike stolen or know of someone who has had a bike stolen. Bikes are unique items in that they have both a high monetary value and a high sentimental value. Yet, we leave them outside with even the best of protections being relatively insufficient.
Still, there are a few things you can do to deter a bike thief when it comes to keeping your ride safe. Here are our best tips for not getting your bike stolen.
The best way to keep your bike safe is to not leave it outside. Hopefully, you can bring your bike into your office or your apartment where no one will get their hands on it other than you.
Locking your bike inside an apartment building but still in a common area leaves your bike vulnerable as well. Try bringing your bike into an inside space that you trust. If you have to lock your bike outside, try locking it somewhere you can see it - not somewhere that is just 'visible,' as many thieves are good enough to cut a lock without even looking suspicious.
Sometimes you don't have a choice. I took classes in a building that would not let me bring bikes in. Twice a week I had to ride directly after class to cyclocross practice, so I had to lock up my race bike. Luckily, the bike parking was part of a parking lot that had an attendant at all times, and the only way to get into the garage was by vehicle, since it was off of a huge multi-lane road that was in a tunnel. Terrifyingness of riding into that garage aside, I'd take the elevator down 20 stories to check on the bike after every single class. It was not a good feeling.
Another tip: we see probably a break-in a day, whether into a garage, a home, or a car, so insurance can also come in handy. Garages are the most common of the three. Your detached garage is not safe, especially if you have a car with the garage opener outside or a breakable keypad or doorknob. Not to fearmonger, but thieves are watching. They know what is in your garage, and they will steal it. If you store your bikes in a garage or shed on your property, make sure to lock them to something sturdy inside the structure.
You can check some of the best locks here. Cable locks are pretty much a no in any scenario other than as a supplemental lock to a better lock. It's nice to have a cafe lock for very brief stops in and out of places where you can't directly see your bike, but even thick cable locks are easily cut with tools anyone can purchase at the hardware store.
We recommend using at least one U-lock that would require power tools and a bit more time to cut through. Locks that require keys are less breakable than locks that require codes. Locks might seem like an additional irritating fee, but at the end of the day, good locks can last you for years, and ultimately are worth the price of not losing your bike.
Now that you know what kind of locks to use, make sure you know how to use them. We can't reiterate enough that cable locks are pretty much useless unless you are using a good one to secure your wheels to a U-lock. We recommend locking both wheels to the frame and to the object you are locking your bike to. We definitely recommend putting a U-lock through the rear wheel and triangle.
We also love Pinhead Locks for your componentry, such as your saddle and your axles. Without a specific key, thieves can't steal your removable and otherwise unlockable parts.
The idea is, unfortunately, that a thief is going to look for a quick steal, so you want to make your bike the hardest to steal out of the bikes it is locked near. The more locks, the better, but also the better quality of locks, the better.
Are you locking your bike to a bollard that it can literally be lifted off of? Are you locking to a street sign that can be pulled out of the ground? What about a bike rack that, heaven forbid, only allows you to lock your front wheel, which can be removed and the rest of the bike stolen? Or even a bike rack or wooden frame that can be cut with tools?
It's sad, but true: if what your bike is locked to is not secure, then your bike is not secure. Thieves will go to any means necessary to take your bike, including cutting down a tree or vandalizing your porch.
You may want to think twice before you leave your bike unlocked - or even locked - in a bike cage. It's as easy as walking into the building behind someone with a fob, breaking the lock or cutting the fence, and grabbing your bike and a bunch of others.
We see TONS of these kinds of thefts. Literally tons. We've all assumed that the bike parking in our buildings is secure - because it is supposed to be secure. But it's not hard for a motivated thief to sneak into the building or just break in and ride your bike out.
If your bike does end up losing its way, then we have lots of resources on our news page that let you know what we recommend doing in specific bike theft hot spots, like the Bay Area. Try checking Facebook for a local stolen bikes group that will have specific resources for things to do in your community and motivated members who will help you look for your bike. Sadly, online selling platforms like OfferUp do next to nothing to regulate the sale of stolen items, but if your bike appears there, you can check our our post on what to do in this scenario.
And make sure to report your theft to your local law enforcement. Many people think that registering or reporting their stolen bike won't do any good, but it WILL. We have passionate law enforcement partners all over North America who recover bikes every day, and if you input your police report number on Bike Index, we'll also alert pawnshops in the area to keep an eye out.
At the end of the day, having to lock and worry about your bike sucks, but getting into a good routine with equipment that you trust decreases your stress and eventually just becomes habit. You can learn more about locking your bike and protecting your ride here.