What do you do to prevent your bike being one of the 26,000 stolen last year?

Well secured bike

More than 26,000 bicycles were reported stolen to the Metropolitan Police last year, up a third on five years ago, BBC London has learned.

That’s bad news and the report does not get any better as you read on:

  • Only 4% of bikes recovered
  • Most people never report a stolen bike so potentially over 100,000 have been stolen
  • 2/3 people don’t return to cycling after a bike is stolen

However, I’m sure that most of my readers take more precautions that 90% of London’s cyclists:

Walking around London, I’m always amazed at the number of bikes secured by flimsy locks. Easy pickings for thieves.

What steps do you take to keep your bike safe?

Relevant posts:

Join 10,221 fellow cyclists who are subscribed to the London Cyclist newsletter

Sign up for our free newsletter to get...

  • Advice on the best cycling gear
  • A Friday roundup of all the latest London cycling news
  • Exclusive content not available on the blog

Subscribe today, and get exclusive access forever! (It's free)

*No spam, ever!

As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

36 Responses to What do you do to prevent your bike being one of the 26,000 stolen last year?

  1. Sean Spurr 17/08/2012 at 10:18 am #

    My partner’s 10 day old bike was stolen despite being secured to a lamp post with a £25 D-Lock (with extension cable around lamp post) and a second, cheaper, lock around the front wheel. Strangely they left the front wheel and just took the rest, also leaving my bike which was next to it. Lesson learnt was to buy insurance. But also councils really do need to start providing on street bike-box-storage, so many people cycle now that you see bikes locked to metal fencing and lampposts everywhere in inner London. The only way to stop bike thieves are motorcycle-grade locks costing hundreds of pounds or boxes. Councils should start installing the latter (Lambeth council is doing a small trial but needs to expand it fast).

    • Alan Moore 17/08/2012 at 10:41 am #

      I think the mistake here was using the cable to go round the lamp-post. Find a smaller post that you can get the D-lock round, even if it means going to the next street.

      As a rule of thumb, spend 10% of the cost of your bike on a lock or locks.

  2. Dave 17/08/2012 at 10:21 am #

    £25 is not nearly enough to spend on a strong lock for London. A hard lesson to learn, though…

  3. coney 17/08/2012 at 10:36 am #

    Since having my trusty £150 singlespeed jobby stolen a month or so ago, I’ve invested in a new 8 speed single chainring slick fat-tyred MTB style steed that I keep locked up with and NYC 3000 D lock for the frame and rear wheel, and kryptonite rope (as you’ve depicted) for the front. Expensive protection, but worth it considering the amount of money I’ve spent on the bike, and the impact on my cost of living if stolen.

    I’ve also replaced all QR skewers with dead bolts, as well as opting for a matte black colour instead of the NYC cab yellow colout option that looks much better imo, but pretty much encourages theft. I am also never cleaning this bike (except to perform maintenance) to encourage the myth that a dirty bike is a crap bike.

    I park my ride underground at work and off the street at home, meaning it only sees the light of day when being ridden. I also ALWAYS lock it to something sturdy, and never leave it unattended for longer than an hour, sometimes checking it multiple times while at the pub/grocery shopping etc.

    It’s also insured for the full price of original replacement (i.e. no depreciation), which I update based on mods etc. The theft of my piece of crap bike really made me consider the replacement as an asset and an investment, in time saved, fitness and mobility.

    And this is just my commuter. I don’t use locks for my MTB. When rolling on this beast thieves will have to pry the handlebars from my cold, dead fingers.

    • barton 21/08/2012 at 2:32 pm #

      I also replaced the QR skewers on my bike with locking skewers (a special wrench is needed to get them open – I bought three and keep one with me, one at work and one at home as I am prone to losing things). This had made it MUCH easier to find places to lock up to, as I do not need to worry about going through my wheels as well as my frame. Though, I typically do lock the back wheel and frame to the rack/object, as I don’t want to appear to be an easy target to theives.

  4. Alan Moore 17/08/2012 at 10:37 am #

    I use a £50 Gold Standard D-lock through the FRONT wheel and the frame. I reason that the back wheel is much more complicated and time-consuming to detach (I get it wrong every time!).

    In very special circumstances I might use a cable from there through the back wheel. But I’d NEVER use the cable to attach it to a lamp-post.. always use the D-lock for that (go find a smaller post).

