10 things to do if your bike’s been stolen!

So your bike’s been stolen. I know, I know. But resist the urge to put your fist through a wall or collapse in tearful heap. Instead, pull yourself together and get on with the following 10 steps.

A bike being stolen

You're not alone: 50% of us will have our bikes stolen at some point

They can help you get your bike back. Even if they don’t, at least you’ll know you did everything you possibly could! And if you need to buy a new bike, they’ll make that a bit easier too.

Hopefully you’ve already done the 7 things to do BEFORE your bike’s stolen and you have a file of information on your bike. (If you haven’t and you’ve still got a bike do them now!)

This file should include all your receipts, the make, model and serial number, a full description of your bike and a few photos. Now is the time when it really comes in useful.

So here are ten things you should do right now if your bike's been stolen...

1. Alert social media

Get the word out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tinder, Grindr, whatever! Put all your bike's details on your social media, include where and when your bike was stolen and ask people to share.

Stolen Bikes UK twitter feed

Loads of social media channels will publicize your stolen bike

There’s loads of websites and social media profiles that have been specifically set up to help you here. Let them know your bike’s been stolen and they’ll send out tweets to their followers who will keep their eyes peeled for your bike.

So what are these sites?

In the UK there’s Stolen Bike AlertStolen Bikes UKStolen Ride London and probably several more local to you. Google is your friend here. Search for “stolen bike alert [where you live]”.

There’s not so many local services in the US, but BikeWatchNYC is trying to do similar things in New York. Let me know if you’ve got any other good ones and I’ll add them here.

2. List your bike as stolen

If you’ve already registered your bike with the various online schemes that keep track of bicycles, now’s the time to log in and tell them that your bike’s been stolen.

And if you haven't already registered, don't worry: you can still add your bike after a theft. Simply create an account and add the make, model, serial number and any other information you have.

The big ones are Bike Register (UK), Bike Index (US and International) and  529 Garage (US).

If you live in the UK, then Bike Register is the first place you should register your bicycle. It's free. And every police force in the country uses their database.

(Bike Register: every police force in the UK uses their database)

So if your bike is recovered by the police (and nearly 50% of stolen bikes are), if it's in the Bike Register database, you're almost certain to get it back.

Once you report your bike as stolen with Bike Register, it will automatically send out a tweet to their social media following to further publicise the theft.

Bike Index

Bike Index: the worlds largest bicycle registration and recovery scheme

I can also highly recommend Bike Index which is the most widely used bicycle registration and recovery service in the world and should certainly be your first choice if you live in the US.

It's free to register your bike. They're very active on social media, automatically publicizing your stolen bike on all their various channels.

Bike Index stolen bicycle alert

Bike Index stolen bicycle alerts

And they also have a promoted alerts service that will generate Facebook ads that specifically target cyclists (and other people who are likely to be sympathetic), in your area, alerting them to be on the look out for your bike.

It's important to tell these schemes as soon as your bike is stolen. Then their databases will be updated so that if the police recover the bike, or anyone is offered the bike (and they check the serial number), they’ll see that it’s your stolen bike.

If you haven’t already registered with one of these organisations, do it now. All you need is the make, model and serial number of your bike.

You do know your serial number don’t you? If not and you’ve still got a bike, go and find it now. It will only take 5 minutes and will save you a load of problems and possibly a lot of money later on.

3. Report the theft to the police

File a police report as soon as possible. This is really important. You might not have insurance. You might think the police will do nothing. You might think it’s a waste of time.

Police recovered bike store

San Francisco’s vast recovered stolen bike warehouse

But the fact is that almost half of stolen bikes are eventually recovered by the police. And the only reason that just 5% of stolen bikes are returned to their owners is that the police can’t link the bikes to the owners.

But if they recover a stolen bike and you’ve filed a report with a serial number, they’ll link it to you and you’ll get your bike back!

Filing a report will also give the police a more accurate picture of the extent of bike theft where you live so that hopefully they’ll be able to allocate more resources to it.

So collect all the information you have on your bike. Hopefully that includes the make, model and serial number, some photographs and a detailed description. And either give your local police station a call or go down there in person.

You must do this as soon as your bike’s been stolen. Your insurance policy probably stipulates that you file a police report within 24 hours. And certainly both Kryptonite and OnGuard’s “anti-theft protection” require you to report the theft to the police within 72 hours.

You’ll need to give them some personal details, which will typically include your name, gender, date of birth, some contact information and a mailing address.

And you’ll also tell them everything you know about the circumstances of the theft, including where, when, how and anything else that might be useful. For example, are there any CCTV cameras in the area that might show the theft?

In exchange they’ll give you a police report which is of course vital if you have insurance or you registered with one of the “anti-theft protection” programs from Kryptonite or OnGuard.

4. File an insurance claim

Hopefully you’ve got some sort of insurance policy. Either you’re covered by your household insurance. Or you have specialized bicycle insurance.

Get in touch with them by phone as soon as you have the police report. They’ll require the same information you gave the police plus the crime reference number from the police report and your receipts of purchase.

