Bike theft is and has always been an issue. In this short informative article, we will cover the many ways which bike thieves work and what you can do to combat their methods.
Hopefully, you’ve come here to learn how to increase the security of your bike whilst it’s locked. But if you’re unlucky enough to have had your bike stolen already, then take a read of what to do if your bike is stolen.
These tips will greatly increase your chances of getting your beloved bicycle back! If you know that your bike lock is poor quality, consider getting a stronger, more secure lock.
Otherwise, get yourself comfortable, and get ready to improve your bicycle security skills by implementing the top tips below!
Table of Contents
How Do Bike Thieves Work?
Who’s Trying to Steal My Bike?
Bike thieves don’t have to be big scary men that go around at night with balaclavas on. In fact, just about anyone could steal a bike! All a thief needs is time and the necessary tools, and they’ll be gone along with your bike!
Broadly speaking, bike thieves fall into two categories. First of all, we have the opportunist. The opportunist is the most common type of bike thief and can be found almost everywhere.
An opportunist bike thief doesn’t necessarily carry any tools, or have any knowledge of how to steal a bike.
Anyone desperate enough can be an opportunist bike thief, but most thieves have stolen more than once so they may be carrying basic equipment such as wire cutters or a very small pair of bolt croppers.
Professional thieves steal for a living, which means they know what they’re doing, and it’s more than likely that they are carrying good quality tools. Normally, professional thieves will carry power tools, hydraulic jacks and large bolt croppers.
Professional thieves target any bikes, but of course they prefer ones that aren’t secured properly. If a professional thief has enough time, they will be able to remove almost any bike lock out there.
The best way to defeat these professional thieves is by using a top-quality bike lock, locking your bike properly and reducing the time that you’re away from your bike.
Now that we’ve covered who’s likely to be stealing your bike, let’s take a look in more detail at the tools and methods they use.
Tools That Bike Thieves Use & How to Combat Them
You might not believe us, but many of the low-end cable bike locks can actually be damaged and removed simply with a pair of hands. If your lock is cheap and flimsy, its possible to snap it open simply by putting tension on it.
Sometimes only a few strong pulls are necessary to open a cheap bike lock.
To prevent a thief busting your bike lock open with their hands, don’t buy cheap, it’s that simple. Sold Secure Gold rated bike locks are the top of the range locks.
Sold Secure Gold locks have been through rigorous tests to make sure they provide maximum security for your bicycle.
Hacksaws are easily obtainable, cheap and relatively straight forward to use. This makes them popular with bike thieves. Hacksaws come in all shapes and sizes, the majority are easy to hide and would fit into a backpack, or even in a pocket.
These saws have multiple strong teeth and will rip through cable locks in no time. If enough time is available a hacksaw will cut through all low-quality bike locks.
If you’re worried about hacksaws defeating your bike lock, look out for bike locks made with hardened steel. These will put up a good fight and will take a long time to get through with a hand-powered saw.
Also, when securing your bike, make sure to keep your bike lock off the ground and fill its shackle. This will make it harder for a thief to move your lock into a position where it can be easily sawed.
3. Bolt Cutters
Bolt cutters are one of the most popular tools that thieves use to steal bikes. They can be bought from any hardware shop and will make light work of any cable lock or cheap D locks.
Bolt cutters vary in size, the biggest being 42″ and the smallest is only 8″. These smaller bolt cutters can easily be concealed in a backpack or a pocket, which is why they are popular with thieves.
Once a locks shackle is inserted into the cutters, all that is needed is one quick squeeze. If your bike lock is cheap and cheerful, it won’t stand a chance.
To make sure that your bike lock is not vulnerable to bolt cutter attacks, you need to get yourself a thick, strong lock. The thicker better.
Bike locks with shackles or links that are over 16mm thick are normally immune to bolt cutters as they are just too chunky.
You should also look out for locks with a double deadbolt locking system. These require more than one cut to be made before they can be removed. The longer it takes the thief, the higher the chances are of them being unsuccessful.
So if you want your bike lock to put up a fight against bolt cutters, get one made with hardened steel, and get the thickest possible option. This should render the cutters useless and keep your bike safe!
Hammers are the weapon of choice for unskilled thieves. They will use the hammer to repeatedly strike your bike lock until it breaks open. Low-end cable locks and cheap d locks can be defeated this way and will be the target for thieves using a hammer.
To prevent them from smashing your lock open, get yourself a good quality bike lock, that isn’t made using large amounts of plastic or malleable metals.
By keeping your bike lock off the ground, it will also be significantly harder for thieves to do any damage with a hammer.
You can double up and use two bike locks, which will double the time needed to steal your bike. Or if you’re unsure on how to secure your bike then check out our step by step article on how to safely secure your bicycle.
