Top 10 Tips To Prevent Your Bike From Getting Nicked In London

 

Police bike locked up with wheel missing

Even the police have been victims of wheel-theft

Cycling in London is in its ascendancy. Transport for London reckons that during the period from 2000 to 2012, the number of daily journeys made by bicycle in Greater London doubled to 580,000. With tube fares rising above the rate of inflation and the increasing popularity of cycling as a sport – in no small way down to the success of athletes like Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and Victoria Pendleton – it’s set to become even more popular.

However, research from an insurance company published last year shows that one in five cyclists is a victim of bike theft, and although most expect to own their bikes for ten years, in fact they only get to keep them for two years before they are taken.

So, how do you avoid becoming a victim? Follow our tips below to ensure that when you return to your bike, it’s still there.

A wheel, minus its bike

A wheel, minus its frame

Lock it up. Properly.

We often walk around and see random wheels locked to bike stands on their own. Is this because people carry wheels around and feel the need to secure them when they go in to shops? No. It’s because the now former owner of the bike only locked the wheel to the post, not the frame, and someone has released the wheel to take the most valuable part of the machine.

If you’re locking your bike up, make sure that the frame is locked, rather than just the wheels.

Please release me

The population of abandoned bikes in London is relatively large. We’ve even seen them outside police stations. One reason for this is that opportunistic thieves spot wheels (in particular, quick release wheels) that are not secured and decide to whip them off. Probably to go on the frame they’ve already nicked elsewhere. As the bike remains in situ, gradually more and more components are stripped from the bike, finally leaving just a chained up frame.

If you’re locking your bike up, try and have a cable-lock or cable-loop go through the wheels so they’re not a target. If you do have your wheels, handle bars or seat nicked, try and retrieve your pride and joy as soon as you can so that other bits of your bike are not a further target for thieves with Allen keys.

Always secure your D-lock to the post, taher than just the cable loop which is easily cut through

Always secure your bike to the D-lock rather than just the cable loop – which is easily cut through

Use two types of lock

Would-be thieves will often use one of two methods to break your lock; bolt cutters to snip through cable locks or car jacks to break open D-locks. Crooks tend not to carry both types of tool with them – as 1): they’re heavy and 2): they give the police an opportunity to arrest them for the offence of ‘going equipped’. Using a combination of cable-locks and D-locks limits your scope for becoming a victim.

Thieves sometimes also us sledgehammers or drills to break locks. You can make it much harder for them to do this however by making sure your lock does not touch the floor.

Location, location, location

Choose your spot carefully. First of all, make sure that whatever you’re locking your bike to is solid and attached to terra-firma. If it can be easily removed, so can your bike. Secondly, if you’re locking your bike to a lamppost, make sure that it’s not one that your lock (and bike) can be easily lifted up, over and off.

Also, don’t think that because you lock your bike up in an area that is busy, you’ll be safer. Thieves can actually use the fact that an area is busy as camouflage for their activities — sometimes the best way not be seen is to do it in plain sight. Some bike owners advocate locking your bike up places where it will be noticeable if someone is up to mischief, such as off the ground on a lamppost/railings, on the road side of pavement railings or on a roundabout. Wherever you choose to lock it, make sure it’s safe to do so and that it’s not prohibited.

Finally, thieves are notoriously camera-shy, so if you can find an area covered by CCTV, you’re more likely to be peddling home rather than fumbling around for your Oyster card.

Mind the gap

If you have a D-lock, try and get as much of your bike/wheels/cable-lock into the space in the middle as possible. As described above, thieves use car jacks to bust the lock open, but filling the gap will make this 100 times harder to do so.

False economy

We all love pound shops. You can find some cracking bargains in there. We wouldn’t buy a bike lock from there to secure a Pinarello carbon-framed bike though.

Cheap locks are a false economy. It will cost much more to replace your bike than to invest in the first place, not to mention be a massive pain in the arse. Experts say you should spend the equivalent of around 10% of the value of your bike on a lock. So if you have a £1,000 bike, you should be prepared to spend £100 on locks to make sure it remains your bike.

Choose your neighbours

This point really sticks in our throat, but reflects the reality of the situation. If the bike next to yours is easier to steal, then the likelihood is that their ride will be taken – rather than yours. Choose neighbours that are less-well secured and you’re more likely to find your wheels still there when you return.

Leave your mark

One of the worst possible scenarios is having your pride and joy nicked, it being recovered and the cops having no idea who to return it to.

The Metropolitan Police regularly hold free bike marking sessions. Should your bike be stolen then recovered, the police can look up who it belongs to and will soon be inviting you to pick it up. They also apply a little badge, visible on the frame, which acts as a deterrent — no self-respecting crim would ever want to be caught red-handed with someone else’s property. Also, take photos of your bike, this can help prove that a bike is yours, should it be recovered.

