How to Prevent Theft of Bikes on Racks

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The first bike I owned was stolen inside our garage when I was 14. I can still feel the frustration up to this day. If bikes can be thieved from the comfort of your homes, how much more can those sitting on bike racks? Planning your next biking adventure should definitely include preventing theft of bikes on racks.

Security is one of the features most bike rack manufacturers have been trying to advance on. But, no matter how they do, some burglars still find their way to sneak into the racks’ security mechanism. Just look at how these two guys ripped off a bike in less than 10 seconds (link to youtube).

Not a fun surprise to see your bike gone after quickly eating at your favorite diner, right?

Ways to Prevent Bike Theft

You may have seen on your last biking adventure a post that’s up to the wall of the gas station you filled your vehicle from – “Stolen mountain bike, be on the lookout”. It could be you, but when it happens, we don’t know. Thieves are creeps, they won’t give a hint when you are their next target.

Here are some precautionary steps to ward off bike theft:

  1. Lock your bike
  2. Lock Your Bike Rack to Your Car
  3. Spend on a Quality Bike Lock
  4. Be Observant of the People Around You and Your Surroundings
  5. Personalize Your Bike and Make It Visible
  6. Take Photos of Your Bike and Keep All the Relevant Information About Them
  7. Avoid Posting Where You Are on Social Media
  8. Get a GPS Tracking Device
  9. Register

Lock Your Bike

Amongst all the steps, this seems to be the no-brainer. However, you would be stunned to know just how many bikers don’t lock up their bikes. Especially when they are on a bathroom break at a gasoline station or at some diner.

Folks, bike racks aren’t your bike protection against thieves. They are for a different purpose. Bike thieves aren’t just smart about your bikes, they are also knowledgeable about bike racks and other accessories you use with your bikes. It wouldn’t be too hard for them to pop out your bike from your rack and drive away.

A good lock system is what you need to have. If you must, do not resort to just one lock, use as many as you can. Cables? Yes, they can help. Make sure that they wind through your wheels because thieves know how to remove wheels, you know. And, make sure these are pretty neat cables that can’t be easily cut.

Lock Your Bike Rack to Your Car

The several lock systems that I mentioned you should get are not just for your bikes, but for your bike racks too. While you can be sure the bikes are safely attached to the rack, thieves are equally as sure that bike racks can be removed too! So, make sure your carrier is also secured to your vehicle.

After all, bike racks are almost as expensive as your bikes.

There are high chances that when a thief thinks about stealing your bike, that they have the intent to take away the bike rack too. It is one best practice, especially when your car has a tow hook at the back, to loop a cable lock through the frame and the rear wheel. Don’t just stop there. Lock the ends onto the metal loop under the vehicle.

Researching before getting that bike rack you need for your next bike trip will add security to your bikes against bike theft. A lot of bike rack manufacturers now include built-in locks. Reviews will give you an idea of which rack can best work with you and your bike.

Spend on a Quality Bike Lock

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You wouldn’t entrust your expensive bike with just any locks, would you? If you really want to deter theft, a quality lock that may just come in with a costly tag is what you need to invest in.

There are different types of locks – U-locks, chain, and cable locks.

U-locks, as the name implies are U-shaped metal locks that come in different sizes. They are difficult to cut as they are cumbersome for a crowbar or other tools to break. The trick in using a U-lock is to pick what you want to fit inside it, so you know what size to buy. Don’t forget that you need the wheel locked in order for the thieves to have a hard time attempting to remove it.

U-locks are easier to carry since they tend to be smaller and more compact than chains. The top three recommended U-locks are:

  • Abus 540. These are made from specially hardened steel, with power cell technology for excellent protection against impacts and attempts to forcibly open the locks. It has the parabolic shape that claims to counter prying and pulling.
  • Abus X Plus Extreme. This lock has a double-locking, 16-mm square parabolic shackle that is made from hardened special steel. It is so flexible that you can attach it to tubes with 12-17 mm diameter.
  • This gravity locking system secures to your front wheel and provides an internal “lock-out” function. It can only be removed by turning the bike upside down, 180 degrees. Use it along with the Messenger Mini to get the complete locking solution for your bike.

