My bicycle's front lamp has been stolen AGAIN. I thus far have spent over 100 Eur on bicycle lamps that can be slid onto a mount on the bike, and more on rechargeable batteries for them. This needs to stop but I need a solution where I don't need to carry the lamps with me. For this, I tried to think like a thief, but it just doesn't compute. Why the hell would someone steal a bicycle lamp!? It doesn't make any sense to me.

I glue the lamps to the mount so they cannot be removed by people still steal them. Sometimes I can see that someone tried to steal my lights (for example when they point straight up into the sky when I come back; someone obviously tried to yank it off but failed), so it provides some improvement, but my lights still get stolen. What do thieves do with lamps where half the mount is still glued to the lamp because all they were able to do is yank it off so hard that the mount ripped apart?

This isn't just a rant. I need a solution and I think it'll help me to know what they want so I can stop providing them a way to get what they want.

I found this answer to a somewhat related question which only mentions reuse and vandalism. It should be obvious that you can't easily reuse a lamp if you had to yank it off so hard it breaks the mount. Now I had my bike vandalized on several occasions (things obviously no one profits from like spokes kicked in) but the only thing that has ever been stolen from my bike are lamps (the front lamp more often than the taillight). This is despite the fact that you could easily steal other things. The linked answer mentions seats. My seat can be removed in about a second without any tools because it's held in place by a quick release. It's definitely something specific about lights in my case.

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    Why not simply take it off and put it in your pocket? If it comes off that easily, it's only waiting to be stolen.
    – Carel
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 15:09
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    One guy stole one lamp 15 years ago and now it's just a giant circle of otherwise decent people stealing each other's lamps to replace their stolen one? ;)
    – Affe
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 15:13
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    Any chance it's just someone homeless in the area that wants a good flashlight? Is there anything you could do to make it appear inoperable? Jam plastic between a battery contact or something until you need to use it maybe. Hide the batteries elsewhere on the bike could be an option.
    – Eric G
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 17:27
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    Hi UTF-8. I feel for you, but I don't think you can leave anything of value on your bike without attracting unwanted attention. If you can, get a headlight with a mount that's easy on/easy off and take it with you when you lock the bike. (I ride with a pack and all my stuff goes in there. When I dismount, it comes with me. I also remove my front light, seat and seatpost. Cpl. Hicks: "It's the only way to be sure.")
    – compton
    Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 19:17
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    Couldn't you switch to the old school lighting gear, which is properly fixed to the frame? I don't know, but perhaps there are battery powered versions available.
    – hannes101
    Commented Oct 5, 2019 at 7:22

4 Answers 4


I've never had a problem like this with dynamo powered lights. While thieves seem to be interested in clip-on lights, they don't seem interested in lights that need a wrench to remove.

Of course, adding dynamo powered lights means adding a dynamo first, and it's important to take either a hub dynamo or a good bottle dynamo. The vast majority of bottle dynamo models is utter crap! The added advantage of dynamo powered lights is that you cannot forget to charge them, and they'll serve you well should you decide to ride through an entire night...


Bell makes a headlight/taillight combo pack that is theft resistant because the housing is secured to the bike (usually the handlebar) by a couple of long socket cap bolts. These require a 2.5 mm hex key to remove and the ends are hidden internally behind the light plate. The light portion snaps onto the housing and it's not immeadiately obvious how it comes off nor can it be ripped off by hand (the housing at least and the light portion snaps onto the housing in such a way it looks like one piece. Cost is around $20 USD.*

Drawbacks include that, as a department store bike light system, the light has limited range (though it's a better light at that price point than some others I've experience with). The mounting of it takes some time--like 15 minutes compared to 5 of a simpler system. The light uses 4 button cell batteries which are a little more expensive and come in 2-packs. I have not seen rechargeable options for these types of batteries. I've experienced problems with the light part coming off and being lost. The clipping system must be fully engaged around the entire perimeter to be secure, though it will appear so when it's really not. I've used electrical tape around the perimeter as a preventative measure which also deters would be thieves who may be familiar with the system.

You imply an unwillingness to take the light with you. There are lights that are less than 3 cm wide on a side, one cm thick (imagine a stack of 3-4 quarter dollars), strap on with a stretchy rubber band that is also the housing of actual plastic light. Both the front and back lights with their straps fit in the palm of your hand and go on & come off in a second. Again, the power of these is questionable for useful assistance to a biker's vision (they work well on a dark trail though their range brings your speed down to just above stall. Lol). I like them for their unobtrusive size, portability between bikes. They have a flashing mode which is useful to me for daytime biking on a highway. Essentially they are perfect for being seen and fulfilling legal requirements for bike lights.

