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Bike Theft

From Bike Collectives Wiki

The intent of this page is not to teach people how to steal bikes, it is to educate people on how to keep their bike from getting stolen, by learning about the methods thieves use for stealing them.

That is the same concept behind computer hacking. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," is how the saying goes. So hackers find a hole in the system to prove it is indeed broken and requires fixing. They post instructions on how to duplicate the hack in the public domain which forces the software company (often Microsoft) to fix it.

Simple Facts

The best way to avoid becoming a bike theft victim is to bring it inside the building rather than using a bike rack!

  • Most bikes that are stolen were unlocked.
  • Amsterdam rule of thumb: your lock should be worth 3 times as much as your bike.
  • Never leave a bike outside overnight, especially in a noticeable pattern or place.


A smart thief will plan out the theft by 'casing' a place looking for patterns such as:

  • Where do you park your bike?
  • What time do you usually park it?
  • How long is it there for?
  • What kind of lock do you use? How do you use it?

Be Irregular

  • Use different kinds of locks.
  • Don't park in the same place.

Your Inconvenience is a Thief's Convenience

In all of these cases the owner could have done something to prevent their bike from getting stolen:

  • "My bike was stolen! I was just in the store for a minute, so I didn't lock my bike, but when I came out it was gone."
  • "My bike was stolen! My bike wasn't worth that much, so I bought an inexpensive lock, but they cut it off."
  • "My bike was stolen! I had my bike locked up outside overnight."

Where to Park

Again, if you can, take the bike inside. If you are forced to park it outside:

  • Try to park it in a highly visible location, not "around back" where nobody watches. Bike Thief by the Neistat Brothers shows that sometimes people don't care.
  • If you lock it up to a chain link fence, make sure you lock it to a fence post, not the chain link itself -- no matter how good your lock is, it doesn't take much to cut chain link itself.
  • Avoid posts that are not securely fastened in the ground. Does it wiggle?
  • Avoid locking to posts that a tall person could lift the bike up and off of the pole.


Use two kinds of locks that aren't connected everytime you lock up your bike. While this may be a pain, most thieves only have the necessary tools to break/cut one type of lock/cable. So by using two types levels of locks, they are less likely to try.


Building Apathy

Car thieves steal cars by setting off the alarm the same time every night for a week or two leading up to the theft. What this does is make the car owner believe the alarm is defective/unreliable and eventually they stop checking on it, at which point the thieves have all the time in the world to steal the car -- even if the alarm is blaring.


At least in Salt Lake City, you *must* know your serial number, and as an added measure laminate your bike and your info and put it down the seat tube.

When bikes get stolen in Salt Lake City they usually end up at the closest pawn shop (like 90% of stuff in pawn shops). Legally pawn shops have to hold on to items (hidden in the back) for 10 days in Salt Lake, then they can put it on the floor and sell them.

Sad but true, most pawn shops are corrupt. In addition police don't have the time to chase a stolen $5k car, let alone a $2k bike -- they assume your insurance will cover it so the most they will do is fill out a police report.

So in order to recover your bike from a pawn shop it is up to you and your friends to hunt around the pawn shops.

Don't Scare Thieves

If thieves know you are looking for a bike and you have mobilized the community to look for a specific bike -- you have effectively hindered a thief's ability to "move" the bike, so what will they do now? Part it out or dump it in the river.

More technologically savvy thieves will use and to "move" your bike. So don't forget to monitor them.

See Also

  • Fietersbond offers bike theft lessons in Amsterdam.
  • [1]; Hal Ruzal from Bicycle Habitat walks around New York City grading peoples locking techniques.