Very few things encapsulate the joys of summer better than getting your bike and heading to a lake for a refreshing dip. Or stopping by a café or a beer garden after a long city tour on two wheels. What you never expect to happen is to return nice and refreshed from your dip or cold drink to find out your bike’s gone.
Believe it when we say: you’re not alone. With 81 million bikes, Germany now has more bicycles than ever before — cycling’s become a trend. More than 80% of the population cycle to work, university or school and experience their own city in their spare time or new cities when holidaying all on the saddle of a bike. That we’re amongst the leading nations for bikes is a good sign: cycling is environment-friendly and can bring great health benefits. For one in two people, a bike is the primary means of transportation.
The dark side of bicycle culture: too many bike-snatching thieves out there. In Germany, around 260,000 bikes were stolen in 2021 — that is, one bike was stolen every two minutes! But, if you’re thinking, “that wouldn’t happen to me; I don’t live in a big city”, we’re sorry to say: bike theft also happens in the countryside. Bikes can be taken from cellars, train stations, bus stops, and shopping centres.
And unfortunately, thieves are becoming more and more sophisticated in the sordid art of stealing — organised gangs target their victims and have the right tools handy. So it’s time you upped your game and stopped thieves in their light-fingered tracks. Here are five tips on how to keep your bike safe and secure.
Park your bike in a strategic place; no side streets or back alleys. Bikes in those places give criminals more time for them to snap your bike without being seen. You’re better off finding a spot near a café in a busy high street as theft is less likely to go unnoticed in busier areas. Also, you should avoid locking up your bike near places where it might give away that you’ll be gone for a while, like the doctor’s or office buildings.
Avoid leaving your bike at the same spot for extended periods on a regular basis because thieves can be on the lookout and prepare themselves to strike at a moment convenient for them. Also, make sure you chain your bike to something sturdy like a designated bike parking station, a light post, trees or a metal grate instead of a bollard or wooden fence.
It’s also worth noting that one in three bike thefts happens in the hands of opportunist thieves. So, no matter how long you plan to be away from your bike, always lock it up.
Found a good spot? Time to lock up then! There’s also a couple of things you can do to prevent your bike from being taken. You want to secure the most valuable part first. Start with the frame, as high around the top tube as you can, and move on to locking the front and rear wheel, respectively. A single lock is often not enough; with two locks, you make it harder for thieves to take your bike away. Try to double-lock your bike and keep the locks as closely and tightly together as possible, with keyholes facing down. Also, don’t leave the chains and locks on the ground.
Whenever you’re out riding in a group, try to attach the bikes of lesser value in front of the bikes that may seem more appealing to thieves. Odds are they might not put too much effort into messing around with several bikes. Pro tip: take all detachable accessories like the saddle, basket, and magnetic lights with you. And if you’re the lucky owner of an e-bike, don’t forget to take the bike battery, too.
How secure are your bike locks? Three things are crucial here: what part of your bike you lock up, how long you plan on leaving your bike unattended, and how much your bike costs. The risk of your bike being stolen in a city or university campus is higher than in the countryside. Public places like train stations and schoolyards pose higher risks than garages, sheds or basements, just like it’s more dangerous to keep your bike outside overnight than for shorter periods in the day.
An expensive bike means more visibility and, in turn, maximises the risk of theft. For that reason, you shouldn’t count the pennies when choosing bike locks. E-bikes, in particular, need much more protection than the average pushbike. Rule of thumb: always choose quality over price; otherwise, the cheap can become expensive if your bike gets stolen. Having a second bike of lesser value for the day-to-day is also an alternative as that can be less attractive to thieves.
U-locks, chain or cable locks: endless options are available in varied sizes and levels of sturdiness. Extra weight is an attribute to keep in mind when choosing a new lock; however, that isn’t strictly necessary as there are viable options available in all categories of lock types. Frame locks — those permanently attached to the bike — aren’t secure enough on their own, and it’s imperative that you combine them with a sturdier lock.
And how about smart locks that can be controlled with the tap of an app? What seems nice and practical may offer less security. Professional thieves can crack these state-of-the-art models with app integration without breaking a sweat.
If you love your bike and want to better protect it, you can upgrade your preventative measures with new lock systems, seat clamps, GPS trackers and alarm systems. Then, you can simply pop to your local bike shop and check what upgrades make sense for you to equip your bike with.
Another essential measure: Use the bike pass app to store your bike data online, including photos. In an emergency, you can simply send the details to the police so that they can start the search. Also, make a note of the frame number and keep it in a safe place with your proof of purchase. There are also theft databases to check in the unfortunate event of your bike getting stolen.
What is the best way to protect your beloved bike (or your bike fleet) against theft? If your bike is in your house, in a locked garage or basement, bicycle protection is included in your contents insurance. Now, to protect it on the go — where theft is all the more likely — simply select the “Bike Theft” add-on. The bike-theft add-on offers effective and inexpensive protection if you have to deal with your bike being taken. You are reimbursed for the current value of your bike if it is stolen. And of course, you can also insure several bicycles, e-bikes, pedelecs, trailers and all accessories in the same contract.
Important: To benefit from the insurance cover, always lock your bike to a fixed object when not in use — see tip 1. Then it cannot be easily carried away or lifted. Frame locks are, for that reason, not considered full locks in insurance terms.
You’ve taken all precautionary measures to prevent your bike from getting taken. Yet, you’ve fallen victim to the light fingers of bike-snatchers. Fear not; your insurance provider will get on the case and help you.
How to report bike theft:
Over to you: do you have any good tips on how we can work together to tackle crooks and improve bike security? Then let’s hear it — the community will thank you.