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Bike-Theft Anxiety (And What to Do About It)

By Megan Flottorp

Over the past six months, more and more people have been turning to their two-wheeled companion for transportation, leisure, and relief. This means that bikes have been selling at an unprecedented rate. Although we’re generally thrilled to see more people taking up the sport, the influx has also meant a lack of new and second-hand bikes on the market. Unfortunately, that means even more incentive for those willing to resort to unethical means to procure one.

Bike theft appears to be on the rise. In some places, such as the UK, there are reports that it has increased by two-fold. Add in unsavoury stories like a nurse finishing a gruelling 12-hour shift only to discover that her bike isn’t where she left it or a family of six having a whole fleet stolen from their garage, and there’s plenty of evidence to back up these troubling statistics. More than just serving for a major inconvenience for the victims, though, this wave of theft is also breeding a wave of anxiety.

When you rely on your bike for mental health, mobility, fitness, and even to get groceries, it makes sense for people to be nervous. For some though, the anxiety is becoming almost unbearable. As one reader explains, “I love my bike so much, but I am constantly worried it’ll get stolen. I’m considering selling it because even when I lock it carefully, I’m still so nervous that it’s all I think about.” This kind of stress can be debilitating and ultimately end up undoing some of the positive effects that cycling provides.

Let’s take a look at what causes bike-theft anxiety and some tips and tricks that can be used to help cope with it.

Bike theft
Bike theft appears to be on the rise. © Profimedia

Understanding why you might be feeling it

There’s the normal concern about protecting your bike, and then there’s the kind of inescapable worry and anxiety that nags at you constantly and leaves you unable to relax or think of much else. If you’ve had a negative experience, i.e. your bike has been stolen in the past, you’re definitely at a higher risk of developing a fear of being robbed. Even if you haven’t been affected personally though, news coverage also contributes to this alarm. There are reports out there about the increase in bike theft, and if you’re already attuned to this worry, you’re more likely to notice news stories on bike robberies and it may seem that these events are more common and therefore more likely to happen to you.

Confronting your fear

Making sense of it is one thing but what else can you do to feel safe using your bike? First of all, it is important not to give into it and remember that you can always take some steps to decrease the chance of risk and help calm your nerves. In addition to the basics like having a solid U-lock, always trying to park your bike in a visible place and trying not to leave it anywhere overnight – here are some other steps you can take to alleviate bike theft anxiety.

Consider insurance

The closest thing you’re going to get to ultimate peace of mind, insurance can be a good solution depending on how accessible it is and how much your bike is worth. If insured, you’ll typically be able to recoup the cost of a new bike in the event it is stolen, with many insurers offering to replace the one you had. It is also a fairly competitive market, so although some insurance providers get a bad rap, you can still get a reasonable deal if you’re willing to shop around.

Bike theft
If insured, you’ll typically be able to recoup the cost of a new bike. © Profimedia

You’re still expected to undertake your due diligence but leaders in the market now payout up to 95 per cent of claims. You can insure your bike through home or renter’s insurance but it is important to get into all the essential details before you agree to anything. Especially if you currently have shared accommodation, be sure to go over the specifics of how that could impact your coverage.

Track your bike’s location

A more immediate way to get protection, bike-tracking devices have come a long way, are easy to install, and can provide a lot of reassurance. Thanks to their supporting apps, you will have intel directly in your pocket if your bike is tampered with or moved. Most bike-tracking accessories are so small that you won’t even notice them, and some devices even have an alarm that will send out a loud, shrill sound when your bike is tampered with.

If you’re into the idea of a bike tracker but it isn’t quite in the budget at the moment, you can also get a bit sneaky and order a sticker online that says, “This bike is equipped with a GPS tracker.” Of course, there is no tracker, but you’re still likely to deter at lease some would-be thieves.

Get a little stealthy

Speaking of being sneaky, there are other things you can do to make your bike less likely to be targeted for theft. We all want to show off our two-wheeled pride and joy, but if your daily rider is worth a pretty penny, you might want to think about making it look less valuable to the untrained eye. A quick spray paint job and some stickers can go a long way towards making a bicycle look undesirable or, at least, highly distinguishable. If it suits your style, you can also consider some funky seat covers or colourful panniers. Basically, you either want to make your bike appear not worth the effort of stealing or not worth the risk of trying to conceal.

Bicycle Wheels
Beware of thieves. © Profimedia

Register your wheels

If you’re lucky enough to have a local bike registry, you should certainly take advantage of it. You can also register your bike with Bike Index and 529 Garage, which serve as world-wide databases. Although these apps still have a few bugs to work out when it comes to certain features, they are generally a useful way to keep track of your bike and report it if stolen. In just a few minutes, you can easily capture all the critical information about your bike for both law enforcement and your insurance company.

Take a deep breath

Finally, know that if you take safety precautions and follow your instincts regarding where you should or shouldn’t leave your bike, you’re likely not going to run into any problems. The statistics can be alarming but, in reality, the majority of bikes stolen were not stored very securely in the first place.

It does happen, though, and another way we can help fight the trend of bike theft is to look out for one another. If you see something suspicious happening around a bike and you’re in a safe and populated place, don’t be afraid to approach the person and make a comment or ask them a question about the bike. In many cases, a little unwanted attention will be enough to encourage the thief to abandon ship. Let’s help keep each other’s bikes safe!