Approximately 300,000 bikes were stolen in 2019, according to the the Crime Survey for England and Wales.
Investing in good lock (or locks) is the obvious first step to protect your bike, but a lock is only as good as what you secure it to – and that's assuming you use it in the first place.
Many bike thefts take place when the bike hasn't been locked at all, either because the owner forgets, or assumes they don't need a lock because the bike is in a secure area.
Our guide lets you know how to register and security-mark your bike, gives top tips for where and how to lock your bike at home or on the go, and advises on what to do if your bike's been stolen.
2020 was a strong year for bike sales, with analyst Mintel reporting a 22% increase.
If you're one of the growing number of cyclists using a bike to commute or to enjoy long weekend rides in the countryside, at some point you'll inevitably need to lock it in public.
Where and how you lock your bike plays a big role not only in foiling an attempted robbery, but also in deterring a wannabe bike thief in the first place.
A determined thief, with the right tools and uninterrupted time, will eventually be able to break any lock. So the trick is to make your bike as difficult and unappealing to steal as possible.
As calculated as it sounds, if another bike looks less secure than yours, most thieves will go for the easier option.
Ideally, you want to lock your bike to a secure object, in a place that's well lit, where lots of other people pass by. This gives any potential criminals less time to try stealing your bike undisturbed.
Follow these dos and don'ts for finding the best location to secure your bike. It won't always be possible to follow all of these rules, but apply as many as you can.
If you have an expensive bike, such as an e-bike, avoid leaving it in the same place on a regular basis. A determined thief might spot your pattern, and target the more expensive bike. Also make sure you take the e-bike's removable battery with you.
No matter what type of lock you have, there are some general pointers that will make your bike more difficult to steal.
Doing this allows more of the bike to be secured, and will require any thieves to use slightly different tools and tactics to break each lock. Cable locks are another, cheap type of lock, but less secure, so we wouldn't recommend you rely solely on these to secure your bike.
If using U-locks, make sure you fill the inside space as much as possible - as pictured above - before locking it to a secure bike rack. By fitting as many parts of your bike within the U-lock as possible, it makes it harder to move the lock, protecting against leverage attacks. This is when a thief inserts a pole in the inside space of the U-lock and twists until the lock pops open.
Secure the frame and front wheel in one lock, and the frame and back wheel in the other. This secures both wheels to the stand and bike frame, and the frame to the stand – giving your bike the best protection.
If you can't justify the cost of two locks, another popular method for securing both wheels and bike frame to a stand is to use a single U-lock and an additional cable with loops at each end (but no lock).
This method might be cheaper than buying two locks, but the cable offers less security against attacks. If you go with this approach, make sure you're leaving the bike in a well-lit, busy location with CCTV if possible.
Secure the back wheel and frame to the stand with the U-lock. Before locking it, put one loop of the cable through the U-lock, then thread the cable through the front wheel and place the other loop on the U-lock. Then lock the U-lock.
The back wheel and frame should be secured to the stand, and the front wheel secured to the bike frame via the cable.
A significant number of bike thefts occur while the bike is in or parked outside the owner's home – usually because people assume the home is more secure, so take fewer precautions to properly secure the bike.
In truth, you should put as much thought into properly locking a bike at home as you would in public. The principles are very similar.
Inside the building
If you're able to, bringing the bike inside your house or flat is the most secure option.
Avoid leaving it in a communal area if you live in a block of flats; these tend to have less security and often don't have an immovable object to secure your bike to.
If you need to free up some floor space, buy a wall mount for your bike.
In a shed or garage
The next best solution is to lock your bike in outdoor storage; usually a shed or garage.
Ensure there's a strong, solid object to lock your bike to. For example, you could cement a ground anchor into the garage floor, or screw a bike rack to a wooden shed.
The bike locks you use at home don't need to be portable, so buy the biggest and heaviest locks you can afford to give your bike the most protection.
It's worth spending a bit of time ensuring the storage is also secure. Buy a decent padlock for the shed or garage door. You could even consider investing in a shed alarm to deter would-be thieves.
If you have no alternative but to leave your bike outside, then it might be best to consider getting some form of bike storage.
No matter how quiet and safe it seems where you live, an unlocked bike is asking to be nicked. Invest in a bike storage unit or, if there isn't room, install a ground anchor and get a bike cover.
Plant locks are steel troughs which, once planted, weigh more than 75kg. You can then lock your bike to the trough.
Prevention is better than cure, but if – despite your best efforts – your bike is stolen, you'll want the best chance of getting it back. Registering and security-marking it will help with this; security-marking can also act as a deterrent.
When a stolen bike is recovered, it's often difficult for police to return it or prosecute offenders, as the owner can't be traced.
A crucial step to protecting your bike, and getting it back if it gets stolen, is to register it on a secure, recognised national database.
Registering gives you a lifetime registration in the database, and a logbook to use as proof of ownership.
Recording as many details as possible – such as a photo of your bike plus the bike's model, frame number and colour – makes it more likely that the police will be able to return your bike to you to you if they find it in the possession of thieves.
However, it doesn't make it a less appealing target for criminals.
We recommend buying a security-marking kit, as this will put a visual deterrent on your bike.
When you sign up to BikeRegister, you can buy a database label or stamp to put on it. This will also give your bike a completely unique reference number (as not all frame numbers are unique), making it even easier to reunite you with it if it's found.
Security-marking can also act as a valuable deterrent to would-be thieves, as they know that if they're caught with a registered bike, it's easy for the police to prove the bike is stolen and arrest them.
A variety of security-marking options are available. For example, you can pay for one of the following when you , or you can purchase them directly at bike retailers such as Halfords. We've linked to each product at Halfords below.
If your bike is stolen, you should contact the police as soon as possible.
Adverts to sell stolen bikes usually appear online within 24 hours of the theft, although sometimes it takes longer.
The following steps will maximise your chance of getting your bike back:
Ultimately it's your choice, but if you have a valuable bike that you'd struggle to afford to replace if it was stolen, then making sure it's covered by insurance is a sensible precaution.
But before you buy a dedicated policy, check your home contents insurance policy. Often, cheap to mid-range bikes are covered as standard under a contents or combined buildings and contents home insurance policy.
Not every policy covers bikes as standard, though, and even if yours does it might not cover everything you need it to. For example, your bike might only be covered if it's stolen from within your home, or up to a certain value (ranging from a few hundred pounds to more than a thousand, depending on the policy).
If you want to cover your bike while you're out and about, you might need to buy an add-on from your insurer. Alternatively, you could buy a standalone, specialist bike-insurance policy. This might also be your best bet if you want to insure a high-value bike, such as an electric bike or high-end racing bike.
Specialist insurance for a high-value bike typically costs between £150 and £300 a year, but such policies often provide higher levels of cover and extra features. Depending on the policy, these can include:
Whatever type of insurance you have, you must secure your bike properly when you're not using it. Some policies might not pay out if your bike is stolen and it wasn't properly secured; check the small print carefully to make sure you know what 'properly secured' means to your insurer.