Having a bike stolen is devastating. In fact, statistics show that 66% of those who have been a victim of bike theft cycle less, and 25% give up entirely. Chances are, if you own a bike, you know what it's like to have a bike stolen, but who are the people behind the statistics? What actually happens to those that have been through it?
We asked people to share their experiences and had so many responses. For some, bikes are a way to get around, for others, a hobby enjoyed alone or with family. Whatever the reason, cycling allows so many of us a means of transport, a way to get fit, make new friends, or get to work. Having a bike stolen is an awful experience. Not just because of the monetary or sentimental aspects, but for so many reasons. We spoke to several people about what happened when their bike was stolen. Here are their stories.
Simon is based in the West Midlands. He commutes daily and rides both road and mountain bikes. His bike, a hybrid that he used for commuting to work, was locked outside a Halfords store to an immovable, solid post. It was locked with a cable lock that cost around £15 and was targeted by thieves who watched him enter the store, “Thieves were sitting in a white van in the carpark. They watched me arrive and lock my bike. As soon as I had walked into the shop, they drove up to my bike, one person got out and violently yanked the bike away from the post which snapped the cable lock. It went straight into the back of the van, and they were off. It took about 20 seconds.”
Unfortunately, like many others, he never got the bike back, but he did see it for sale on Gumtree about a month later, “I knew it was my bike because I had changed a few things on the bike, such as tyres, pedals and had lights on the front and back. They had removed my Pannier rack but kept the lights, pedals and tyres and had it up for sale at £200. It was a £500 bike and only two months old.” He did contact the Police with the information about the bike and asked what to do, “They said the best thing to do was to call the number and arrange to buy the bike. Then call the police back to confirm it is my bike when I had seen it and they would then go round. I insisted that I knew the bike was mine from the photos, but he said it doesn’t matter, I would need to confirm it in person. So, I tried to call the number straight away to do what the police officer advised but the number was now a dead phone line.”
At the time Simon didn’t have insurance, but following on from the incident, all his bikes are now insured. The theft had quite an impact on Simon’s wellbeing, “I went out and bought a new bike (the exact same bike) from mine and my wife’s savings. This had an effect on my sleep too, I was paranoid my new bike would be stolen. I would wake in the night at the slightest of noises and run to the back bedroom window to check that nobody was stealing my bike. This lasted until I moved house eight months later. My reaction was not logical as let’s not forget, my bike wasn’t even stolen from my home.”
Thankfully Simon kept cycling after this incident but has changed the way he views bike security, “I’m somewhat obsessed with bike security now. I have several bikes now and all of them have been insured through a cycle specific insurance policy, and as named items on the house insurance. I bought new locks and now only ever buy locks that are Sold Secure. I alarmed my shed, changed the screws on the shed to anti-theft screws, bought outdoor security lights, bought Sold Secure bike anchors for each bike, and registered all bikes on Bike Register and Immobilise. I also never leave my bike anywhere in public and until recently have chosen to use the car for those small journeys to shops that could (and would have) ordinarily be done by bike.”
Maria is based in London. She enjoys road cycling and uses her bike to commute. She commutes to work three times a week and enjoys a few leisure rides every month. Maria’s bike was stolen from a block of flats in what was supposed to be secure parking. Access to the garage was by key fob, and her bike was locked to Sheffield stands with two Gold rated locks overlooked by CCTV. Unfortunately, as she later found out, thieves had forced entry and her bike wasn’t the only one stolen at the time.
For her, the theft was a surprise. She thought the car park was very secure. Having returned from a trip, she found her bike gone, “I’d been away for a long weekend and went down to the car park in my cycling gear on the Tuesday morning and saw no bike. I knew it’d be a massive pain with insurance, police etc, as well as having to pay to get to work by public transport. I also have PTSD which means I find walking difficult and distressing at times, but I don’t feel like that on a bike, so it had an impact on my ability to go out and about for a month until I got a new bike, and replacing it was a cost I didn’t want or need.”
