Bicycle Theft


Bicycle theft is now recorded as a separate category by all Police forces.

However, many thefts are not reported to the police by their owners.


Surveys indicate that most cyclists do not know their bicycle serial number, nor can they provide legal evidence of bicycle ownership, such as a purchase receipt. As a result, the police are unable to return many recovered bikes to their rightful owners. These bicycles are stored and checked for roadworthyness, before donating them to charity or sending them to auction.


Many thefts occur around the victim's home, bikes left unsecured in the garden or in an unlocked shed or garage.

In public areas a higher percentage of owners will use a lock to provide a degree of security. No matter how resilient a lock may be, the method of fitting the lock is equally as important. 


Research suggests that bicycle thieves can be categorized in the following way in terms of their motivation.

Joy riders

Those who steal any type of bicycle for transportation and/or enjoyment. These offenders generally abandon the stolen bicycle after use. Younger offenders (16 and under) typically fit this group.


Those who exploit easy opportunities to steal any type of bicycle and trade it for cash or goods (such as drugs).


Those who steal specific types of bicycles and/or numerous bicycles to order, these usually end up on Internet auction sites several months after the actual theft.

A recent raid in South London found over 250 bikes stored throughout the house and garden.

Crime Rates and Trends 


The bicycle theft crime rate in Essex (Red Line) has been consistently lower than the average National rate, over this 2 year period.



The average crime rate in Essex 0.93, is lower than the average National rate of 1.08. 


Over the 2 year period to May 2015 the number of recorded bicycle theft's have fallen by 12.32% compared to a national fall of 10.02%.






 Bicycle Locks

Techniques Employed

There is currently a wide range of available bicycle locks, each differing in (for example) material, intended use, and mechanism by which they are supposed to prevent bicycle theft. The term "secure" is relative, as security against bicycle theft depends not only on the lock, but also on the bicycle-parking furniture and the broader parking environment, as well as on who is trying to steal a bicycle, and with what resources.


D or U lock

A D- or U-shaped steel bar that is closed at one end, with a removable section that a key can lock. The lock's strength depends on materials and quality. Such locks can be vulnerable to levering but are resistant to cutting.


Cable or coil lock

A many-stranded steel cable enclosed in a plastic casing, with an integrated lock or looped end through which the user secures the shank of an additional lock. The cables come in various thicknesses. These locks are vulnerable to cutting, and thieves can easily sever them using available hand tools.


Chain lock

A  length of chain (often fabric- or plastic-coated) combined with a securing padlock or mini-D lock. Chains can be very robust, though the lock's strength depends on materials and quality. These locks are vulnerable to striking if applied incorrectly. Poor-quality chain locks are also vulnerable to cutting with bolt croppers and pneumatic cutting tools.


Armored cable lock

A  steel cable core covered with a series of rotating metal tube sections to protect the cable against cutting. Armored cable locks usually have an integrated locking device. Armored cables can be very robust, though the lock's strength depends on materials and quality. These locks can be vulnerable to cutting with bolt croppers and pneumatic cutting tools.


A good many locks have been tested independently by “Sold Secure” and are rated from Bronze to Gold depending on their resilience to attack.

It is recommended that you use two locks of different types, as this will defend the secured bicycle against multiple perpetrator techniques (e.g., if a cyclist uses a D lock and a chain lock, then a thief must apply both "levering" and "cutting" or "striking" to free the secured bicycle).


sold secure

 Bicycle Locks








Offenders use a number of techniques to steal bicycles. The technique an offender uses will often be directly linked to the cyclist's locking practices (i.e., the type of lock the cyclist uses and the way he or she applies it). When the bike is unlocked or poorly secured, little skill is required. Some common perpetrator techniques used to steal locked bikes are described here.



Thieves lift the bike and lock over the top of the post to which the bike is secured. If it is a signpost, then the thieves may remove the sign to lift the bicycle clear. Sometimes the post itself is not anchored securely and can be lifted clear of the bike and the lock.




If a cyclist locks a bike by the wheel alone, then it may be all that is left when the cyclist returns. If a cyclist locks only the frame, then a thief may remove a wheel or wheels. Allowing the thief to return later and remove the rest of the bike.