  5. simon harrison 17/08/2012 at 10:41 am #

    We manufacture and sell the Bike Vault bicycle locker and believe me we’ve tried to sell them to many councils. Some are more receptive than others… The problem with lockers is keeping control or vice versa handing it over. Short term usage is really tricky as control of the locker is lost to the user and not easy to recover if the user doesn’t co operate. The best solution is generally the user rents the locker for a period of a year at a time for their sole use. But this does of course mean that many lockers are then empty waiting for their cyclist to use it. They’re better suited for place of work situations where control and usage is more straightforward. Incidentally we also sell Oxford Sold Secure Gold locks with a 15% discount off RRP if you contact us direct.

    • Tom Rollett 17/08/2012 at 12:32 pm #

      Simon, just had a look at your website and love the vault, but it looks as if they’re only for one bike. Bike theft is a real problem in our London street, everyone has sheds in their front gardens but it’s hard to get a secure shed. My family’s bikes were all stolen last month – the thieves simply dismantled our wooden shed in the night and made off with them. If you manufactured a vault for 4 bikes I would buy one today!

      • Simon Harrison 17/08/2012 at 3:56 pm #

        Hi Tom, we do a two bike all aluminium unit that you can see on our gallery. Still only two or three at a push though. BV is really for someone cycling every day and wants their bike and kit convenient and without having to wrestle other bikes in and out.

  6. Liz Wall 17/08/2012 at 10:55 am #

    I use an Abus gold D lock with a cable always secure to a bike rack or something solid, I also lock my bikes at home with an Abus granit 100/100. All my bikes are tagged. I had a bike stolen whilst secured with a kryptonite D lock, my son was using at the time the impact on him having to tell me to was horrid. Had a bike shepherd tag on but still out there somewhere.

  7. Cafewanda 17/08/2012 at 11:25 am #

    My commuting/shopping bike is a SS. At work I have access to secure parking so I only use a mini-Evo. Out on the street I use that and an Abus D-lock, or the Abus and a Fagh depending on the area being visited. Admittedly the weight is considerable whether carried in the saddlebag or in a rucksack but my bike is worth it.

    I have no qr levers and one of the track nuts on the rear wheel has been pitlocked, hopefully making it slightly more difficult for any opportunist thief. I always travel with my Oyster card, just in case and say lots of prayers whilst away from the bike, giving thanks if it’s still where I left it when I return :-). My beloved SS is also Bike Registered.

    Despite the above locks, I’m thinking of upgrading the Abus and the mini-Evo soon.

  8. Ross 17/08/2012 at 12:49 pm #

    Have 2 bikes on first floor flat. Both with Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 + tether.
    One a Charge Plug Freestyler 2009, the other a Cooper t-2oo Reims.

    Charge was stolen, but the Cooper wasn’t – Think this was due to it being secured to our flats gasline pipe and has stickers plastered all over it saying HAZARD.

    Both bikes were registered to the Police, the theft was reported, but its never been recovered nor likely to. Plus the front rim was broken and had missing spokes so I hope the thief only discovered this as he was cycling with it and caused him some discomfort.

    Top Tip. Attached and lock your bike near something thats dangerous to extract it from. Crocodile pit, or failing that, a(real or pretend) gas line.

  9. Regis 17/08/2012 at 1:21 pm #

    Stop buying stolen bikes or from dodgy salers. I really don’t see much London thugs riding carbon frame bikes…

  10. Rossi 17/08/2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Don’t be put off by the high price of decent D-Locks in bike shops. It’s easy to find them for a out 25% less online which makes it far more palatable.

    Avoid the silver/grey kryptonite locks. I often see them cracked open.

    Also, component theft is ‘popular’. Use solder or resin to fill in Allen bolt heads to expensive saddles and seat posts can’t be removed.

    Just because you need a basic standard tool to remove the wheels doesn’t mean the thief want have them. Use Pit Locks or similar.

    I’ve had my bike for 14 years. Covered in stickers. Decent locks. Never left out over night. Bike theft isn’t an inevitably, there’s just too many naive people who don’t understand the basic steps they need to take.

    Tatty up your bike. Stickers and tape make it less attractive and harder to sell on.

    Get it registered and logged, then when the Met do nothing show them the BBC article where the copper says that they’ll be better prepared to recover it!!

  11. Rossi 17/08/2012 at 2:05 pm #

    Top of the list is DON’T BUY STOLEN BIKES!

    It’s unlikely that ‘Terry’ or ‘Billy’ are genuinely selling that £900 Brompton for £350 via a cut and paste advert on Gumtree.