Maria said her bike had likely been stolen with angle grinder, and the locks were cut through and left. Thankfully her bike was insured on her home insurance, but it was still an upheaval to sort things out, “I reported it to the police as I knew I’d need a crime number for an insurance claim. I kept an eye out on Gumtree etc while I did the insurance claim. I tried getting the management company in my block to look through the CCTV or give it to the police, but they wouldn’t do so, claiming data protection. I managed to get a new bike through Cycle to Work so I saved a bit of money and was able to get my application expedited because of the theft.”
Since the theft, she has changed the way she views bike security and where she stores her bike, “My new bike stays in the flat (a challenge in a 1 bed, but I make it work) and I’ve locked it outside (triple locked) a handful of times in the three years I’ve had it.”
Mark lives in Staffordshire and races bikes. He rides and races road, track, cross, mountain bike and TT. His bikes are mostly used for racing and his bike was stolen from a running track in Nottingham. His bikes were locked to the back of his car and to a rack also secured by cable lock.
Thankfully the thief only managed to get away with one bike, stealing it using cutters and brute force to get it off the back of the vehicle. Mark was relieved that only one bike was stolen, but since that incident no longer risks leaving any bikes locked to the back of a vehicle, “I had nothing from the police, they were barely interested in logging it. I didn't claim on my insurance. I was annoyed they got off but I’m glad it was only one bike.”
Neil lives in Glossop, Derbyshire, and as he puts it, “wedged between the Peak District and Greater Manchester.” Neil rides almost everywhere. He gave up his car several years ago and occasionally travels by train if it can accommodate his bike. He works in a bike shop managing a hire fleet of e-cargo bikes which he rides almost daily as part of his servicing routine.
It was actually Neil’s wife and daughter’s bikes that were stolen on this occasion. They were locked together in the garden with cable lock under a rain cover. The family had just returned from shopping and intended to put the bikes away properly after having something to eat. The bikes were picked up and carried away whilst still locked together. Their daughter’s bike was retrieved in nearby scrubland. It had been used as leverage to snap the lock and get away with the other bike. Neil was disheartened about the whole incident, especially as it had happened to his family at home, “As the bikes belonged to my wife and daughter it made me angry that someone would come onto our property and help themselves whilst we were in the house. Dealing with the aftermath just made me feel frustrated as the police wouldn't do anything, even when I pointed out that a very similar bike to my wife’s had appeared on a social media marketplace.”
Neil had the bikes insured via a home insurance policy, “The theft was reported to police immediately but they didn’t turn up until a few days later to say there was nothing they could do. However, dealing with the insurance was easy as the bikes were relatively new and we still had receipts.” Since the incident the family have made some security upgrades, “We took steps to improve security in general around our house. We installed security lights, a camera at the side of the house, and a ring doorbell. We also purchased a plastic bike store to put the bikes into when we get home - sited in an easier spot than the old wooden shed we used. I'm fortunate that through work I have been given a demo of a GPS bike tracker that is on my bike.”
The Origins of Litelok
Stories like this are the reason we exist. We want to prevent this from happening. We don’t want to see a rise in the statistics of people never cycling again. Having a bike stolen goes far beyond just monetary loss. For many it takes away their independence and way of getting around. For others, a way to clear their head and stay fit. It’s not just about the cost of replacing the bike, but accessories too. If your bike is insured, there’s also an excess to pay, if not, you’re left to pay for everything.
Cycling is so important, not in the least because of the environmental and health aspects. A new study, ‘Physical Activity Through Sustainable Transport Approaches’ shows that choosing to switch one car ride for a cycle trip once a day can reduce a person’s individual carbon footprint by 0.5 tonnes a year. There are also many physical, mental, and social health benefits of cycling, one Canadian study concluded that societal change was needed for the benefit of the environment and individual health.
LITELOK exists because of bike theft. Our Founder, and CEO, Neil Barron has also been in the situation detailed above, as have many of our staff. Neil has had several bikes stolen over the years, which inspired him to create a range of lightweight, portable, secure bike locks to prevent it happening to other people. No lock is unbreakable, but investing in a lock that offers protection against all types of attack is the best way to keep your bike safe. Many locks are easily defeated and don’t offer adequate levels of security. We hope in time that there will be less stories like the above, but until then we will keep coming up with new ways to try and stop bike theft!