Your guide to bike security, with expert tips from James Witts, cycling enthusiast and author of the bestselling Haynes Bike Book (7th edition)
Thanks to the success of British cycling at both the London and Rio Olympic Games, and the emergence of role models such as Laura Kenny and Sir Bradley Wiggins, cycling is more popular than ever. Sales in bikes have soared over the last few years as more and more people, particularly in cities, swap four wheels for two.
Unfortunately, the rise in cycling’s popularity has also led to a surge in bike theft. According to Cyclist magazine, between October 2015 and September 2016, a total of 82,000 bikes were reported stolen to the police. That's 227 every day, or almost 1,600 per week, with 72% of cases closing with no suspect identified. The most common places for bike theft were public spaces such as shopping centres, colleges, hospitals and car parks.
With some top-of-the-range bikes costing almost as much as a small car, it’s little wonder that owners want to do all they can to protect their property.
Investing in a bike lock
Top of the list for security is buying a decent bike lock, as James Witts explains: “When shopping for a bike lock, look for the Sold Secure rating. Sold Secure is an independent organisation that grades locks as gold, silver or bronze depending on how thief-proof it is.
“A bronze-rated lock can be broken into with very basic tools; silver requires a few more tools and around three minutes of effort; when it comes to gold, you’re looking at over five minutes with highly sophisticated tools.”
The most common type of bike lock is a D-Lock, such as Kryptonite’s New York M18 lock, available from Halfords, priced £69.99. “This is a brilliant lock, rated gold for both bikes and motorbikes. The downside is that it’s weighty at 2.7kg, so better for home security rather than when you’re out and about,” says James.
If you’re looking for a lighter option, consider the Litelok, priced £85. New to the market, thanks to Kickstarter funding, and designed by a former aeronautical engineer, the Litelock is a lightweight strap made of layers of different materials called Boaflexicore. “Weighing in at just 1.13kg, including keys, it’s definitely one of the lightest locks out there, and has been awarded an impressive gold-star Solid Secure rating,” says James.
It’s worth noting that some bike insurers insist that you use at least a silver-rated bike lock, otherwise your policy could be invalidated, so take time to shop around to find the best lock for your needs.
Storing your bike
There’s little point in having a top-notch bike lock if you don’t secure your bike to a solid, immovable object, such as an official bike stand. “Ideally use two locks – one around a wheel, frame and the immovable object, and the other around the other wheel and frame,” explains James. “If you have quick-release wheels fitted then remove the front wheel and lock it behind the bike. If you have a quick release fitted to the seat post then consider removing the saddle and taking it with you.”
The golden rule when locking up your bike is to always make the locking mechanism as inaccessible as possible. If you find it hard to access the locking mechanism then a potential thief will have the same problem.
It goes without saying that you should lock your bike when out and about, but you should also get into the habit of locking it away when you are at home. Thieves will be less likely to attempt to take a bike stored in a garage or shed that’s securely locked up.
Other steps to take
If you’ve got a new bike, register it with the Bike Register – the national cycle database. “This is a national police-approved database where you fill in details like brand of bike, colour and, most importantly, the frame number, which is usually stamped beneath the bottom bracket. Then if your bike is stolen, the police can access the database to search for stolen and recovered bikes,” explains James.
The new Haynes Bike Book (7th edition) is available from Haynes, priced £18.99.