Keeping your bicycle safe and secure

According to the British Crime Survey, about 533,000 bikes are stolen each year in Britain - here are some tips on keeping your's safe.
Bike wheel and frame locked to railing
We spoke to John MacLeary, cycling correspondent and bike blogger for the Daily Telegraph, for some hints and tips to help you to keep your bike safe and secure.

Where you lock your bike up makes a big difference

Personally I only ever lock my ride up in the secure cycling compound provided by my employers, or inside my home. This approach, however, can prove difficult for most cyclists. Assuming you are in possession of a lock which is approved by your bicycle insurance provider, when you are out and about always lock it up in a clearly lit place and somewhere that is visible to the passing public. Take the time think to yourself - would a thief be seen if they decided my bike was for them?

Railing Failings

Make sure you lock it to designated bike stands - often found outside train stations - or secure railings. London Cycling Campaign recently enjoyed a victory against legislation that would have allowed council contractors to remove, without notice, bicycles secured to railings even if they were not causing an obstruction or were abandoned. But not every council works the same way. If you decide to lock your bike up to railings do not create an obstruction - to prams, wheelchairs or fire escapes – it's just good manners. And you may find that your bike has been removed not by a thief, but by council officials. In summary, don't lock your bike up in the following places:
  • Dimly lit roads or alleyways.
  • Single posts where the bike could be lifted over the top.
  • Drainpipes – they are easily broken.
  • Racks that only allow you to lock one wheel - thieves come prepared with tools.
  • Where it can cause an obstruction, or on private property with clear warnings that it may be removed.

What you secure your bike with is also important

Firstly, as a rule of thumb, you should spend 10 per cent of the bike's value on security – this doesn't include the cost of bike insurance. Cutting corners with bike locks is a false economy.

D-locks (sometimes called U-locks) are generally regarded as one of the most secure. However, with the right tools - such as a car jack – they can easily be broken. Cable locks - however thick - are next to useless. They may be easy to transport over the shoulder or waist, but a professional bike thief armed with a simple pair of bolt cutters will slice through them like a hot knife through butter.

The best option is a combination of D-lock and chain-lock. Admittedly, these are both heavy, but if the alternative is a long walk home, I know what I'd prefer!

Code it and label it

Registering your bike with the police or getting security codes attached to your bike may not deter a bike thief. But it may help police to identify a stolen bike and return it to its rightful owner. It is worth considering attaching visible, tamper-proof labels to the bike to act as a deterrent. Add to the frame, forks and both wheels. If you own a high-spec bike with an expensive chain-set, also add one to your crank-set. A growing concern - particularly in big cities - is the threat of "bike jacking", where cyclists are forced off their bikes by assailants while they are waiting at traffic lights or just unlocking their bike. If you are unfortunate enough to be a victim of this, report it immediately, approach any possible witnesses for their contact details and memorise the appearance of your assailant to help police.

Make note

Keep a record of your bike's details - make, whether it's a mountain bike, a road bike or a racer, colour, frame size, wheel type, gearing and brakes or any other unique marking. If possible, keep a photograph filed. This will all help to increase the chance that your bike will be found and returned to you should you be unfortunate enough to have it stolen. It will also help you with any bicycle insurance claims you have to make.

Don't skimp on bike security

The cost, or risk, of not getting insured is quite simple. Can you afford to lose your bike and replace it without a noticeable impact on your pocket? For most people the answer is no. Bike insurance premiums can certainly appear high - mine, based on its £1200 cost, is £150 per annum. I've also spent £120 on security measures. But I know that the cost of losing my ride is much higher than insuring it and buying reliable security products. For me, it's just false economy to skimp on bike insurance and security.
(Orignially posted on 06/12/12)

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