It’s the feeling none of us ever want to experience: walking to the shed or garage to take your bike for a ride to find the door crowbarred off at the hinges and the space where you bike was empty.
In 2018-19, according to bike insurers Yellow Jersey and the Metropolitan Police, 105,000 bikes were reported stolen in the UK. One-quarter of those were stolen from the bike owner’s garden.
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Thefts doubled during the UK’s spring 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, and fears are that those numbers are rising as thieves become more innovative in their techniques and dogged in their determination. From monitoring social media to removing entire panels off sheds, criminals now have more ways to find out what bike you have and how they are going to steal it.
Paul Williams, CEO of specialist bike insurers Cycleplan, knows how thieves work and the latest techniques and tricks they favour. Here he passes on his advice on how to beef up your at-home security to lower the risk of someone pinching your pride and joy from inside your house, garage or garden shed.
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Don’t advertise your bike
Thefts are usually carried out by one of two groups: opportunistic thieves who see something as they walk past your house and then plan to go back later, or professional thieves who are more determined and have the tools and capability to get into your property. So you should take every opportunity to avoid advertising the fact that you own a bike to the outside world.
“The first piece of advice is don’t make it known that you have a bike,” says Williams. “For instance, if you arrive at your house with your bike on your roof-rack, don’t leave it on there while you go inside and have a cup of tea. Take it off the car and put it away as quickly as you can. And don’t leave your garage door open for hours so you’re advertising the fact you have bikes in there.”
Don’t post pictures of your bike on social media
Going hand in hand with not advertising that you own a bike, Williams stresses the importance of refraining from posting details about your bike on social media. “We’ve had insurance claims where people have gone on social media, advertised the fact that they have a valuable item and shortly afterwards it’s been stolen.
“We’d encourage people to limit their privacy settings on social media,” he adds. “Similarly, advertising that you’re going on holiday through your social-media platform, posting messages saying that you’re getting on your flight etc., means you’ve just told everyone you’re going to be away for two weeks.”
It’s also worth locking down your privacy settings on Strava, including hiding your address location, not posting pictures of your bike or listing the make and model.
Invest in a ground anchor
It’s important to make sure that physical barriers are as good as they can be wherever you store your bike, so don’t just prop it up against the inside of the shed. “If you have the space, fit a floor or wall anchor and lock your bike to that with a good quality ‘Sold Secure’ lock,” says Williams.
If you’re storing your bike in the house, try to lock it to an immovable object, such as radiator pipes or something thieves can’t get through. There is also now a wide range of lockable wall mounts designed for stylish interiors, such as the Hiplok Airlok or the Cycloc Solo.
Shore up your shed
“We definitely see greater risk with sheds,” reveals Williams. “To increase security, we’d recommend using clutch-head screws for the door hinges, which you won’t get out with a Philips screwdriver to take the hinges off, which is how many thieves gain entry to the shed.”
On top of hinge protection, ensure you use a weatherproof closed-shackle padlock to secure the door. You can get them with a ‘Sold Secure’ grading on them. Although bear in mind, the more expensive the lock, the more that thieves might guess that something valuable is locked within.
And Williams urges caution when using the smaller, standalone bike-specific sheds. “We see a much higher prevalence of break-ins in them,” he says.
Consider CCTV carefully
Many bike owners install camera security systems to capture footage of any attempted, or successful, break-ins, but Williams advises thinking about this carefully. “In all honesty, CCTV only puts off casual thieves,” he says. “It can work as a deterrent, but the reality is it’s extremely unlikely there would be a conviction and arrest from CCTV footage, as an experienced thief will avoid showing their face.”
Protect your ebike battery
Something many new ebike owners often don’t think about is the risk of thieves stealing the battery if your bike is locked in your shed, which on its own can be worth up to £500. “Insurers often don’t provide cover for the battery if it’s stolen by itself,” says Williams. “We’ve adapted our cover to cover this.”
Register your bike on the police register
More a way to track and help return a stolen bike rather than preventing it being stolen, it’s still well worth uploading your bike details and information to the national Bike Register, as it will increase the chances of it being recovered.
SmartWater is also another useful way to help police track your bike – use it to mark your bike and it can assist police in returning it if they find it.
Consider separate bike insurance
Many bike owners add their bike to their house insurance, but getting separate bike insurance can have advantages. Often, adding your bike to your home insurance means your bike will be covered for theft but not for damage, or there will be a cap on the limit you can claim, so it won’t cover the entire value of, say, a £5k bike.
People can also build up big no-claims bonuses on their home insurance, then make a small claim for their bike and the premium rockets up. Additionally, you can see a difference in excess payments between home insurance and bike insurance: the excess to your home insurance policy can be £100 or more, whereas under a bike insurance policy it is often just £25.