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I was reading this article on the most commonly stolen cars, and having my bike stolen recently, I got to thinking: do certain makes/models/types of bikes get stolen more than others? My bike was a 15 year-old GT Aggressor 2.0 (Mountain bike) and it was stolen out of my back yard. I just have a hard time thinking that someone was seeking out that year/model.

It would seem that most bike thefts are crimes of opportunity, opposed to targeted attacks, but I don't see any data to back that up. Also, it seems like for cars, the cars that are stolen the most, just so happen to be the same cars most commonly driven. I assume the same would go for bicycles?

Any bike thieves want to chime in?

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    The most commonly-stolen type of bike is an unlocked one, followed closely by one locked with a cable. – Stephen Touset Jun 3 '15 at 17:55
  • I have wondered the same. Would painting an expensive touring bike pink deter thieves? Are recumbents less likely to be stolen? The level of sexiness may have an impact. – gerrit Jun 4 '15 at 1:15
  • Depends on where and when. There used to be a net traffic in stolen cars into Boston, and a net traffic of stolen bikes out. A fancier bike is certainly a more attractive target, but anything unsecured is at risk. Unlike cars, bikes aren't stolen for parts, so popularity matters less. – keshlam Jun 4 '15 at 3:06
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    If your bike isn't locked (or is locked with a toy lock), being hard to ride will make it harder for an opportunist to escape on. This means something like unusually large (without a QR saddle post), or I suspect a fixed wheel would eject many bike thieves pretty quickly. That's why taking the saddle away from the bike can protect the bike as well as the saddle, or removing the front wheel. Against a thief with a van and tools, you've already lost once they've chosen your bike. – Chris H Jun 4 '15 at 9:52
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    When you buy a bicycle on craigslist / ebay / w/e ... Ask for the proof of purchase. Do not contribute to theft. Thanks. – user25401 Apr 10 '16 at 1:26
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I'm a lifelong cyclist, including big cities like SF, Oakland, Baltimore, DC, Atlanta, etc... And I've worked in a few bike shops so I've heard several stories.

Basically, there are 2 kinds of bike thefts:

  • Crimes of opportunity. Meaning, if a thief thinks they can sell it for $20 or more and they think they can get away with it. These folks will steal any "decent looking" bike. These thefts are atributed to drug addicts. But, I've heard of all kinds of people doing this. Some do it for the thrill.
  • "Professional" bike thieves. The kind that patrol cities and universities looking for bikes that they can flip on craigslist or ebay for good money. They sometimes patrol in vans stealing a dozen in one night using professional tools. They usually steal in one city and sell via craigslist in another. These guys know the difference between cheap bikes and nice bikes. They go for the latter exclusively.

Also:

  • No bike is 100% safe, even in your garage, house or apartment.
  • No lock is 100% safe. They just buy time. A cheap lock is worth about 5 seconds. An expensive lock is worth about 10-15 minutes. If the thief has the time and won't be interrupted, they may go for it.
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    Yeah, the professional bike thieves can get pretty nasty. Even the best locks can't stop them. I know a guy who has his stem removed and his forks stolen from a nice mountain bike. I guess there's security nuts you can get to make it harder to disassemble the stem. However, when somebody is willing to go through the trouble of disassembling the bike to steal individual parts, If you aren't careful about it, you could probably take most of the important components off a frame in under 20 minutes. – Kibbee Jun 3 '15 at 20:52
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    Some thieves cut the bike rack so they can deal with breaking your lock in a less public setting. So keep that in mind, too: lock it to a quality rack! – digijim Jun 3 '15 at 21:01
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    This does not answer the question. – gerrit Jun 4 '15 at 1:14
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    @gerrit Yes it does. It says that there are two kinds of bike thief: the kind looking for insecure bikes and the kind looking for expensive bikes. Neither is aiming at any specific brand or model, so there's unlikely to be a brand or model that's stolen proportionately more than any other. – David Richerby Jun 4 '15 at 9:19
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    @digijim thus, any second lock secured to a different loop of the bike rack will slow them down. – Chris H Jun 4 '15 at 9:47
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It really depends on your area and how fancy your bike is, there are plenty of videos of thieves nicking bikes, like this page.

My rule of thumb is:

  • if it's carbon never leave the bike anywhere you can't see.
  • If your bike looks at all fancy, never leave it anywhere you can't see.
  • If it is an average looking bike, make sure you use a D-lock and make sure it is as small as possible, and preferably difficult to get at
  • Never, ever only rely on a chain or cable type of lock as they are just about useless.
  • Obviously don't lock your bike to anything that is easy to just cut off, like a tree

Think about it as if you were nicking a bike, if you have any kind of moderate sized pair of bolt cutters it would take you seconds to get a chain or cable off. These days stuff like battery operated angle grinders are so common, it would take you less that 1 minute to get pretty much any kind of lock off(including D locks). Scary, but true. Thieves have also been known to use small hydraulic jacks as well, will break a D lock in literally seconds.

While I was living in London, which is well know for bikes disappearing, I would never actually leave the bike on the street as it was almost guaranteed to go missing. If you are in this kind of area buy a folding bike like a Brompton and just don't risk it! You can fold it and leave it in your house or under your desk at work, you can also take it on public transport everywhere I have been.

If you are going to run the risk, make sure that your all your wheels are locked through the rims (not just in the spokes) for both front and back wheels, especially if you use quickrelease wheels (In London my boss lost a rear wheel because of this)

I have personally lost a AU$1,000 bike and I swore it would never happen again.

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    There are good reasons to use a cable lock as a secondary lock -- I'd change your point 3 to "Never, ever rely on..." or insert an "only". Bolt cutters aren't actually very good for cables (too blunt). But cable cutters that will do bike locks are smaller and cheaper -- much smaller and cheaper if you're prepared to nibble away at it. – Chris H Jun 4 '15 at 9:46
  • If you're able to get a jack in a d-lock, you're not locking up properly. – Batman Jun 4 '15 at 23:59
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Whether or not a vehicle (motorized or not) is stolen depends on how desirable it is and how secure it is. For cars left on the street, the make and model determines both of these factors. For bikes, though, the security is determined by the lock used, which is not directly determined by the make and model of the bike.

For that reason, I doubt that statistics about what is the most stolen bike would be very relevant. Looking for the most often broken locks would be much more pertinent. But even that's not very pertinent, since a badly used strong lock offers little protection.

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    Good point about security being independent of the bike - a huge difference between bikes and cars. – Trevor Jun 4 '15 at 15:47
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It depends on where you live. In Amsterdam for example the bicycle theft rate is very high compared to anywhere else in the world. Bicycles are owned by nearly everyone and are used as a major mode of transportation. Many people who use the their bicycle for city use intentionally own the "junkiest" bicycle they can. Thieves aggressively target anything that's decent. And they have numerous ingenious, quick ways of opening all locks. The more expensive the bicycle the higher the risk. There's a well established market for stolen bicycles there. So yes, in some places, the more expensive bicycles are at a greater risk for being stolen, locked or not.

  • Interesting insight. Can you point to any data or sources backing up your claims? – Trevor Sep 18 '15 at 15:11

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