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Anti-theft tips for keeping your eBike secure, plus stolen bike recovery tips

Anti-theft tips for keeping your eBike secure, plus stolen bike recovery tips

July 28, 2022 | Pete Prebus

Having an electric bike stolen is a bad experience. Not only is it a violation of your property but it is a personal blow to be without your electric bike; your source of fun and adventure!

Well we have some solutions to prevent your electric bike from being stolen. That includes picking a good lock, tracking technology options, locking locations, and tips to deter thieves.

And if the worst happens and your eBike is stolen then we have some helpful tips for recovering it. There are a lot of ways of letting the world know that your eBike was stolen and they can be effective at getting it back.

First Things First

One of the first things to do when you get your new electric bike is to write down the serial number and keep that in a safe place. The serial number is the unique number that will identify your eBike if it were to be stolen. Law enforcement will want the serial number from the owner if they happen to recover your stolen bike.

The serial number is usually stamped on the frame on the underside of the bottom bracket (where the cranks are) or on the headtube (where the fork connects to the frame). Some brands also print the serial number on the cardboard box.

Tip: take a picture of the serial number and keep duplicates of the picture stored in different areas and also have a paper copy of the serial number somewhere. It’s always good to have duplicates!

Also, many electric bike companies ask you to register your electric bike with them online for warranty purposes and that usually includes the serial number in the registration. So they may have a copy of that if you happen to lose it.

You will want to have the serial number handy in the event that someone does steal your electric bike. When you notify the police, local bike shops, bike registries, and social media the serial number is your way of identifying that it is your eBike.

Evaluating the Risk

Where you live and lock up your electric bike matters when it comes to theft. Some communities are safer than others and some have a reputation for high bike theft.

You will have to take into account the local risk in your area when evaluating lock types and where to lock up your electric bike.

Locks

U-locks, named for their "U" shape, have been the standard for many years. They are generally pretty tough to break and can dissuade a thief from even trying. Of course, there are exceptions but for the most part they are an economical tough lock. And when combined with a cable lock they can protect the frame and wheels pretty well.

Folding locks have become a popular new style of lock that can provide good protection while being relatively small for easier transport. They generally tend to be a bit more expensive than a U lock.

Some of these locks have high-tech features that can emit a car alarm sound if the bike is tampered with and some have keyless opening/closing systems when combined with a smartphone.

There are also heavy duty chain locks made with hardened steel that can lock the frame and wheels to a bike parking structure.

Errand Running Locks

There are compact and lightweight locks that are designed for quick errand stops. They are not indestructible locks, but they do provide enough protection so that a thief won’t just walk away with your bike, they have to work for it.

A good example of light and compact locks are the OnGuard cable lock and Ottolock. This style of lock isn't good for long-term parking in high risk areas - you would not want to use one overnight, for example, but they're lightweight, easy to carry, and perfect for popping in to a convenience store or library.

Wheel, Seat, and Other Locks

There are lock options for protecting your wheels, seat, seatpost, and handlebars. These are some components that a thief may go after if they can’t get the whole bike.

By having these individual components secured with their own locks you can just focus on securing the eBike frame to a solid parking structure.

Pinhead and Hexlox are examples of companies that make these types of locks.

Tracking

Technology has made its way into electric bikes in a number of ways and tracking is becoming more popular. Some electric bikes come with tracking built in while others can have a tracker added to them.

For instance, Knog has just introduced Scout, a bike alarm and tracking system that can be added to almost any bike.

There are more tracking devices hitting the market these days. Some utilize GPS tracking which can be more expensive and may require a monthly or yearly service fee.

Bluetooth tracking devices (Apple AirTag, Tile, etc.) are more economical but they rely on a bluetooth device being nearby to provide the tracking.

Some of these tracking devices have the ability to share an internet link with the police so they can track down and recover your electric bike. Please let the police do the work of recovering a stolen bike because it can be potentially dangerous for you to recover it yourself.

Store your eBike inside when possible

If you can, storing your electric bike inside and out of sight is a good way to keep it safe when compared to being visible and accessible on the street. Some workplaces and schools have places to store a bike inside or within a protected courtyard area.

