How to avoid getting your bike stolen

You can be the fittest rider in the world, with the best prepared bike, but it all comes to nothing if your cycle is stolen. Here’s how to avoid it

Stage one – Record, register and mark
The first thing you have to do when it comes to your bike’s security might not have any obvious practical role in preventing it being stolen, but it greatly increases your chances of getting the machine back.

Make a note of your bike’s serial number, and also record any distinguishing marks unique to your machine. This really helps the police when it comes to reuniting a bike with its owner. To find your bike’s serial number, turn your machine upside down and look around the bottom bracket or underneath the chainstay.

Then, once you’ve noted this you should think about putting your bike on an online cycle registration website.


Stage two – Pick your pitch
So you’ve got your bike’s details preserved somewhere, it’s registered and it’s been security marked. Now you’re out and about and you want to leave it somewhere, where should you park up? The answer is simple: if possible choose a secure purpose-built bike rack, made from thick steel, and secured in the ground with concrete.

The second aspect of picking your bike parking place is to find somewhere public. If you leave your bike in what you think is a quiet backstreet you’re only doing the thief a favour — he (or she, we’re not sexist here) will have more time to grapple and overpower your locks before anybody’s suspicions are aroused.

Stage three – Lock it right
The issue of what bike lock to use is a pretty depressing consideration because, in the end, precious few are completely indestructible. However, using a suitably hardy lock could dissuade a thief from trying to steal your bike if there is an easier target nearby.

The very cheapest cable locks will be beaten in a second with just a simple pair of wire cutters. And even if you go for a massively heavy-duty chain, like a motorbike lock, if he has enough time the thief will get an angle grinder to overpower it. In effect, all you can do with your lock is buy yourself enough time for somebody to spot the thief’s suspicious actions and hopefully call the police.


If you can, use two locks, and spend as much as you can when buying them. Don’t worry about weight or how small they are to carry, base your lock-purchasing criteria on two things: how tough are they, and how easily would they put off a potential thief? Also, buy two different types of lock, so that the thief has to think about defeating them both and can’t just use the same technique twice.

Use one lock with each wheel. Feed your first lock through the front wheel, through the main triangle of the bike frame, and then around the bike parking rack. Using your second lock completely independently, feed it through the rear wheel, through the smaller rear triangle of the bike frame, and have that going through the bike rack too. Make sure your locks are as tightly wrapped around your bike as possible, this restricts a thief’s ability to wiggle the locks into a position that helps him break them.

Stage four – Report it
If you bike is stolen, then report it to the police straightaway, if for no other reason than to ensure justice can be done. If a bike isn’t reported as taken then even if the police suspect it has been stolen they can’t charge the person on it with a crime.

For those with rather more practical considerations, if you report your bike stolen there is also a fair real-world chance of the police finding it for you again. And if you suspect your bike is being offered for sale on a website, and then contact the police, who will set about investigating it.

 Simple advice

The Metropolitan Police’s Cycle Task Force has one simple piece of advice for all cyclists locking their bikes in a public place:

Make it an unattractive to thieves as you can.

Whether that means slapping a sticker on it saying it’s been security marked and registered, or fitting the biggest chunkiest lock available, do what you can to discourage potential thieves.