5. Ice Spray / Freezing Liquids
One of the less common methods used to defeat bike locks is through freezing them and then attempting to shatter the lock. When metal is exposed to extremely low temperatures, its structure changes, making it more brittle. Once dramatically cooled it can be broken easily with a powerful blow.
The padlock in the video below has been submerged in liquid nitrogen, which would be hard to replicate on the street. But look at how easily the lock is broken once super-cooled!
The best bike locks are tested on their ability to withstand breaking when subject extreme temperatures. A good quality bike lock will make the use of hardened steel or other strong metals.
These locks are designed to withstand shattering or breaking when cooled. As always, if you use a cheap and cheerful bike lock, the chances are it will be easily bust open with a powerful blow (especially when the lock has been dramatically cooled).
Also, as previously covered with hammers, if you keep your bike lock off the ground whilst secured, thieves will have a much harder time striking the lock. If you have a good quality bike lock and your bike is secured properly, thieves will target an easier option.
Crowbars are an old classic when it comes to bike theft, and can be used in a number of ways. Twisting a cheap bike lock with a crowbar will put pressure on the locking system and will cause the lock to pop open.
Crowbars can be super effective against low-mid range D locks and normally only need to be twisted a small amount before the lock is levered open.
To combat this method, make sure you fill your lock’s shackle. If the shackle is full, it will be much harder to insert a crowbar and should prevent leverage attacks from being successful.
A bike lock with a double deadbolt locking system and a thick hardened steel shackle will be your best bet against leverage attacks.
If the shackle of the lock below was full, it would not have been so easy to pop open. Fill that shackle!
7. Hydraulic Car and Bottle Jacks
A car jack can generate enough pressure to lift a car off the ground. This makes them super effective at snapping open bike locks when inserted into their locking area. Hydraulic equipment is normally fairly expensive and will be used by more experienced thieves.
To prevent your lock being defeated by a hydraulic attack, make sure you fill your locking space. By using a bike lock with a smaller shackle you will make it harder to fit a jack inside, reducing the likelihood of a successful hydraulic attack.
8. Cable Cutters
Cable and wire cutters are a smaller equivalent of bolt cutters. They are used to snip small pieces of metal and are particularly effective against cable locks. Cable cutters are the most common weapon of choice for bike thieves. They can easily be stored in a pocket and do not weigh much at all.
Cable cutters won’t be able to cut through thick, solid metal. So by using a good quality D lock, or chain lock, you’ll be safe. Make sure to avoid cable locks, as these contain multiple small strands of coiled metal that can easily be snipped away.
If you use a cable lock, look away now! 4 cables are cut with ease at the same time in the video below. Get yourself a good quality bike lock.
9. Portable Grinders
Portable grinders are by far the most effective way to defeat bike locks. They require no skill and can get through almost any bike lock in a matter of seconds.
Grinders are much bulkier and hard to conceal than other tools, so it is not common for thieves to carry these. When in use, grinders produce a large amount of noise which puts a lot of thieves off.
The best way to combat portable grinders is by choosing the thickest lock available of you, and by using more than one bike lock to secure your bike. If you use two locks to secure your bike, they would both have to be cut before your bike could be removed.
Good quality locks also feature a double-deadbolt, which means two or more cuts will be needed before the lock can be opened. Look out for this when purchasing a new lock!
At the end of the day, if given enough time an angle grinder will be able to defeat almost any bike lock. If you have an expensive bike and are worried by the threat of portable grinders, make sure to secure your bike in a busy public place, and aim to leave it locked and unattended for the shortest possible time.
Summary – How to Defeat Bike Thieves
Almost all of the tools that bike thieves use can be made redundant by using a good quality bike lock, and by securing your bike properly. If you’re unsure how to secure your bike or want helpful tips for extra bike security, check out our step by step article on how to lock your bike properly.
If you opt for a top quality bike lock that has an 18mm steel shackle, even a portable grinder will have a tough time removing it. The Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit, is double deadbolted, has an 18mm max performance steel shackle and has a much smaller shackle than other D locks.
The slightly shorter shackle makes it easier to fill the Fahgettabboudit and therefore helps to prevent anything being inserted to lever the locking system open.
The Fahgettaboudit Mini is one of, if not the best bike lock on the market to date. This makes it a great choice for anyone looking to increase their bike’s security
If given enough time however an angle grinder will be able to defeat any bike lock. So if you know that your bike is likely to attract attention, you should keep it somewhere out of sight, but in a place which you know is safe.
Locking your bike in a safe place that is out of sight and securing your bike with a top quality bike lock will provide you with excellent security and added peace of mind. It’s a million times better when you don’t have to worry about your bike whilst you’re away from it!
If you’re looking to purchase a new bike lock, but are struggling to decide which is best for you, then our article on the best bike locks will help you choose the perfect lock for you and your bicycle.
Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Mini
- Weight: 4.55 lbs (2.06 kgs)
- Dimensions: 3.25” x 6”
(8.3cm x 15.3cm)