Lock Up in a Busy Area

In general it is a good idea to lock your electric bike to a solid bike parking structure that is in a high pedestrian and/or vehicle traffic area. The more people are around the more chance there is for someone to question a thief trying to steal a bike.

But be aware that in some high risk areas a thief may be so bold to still try stealing a bike even with a lot of people around.

Take Your Battery

Taking your battery with you is a good way to make your electric bike less desirable to steal. It makes riding away with an unpowered electric bike challenging and if a thief knows much about electric bikes they will understand that the battery is one of the most expensive components. Better quality eBikes, like the Denago line, use a locking key system so that the battery can't be removed without the owner's key - hard to remove for a thief, but trivial for the owner with the key.

If a thief ends up stealing your eBike anyway it is a good idea to notify the local bike shops and the electric bike brand that your eBike was stolen and the thief may be looking to buy a battery for it and possibly a charger.

Give the local shops and eBike brand the serial number so that they can cross check that with any inquiries for buying a battery and charger. If they come across it they can ask the thief to bring the bike in for a “closer inspection” and recover it.

Take Your Display

Similar to the battery, if you can take the display off of your electric bike it will make it more challenging to ride away with unpowered.

And like the battery the thief will probably need to get a new display which can be a strange request at a local bike shop or electric bike brand. If you let the bike shop and eBike brand know about your stolen electric bike without a display they can cross check any requests for a display with your serial number.

Use a PIN code

On some eBikes, the display is hard-wired into the rest of the system and not easily removed. If so, check if your eBike offers a PIN code system on the display - models equipped with this feature use a number password (like your ATM card) that stop the motor from turning on until the PIN code is entered. 

While a PIN code may not stop your entire eBike from being stolen, it could stop a thief from using the eBike features on your bike until the code is entered, lowering the potential resale value. Don't forget your own code! 

Promixity / Motion Alarms

Modern GPS-based cyclecomputers offer motion alarms that can be armed and disarmed via your phone mobile phone. Garmin's Edge 530 device, for example, is a full-featured cyclecomputer based on GPS technology for measuring speed, location, and distance. A companion app called Garmin Connect runs on your mobile phone and talks to the Edge unit mounted on your handlebar.

If you need to make a brief stop during your ride, Garmin's "Bike Alarm" feature can help. You can turn the alarm on and off using the app on your mobile phone - if moved while enabled, the head unit will make an alarm noise, which might scare away a thief temporarily.

Bike Registry

Bike registries like Bike Index keep a database of bikes and provide information on stolen bikes. You can register your bike with the bike manufacturer, serial number, and component information.

If your bike is stolen you can mark it as stolen on Bike Index and they alert the Bike Index community and partners. Some buyers of used bikes will cross check a bike listed on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Offer Up, etc. with a bike registry like Bike Index and notify the owner if they recognize that it was stolen.

Inform the Police

As soon as you know that your eBike is stolen make sure you notify the police with the bike manufacturer, serial number, and general description. Some police departments may also find it helpful to have pictures of your bike for easier identification.

Let them know of any tips you may get from a bike registration, social media, or local bike shops.

Inform Local Bike Shops

With the same information you gave to the police department, let the local bike shops in your area know about your stolen eBike.

Many shops have social media channels where they can post information about your stolen bike and ask their community for help.

Post to Social Media

Again, with the same info you gave to the police and local bikes shop, post on your own social media channels that your eBike was stolen. Posting pictures of it will help others keep an eye out for it.

And ask your community to share the post with their own communities. You may also want to search for bike clubs that have pages on social media platforms and ask them to post about your stolen eBike.

Watch Craigslist, Facebook, OfferUp, etc.

Bike thieves are often not the brightest bunch and they may end up posting your eBike on an online marketplace like Craigslist, Facebook, OfferUp, and others. Check these places often and in some cases you may be able to set up an alert with keywords about your eBike so that you are notified.

If you come across your bike online, notify the police immediately and take a screenshot or picture of the listing for reference, just in case the thief takes it down.

Keep on Riding

With these options there are many ways to keep your electric bike safe and secure.

And if your electric bike is stolen there are many ways to get the word out and hopefully recover it.

Enjoy your rides!

-Pete