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What to Do if Your Bike Gets Stolen (8 Tips)

It’s awful to think about your bike being stolen. But it happens. So, in this article, you’ll learn what to do if your bike gets stolen.

Stolen bike from broken u lock.
Stolen bike from broken u lock.

It’s awful to think about your bike being stolen. It’s always disheartening to have something taken from you. But if you’re reading this, it probably happened to you. So, now what? What do you do if your bike gets stolen?

If your bike gets stolen, stay calm. Alert the police, social media, the bike theft register, and local bike shops. For your safety, never try to confront the bike thief yourself.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. So, in this article, you’ll learn what to do if you’re a victim of bike theft.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 23, 2022, to include additional information regarding bicycle theft.

Before we get into what you should do if your bike is stolen, let’s first discuss how widespread bicycle theft is.

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How common is bike theft?

If you’re the victim of bike theft, you’re not alone. According to the Marcel insurance company, 188,500 bicycle thefts are reported stolen yearly in the United States. Suffice to say that bike theft is extremely common. But there are plenty of steps you can take to prevent bike theft. Check out our full guide on how not to get your (next) bike stolen.

What to do when your bike gets stolen?

Ok. Now, on to what you should do if your bike is stolen.

1. Call the police

The first and most obvious thing you should do is call the police. But, of course, this completely depends on your relationship with local law enforcement.

But don’t get your hopes too high. In most cases, there’s not much they can do. The fact is that most bikes that are reported to your local police are never found. At best, they can look around the area to see if they spot your ride. But hey, that’s better than nothing. And who knows? They might just finish taking a report with you, get back into their cruiser, and happen to see the bike a few blocks away. In that case, you might get your bike back.

If there’s ever an event where the thief is arrested with the bike, they might just run the bike’s serial number, and there’s a chance they will contact you.

Additionally, to claim theft protection and other items from the company you purchased your bike from, you must sometimes file a police report within 24 hours of the theft.

So, regardless of your relationship with the police, consider getting them involved.

2. Alert social media networks to the theft

Ask your friends to share your post far and wide. You never know who they know or which of their friends will share your post. With any luck, it can help you get your bike back. At the very least, it can help prevent someone from buying stolen goods. It’s also possible someone could see a listing for your bike or see someone trying to sell your bike at a yard sale or flea market and alert you to its location.

3. List your bike as stolen

Some bike registration websites allow registrants to flag a bike as stolen. So, if a person checks the records of a bike they are attempting to buy, the registration number will be flagged for theft. This is most certainly helpful in preventing the sale of a stolen bike; it’s possible it can even help you recover it.

New York City Bike Rack With The Remnants Of A Stolen Bike
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New York City bike rack with the remnants of a stolen bike.

4. Check common use goods sites

While eBay is a less likely place for a bike to be resold, it can happen. However, it’s more likely for your bike to show up on local sites like Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist. Anyone with stolen property wants to unload it quickly and for cash only. Shipping it on eBay leaves a paper trail.

Check every local online site as well as a local bulletin board. Have your friends keep an eye out for anyone trying to sell a bike that looks like yours. If you find your bike, alert the police and partner with them for the next steps.

5. Start checking flea markets, yard sales, and pawn shops

As already mentioned, a person with stolen goods wants to get rid of them fast in exchange for cash. Pawnshops provide fast liquidity for thieves. So make sure to check out your local pawn shops.

If there are neighborhood yard sales or flea markets, those are also places your bike could be sold for quick cash. So start checking those to see what you find.

6. Contact local bike shops

A person can steal a bike, but it does not always mean they know what to do with it once they have it. If they are unsure what to do with it, they may visit local bike shops to see if they can sell it. If you alert your local bike shops to what has happened, they can let you know if something or someone suspicious recently stopped by to sell them your bike.

Are you looking for more advice? Watch this video called How I Recovered My Stolen Bike from the Cjhoyle YouTube channel.

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A video called “How I Recovered My Stolen Bike” from the Cjhoyle YouTube channel.

7. Use local bulletin boards to post flyers

While social media has a remarkable reach, not everyone will see your posts.

Traditional flyers can help you get the word out about your missing bike. If you can do so, offer a reward for the information or return your bike. You never know who will see this. It could even alert the thief that you’re on the lookout. Maybe they will opt not to sell and return it to you as a reward.

8. Buy a new bike

According to research on bike theft, 66% of those who have had their bikes stolen reduce their cycling, and 25% of those people stop riding entirely. Don’t let yourself become one of those figures.

It’s time for a new bike if everything else fails and your old one can’t be found. I get how terrible it is to have your bike stolen, but we must not let the criminals win.

Don’t forget to get a top-notch lock for your new bike. Below are some of the best I found on Amazon. Remember that you need to lock both wheels and frames for maximum security. Also, check out our roundup for the best bike locks of 2021. The Kryptonite evolution heavy-duty u-lock* is my favorite.

What should I do if I see someone riding my stolen bike?

As much as I want you to get your bike back, I don’t recommend confronting them. It may be tempting, but you risk serious harm. Whoever stole your bike clearly does not care about the law. Remember that criminals are more desperate than law-biting citizens. And desperate people do desperate, sometimes violent, things. If you try to corner your bike thief, they may retaliate with violence.

