For as long as bikes have been around, bike theft has always been an issue. Roughly 50% of bike owners will have their bike stolen during their cycling lifetime.
If you’re one of the lucky few you’ll have never had to deal with a stolen bike before. You may be here to gain knowledge so that you know how to act if your bike is stolen or how to stop your bike from being stolen.
Alternatively, your bike may have been nicked already, and you’re now wondering what to do when your bike is stolen.
Fortunately for you, you’ve come to the right place. By following our simple steps below, you’ll know how to handle bike theft, and will know what to do if your bike is stolen. Bike thieves work quickly so the sooner you begin your search the better your chances of recovery are.
Table of Contents
What to Do if Your Bike Is Stolen
1. Report All Theft to the Police – Dial 311(US) or 101 (UK)
You’ve just finished a long hard day at work, and you’ve got your favourite TV show to watch when you’re home. Shock horror, your bike isn’t where you left it. Before you start to panic, check your surroundings.
If you secure your bike in a communal bike shed, and you didn’t lock it up, make sure that someone hasn’t simply moved it.
If you’ve had a look around the area you secured your bike and can’t find it, then the chances are someone’s probably stolen it. As much as you might want to break down in tears, or smash something, try and resist.
The faster you act now the better your chances are of recovering your ride and getting back on the road.
Non-emergency police numbers are as follows:
- USA – 311 (Works in most states)
- UK – 101 (Nationwide)
First things first, call up your non-emergency police number (see above). This should direct you to your local police force who will be able to take all of the details of the theft. When you get through, make sure to provide as much information as possible to your call handler.
Important information to provide to the police when your bike is stolen:
- Where your bike was stolen from
- What time your bike was stolen (roughly if you’re not sure)
- Were there any tools or weapons used in the theft
- The whereabouts of the offenders
- A brief description of the offenders
- Your bikes serial number and any unique features
It may surprise you, but the police do manage to recover a large number of stolen bicycles. The problem they have is finding the rightful owner, so make sure to give as much information as possible to your call handler.
This information will be logged in their database and you will be provided with a crime reference number (CRN). Make sure to take note of the CRN that you are given as it will be important later on.
(It’s important to note that if your bike is currently being stolen, that you should not try to handle the situation yourself. Instead, call the police.
Thieves are unpredictable and desperate. By trying to handle the situation yourself you’re putting yourself in unnecessary danger. Remember, your bicycle can always be replaced.)
2. Report the Bike Theft to Your Insurer – Within 24 Hours
Read the small print and check what your insurance covers you for, you’ll then be able to decide whether to make a claim or not. It may be easier to give them a call and a representative will be able to clarify your policy.
If you have got bicycle insurance, it’s important that you let your insurer know within 24 hours. Some insurers will not allow you to make a claim if they are not informed of the theft straight away.
Your insurer will ask for your CRN that the police gave you and most likely for proof of ownership. If you’ve got receipts that show the purchase of your bike these are a great way to prove your bike’s worth.
All stolen bike claims through insurers take different amounts of time to be processed. By putting a claim in straight away you’ll minimise the time that you’re without a bike and will improve your chances of getting compensation.
It’s important to remember that when you make a claim on your insurance, it may affect your monthly/yearly premium. If your stolen bike was not worth a substantial amount of money, it may be worth replacing the bike yourself.
3. Check If Your Lock Manufacturer Offers a Compensation Scheme
A few of the more reputable lock brands offer theft compensation schemes. Kryptonite and OnGuard both offer schemes that offer compensation to people whose bikes are stolen whilst using their bike locks.
If your bike was secured with a top-quality lock, you should check if you are covered by one of these compensation schemes. Kryptonite’s Anti Theft Protection Offer (ATPO) enables users of Kryptonite bike locks to claim compensation if a bike is stolen whilst using one of their specified locks.
Most of these schemes require you to sign up before you are covered. But it’s worth checking anyway!
If your bike is stolen, it’s a good idea to file a claim as soon as possible. This is because companies often put time restrictions on claims that are filed. To be eligible for compensation with Kryptonite’s ATPO Kryptonite specify users of their bike locks must;
- Report the theft to the police within 72 hours
- Immediately report the theft to your insurance company, if covered by insurance
- Notify Kryptonite within seven (7) days of the theft.
As you can see, there are set requirements for a claim to be made. If use a Kryptonite bike lock and you do not follow these guidelines, the chances are you will not receive any form of compensation from Kryptonite.
Whoever your lock manufacturer is, it’s worth having a look to see if you are eligible for a form of compensation!
4. Report the Theft to Bike Registration Companies – BikeRegister
If you did not previously register your bike and its details with an online bike registration company, don’t panic. You’re still able to register your bike as stolen, once a theft has occurred.
If you live in the USA Garage529 is your best bet. It’s a similar to BikeRegister (UK cycle database) and allows its users to register their bike’s details onto an online database.
In the event of your bike being stolen, you can report it to the 529 community which includes over 400 law enforcement agencies. They will then keep an eye out for your ride.
1000’s of bikes have been recovered using 529Garage, so make sure you register your bike before it’s too late!
If you live in the UK haven’t already got an account with BikeRegister, make one now. BikeRegister are the leaders of online bicycle registration and hold the largest database of bicycles and their owners in the UK.
