Bike theft research help: I need your stories!

How do you typically go about securing your bike when left in public?

  • Locked to any street furniture/immovable object nearest to destination.
  • Locked in dedicated cycle parking area.
  • Locked in area out of general public view (back alley/behind shop/under steps etc)
  • Anywhere were there is CCTV nearby/viewing parked cycle.
  • In a sheltered area if possible, 'cause I don’t want to get my seat wet!

0 voters

Hi everyone, I’m a second year product design student working on a project to design a product or service to help reduce bike crime/theft.

If anyone on here has been a victim of bike theft (like I have a couple of times!) It would be of great benefit to my research if I could hear your story:

When and where it took place, how the bike was secured (wheels or seat removed and locked?), reasons for the crime occuring and any preventative measures you could have taken to avoid it with hindsight, what the effects/response were and anything that has had a lasting impact and anything you’d like to see changed or done differently to reduce bike theft etc etc…

Theres a little poll above, just so I can look into cyclists bike parking habits…

Oh and if you have any good ideas, please do share them!



how 'bout an option for “never leave it anyplace”?. I’ve got a nice ($$$) bike and big ass motorcycle lock, but still I don’t trust it and won’t ride it anyplace that I can’t bring it in with me. I bought the lock and used it once, but had so much anxiety when i left it I had a terrible day… Now it doesn’t leave my sight!

Put it another way- Locks are for honest people. Anyone who really wants you bike can overcome any lock in a short time. The Puma bike, where the lock is an integral part of the frame as well as the lock would be an interesting place to start you research though i would think.


Every time someone mentions ‘bike theft’ I think of this…

Awesome movie by 2 New York based documentary makers. Brilliant. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do.

yeah, that video certainatly had a profound effect upon my perception of peoples attitudes towards crime. Maybe it’s the passers by that need convincing of the consequences of bike crime…

you should read this for interest.

It’s about a long standing bike thief here in Toronto who was recently busted and the cops found more than 3,000(!) bikes stashed at his various properties.

Like I said, no matter what you do there’s always nutcases like this out there. It seems he wasn’t even trying to sell them all, but hoarding them for some sort of post-apocalyptic scenario!


My bike is too valuable to leave anywhere, and too light to justify bringing a heavy lock, so like many roadies, I always bring it with me or keep it within reach. If I HAVE to leave it out of sight for a few seconds (to use a toilet) I’ll take the front wheel to at least discourage a ‘ride off’ theft. Usually I’m with a friend or group, so this is really, really rare.

I do think there’s a market for an ultralight, ultrasmall lock for the above use-case! Something you can easily jutify keeping in your jersey pocket, like a cut-resistant fabric band.

Here at work they provide “bike lockers” outside, which is nice because it hides what’s inside. These are also common at commuter rail stations.

By the above comments, I’m not the only one–you might want to modify your survey to include it as an option!

also dont forget to check out the 1HDC results


i might be a little paranoid but I personally never leave my bike out of site unless it is in a secure space (only acessible by key, and know everyone who has the key). If on the od occasion i know i can be near my bike, i take my cheap hack, which looks so bad, no one want to take it.

My most valuable bikes reside in the basement. But since they are also transport, I use a combination U-lock to lock them up to thinks like parking meters and iron railings. The combo prevents the Bic pen technique and the U-lock is the extra large size to reach past the locking post, the rear wheel and the frame.

On my mountain bike (full suspension), the front wheel gets a cable looped to the U-lock.

My recumbent trike gets a U-lock to the main frame and a cable to the rear wheels.

My recumbent bike gets just the U-lock as it the wheels are not quick release.

If I’m not sure about the location or the neighbourhood, or I forget my lock, I use my carabiner trick.

Take a carabiner and hook it onto the chain and a spoke on the drive wheel. If someone attempts to ride away, the bike will just stop suddenly, throwing them off and giving you time to run outside and start beating on them with your helmet.

I also have elastic bands that hold the brake levers tight to the grips. This is not an anti-theft device, but it will slow down thieves that think taking the wheels is as easy as flipping the quick-release and leaving with the prize. It also prevents a quick ride-away theft as most people would take a minute to figure out why the bike won’t move. It also works as a parking brake too keep it parked against a wall that is on a slight incline.