Because I refuse to pay the ridiculous, gouging cost imparted to lights offered at bike shops, I've taken to using small, LED flashlights secued on regular light mounts or old reflector mounts both of which are ubiquitous in parts bins ( likely due to theft and electronic failures). Anyway these lights are relatively inexpensive, run on rechargeables, fit nicely in current mount systems with minimal additions of zip ties and/or electrical tape. The beam's range is useful to safely keep a decent pace.

Finally, as to motivations of thieves: opportunity, ease of acquiring and, in no small measure, the darkness of human hearts as a good portion of motivation stem's from the desire to be mean and anti-social. Can't do much about the latter (though I encourage all to do what they can for the greater good and PRAY--that IS an endorsement!). However, diminish the opportunity and make it tough or time consuming and you will diminish the disappearance of the lights.

*Not a product endorsement but simply a relevant product I have experience with. The only light system marketed as anti-theft I've come across.


I'd argue that thieve's motivations are mostly that they pretend to sell what they steal or, vandalism, it may even be the same person is picking you as a target for some obscure personal motive.

A third one is that many bike accessories are by design "eye catchy", "attention grabbers", "nice to have" etc. I'm trying to convey that to sell better, they are designed to be attractive, so maybe they just steal it because it looks nice.

With that in mind, a possible way to avoid getting them stolen is to install a DIY (Do It Yourself) bike light, such as to be a lot less attractive and less practical to steal.

When I was a bike messenger I had to lock the bike, go inside and get out of a building and be riding to next delivery point as fast as possible. Anything attached to the bike that I'd had to remove an reatach every time was a slowdown. During those times I used a 12 volt led spotlight from a hardware store, mounted inside some plumbing fittings and powered from 8 AA batteries neatly wrapped with electrical tape and secured to the frame with zipties.

I think My light never got stolen just because it was plain ugly. However, it does not need to be. With a separate battery pack, switch and an L.E.D bulb placed in different parts of the handlebar and frame you eliminate the "would-be-nice-to-have-a-flashlight-like-that" factor and It would also be more cumbersome to steal, since there would be the need to detach three components rather than one.

A lithium battery cell could be concealed inside the stem or headtube. Some other bike lights are powered from a 3 AAA battery cluster that could be concealed in a similar fashion. A custom 3 AAA or AA battery pack could be concealed inside the handlebar or seat tube. (Whether or not there is a convenient way to route out the cables would depend on the specific frame model.)

To mount the LED bulb and lens/reflector I'd fashion a custom single piece housing that fits around the head tube spacers such that it would require to unbolt the stem to install or remove. I'd make it out of a lot of epoxy glue or 3D print. A similar thing can be done for the switch.

The parts can be sourced from a flash light or a bike light you'd be willing to sacrifice, you'd only need to make the custom mounts.

When commuting I use small blinking lights attached to my helmet for safety/visibility, so I never need to remove them from the bike. That also has the advantage that I can switch bikes but I still have my blinks with me just by grabbing my helmet.

For night MTB riding I use an LED head lamp, bought in the hardware store. It is the kind designed to fit in a person's forehead held in place by an elastic band around the head and another over the top of the head. I just learned how to tie it to my helmet.

However, there are commercially available helmet lights an that can also be a solution for someone who rides with a helmet.


I recommend not putting lights on a commuter bike that you can't truly secure (locked to a public bike rack is not secured).

Invest in a good headlamp (where one is legal for use cycling). Your red blinkies can easily clip onto the strap at the rear of your headlamp.

This has several advantages. When you get off the bike, the lights automajically come with you. Additionally, if something happens (accident, etc) and you are off your bike near a road, it's actually you that are visible, and not your bicycle (you are trying to protect you after all, moreso than the bike). Lastly I find that headlamps are useful for many other activities besides cycling, and having one handy is handy.

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    Not technically a legal option in Germany
    – Affe
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 16:16
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    Also not very useful in a city. And incredibly annoying to all the other cyclists who get dazzled by a head mounted torch. There are very good reasons for a bike mounted low beam with cut off in cities.
    – gschenk
    Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 9:33
  • Cycling trip to Germany canceled. @gschenk Most modern headlamps have mounts that will tilt. I have never had a problem blinding anyone accidently. Depending on your geometery, the difference between handle bars and helmet may be as little as 16 in (40 cm). In my experience, someone has to be cycling right at you and 1 yd (1 metre) in front of you (about to crash into each other) for it to really be an issue. I've generally found flashing bar mounted lights (popular here) to be far more disorienting than a properly angled head lamp. Commented Oct 10, 2019 at 14:23

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