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Stop your bike getting stolen

Having your bike stolen is a real risk in London – here are our top tips on bike security


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There’s little more frustrating than realising your bike has been stolen when you have places to go.

And there’s no such thing as an ‘un-stealable’ bike. Professional thieves can break virtually any lock and an estimated 80,000 bikes are stolen in London every year.

It’s a question of proportionality – how valuable is your bike, how long are you leaving it for, and so how much effort should you put to keep it reasonably safe?

Opportunistic thieves go for easy targets. So here are our top tips to beat the thieves and keep your bike secure:

1. How you lock up
2. Where you lock up
3. Bike marking
4. Insurance
5. If your bike gets stolen


Buy the best lock you can afford – it’s much cheaper than replacing your bike! A rule of thumb is to spend 10-20% of the value of your bike on a lock/locks. A £2000 bike is a magnet for thieves: a £50 second-hand roadster less so.

Using two locks helps deter thieves. A company called Sold Secure rates locks from Gold to Bronze. We recommend at least one lock with ‘Sold Secure’ Gold rating. (The downsides of a stronger lock are it’s often big and heavy.) For maximum security, use two different types of lock – thieves generally need different tools to cut D-locks versus chains.

Our partners at ABUS are supporting our work tackling bike theft in London and raising awareness of theft prevention measures. You can browse their range of bicycle locks here.


Fit them tightly around your bike (makes it harder to prise them open) and lock them with the lock facing down (makes it harder to pick the lock).

If you’re using just one D-lock, don’t lock your bike through the top bar (1 on the diagram below) as people can lift and twist the whole bike as leverage to try and break the lock. Lock it through one of the other parts of the main frame instead.

Find an ABUS D-lock right for you here.

Chains with solid padlocks

Keep chains raised up off the floor – they are harder to cut in mid-air. These should be thick chains, with solid padlocks. Bendy wire cables are okay for securing wheels and saddles onto the frame, but are never enough to lock up a whole bike.

Find an ABUS chain lock right for you here.

Wheels and saddles

Parts of bikes get stolen as well as whole bikes. Wheels and saddles are a particular target, especially if they’re only held in place by quick-release levers rather than needing an Allen key to undo them.

If you want to keep your quick-release wheels, lock up more effectively by taking the front wheel off and placing the lock through both the frame and also the rim of both wheels. Or take the front wheel with you…!

You can improve security by replacing quick-release levers with bolts. For a further upgrade, switch your general bolts for ones requiring unique customised Allen keys – Pinhead, Pitlock and Hexlox are all good brands.

Find ABUS cable locks here and special locks here.


Remember to take anything that can be carried away (lights, bags etc.) with you.


The longer you are planning to leave your bike somewhere, the more secure a location you need. If you are struggling to find safe places to store your bike, get involved in our campaigning work in your area!


Know how to mark and ID your bike. This means that if it gets stolen and the police find it, they can return it to you. It’s not common sadly, but it does happen!

When you get a bike, take a photo of it and write down its make, model and frame number. Each bike has a number stamped somewhere on the frame (usually around 6. In the diagram below). These frame numbers are generally individual, but not all are unique.

For a unique bike ID, you can add a ‘bike marking’ – an etching or UV code that is individual to your bike. Bike marking kits cost about £20 or are sometimes provided for free by the police at local community events.

Then use the frame number and/or your unique bike marking to add your bike to BikeRegister, a free database used by police forces across the UK to identify lost or stolen bikes.

Kits include a Bike Register sticker to put on your bike and deter potential thieves, because it shows your bike will be harder to resell.

Some people use battery-powered GPS trackers inside their bikes that link to their phone, but these are expensive.


No lock is perfect, so consider insurance.

You might already have theft insurance under another insurance policy, like household contents insurance. Check insurance conditions carefully: they might specify where/when you can lock your bike or require a specific type of lock.

LCC works with Yellow Jersey to provide cycle insurance for our members, including a renewals discount and a multi-bike discount – this focuses on theft and damage to your bicycle. (We also give all LCC members free third-party liability insurance.) Find out more about LCC membership benefits.


Report your stolen bike to the police immediately in person, by phone or online – if you are looking to claim insurance, you will need the crime reference number.

Register your bike as stolen on BikeRegister.

You can sometimes find your own bike for sale second-hand online after it’s been stolen – distinctive markings on your bike can help identify it. There are sites that comb the web for suspicious second-hand bike sales and post them online e.g. Stolen Ride, Stolen Bikes UK and the London Fixed-Gear and Single-Speed ‘Stolen bikes’ thread. It is worth notifying the police if you identify your stolen bike online. If you are certain the bike is yours you can also report the seller to the site itself. Ideally, the police would track down the thieves with information you supply but this doesn’t often happen. (You can read our top tips for avoiding accidentally buying a stolen bike on our buying second-hand page).

When the police don’t act, people sometimes try and get their bike back themselves. This generally involves telling the police what you are going to do, going to see the bike for a ‘test ride’ and cycling away. We don’t support this approach: direct contact with thieves can easily become dangerous and you do so at your own risk.


ABUS are supporting LCC's work tackling bike theft in London and raising awareness of theft prevention measures. ABUS will also be providing insight and data to the ongoing LCC Europe -wide research on best practice to deter cycle theft


LCC is highly effective thanks to the support of our 12,000+ members. If you cycle in London please consider joining today. You'll be supporting our work and get a huge range of benefits too.


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