    If your wheels are nicked then going down Brick Lane to replace them is just perpetuating it.

    I overheard a girl in a bike shop a whole ago saying she’d had four bikes stolen. Clearly user error.

  12. Liz 17/08/2012 at 5:06 pm #

    The police should definitely do more to tackle the sale of stolen bikes – frankly, they’re letting thieves get away with it by not clamping down on sales at Brick Lane and on Gumtree. In the meantime, I’d second all the recommendations to get a good, strong D-lock and a backup cable – use the cable to secure the wheels, and put the D-lock through the frame and back wheel. It really beggars belief that you see so many nice bikes secured with the frankly rubbish £10 curly cable combination locks that a pair of bolt cutters would remove in seconds. If you’re spending £400 on your bike, spend £50 on a decent lock!

    On a related note, does anyone else wonder what they should do when they see someone riding a bike that really doesn’t look like theirs? The local youth I saw riding a Pinarello with the seat set way too low yesterday springs to mind. I don’t fancy a kicking, but it’s hard to resist the temptation to yell “That’s not your bike!”

    • barton 21/08/2012 at 2:40 pm #

      Good question! Just the other morning, I saw an obviously down on his luck man (disheveled clothing including rips, and the appearance of a meth/crack addict) riding a relatively new Specialized bike while rolling another bike along with his right hand (newish road bike). I stopped and called the police to give a description and the mans directions, but the dispatcher admitted that it was unlikely someone would be able to question him, as they didn’t view this as suspicious behavior – and unless they caught someone in the act of stealing a bike, there wasn’t much they could do anyway. Extremely frustrating. Still cannot think of a legitimate reason for this person to be rolling along with two very nice bikes at 6 am.

      • Phil Russell 24/08/2012 at 1:51 am #

        Barton—–ye godz! what a bull-ship response from the “forces of law and order”. Sounds like dereliction of duty. The dispatcher should be utterly ashamed. When this sort of thing happens, we really should follow up and get some explanation from the police—in writing.

  13. Crispin Read 17/08/2012 at 5:18 pm #

    My Mrs had her saddle nicked in Dalston the other day it was secured with a £40 Kryptonite Cable lock – I reckon the robber just snipped it through with some sufficiently hardcore bolt cutters ~ pro thieves have pro tools and if they pick you to rob there is not a great deal you can do about it.

    I keep my bike looking hanging, with a deliberately scuffed saddle, wheels and frame, and I lock it up best I can but I’m not fooling myself that it is ever safe.

    When I get a new saddle for the missus though I am going to indelibly mark it on the underside and put a label round the new lock informing the next thief of the mark – see if that holds them off a bit…

  14. Will 17/08/2012 at 6:32 pm #

    I believe two DIFFERENT locks to be a key factor. A D-lock through frame, rear wheel and something solid plus a separate cable (or chain) through front wheel, frame and something solid.

    Any lock can be defeated, but two locks require two different techniques and two different tools. The likelihood of a thief coming prepared for both is much lower.

  15. Tony Parrack 17/08/2012 at 7:39 pm #

    Having had 2 bikes nicked from outside my office in the West End, in addition to a £60 lock I remove the front wheel on the basis it makes it more difficult to cycle away(!). And same when I arrive at clients for meetings.

    A word of warning, having lost both lock keys I had to call out a ‘locksmith’ who (for £75) noisily went thro my previous £60 lock with an angle grinder in less that 3 seconds. All that opposite a busy pub with people spilled out on the pavement – none of whom batted an eyelid!

    And Happy Birthday Andreas. Keep up the good work!

  16. Rob Walkden 17/08/2012 at 8:08 pm #

    I just chain my Mum up with my bike. She is fearsome. Never had a bike nicked yet.

  17. Pat Moore 18/08/2012 at 2:56 pm #

    My 3 month old Marin Point Reyes was stolen today. It was secured by two abus heavy duty motor cycle locks, attached through the frame, front and rear wheels to a fixed bicycle locking point in the entrance to kew gardens. This was in broad daylight and there were around 50 to 100 people queueing up to get in within 30 feet of my bike.
    I don’t see what more I could have done, other than leave it at home. Complete apathy from the police when I reported it. That’s me done with cycling in London. There’s no point having a bike if you can’t use it.

    • Andreas 19/08/2012 at 4:18 pm #

      Sounds like you did everything right in this situation Pat. As a commenter mentioned above, perhaps the only thing that could have been done differently is to use two different types of locks but it sounds like this thief was determined. Crazy that it was stolen from right next to a queue of people.