Note that cables by themselves are useless. I had a Bridgestone mtn bike stolen that way. Just snipped the cable with bolt cutters, which they left at the scene. Professionals for sure. It was stolen in front of a mall with a lot of other bikes on the rack, some unlocked. Moreover, the bike was incognitor as the logos had been blacked out during a repaint and it was customized with all sorts of roadie parts.


I was trying to do the exact same project. And I’m a second year student as well. Weird.
I gave up on the idea of doing a theft proof bike rack since there are so many ways to steal a bike. Like some of the other people have stated, the way you lock your bike to the rack matters more.

I’ve had a couple of bikes stolen here in London:

First was stolen from outside a pub one late night after work. It was locked with an average chain to a lamp post around the corner, and I didn’t notice it gone for several hours. Apparently the thieves area pretty quick with bolt cutters and other tools, sometimes using vans and distractions to divert peoples attention away from what is happening.

The second was taken from inside my building. I’d usually thread a chain through the frame and both wheels, then a D lock through the hand rail on the stairs. But I’d been at the gym early one Sunday morning and only come home to shower before heading out again, so I didn’t bother with the D lock. When I came down 20 mins later,it was gone. Someone must have left the door open and since you could easily see my bike form the road, it must have been a target of opportunity…

Now I’m really paranoid and never leave my current bike outside unless I have to. Even then, I get quite obsessive about checking it every couple of minutes and try to leave it locked where I can see it. I work in central London and we are lucky enough to have a car park basement with restricted access and decent bike storage.

You often hear stories here of people having their bike nicked during the week, then going to the Brick Lane markets on Sunday to buy it back from the thieves. They’re pretty easy to spot: chavvy little fuckers standing against a wall holding a bike worth several thousand pounds…

That’s true - the best way to do it is to not buy a bike in the first place, just buy one in Brick lane, and every week you go back and re-buy the bike from them after it’s been nicked. Think of it as renting a bike rather than owning.

You seen this? saw it on a blog last week, might even have been core77. Can’t remember.

There’ll be a few students over the UK doing this project, it’s on the RSA breif.

I’ve had a few bikes stolen in london aswell (well my families and mine). One night some guys, must have been more than 1 since they got off with 3 bikes hopped the gardern fence, broke the lock and just strolled out the front gate. That’s hard to prevent unless you’ve got a garage, a hench lock or barbed wire round your house.

And my dad has had a couple of bikes stolen while locked up at the train station, stolen in the middle of the day.

And none of these bikes have been anything impressive, just standard, cheap, entry level bikes.

I, luckily have not had a bike stolen in 11 years of continuous riding. So although I’m not really answering the question asked I throw in my worn $.02.

For “stop, lock and shop (drink)” town riding I only use my mountain bike because it looks, is, well used VS. my ‘nice’ road bike. But in fact my Mtb has much personal value than the road. Folks that know bikes can see that the mtb is quiet valuable due to it being a local hand built brand … sorry a gotten off topic.

To lock I just use a kryptonite u-lock (post pen-pick version), usually through the frame. I replaced the quick wheel release with allen key skewers as a deterrent. I try to lock in sight but is not always the case. I try not to leave it locked for hours on end.

Maybe a another deterrent is that it’s all orange (custom painted, matching fork). It’s not bright orange but I can say I haven’t seen many bikes that look similar. Also it has a 15 yr/ old rear fender that is unlike anything on the market today. So the bike may stand out a little - for good and bad.

Although this is no longer that case and certainly no thief would know this so not be considered. My brother was a well known bike messenger here and so I figured that it the bike disappeared I would call him and he would have a bunch of messengers keeping their eyes open for it. They have been know to chase down thieves.

Friends who have had bikes stolen usual were using a wire lock and locked in the same, public, place day after day.

At the same time I have a friend who has a nice ride and doesn’t lock it when at local bars, just leans it against a tree.

Ok, I’ve got a few ideas together, just wondering if anyone had any ideas about what happens to the lock that gets cut, would the thief dump it somewhere or keep it, in fear of it being used as evidence? An idea I’ve just had would be to incorporate the tracking chip into the lock itself, the thief takes the lock and it can be traced to the thiefs/black market base…

The answer depends of the bike.