Again, do this as soon as your bikes been stolen. Most insurance companies will stipulate that you need to at least alert them of the theft within a certain amount of time.

And of course the sooner you file a report, the sooner you’ll have a new bike!

5. Report it to Kryptonite or OnGuard

If you’re registered with either the Kryptonite or OnGuard “anti-theft protection” scheme and your bike was secured with their lock when it was stolen, then you should make a claim.

OnGuard vs Kryptonite

OnGuard and Kryptonite offer "anti-theft protection" schemes that are similar to insurance

Make sure you do so within seven days of the theft and include all the necessary information. I go through everything you need to do here.

6. Check ebay, Gumtree, craigslist

Check out the listings on ebayGumtree and craigslist. Thieves will often try to sell stolen bikes through these sites. But a bike probably won’t be listed as soon as it’s stolen. So the easiest way to keep an eye on the adverts is to set up alerts.

With all three sites you’ll need to register so that they can send you emails (don’t worry, it’s free).

Then search for the make and model of your bike and save the search criteria so that any new listings are sent to you via email.

How to set up alerts

How do you save your search? With ebay just look for the “follow this search” option at the top of the search results. On Gumtree there’s a “Set search alert” button. And on craigslist it’s a “save search” link.

ebay search

Set up alerts on sites that are used to sell stolen bikes

And from then on, you should get an email everyday with any new listings that match the make and model of your bike within the geographical area that you specified in your search!

Getting your bike back

So what do you do if your bike comes up in a listing? You definitely shouldn’t accuse the seller via email or phone. You could be wrong. And if you’re right, they’ll probably get rid of the bike before you can do anything else!

You definitely shouldn’t go and buy your bike back from them either! Bizarre as it sounds, I’ve heard of people doing just that. But it obviously stinks of defeat and will only encourage further thievery.

You probably shouldn't go down there to try and reclaim your bike yourself either. Any sort of confrontation could easily escalate into something very nasty.

The sensible thing to do is contact the police. They will advise you of the best course of action. And hopefully they’ll even come down and sort the situation out themselves!

7. Check the flea markets and pawn shops!

Many towns and cities have informal areas where stolen bikes are traded. You probably already know where they are in your neighborhood. If you don’t, ask around.

Brick Lane bike market

Stolen bikes are often sold around street markets

In London for example, Brick Lane market is notorious as the place to go to buy and sell stolen bikes. I’m not sure what it’s like these days, but it used to be a very blatant thieves bazaar.

Again, if you spot your bike, it’s best to contact the police rather than try to sort the situation out yourself.

8. Let your local bike shops know

Pass all the information you’ve got on your bike to your local bike shops. It makes it so much easier for them to spot something suspicious if they’ve already got their eyes peeled for a bike like yours.

9. Put up posters

Maybe this is a last resort. But putting up posters in your local area will reach a whole load of people that the other steps won’t. Maybe someone’s seen or heard something. It’s worth a shot!

10. Buy a new bike

One of the most depressing statistics that I’ve come across regarding bike theft is that of the 50% of us that have bikes stolen, 66% cycle less and 25% give up cycling altogether!

Don’t be one of those statistics

If all else fails and your bike isn’t recovered, it’s time to get a new one! You have to keep riding. I know it’s gut wrenchingly upsetting when your bike is stolen, but we can’t let the thieves win.

Get a new bike. Get a better lock. Make sure you know how to lock your bike properly. Don’t let it happen again.

Bicycle security is all about finding the right balance of security and convenience. So readjust the balance.

Now obviously this is going to cost money. But if your bike was so expensive that you can’t replace it easily with the money in your bank account, then hopefully you’ve got insurance.

Buying a stolen bike

I know that when I’ve had bikes stolen in the past and I’ve been short on cash, I’ve been tempted to buy a stolen bike myself. Obviously it’s a easy way to get back riding for a cheap price.

Resist this temptation! It goes without saying that you’re only perpetuating the whole sorry mess. If everyone stopped buying stolen bikes then bike theft would virtually disappear overnight.

Instead, if your buying a second hand bike, be extra vigilant. Insist on seeing receipts. Check the serial number using Bike Index or  Bike Register 

But it’s usually pretty obvious when someones selling a stolen bike. If it’s unusually cheap. If he won’t meet you at home. If he’s double shifty. You know it’s stolen. Don’t buy it!

Discounts for theft victims!

I’ll end on a heart warming note. State Bicycles have a stolen bike policy that will give you £100 (or equivalent) off one of their bikes if you send them a police report filed in the last 90 days.

You can buy online and there are stores that sell their bikes all over the world. I think that’s a pretty nice offer. It would be great to see other businesses doing similar things!

Wrapping up

Having your bike stolen is a proper bummer. And unfortunately it will probably happen to most of us over the course of our cycling lifetime.

The best thing we can can do is prepare for the eventuality. And when it happens, do everything we can to improve the chances of recovering our bikes.

The worst thing we can do is to stop riding.

More Good Stuff:

How to lock your bike

How to lock your bike (properly)

Win a Free Bike!

Win a Free Bike!

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Last Updated on June 10, 2021 by Carl Ellis

Carl Ellis
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