Out of these four bikes, this one would be stolen first


Last week we posed the question: Which of these four bikes will get stolen first? The post proved very popular and was visited by 2,819 cyclists of which 46 left their answer. Here’s a tally of the responses:

  • Bike D: 31
  • Bike B: 8
  • Bike A: 7
  • Bike C: 0

Most people guessed correctly that the most likely to get stolen is Bike D:

But why exactly? As Philcycle commented:

One snip and ride away.

The locking technique on this bike is truly horrendous. Not only does the cyclist use a very flimsy lock but they also secure it only to the front wheel (meaning the thief can remove the front wheel and take the rest of the bike). The lock has even been placed near to the ground which is perfect for leveraging an attack.

Despite the bad locking technique, the other big argument is: Is this bike safe simply because it’s undesirable?

One of the commenters, Jon, tested this theory by locking a similar bike with a similar locking technique. In the past two years no one has stolen it. However, as Simon commented it:

Appeals to opportunist who won’t be too bothered it’s a rubbish bike if they can sell it on quickly for £20.

Whilst there’s no doubt there’s some protection in having a less desirable bike, anecdotal evidence would suggest that thieves will happily go for the easy pickings even if there’s far less money per bike sold.

The next most likely to be stolen is Bike B:

As Amoeba commented:

Lift it off the post and just pop it in the van. The front wheel is Q/R, so that will go. Needs a van unless the thief is going to open / break the U-lock.

Whilst this bike uses a D-Lock, which is a fantastic start, it makes two scary errors that make it really attractive to thieves. The first is that it can be lifted over the pole. The second is the unsecured front wheel which can removed and sold.

In third place is Bike A:

Whilst I admit this isn’t the best picture, most people picked up on three important factors. The first is that this is a desirable bike that could easily sell for £200-£300. The second is that whilst it’s fantastic this person has secured the front wheel with a D-Lock, the lock doesn’t go around the railings. The secondary lock that they use, whilst well positioned to go around the frame and wheel, isn’t as strong. Also, it is only secured around one of the railings which can potentially prove to be weak in an attack.

What greatly reduced the chances of this bike being stolen was the fact it was in a busy place (next to the Tate Modern). This means not only will the thief have to operate in a very public place but they also can’t drive the van right up next to the bike.

In final place is Bike D:

Not a single person suggested Bike D would be stolen first. (Which I’m pleased about as this is my bike!). Gizmo commented:

D has two locks which are probably worth more than the bike.

By using two different locks I’m making life much harder for a thief. The heavy Kryptonite New York at the back secures the wheel and the frame and provides little room for a leveraged attack without seriously damaging the bike. The weaker front lock secures the wheel and the frame to the bike stand.

To backup the two locks I’ve also secured the bike in a very public place within full view of a busy coffee shop. Also, the bike doesn’t look like it’s worth much.

What I could have done differently is position the front lock to stop it hanging so low to the ground. Also, I could use lockable skewers to secure components such as the seat post, handlebars and wheels.

Ultimately, there’s nothing that will guarantee your bike is never stolen. That’s why I strongly recommend bicycle insurance from someone like ETA for any expensive bikes.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.


17 Responses to Out of these four bikes, this one would be stolen first

  1. UK Cyclists 10/04/2012 at 5:00 pm #

    Neat bike! 🙂

    How much do those locks weigh combined? I like to travel light!

    I’ve never had any problems just using one lock through the front and back wheel and the frame but definitely take your point that it would be much harder to steal with two locks.


    • Andreas 11/04/2012 at 4:24 pm #

      Probably weight roughly as much as the bike! It’s a huge weight but I don’t mind carrying it if it means my bike stays secure.

  2. SteveDGH 10/04/2012 at 5:26 pm #

    The saddle looks as if it’s not parallel to the ground (bike D) I see a number of bikes with saddles like this and I don’t get it. I can see sometimes it can be a bit tempting if one is a male and rides distances a lot but I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. The constant slipping forward in the saddle makes it more uncomfortable.

    • grantownfixie 10/04/2012 at 8:47 pm #

      this saddle position is better for your spine – a level or angled back seat opens up your spine- or so the research says.

  3. grantownfixie 10/04/2012 at 8:46 pm #

    i would be slightly amused of someone stole my fixie as i would envisage them in a pile 20 meters down the road with torn skin on their calves and broken face from bashing into something with no brakes!

    • Andreas 11/04/2012 at 4:25 pm #

      I’ve always wanted to be there the moment someone realises they’ve stolen a bike with lockable skewers and they’ve got no way of getting the wheel off. Still doesn’t help the owner but must really cause some distress!