Also, consider that the person riding the bike may not even be the person who stole your bike. They may be innocent and unintentionally purchased a stolen bike. You wouldn’t want to go ‘guns blazing’ on them now, would you?

If it were me, I’d grab my smartphone and film them riding my bike, which would get a full profile of how they look. But, of course, I’d be very discreet, and I wouldn’t make it obvious. The whole point is to gather more evidence for my case.

I would also tail them by foot, or on a scooter, whatever, with the police on the phone. Then, hopefully, they will be able to intercept them.

But hey! I am not a lawyer or a police officer. And I’m not saying you should do that. I’m just saying that that’s what I would do in the situation.

What to do before your bike gets stolen?

You should do a few things if your bike is stolen to prevent it from occurring again.

1. Contact the police

If your bike has been stolen, call the police. The police can assist you in filing a report and apprehending the thief.

2. Register your bike

Even if you did not register your bike before it was stolen, you could do so once it has been recovered. The National Bike Registry will add your bike to their database for six months for $0.99. This is useful because if a cop discovers your bike, they can look it up on the registry and return it to you.

3. Alert local pawn shops

It might not help you, but it can’t hurt to try. Some bike thieves may pawn stolen bikes to get fast cash. You can make a phone call and describe the bike. If an owner notices someone entering the business with a similar bike, they can record that person’s details and notify you and the authorities.

4. Check local ads

Not every crook is a genius. Many individuals steal items and sell them through local classified advertisements. You may do your own investigation by browsing these websites and seeing what comes up. If you find your bike, do not attempt to reclaim it. Instead, inform the police so that they can handle the situation.

What are the chances of recovering a stolen bike?

You may believe it is a waste of time. However, nearly half of the stolen bicycles are finally recovered by police. The only reason that just 5% of stolen bicycles are returned to their owners is that the police cannot match the bikes to the owners.

However, if they locate a stolen bike and you file a complaint with a serial number, they will link it to you, and you will receive your bike back!

By filing a report, the police will also get a clearer picture of how often bikes are stolen in your area, which may lead to more resources into stopping it.

New York City traffic police car. Source: Edgar Moran, Unsplash
New York City traffic police car. Source: Edgar Moran, Unsplash

To compile all the information you have on your bike. Hopefully, that includes the manufacturer, model and serial number, some images, and a clear description.

How do you check if a bicycle has been stolen?

The thief will often want to get rid of the bicycle as soon as possible if it is stolen. Ask the seller about any maintenance or repair done on the bike in recent years, if they don’t know much about the history of the bike, it might be stolen. Another warning indicator is if they don’t know much about the bike or riding. If you suspect a bike has been stolen, contact your local authorities immediately!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions if a bike gets stolen.

How can I track my stolen bike?

Here are some things you can do if your bike is stolen.
1. Make use of security camera footage.
2. Use GPS cycling devices.
3. Look on Craigslist.
4. Visit flea markets.
5. Register Your Stolen bicycles.
6. Utilize Your Social Media.
7. Fill out an insurance claim form.

What do bike thieves do with stolen bikes?

Bike thieves have the equipment to cut locks and intend to resell stolen bikes at a price close to their “fair market value.” Criminals like typically steal bikes from the streets and sell them on online markets to get the most money.

Do police often find stolen bikes?

According to statistics, just 5% of stolen bicycles are returned to their respective owners. Also, the police rarely find stolen bikes on their own, but when they catch professional bike thieves, they often take back dozens or even hundreds of bikes.

Where do most bikes get stolen?

Here are three of the most prevalent locations for bike theft:
1. bicycles left unlocked outside of a home or workplace.
2. bicycles left inside a vehicle.
3. bicycles left unlocked in a public place (such as a bike rack).

Are bikes commonly stolen?

Yes. It is very common for bicycles to get solen in the United States.

How many bikes get stolen a year?

On average, over 188,500 bike thefts are reported stolen each year in the US. Some cities in the United States are starting to fight back against bike theft.

Are bike thefts on the rise?

Yes. A national bicycle register called BikeIndex.org reported that more than 96,000 bikes were stolen in 2020. This is a 24 percent increase from 2019.

Conclusion

While having your bike stolen is an awful thing to go through, there is some hope you’ll get it back. But even if you don’t, you might just like your next one better. A blessing in disguise, maybe? Ok, maybe that’s a little too optimistic.

This article covered eight ways to help you get your bike back if it was stolen. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Bike theft is very common.
  • If you see someone riding your bike, don’t confront them directly.
  • Get the police involved.
  • Alert social media networks to the theft.
  • List your bike as stolen.
  • Report your stolen bike to the police.
  • Check common use goods sites.
  • Check flea markets, yard sales, and pawn shops.
  • Contact local bike shops.
  • Utilize local bulletin boards to post flyers about your bike.
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So, have you ever gotten a bike back after it was stolen? I’d love to know! Let us know in the comments below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on everything fixie. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.

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Written by Bradly Knight

As a native New Yorker, Bradley is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He’s been riding fixed for over ten years. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies including playing guitar, video production, and photography.

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