    • Phil Russell 24/08/2012 at 2:12 am #

      PAT MOORE—–crikey! Almost unbelievable. But do keep cycling—on a cheaper bike. I suspect that, infuriatingly, the police would be much more interested in the theft of your car….

  18. Les 18/08/2012 at 11:59 pm #

    I use a Kryptonite New York lock and flex.

    Does anyone have any experience of the SpyBike GPS tracker?

  19. barton 21/08/2012 at 3:01 pm #

    Here is what I’d like to see produced for bikes.

    Know how the shopping trolleys at large grocery stores have that magnet (or something) in them that prevents the wheels from moving if they are taken past a certain distance/barrier from the store? Well, I’d love to see something created that is just the opposite for bikes. You could have a pendant or keychain with a different receptor in the rear wheel of your bike. the rear wheel would only move if you were within a certain distance with the pendant/keychain/whatever. Otherwise, the wheels would be locked to prevent moving. This would make it impossible for theives to casually bike away. It would be much harder to explain someone carrying a bike down the street, or throwing it in the back of a vehicle to make a get away.

    I doubt it would prevent all bike theft, but I think it would cause people to maybe see more thefts which could also result in more arrests/less loss of bikes.

    Now, if someone has the knowledge/skill to make this happen, I want a percentage of the profits as the idea chick!

  20. Ted 31/08/2012 at 12:35 pm #

    These days I take my bike indoors at home and work and if I’m going somewhere in the evening such as the cinema I use a Boris bike.

    On the rare occasions I do need to leave my bike locked up in the open, I take off the front wheel (quick release makes sense this way) and put a D-lock through both wheels and the frame and round whatever metal post I can find. So far this method has been successful.

    I did have my brake blocks stolen once – doubtless a prank rather than component theft as such but it still resulted in a very scary few seconds until I managed to stop by grabbing onto something.

    I agree that some sort of heavy duty lockable bike stand would be a good thing for councils to provide, whether a locker or more of a lockable post arrangement. It would be quite easy for them to charge a small fee for this. Having spent money on a lightweight bike I really resent having to lug several kilos of D-lock around with me.

    CCTV surveilled bike parks also seem to be a bit of a deterrent.

    • Alehouse Rock 12/09/2013 at 1:39 pm #

      [[[[[[ CCTV? Mostly neutralized by thieves wearing hoodies.

  21. oller 10/10/2012 at 5:32 pm #

    These kryptonite Flex cables are a complete waste of time, they give a false sense of security and a serious thief sees it as nothing more than dental floss.

    I’ve lost count of the amount of snipped kryptonite flex’s I see littered around bike stands.

    I currently use 2 Kryptonite evo minis, am conscious the kryptonite fahg is a stronger model, but I’m yet to hear of someone with an evo mini having their bike stolen when they locked it up properly.

  22. mary 09/09/2013 at 10:58 am #

    Earlier I chained my bicycle to the bike stand that I have used before with no trouble in Walworth Road with the appropriate U lock and chain (both Abus, one of the best makes) through back and front. I came back just now and could not fit my key in the chain lock at all. After a while the lock slipped open and I realised it was an old faulty chain that was not mine (maybe they forced my one and replaced it? But why take the trouble to do that?)

    Astounding isn’t it? My bicycle is not top of the range or expensive however it is my means of transport to work and therefore people doing things like this really have serious problems.

    • Philip Russell 11/09/2013 at 4:49 pm #

      [[[[[[[[[[[[ MARY———-perhaps the tealeaf stole your good lock to sell it on….and replaced it with his cheapo so as to look innocent to any observers nearby……or maybe he (or she) is a raving nutter!

  23. mary 09/09/2013 at 11:02 am #

    By the way I met someone who said his bike was stolen and he found it outside a pub, went inside and found the person who said he had bought it off a man in the pub. He got back his bike with no problem needless to say.

  24. Leatha 23/09/2013 at 9:40 am #

    So there are so many designs iin this metal thst you will never find in traditional precious metals
    used for adult jewelry. With soo many different jewelry options youu can choose the fshion statement that really fifs who you are and
    the way that you want tto look. People have risked their lives to journey to our country.

  25. Paul 30/05/2014 at 2:15 pm #

    I am currently living in the Netherlands and seeing as even well secured bikes are stolen on a regular basis, I would say the best prevention by far is insurance… or just buy a cheap second hand bike that no one would think of stealing.

Leave a Reply