  4. Tom C 12/04/2012 at 3:42 am #

    Strangely enough, I learnt my safety lessons from having a Specialized bike stolen in almost the exact same place as bike A – out the front of the Tate Modern.

  5. Martin W 12/04/2012 at 10:30 am #

    On heavy locks – I’m lucky that I can bring my bike into the office and the house, so hardly ever have to leave it outside. But when I did have to lock it outside work I used to leave the lock there – locked to the rack – so I didn’t have to carry it. Worth considering if you make most of your trips to the same place.

    • Andrew 12/04/2012 at 10:30 pm #

      Just a heads up if you’re thinking about leaving your lock in a public stand! Thieves will notice it as a regularly used locking area and guess the value of the bike according to the lock! They wait for you to turn up, they then use an adhesive to jam the lock after you have secured your bike, this forces you to leave your valuable bike overnight giving them more time to work on it!

      • Martin W 12/04/2012 at 11:16 pm #

        @Andrew: that’s possible, but is there very much *extra* risk from leaving the lock there overnight? If they’re that organised they could after all just scope out the bike when it’s actually there during the day…

        On another topic it’s easy to live in fear of bike thieves but sometimes it’s just going to get nicked. And sometimes – like the other day when I turned up at a hospital appointment and found I’d left my keys at home – you can actually leave it unlocked for an hour and a half in central London and it won’t be touched.

  6. bob 13/04/2012 at 5:52 pm #

    wierdest bike part theft; my son had a new mountain bike; d locked through rear wheel and frame to railings next to centre point; thief proof quick release skewers on front wheel; came back from gig at the old astoria; found 1. front wheel gone; 2. front [cable] brake caliper also gone; this was bizarre as the allen key fixings for the caliper were next to railing and the removal of the caliper would have required 5 mins continous unscrewing of allen key bolts from fork fixing; i cant remember what happened to the cable;
    we told a passing police constable at the time and wanted to get cctv but pc was distinctly unhelpful; replacement of wheel and disc brake [ disk and calliper] totalled well over £150!

    anyone else had a caliper stolen?

  7. Jules 17/04/2012 at 10:48 am #

    Unfortunately my husband’s custom bulit Surly was stolen last year from outside Tate Modern! Against my advice, he brought into London but obviously did not lock it up securely enough. Luckily the insurance paid out but did not compensate for hassle put in to building it etc. My advice is only ride a rubbish bike in London or disguise a good one carefully.

  8. Shay 17/04/2012 at 10:06 pm #

    2 locks, inc skewer rather than QR wheels and it has a clear sticker saying there is a security device within the frame which means the police can ID it as mine. Despite this, if I pop into a shop when riding my best bike I still have to skirt by the window. Eve Ryan f I’ve minutes 🙂

  9. Carlos 17/08/2012 at 11:21 am #

    I live in Lisbon, and the stolen bikes is also a problem.
    I resolved this issue buying a folding bike. Now the bike is always with me!

  10. Phil 17/08/2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Looking at the way your kryptonite lock is attached to your back wheel/frame – do you have any thoughts on:

    – locking through spokes rather than the rim/tyre (would thieves consider cutting through spokes and replacing them later?)
    – locking through the thinner part of the frame that connects to the back wheel rather than the chunkier main part (would thieves consider sawing through the frame and welding it back together later?)


    • daveyboy 02/07/2013 at 10:55 pm #

      Hi Phil. I can try reply for you.
      1. The lock is through the wheel and secured both sides on the frame. You could cut all the spokes out and you still would be left with a wheel around the lock, unable to remove it. The only way it would be better for the lock to go around the rim would be if the thieves cut the left seat and chain stays along with the spokes the D lock goes through and lifted the wheel out. This is a huge amount of effort for a now unuseable wheel.
      2. I can’t imagine the thieves doing a ‘cut and shut’ on a bike. It would cost more to do this and respray than the bike would cost.

  11. daveyboy 02/07/2013 at 11:06 pm #

    A word of warning for bike D like locking solutions (or any for that matter) – always check out how secure the thing you are securing the bike to is.

    For example, I was going to lock my bike up to one of these ‘rectangular loops out of the ground’ when I noticed that the one behind me that I was leaning against whilst I checked my phone prior to locking up wobbled a bit. I could lift it right out of the ground.. They aren’t loops either – they’re ‘n’ shaped, sometimes with little feet at the bottom for bolts, sometime no wide bit at the bottom at all!

    I’ve made it my mission to pull these things out of the ground and lay them in a visible but out of the way pile if I can. Been shouted at by a woman for vandalising once. Don’t think she was getting the bigger picture. Also they’re hollow, often very thin steel or aluminium and could be cut through with a hack saw in a couple of minutes. An electric saw would defeat them in seconds and the bike would be in perfect condition.

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