For locks requiring keys, thieves can insert tools into the keyhole itself and pick the lock open.


Thieves are known to use tin-snips, bolt cutters, hacksaws, and angle grinders to cut their way through locks and chains to steal bicycles. 


Thieves will use the gap between the stand and the bike left by a loosely fitted lock to insert tools such as jacks or bars to lever the lock apart.


If a cyclist locks a bicycle leaving the chain or lock touching the ground, thieves may use a hammer and chisel to split the securing chain or lock.  


Locking Practice


Research has shown that there are 180 possible locking configurations to secure a traditional two-wheeled bicycle to a standard Sheffield or "∏" shaped bicycle stand. Only 23 of these can be described as secure.

No locking practice can be 100% effective but by using two locks one to secure the front wheel and frame and the other the back wheel and frame is best practice. At the very least this will deter all but the most determined offender.


bike lock





Storage at Home


If it's not being used, keep it out of sight. If kept outside store in a locked shed or garage. For added security fit an anchor point to the wall or floor and use your locks to secure it in place. 

When out always leave your bike in a well used area, not in some out of the way place. Always use your locks even if you are only going to be gone for a minute or two. At night use well lit areas over looked by CCTV if possible.

When ever possible use a purpose made bike stand rather than other street furniture when securing your bike. Over 70% of thefts of “secured” bikes occur when the owner has used street furniture not designed for the purpose.

Take out insurance, either by extending your home contents insurance or through a separate policy. Cycling organisations and bike shops may offer specialist cover. Do this at the time of purchasing the bike, otherwise you may not get around to it.


Know your Bicycle 


1970's Public Information Film


Fast Forward 40 years


Only about 1 in 20 are able to adequately describe their bike to the Police when it is stolen. Most don't know the serial number of the frame or even where to find it.

If there are no obvious markings, turn the bike upside down, the serial number is often stamped on the frames bottom connecting bracket.


serial number

Take a photograph of your bike and note any distinctive features, marks, scratches etc.

Keep all these details in a secure place. You may use the following "Cycle Passport" to record this information, which you can then pass onto the Police if your bike is ever stolen.

Cycle Passport

Keep this together with your purchase receipt.

Remember - If you cannot provide legal evidence of ownership, you won't get your bike back, even if recovered


Register your Bicycle

Security Marking 

To help the Police identify your stolen property it’s a good idea to register your bike with Immobilise It is free and simply to do.

In the event of loss or theft you can flag up the item on their database. This will then show on the NMPR (National Mobile Property Register), the main Police database for lost and stolen property, viewable by all forces throughout England and Wales.

They have a sister site which can be used if considering buying a second hand bicycle.


The Immobilise data base can be used for many other items such as mobile phones, laptops etc. It is equally important to record these items so your identity can be established in the case of loss or theft.

You may be surprised to learn, that if your property is found with a suspect, the Police have to assume they are the rightful owner, if you are unable to offer legal proof of ownership.

Another register that is recognised by the Police is BikeRegister again this free to use and is part of the “selectamark” group.

Security marking is a simple, cost-effective and efficient theft deterrent.

Approved forms of security marking include: stencil etching, forensic coding in the form of markers, sprays or greases, microscopic dots, electronic transponders and security labels.

It is important that you make it obvious that your bicycle is protected. Thieves will be less likely to steal it, knowing that they could be linked back to the crime and subsequently convicted.

Both Immobilise and BikeRegister provide marking kits and electronic tags. Other suppliers are "datatag" and "retainagroup".


Most marker kits include a fluid , that is painted over a laser cut label. The fluid reacts to UV light so even when the label is removed, the security code is readable.




There are a few trackers available for bikes, Spylamp and Spybike being the most well known. They use GPS for tracking on Goggle Earth and sends SMS messages when you bike is on the move.

Check List

Record a description of your bike.


Register your bike


Keep purchase receipts


Mark your bike or use a tag


Insure your bike

Use two locks to Sold Secure standards


Never leave your bike unlocked in public places


Don’t park in unobserved places


Keep your bike locked at home


Don’t leave easily removable accessories


Always report it to the Police if lost or stolen and contact your insurance company within 24 hours.