First thing you need to do if your bike is stolen

Bike locked with a hiplock

If you’ve not yet had your bike stolen then please see: How to get your bike stolen.

Getting your bike stolen is never a nice experience. However, the next steps you take will greatly improve your chances of recovering your bike. Ideally, take these steps as soon as possible.

Report the bike to the police

The first step is to report your bike stolen to the police. You can find your local station by visiting Ideally, you will need a frame number and a tag, if you’ve got one.

If you’ve got bike insurance, then you’ll need to report the theft within 24 hours of discovery. The crime reference number the police will give you, combined with a receipt for your bike will help you make a claim.

Whilst only 4% of bikes are recovered, it’s important that the police have accurate figures so they can allocate resources to fight bike crime.

In London it may also be worth reporting the theft to the Cycle Task Force.  Ideally, attach a picture of your stolen bike.

Report the theft to Bike Shepherd

Bike Shepherd will help you get the word out about your stolen bike so their community members will keep an eye out for it. You can register with their site here.

Report the theft to your insurer

It’s better to let your bicycle insurance company know as soon as possible about your bike theft. It takes a while for claims to be processed and you don’t want to be away from the bike for too long.

Track down your stolen bike

The next step is to attempt to track down your stolen bike. Start by setting your internet homepage to Bikeshd if you are in London. This contains the latest listings of bikes on Gumtree and Ebay.

Update: A new website I was not previously aware of is: – this allows you to setup email alerts for your bike details and also to view new listings. It works across the UK.

If you are not in London, then keep an eye on Gumtree and eBay as you bike may appear for sale there. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on Craigslist.

Let others know about the theft

You will need to list details of your theft somewhere. I recommend Bike Shepherdwhich will provide you with a listing page and a way for people to contact you. Alternatively you can easily setup a Tumblr or forum post. Make sure you include a picture of your bike.

You can then share this link around on your Facebook and Twitter. You can also post it to forums such as

Contact local bike shops that sell second hand bikes

The LCC maintain a list of bike shops in London that sell second hand bikes. Find the bike shops near you and let them know the details of the stolen bike.

Put up flyers

This is a completely optional step but it could help with the recovery of your bike.

What to do if you spot your stolen bike for sale

There are plenty of stories of people who recover their stolen bike by spotting it for sale on the internetand then confronting the seller. This can be dangerous and it is not generally advisable.

If you find yourself in this scenario, then contact the seller of the bike via text message and arrange a meeting. Then, contact the police and tell them where you’ll be meeting the thief.

Note that the police don’t have the automatic authority to pose as buyers, but they can act on information about a thief.

In particular, speak to the Cycle Task Force. They have the experience in these scenarios that other police departments unfortunately do not.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

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10 Responses to First thing you need to do if your bike is stolen

  1. John Somers 18/09/2012 at 6:27 pm #

    Mmmmm….this one is a bit too close for comfort, after having >£2,500 worth of bikes nicked on the 31st August between 1100 and 1300hrs – yes during daylight and still no one saw or heard anything.

    This time the took the steel railings that I had anchored the two bikes to with multiple locks (even a Kryptonite “New Yorker” and a serious motorbike quality boron steel chain and shackle less padlocks!) without attempting to “unlock” the bikes, so took them away with the locks intact and un-rideable!!

    Anyway, the insurers have offered a suitable settlement, so here are a few words of advice:

    1) if you tinker/fettle or modify your bike(s) in any way, keep a record of what you put on, including serial numbers if applicable (I can probably supply a suitable Excel worksheet through this site if wanted?)

    2) file all your paper receipts and store (including backing up) any electronic invoices and if possible cross reference them on the above spreadsheet.

    3) photograph your bike and all the original and/or replacement components and again store these safely – do keep these up to date.

    4) register all of the above with a property registration company (I use for example).

    5) ensure and ENSURE again that your policy does, not only cover your bikes but all the extras that you fit at replacement value – get this in writing or on an email (which you should reply to to ensure that there is a complete email trace!!)

    6) use good, high quality locks, anchored to something un-moveable and secure in its own right!

    Basically because I had done all that was reasonable the insurers are paying up the full value for the replacement bikes, including the “extras” but when you report a loss to the police – DEMAND, there and then a suitable email address to send all this data to otherwise as in my case it took 6 days before the police bothered to come around after only just being handed the crime report!

  2. Nyge 18/09/2012 at 8:52 pm #

    Thanks to Andreas for putting this helpful advice together.

    I recently had my Cannondale Quick CX1 (frame number AV1063 0471) stolen from outside my house in Hillingdon. I reported it to the police but the next day they dropped the case. The sense of dis-empowerment I felt, was eased by posting 50 flyers with a photo and details of the bike in the local area. When I saw they had been ripped down in some streets (including my own!) I suspected it was a local job. The sense of rage at the apparent lack of initiative or action in respect of bike crime everywhere got me thinking.

    What is the cost of bike crime? Everywhere you go it seems there are broken, vandalised and stolen bikes. It’s sickening. Yet so little recovery and response from the police. I wonder if it is quantifiable and comparable to other forms of theft and vandalism, so that pressure could be mounted to make them divert more resources to tackling bike crime? Like using more bait bikes to catch the scum who nick or damage them. Otherwise, I fear bike crime will become acceptable as an inevitable consequence of owning a bike – at least that’s the way it looks to me.

    What would it take to develop a low cost electronic tag that could be concealed inside a bike frame and used to track stolen bikes by GPS or mobile phone? I am aware of only one product of this type made by Pegasus Technologies Inc. ( but the technology is limited to a certain kind of steering tube. What happened to the GPS tail light tracking system by the way? There must be a great market for a budding electronics designer to address this design challenge!