[amazon fields=”B001SMUB7G” value=”thumb” image_size=”large” image_align=”center” image_title =”Chain Lock” image_alt = “Kryptonite Chain” image_width=“300” image_height=“300”/]

Chain locks are the most popular and effective solution to bike theft as they are difficult to cut or break. The downside that people shy away from getting it is that they are heavy and not too flexible. This characteristic makes chain locks not the easiest lock to work with.

What you need to keep in mind with chain locks is to have a very sturdy lock to hold it together. Otherwise, it won’t matter how strong your chain is.

Chain locks are popular because the extra length it has provides more latitude on where and how you can lock the bike up. Some of the recommended chain locks are:

  • Kryptonite Chain (New York Fahgettaboudit Chain 1415). The name implies that when you use it, you can forget about it – having your bike chained up. Designed for ultimate strength, its 14mm six-sided chain links are made of manganese steel. It also includes maximum security disc lock with 15mm max performance steel shackle. The chains are held into place by the durable, protective nylon cover with hook-n-loop fasteners.
  • Kryptonite Anchor. Bikes, whether kept in the garage or up to the hitch bike rack, should be locked to a fixed point. Or else, crooks can carry the bikes and deal with the locks later. Kryptonite Stronghold Anchor bolts into concrete with 5/8 -inch cement anchor rods. The permanent locking point system is safe for bikes both indoors and outdoors, thanks to its 16mm hardened carbon alloy steel shackle.

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The last type of lock is the cable locks. These are usually bendy, slim, and easier to use making them ideal for everyday application. The drawback for such type of lock is that it can be cut, so it is still best to use them along with other locks. Its flexibility lets you wind them through one or more bikes.

Cable locks add another step for potential thieves to go through when struggling to steal your bike. For roof racks, Knog Kransky’s patented seamless over mold that uses industrial grade UV stable silicone is your gear. As tough as having 11mm stainless steel locking shackle that ensures extra security against unwanted attacks, it will not mark or scratch your bike, roof rack, or your vehicle.

As with any gears, if you ask a group of people which the best lock is, you will almost certainly get different answers. It pays to read and research. Find out which one has that quality that suits your needs. Excellent protection is a good investment.

Be Observant of the People Around You and Your Surroundings

This doesn’t just apply to deter bike theft. In any situation that involves your personal safety, this should always be practiced. Look around, know what’s going on around you. Observe if that car that just drove by has a bike rack or not.

Suspicious about that guy in street clothes with an expensive bike car? Observe. If your observation kills the safety freak in you, call the police.

Such situations can also happen online. A really good deal online for an expensive bike might be too good to be true. If it feels that way for you, ask questions. You’ll never know if your hunches tell you right.

Personalize Your Bike and Make It Visible

Bike thieves are mostly revenue-driven. They steal bikes to earn and get cash out of it. Very seldom that they steal to own or ride them. This means that the quicker they sell their “haul”; the larger the income they get.

Crooks go for bikes that sell easily. So, you should make your bike hard to sell by making it personalized and visible. Sure, you may have picked your bike that day at the store because it was your favorite color. And, it just could be everyone else’s favorite color, too! You may keep the color that way or paint it up to make it look nice and unique.

Have some initials engraved. Few pieces of tape here and there to fake scuffs and scratches. Such a strategy will lover the seeming resale value. And as profit-driven as they are, this discourages stealing your bike.

Take Photos of Your Bike and Keep All the Relevant Information About Them

So, you made your bike the most colorful in town. No one owns a bike that is pimped liked yours. That still doesn’t keep you from being a victim of bike theft.

If it happens, the best way to catch your thief is to be clever enough to prove that the bikes are yours. A detailed picture of your bike, particularly a part of it that is unique is a good proof. Nothing beats it if you are on the same photo. See, selfies can help, too!

It also helps to keep all your receipts. Whether it is the receipt you have from when you got the bike or the receipt from the last service you had for it. Bikes have serial numbers, too. Make sure to take note of that and know where to find it.

If these details are handy, you may share them if your bike gets stolen, so people online will be on the lookout to find it at second-hand sales sites.

Avoid Posting Where You Are on Social Media

I used to wonder what it’s like being invisible. I know its impossible. But, in this day and age of social media and the internet, you can be invisible. Do not share your location on social media sites. These alerts people and are helpful for crooks to know where to find you.

Be invisible. At least in social media.

Get a GPS Tracking Device

Tracking devices aren’t usually as expensive as your bike are. Extreme as it sounds, it is a worthy step, especially if your bike is worth over a thousand dollars.