For my road bike, I carry enough food and water to last 2-3 hours. On supported rides that are longer, there is safety in numbers and I just set the bike down and get my food, water and restroom break. For an unsupported ride, I am in and out of the quicky mart fast and the fascade is always glass, so the bike rarely leaves my sight. The bike could get stolen, but it is very unlikely and I have excellent insurance.

For my commuter, I’ll lock to anything or free standing with an easy lightweight lock. It is a good bike but its outward appearance makes it look like a POS, that is usually your best theft deterrant. For rain, I use a plastic grocery bag to cover my seat.

I also have a couple of vintage road bikes. They never leave my sight, they would be way too difficult to replace.

As for a lojack in the lock, they make them for bikes, no need to put in in a broken lock.

Is this by any change in relation to the RSA design brief on bike theft?

I know our uni is doing this 2nd years and finalists and a high percentage of people are doing this brief.

What i would say if it is this project you are doing that the brief does not say to design a new bike lock. Most people at our uni for some bizzare reason are all trying to design the perfect bike lock. The bike lock seems to have been done to death and i would personally recomend to not take the option of doing a bike lock but rather a new interesting direction.

For example here on core77 no matter how good you bike lock those with pimp ass bikes are not going to leave it hanging around outside. Outside probably being the key word here.

Likewise there is that study they did in new york, left loads of bikes out for free on one stole them until the evening when they ALL got picked up in a large van.

Also its not the whole bike that gets stolen its instead the bits and bobs that attach to it.

Dunno i mean this is just my two cents for if your doing the RSA brief don’t do a lock, it is not really what the RSA is about.

An idea I’ve just had would be to incorporate the tracking chip into the lock itself, the thief takes the lock and it can be traced to the thiefs/black market base…

This won’t work. If you’re a thief you just don’t take the lock. Even if the theif is unaware, word will soon get around. Do you even have any solid evidence that theifs take the lock? I’d stay way from this idea. Though if you’re using tracking chips why not just fix it to the bike?

A lot of security products are about deterring the theif.

That concept works not because a police officer is conveniently going to be walking down the road and arrest the purple theif. It works because the theif notices the special smartlock and thinks ‘‘too much effort, i’ll find another one to steal instead’’ and moves on.
To be honest that’s SmartLocks biggest flaw, it looks like every other lock (from the pictures I’ve seen), it should be purple, something easily identifiable so the theif knows he’s going to get a face full of paint if he steals this bike.

It’s the same with the RedTag DVD security.

They have them in shops over here in the UK, i don’t know about anywhere else. Most DVD’s are stolen by getting into the case and removing the disc. With RedTag you can’t get into the DVD case without damaging the DVD making it useless. Theives see the easily identifiable ‘red tag’ and look for something else, or another shop.

I understand companies can afford the odd broken DVD compared to someone having a security system that damages their bike. Off the top of my head, why not something around the wheel, try to remove it, blows out your tire, or releases air and you can’t pump it back up for 24 hours, but the theif could just pick it up, i don’t know, it’s flawed, but something to think about.

Good luck.

Good point about prevention. It’s also important someone mentioned to be aware of which parts are most often targeted. Mostly, I believe it’s the parts not the whole bike the thief wants. Maybe something like that red tag idea which would be a lock attached to key parts (maybe multiple areas) that if broken released a quick setting epoxy into the parts to make them useless?


Thanks guys, these are some great ideas, and valid opinions.

@Sketchme: Yes it’s that project and from what I’ve read, I get the idea that the RSA and the project itself are more geared towards ‘social design’ In fact my initial design was to totally revamp (add motion sensitive lighting, different materials, shelter, rotating two-tier bike carriers, cctv etc), the typical boring bike parking furniture, make it an appealing place for cyclists to park a bike over back alleys/obscure areas (where from what I’ve been told so far most thefts occur), so it in turn becomes a less targeted area as potential thieves know people/other cyclists will usually be nearby.

However, I’ve taken a step back to re-evaluate this concept as I’m not 100% convinced it could be the best idea to develop, there are so many ways the project could go… Any thoughts?