For details of bike marking sessions, visit The Met’s website.

Decorate

Bike thieves know a good bike from a crap bike, but usually only based on the branding on the frame. Some people have taken to decorating their good bike to make it look like a crap one, thus confusing our light-fingered friends and making the bike less likely to be pinched. Methods we’ve seen have included garish home-made spray jobs, gaffer tape and even tin foil.

Despite the supposed benefits of this, something seems perverse about spending the equivalent of Luxembourg’s GDP on beautiful machine only to ruin the aesthetics of it in the name of security. We’ll leave the decision up to you.

Don’t buy nicked bikes

The final point is perhaps the most important one. If nobody bought nicked bikes, then there wouldn’t be a market for this sort of thievery.

It might be tempting to see that road bike you’ve wanted, on-sale in a market in east London at half the price it’s actually worth, but don’t be lured in. If the cops find the ride you’ve bought is stolen, you’ll have to hand it over and will get no compensation in return. More so, you’re encouraging precisely the little toe-rags that this article you’re reading has been trying to help you foil.

For advice on ensuring the bike you’re buying is not stolen, read these tips on buying a second-hand bike.

Do you have any tips to avoid becoming just another cycle theft statistic? Add them below.

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AndyThornley

Article by Andy Thornley | 66 Articles | View Profile

  • Tony Woolf

    Security skewers for quick-release wheels are a lot lighter than carrying extra locks. There are several types. If you use puncture resistant tyres you’ll almost never need to take a wheel off anyway.

    • Mikey Ahdoot

      definitely the easiest solution out there. I’ve had my wheels stolen a bunch of times and just launched a Kickstarter for a bike wheel lock / skewer lock: http://LockYourNuts.com

  • Matt W

    You should also record the frame number (under the bottom bracket, where the pedals attach), in case your bike does get nicked and the police want to return it to you. The best place to do this (and, in fact, all of your valuables) is on the official site: https://www.immobilise.com

  • Mark

    There’s another reason for two locks -or at least one lock and two cables- it prevents your lock being torsionned open. If you just have d-lock with wiggle room , you can lift the bike up in the air and use it’s weight to lever and twist the lock till it pops. It might dent the frame, but who cares if you’re knicking it?

  • CanAmSteve

    Is there any evidence that police are more likely to charge individuals found with both cable cutters and a jack (for example) with “going equipped”? I’d suggest two D-locks are a better option than any cable lock combo.

    Busy area? Quiet area? CCTV? I don’t think CCTV matters except to pros. Someone just practising their new nicking skills will appreciate a quiet area to work, though. Busy is better – esp. if you have a decent lock that will take some effort. Someone with a car jack at the train station bike rack might actually draw some attention.

    There is much good information here, but it’s a bit too generic. Lots of bikes are stolen because they were never locked at all, or locked incorrectly. So a lock that is used, any lock, will prevent the opportunistic ride-off thief (often kids). Some shopping bikes have a circular seatstay lock that you just click into position when you park it. The bike can’t be ridden away, and they weigh a ton and are not that desirable to kids.

    Then you have the budding criminals, usually armed with cable cutters (note that there are cheap extendible bolt cutters available, too) who will go for better bikes with cheaper locks. This is probably most of the problem in London. They know they won’t be prosecuted and there are plenty of usable bikes poorly locked for them to choose from.

    And finally, you have the pros, who target the high-rollers with their very expensive bikes. As pros, they watch and wait. Maybe they works as a team with high-viz jackets and a battery-powered angle grinder. No lock can withstand that. So best keep your expensive bike inside and locked to your desk.

    In London, it’s best to ride a cheapish singlespeed. Bolt-on wheels and not worth so much. Few parts to steal. A small Kryptonite should secure it.

    There are quite a few skewer-lock solutions. Pinlock, simple hex-head options, even a set that only release when the bike is inverted. Almost all of these can be bested by a simple pair of locking pliers, though.

    http://www.amazon.com/Zefal-Locking-Bicycle-Skewer-2-Piece/dp/B001NOECDS

    And don’t forget the other bike registry

    https://www.bikeregister.com/signup

  • Jack

    Locking skewers, security bolts, good locks… also, reflective tape over stickers and brands and anywhere you can put it is good both for making the bike uglier and more visible in traffic.

  • Will

    A common cause is bikes being left in communal areas in flats/houses – I know a lot of people who have had bikes nicked from just inside a shared front door when a neighbour has buzzed-in someone they don’t know.

  • Toddfrey

    Lived on a council estate for three years bike seat not nicked. Lived off one a week and had it nicked. Cover your seat with a plastic bag.

  • Mick.B.

    Easy answer to the problem, buy a Brompton,,fold it, and take it wherever you go. Problem solved. SIMPLES.