This device tracks the location of your bike and sends back signals to your phone. They can be concealed easily and its as if its not there. Leaving the thief clueless that he is being tracked.


There is actually an agency called The National Bike Registry (link). This group has been helping identify and return stolen bikes since 1984. According to their statistics, law enforcement retrieves approximately 48% of stolen bikes every year. That sounds positive.

But, since not all bikes are registered and there’s no way to determine ownership, only 5% are returned to their rightful owners.

Check out their website to register and to find out more about how to fight bike theft.

Do you have other tips you can share to reverse the trend of missing bikes? You know what to do in the comment section!

Bike Theft on Bike Racks

bike lock

Cycling’s popularity is no surprise. No wonder major cities worldwide have resorted to policies promoting cycling. Such moves benefit the city and its population from the many positive economic, health, environmental, and social benefits of active transportation.

Sadly, bike ownership and ridership aren’t the only numbers rising up on statistics. Cycling’s popularity is advantageous to individuals and cities; however, it has likewise opened the door to wide-range bike theft.

In the City of Davis in California alone, bike theft is the no. 1 crime. These numbers from police reports as well as some studies suggest that more or less half of all active bikers have had their 2-wheelers stolen.

To thieves, bikes may not be as valuable as the life of that kid they are trying to get a ransom of. But, it’s less likely that they get caught. Even when they do, the punishment wouldn’t be as huge as that of when they get caught kidnapping.

The stolen bike’s fate depends on how sophisticated or professional the bike thieves are. For example, the sloppy ones who might be addicts or homeless may just be looking for a few bucks for something to eat or to get a hit. These types deal in the bikes for a tiny fraction of what they are really worth. They either swap it directly with what they need, pawn it, or sell it on the streets.

The expert bike thieves know how much these bikes are worth, so they are more careful in using the same tactic. This type target the most expensive bikes and sell them online (anonymously, as much as they can), to get a decent price. Most of the bikes they pocket go to a bigger market. They’d also sell the haul they get from one place to a different place to avoid forces from tracking them down.

You would think bike theft is a simple matter. It isn’t. Such petty crime causes harmful economic and social consequences for a significant part of the population.

For instance, bike theft discourages bike use. A huge chunk of bike theft victims chooses not to replace their bike after getting stolen. And, while local government promotes cycling by investing in bike lanes and civic campaigns, bike burglars are unconsciously putting a damper on it.

The fear of bike theft is the enemy of cycling, commuting in public, and even impeding to shop at establishments with no sufficient bike parking. It also leads to a series of more petty crimes, identifies as the crime multiplier effect.

This happens when a bike is stolen and gets sold online, bike theft victims who seriously feel the need to replace their bikes quickly and cheaply resort to checking online forums or second-hand shops where the stolen goods are posted up for sale. They sure can get a costly bike at a huge mark-down, even when it looks suspicious. The worst is when victims feel justified to steal someone else’s bike just because theirs got stolen too.

Main Drivers for Bike Theft

A Police Department described bike theft’s main driver with the acronym CRAVED.

  • Concealable
    • You can’t tell whether a bike rider you see on the street is the bike owner or the bike thief. This makes bike theft a concealable crime even at the busiest and most visible places.
  • Removable
    • 2-wheelers locked or unlocked are the quickest and easiest to steal. After all, it gives you a get-away vehicle after committing the crime.
  • Available
    • Rising popularity of bikes and the increase of bike ownership generate both stealing opportunities and demand for stolen bikes.
  • Valuable
    • As simple and as basic as they look, an average bike’s price ranges from $300 to $400. The high-end ones have price tags of more or less $1000.
  • Enjoyable
    • The adrenaline rush adds up to the fun in the joyride when thieves steal bikes.
  • Disposable
    • The more desirable the bike looks, the easier it is for crooks to sell them.

By addressing these drivers, bike theft can easily be curbed. It may sound simple, but if it does get addressed, will result to fewer people stealing bikes.

According to a study, bikes valued between $150 to $500 have more tendency to be stolen than the expensive ones. This is because bike owners who invest in their bikes also invest in more secure and sophisticated bike racks or pay for secure bike parking.

Suggesting to the people to get expensive bikes isn’t the solution though. Bike theft numbers would decrease significantly with the combined effort of public awareness and investment in security – including safe parking spots.



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