Ride mapping sites: The bike thief’s new best friend?

There’s been a sudden explosion in the number of people using online ride mapping and logging sites, but there’s a potentially sinister side-effect to having all your data made freely available on the internet.

Sites such as Strava and MapMyRide use GPS logs from bike devices such as Garmin Edge computers to map your rides in intricate detail – including where the ride starts and stops. For most of us, this means that the place where you keep your bike is clearly visible on the maps shown online and to the rest of the world.

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An unscrupulous individual could use the information to easily pinpoint the storage location of bikes in any given area – and since some sites allow you to name your bike, they could even identify the location of an exact make and model.

Cycling Weekly has been told of several incidents recently where thieves have appeared to target a particular address, turning up fully equipped with cutting equipment and getting away with thousands of pounds worth of cycles. Several of these stolen bikes have been equipped with GPS computers.

Now, the fact that the pinched bikes were equipped with GPS computers might be coincidence, but it’s best to be on the side of caution. Strava, for example, sensibly allows you to hide the position of a specific address on your ride maps – your home, for example – by setting a masked area around it.

Anyone then looking at a map of your ride is not shown a selected area around the address – 100 metres or 500 metres and so on. This does not affect the length of your logged ride, just the information displayed on the map.

This masking function is switched off by default, so you need to go into your Strava account, select ‘Privacy’ from the drop-down menu under your name at the top of the screen and follow the instructions to obscure your address. I’d urge everyone to do this.

It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – that you should also keep photographs of your bike(s) and make a note of their frame numbers should they be pinched.

Showing the world how great you are on a local climb is one thing, but showing the world that you have several thousand pounds-worth of bikes tucked up in your garage is not a great idea.