It will only take a few minutes to log your bike’s details and this will dramatically increase the chances of getting your bike back if it is recovered by police or an honest member of the public.
BikeRegister offer a fantastic free service to those looking to log the details of their bike online. If the police were to recover your stolen bike, they could cross-reference your bike’s serial number with your details (stored on a secure online database).
Registering your bike on BikeRegister means you are increasing the chances of being be reunited with your bike if it is stolen.
By registering your bike as stolen, potential buyers of your bike will be able to see that it’s stolen property if they search its details in BikeRegister’s online database. This is common practice when purchasing a second-hand bicycle and will make it harder for a thief to sell on. This will increase the likelihood of your bike being returned.
You are also able to search for a bike’s serial number on BikeRegister. This can be a great way of checking you’re not purchasing stolen goods if you’re buying a second-hand bicycle.
5. Alert Your Local Community – Social Media, Posters, Leaflets & Bike Shops
Now that the relevant authorities and registration companies know that your bike has been stolen, it’s time to get the word out in your local community.
Start by posting pictures of your bicycle on your social media feeds. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest… the more the better. Make sure to let people know your bikes make and any features that make it distinguishable from the crowd. Let people know where your bike was stolen from and any description of who took it.
These websites have played a part in recovering several thousand bikes, so it’s definitely worth your time having a look and logging your bike’s details.
Some bike thieves will attempt to sell your bike to bike shops and pawn stores that will give them quick cash, so it’s a good idea to let your local shops know.
Print some posters and leaflets that you can hand out in your local area. Go into a few of these stores and make them aware of the theft, this way if they come across your bike they can get in contact with you.
If you’re lucky some shops might let you leave flyers inside, or even stick them up in the window.
Distribute some flyers around the area that the theft took place to see if anyone saw anything.
Offering a reward can be a good way to get people interested and to help out. It’s also a good idea to check local car boot sales, as thieves will try and flog stolen property here for quick cash.w
6. Regularly Look Through Online Auction Sites & Set up Alerts
There are websites that compile second-hand bikes that have recently been listed for sale online. If you live in London, there is a site called Bikeshd that trawls sites like Gumtree and eBay for new listings of second-hand bikes.
It’s a good idea to check all online sale platforms, including sites like craigslist, Schpock, eBay and Gumtree. Your bike may have been put up for sale on one of these platforms and you might be lucky enough to find it.
It’s also a good idea to set up alerts on these online auction sites. This is fairly straightforward and can save you the hassle of having to constantly keep an eye on the market.
Set up alerts for bikes of the same make and model as yours, and if something similar is listed you’ll be able to check if it’s your stolen bike.
How to Set up Alerts:
- Search your bike’s details (or try searching “bike”)
- Select “Save this search” at the top of the page (below “buy it now”)
- Search your bike’s details (or try searching “bike”)
- Select the “set search alert” button (top left of page)
- Search your bike’s details (or try searching “bike”)
- Select “save search” on the right of the search bar
The more websites you check and set alerts on, the better. It may feel like you’re wasting time, but all thieves operate differently. The more time you dedicate to finding your bike, the better your chances are of finding it.
7. If You Find Your Bike For Sale (Online or Offline) Call The Police!
If luck is on your side and you’ve managed to locate your stolen bike, do not try and recover it yourself. Before you take any action, double check photos and the description of the bike so that you are sure it’s yours.
Your best idea from here is to get in contact with the police. Don’t accuse any sellers of stealing, as you may be wrong! If they did steal your bike and you call them out, they will simply remove any online listings and disappear.
As bike crime is not an emergency you should call 311 (US) or 101 (UK) to be connected to your local police force.
Whatever you do, don’t end up buying your bike back from them. You’d be surprised at how many people end up doing this, and it only encourages the thief to get back out and steal another bike. It’s also not a good idea to try and confront the seller in person, thieves are unpredictable and this could end badly.
As previously stated, your best bet is to get in contact with your local police force. They will be able to help point you in the right direction and may be able to resolve the situation themselves. Make sure to use the non-emergency police number 101 as stolen bikes aren’t a priority for them.
8. If You Don’t Find Your Bike It’s Time for a New One!
Make sure that after carrying out the above steps, you leave it a week or two before deciding what to do next. Thieves often wait before listing bikes online with the hope that the owner will have given up searching. So make sure to be patient.
If you’ve had no luck at all, you’ve only really got one option. Buy a new bike. Whatever you do, however gruelling this experience has been, don’t let it put you off cycling! We were shocked to hear that 25% of people who have their bike stolen, give up cycling. Don’t be one of these people!
If your bike was relatively expensive or new, then hopefully you’ve got yourself covered with insurance. If you weren’t covered by any form of insurance, don’t give up.
If you have the money to buy a new bike, what are you waiting for? This time around make sure you use a top-quality bike lock when securing your ride!
If you do decide to go for a second-hand bike, then double-check the serial number online. The last thing you want is to end up purchasing someone else’s stolen bike! Whatever you do, make sure you get a new bike.
We can’t let these thieves defeat us. The worst thing you can do is stop cycling.
Once you’ve bought a new bicycle, get yourself a decent bike lock (or two!) and learn how to lock your bike properly. It’s a good idea to take a look at our guide on the steps to take before your bike is stolen.
If your bike new bike was ever stolen, by following our guide you’d greatly increase your chances of recovering it!