    Needless to say, after two weeks of searching the online ads, markets and neighbourhood streets, i am starting to give up and face the prospect of claiming on my insurance. I reported the theft to the police and insurance company promptly, as recommended above, but told them I will get back to them after I had tried to find my bike. I have photos and it was marked by the police for the BikeRegister – but make sure the police actually submit the paperwork after marking it, otherwise, as in my case, your bike won’t be registered with its unique serial number!

    If you see your bike for sale on-line – contact the police cycle task force as soon as possible pointing them to the advert as well as whoever it is advertised with (eBay, Gumtree etc).

  3. Nick Clarke 19/09/2012 at 7:18 am #

    I had my boardman bike stolen from my detached garage it was independently locked and secured to heavy duty racking. Within 6 weeks of buying it. We were in bed at home when it happened.

    If you purchased you home insurance online be very careful to double check the policy, phone the company and get them to confirm your bike is covered and where it’s stored overnight.

    Many houses are alarmed, almost all detached garages and sheds are not. When the insurance company say the home and all out buildings are covered including garden sheds and garages and you tell them the home is alarmed, what many people don’t realise is that the term home in the policy also encompasses garden shed and garages… This means that the garage and shed MUST also be alarmed otherwise the contents are not fully covered and the maximum excess is applied, which is in the tiniest small print (clever) in my case £500, if it was stolen from inside my house it would have been fully covered.

    I have replaced the bike and now have CCTV and an independent alarm for outbuildings, as a family we now lock up and do a CCTV check every night for some peace of mind, I know it’s only a bike but I don’t know what I feel more violated by, the individual who broke in and stole my pride and joy or the insurance company.

    You can get a tag immobitag from Halfords fits inside the tube the seat post goes in (doesn’t fit aero carbon tubes) £14 it doesnt stop it from being stolen, but it does mean a quick return if found.

  4. Patrick 25/09/2012 at 11:05 pm #

    Surely if normal law abiding people stopped buying second hand bikes for cash, then the market for theft would dry up. People have pretty much stopped buying car radios in pubs now because they’re so manufacturer specific, so far fewer are being nicked.

    We just need to make it socially unacceptable to buy second hand bikes – because a huge percentage of them are stolen.

  5. GrahamL 01/10/2012 at 10:42 pm #

    A word of warning . . . do NOT leave your bike on a roof bike carrier unattended and if you have to put a secondary cable lock on as well.

    I had a £1000 bike stolen from the roof of my car at the weekend. It was locked in a public area close to a cctv camera and it still went.

    The lock on the roof carrier was intact. It looks as though the forced the jaws off the downtube. A chunky cable wrapped around the bike frame and carrier may be enough to put the opportunist thief off but as we know the determined numpty will still find a way around it.

    In the process of sorting the insurance out and its only then you think about all the extras you have fitted to customise the bike to make it personal to you. Be careful you insurance not only covers the bike but also the extras fitted. My claim will just about cover it luckily . . . if you can call it luck.

  6. HH 08/04/2013 at 3:18 pm #


  7. KateW 12/07/2013 at 1:22 pm #

    Just got a new hybrid and have 2 locks. I’m confused about which number is the frame/serial no to register. I have 3 numbers affiliated to this bike. The paperwork supplied has a stuck on SKU: that starts C13 and is 8 characters long. The frame has an engraved IT001 , 12 digit no which is hard to see on the white frame, and then there’s a barcode sticker no both on the bike (next to the engraved no) and on the warranty card which has 2 letters and 5 numbers.
    Which is/are the key numbers please?
    Am also having UV done by the police soon.

  8. Adriana 29/09/2015 at 1:24 am #

    stole my bike today day 28.09 around 14:30 as I that the working out, this is the second time that steal me one bike, and this time I will turn the munfo but I will find, I am devastated. it happened during the day in front of the gym Vingin in Hammersmith. if anyone has any news about, please help me.

    It was a white Carrera Crossfire 1 Womens Hybrid Bike 2015
    Just like this:

    Please help me

  9. steph 28/05/2017 at 8:55 pm #

    My neighbour buys an Average approx 10x stolen bicycles each week, that’s over 500 per year. I know they are all stolen because he buys them from junkies, he grinds the serial numbers off the frame off most of them, he sells them at a boot sale thus making a tidy profit because he pays under £50 for each one and in most cases about £20 each. He sells for a lot more and makes a lot of profit (easy 20k each year) — he also buys stolen tools and even baby frames / push chairs: he doesn’t car! — moreover on the ones that cost a lot to buy when new. The police have raided his home a number of times and checked the numbers etc but have never been able to convict him. Even where they find numbers, most people don’t even 1. know the numbers on the frame of their bikes and 2. don’t even have a picture of their bikes. Therefore he and people like him who handle stolen goods get away with it. When I look out my window I see another junkie selling him yet another stolen bike! If I got £5 for every time I’ve seen him buy a stolen bike over the years I could go on a few luxury holidays! And If I got £5 for every time I never seen him buy — when I had not been looking — I could buy a brand new car as well as my lux holidays. If you are living in Tower Hamlets and your bicycle gets nicked, changes are it will end up at the Bonza Car Boot Sale Essex on THURSDAY morning Chadwell Heath Boot Sale Opposite The Moby Dick Public House in Whalebone Lane Chadwell Heath Essex RM6 6TH OPEN 6AM UNTIL 2PM

    • Mike 16/09/2017 at 1:53 pm #

      Hi Steph,

      Thanks for the tip. Is this still happening?

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