More than 98,000 bikes were reported as stolen in England and Wales in 2018/2019. Having your bike stolen is not only frustrating and inconvenient but could cost you thousands of pounds. That’s why it’s vital you do everything you can to find it. With the help of crime experts, we explain how to get a stolen bike back.
Report your stolen bike to the police
You should report the theft to the police as quickly and in as much detail as possible. This pointer might seem obvious, but around 71% of people don’t report their stolen bike to the police according to Stolen Bikes UK – mainly because they think they’ll never get it back.
However, PC Lee Honey, of the Metropolitan Police, believes reporting your stolen bike should be a top priority:
“Reporting thefts even if you believe you will never see your bike again is very important. Unless all crimes are reported, we will never have the correct crime figures and therefore, bike crime will not be seen as the big problem it actually is. Crimes can only be dealt with and measured if they are actually reported in the first place.”
In fact, thousands of stolen bikes are recovered by police but aren’t reunited with their rightful owners because the crime wasn’t reported or the owner didn’t provide enough detail:
“Sadly most people do not know their frame numbers or any identifiers and so these cycles are never paired up with a victim.”
This leads us onto our next tip…
What to provide
You need to provide the police with every little detail to give them the best chance of finding your bike. It’s better to do this at your local police station rather than over the phone, so you can hand over photos of the bike and communicate more clearly.
To provide a full description of your bike, you need to include things like:
- Technical specifications – frame number, registration number, brand, model, size
- Unique identifiers – marks, scratches, stickers, customisations, paintwork
Think hard about anything that will help identify your bike. It’s also a good idea to check if there was any CCTV coverage in the area where it was stolen. If there is, notify the police of this.
Once you’ve reported your stolen bike, make a note of the crime number. Your bicycle insurance company will need it for your claim, as well as the police if you think of more information later, or you want to follow-up on the case.
Related: What To Do When Your Bike Is Stolen
Report the theft on property registration websites
You most likely registered your bike on a property registration website when you bought it. If not, don’t worry, you can still do it after your bike’s been stolen.
Essentially, these websites help police and the general public identify stolen goods and return them to their rightful owners. Once you’ve registered your bike and flagged it as stolen, these sites create a public record of the theft so that anybody who encounters your bike can trace it back to you. It’s common practice for cyclists buying second-hand bikes to check these sites ahead of the purchase too.
If you registered your bike prior to its theft, you usually receive security marking kits and warning labels, which you can attach to your bike to deter thieves and help identify your bike further. It’s often free to sign up, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
Get the word out
It’s pretty simple – the more people who know about your stolen bike, the higher a chance you have of getting it back. Telling your friends and family to ask around isn’t always going to get you very far though. Here are some more effective ways to spread the word:
Create a poster
It might seem old-fashioned, but if you circulate a poster in the area you lost your bike, you may come across somebody with information on the theft. Plus, some people don’t use the internet and you want to keep all avenues open.
It’s illegal to put posters up in the street, so we don’t recommend you do that. However, you can:
- Drop posters through letterboxes, where people will be more likely to read them.
- Ask shops and local businesses to display a poster in their window.
Free online tools like Canva provide great poster templates, so you can put one together quickly and start searching for your bike.
Make use of Facebook groups
One great thing about Facebook is its ability to connect people. If you have a Facebook account, join local groups and post about your stolen bike to make people aware of it. Chances are, there’s an active community group for your town or region.
These can be general local community groups or groups which are dedicated to finding lost or stolen items. It’s worth posting in these groups as well as cycling-specific groups such as Stolen Bikes in the UK or Stolen Bikes in London to get your stolen bike back.
Here are some tips:
- Make sure your post is clear and includes a detailed description of your bike.
- Add a picture of your bike or the poster to help identify it and make the post more noticeable in people’s feeds.
- Ask people to share the post to help it reach a wider audience.
- Set the privacy option on your post to ‘Public’. If it’s set to ‘Private’, only your Facebook friends will be able to see it.
Keep an eye on online selling sites
PC Honey says it’s important to regularly check these websites and make sure your search is set to worldwide sales. He advises you to keep monitoring the sites and looking for your bike, even if it doesn’t show up for a few weeks, adding:
“Don’t stop searching. Bikes are not always sold within a short timeframe; some reappear a long time after the theft.”
For Gumtree and eBay, you can filter results by category or area. However, as PC Honey advises, it’s best to keep your search area wide because bikes are moved to other locations quickly to avoid detection.
We recommend searching for items matching your bike’s description using sub-categories like brand and colour –but also in the general bicycle category, because items are sometimes listed incorrectly. It’s also worth searching by bike parts, because they are regularly sold separately.
Set up alerts on websites
Instead of sifting through websites for hours on end looking for your bike, make your life a lot easier by setting up alerts. By doing this, you’ll be sent an email when a product which matches what you’re looking for is listed for sale. In this case, your missing bike.
You can set up alerts on sites like Gumtree, eBay and even Google. Just click here to find out how.
Investigate on foot
As well as looking online, it’s a good idea to check out places you can sell second-hand goods in your local area. Here are some places you should pay a visit to:
Second-hand bike shops and pawnbrokers
It’s safe to assume the thief has not stolen your bike to give it to a charitable cause. In all likelihood, they’re either going to keep or sell it.
It might sound crazy, but you need to put yourself in their shoes. If you stole a bike, consider where you would sell it and go from there. Visit local pawnbrokers and second-hand bike shops to make them aware your bike’s been stolen.
Provide them with your bike’s details and leave a poster so they can contact you if someone tries selling it to them.
Car boot sales and markets
If a car boot sale is taking place in your local area, make sure you arrive at the start of the day to check if your bike is there. This way, no one will buy it before you arrive.
A thief might also take the bike to a second-hand market where they can get rid of it quickly and without suspicion, so any second-hand markets near you are worth a visit. Again, Facebook Marketplace is also worth checking out.
If you see your bike, tell the police
If you’ve identified your bike, contact the police and follow their instructions. You might be tempted to take on the criminal yourself, but you can put yourself in serious danger. There’ve been instances where people have posed as a buyer, confronted the thief and then ended up being assaulted. It’s not worth the risk.
PC Honey says:
“If a victim does find their bike for sale, do not engage with the seller – report it immediately to the local police. Many bike thieves operate in gangs and you are often likely to be putting your own safety at risk by trying to deal with the situation yourself.
“The police will be able to give you the best advice on how the crime should be taken forward at this point. At the end of the day, no matter how attached you are to your bike, it is a piece of property which can be replaced. You, however, cannot so do not place yourself in danger.”
Protect your bike
If you get your stolen bike back, you won’t want to go through the whole process again. To do everything you can to stop your bike being stolen, check out our guide to protecting your bike against theft.
The final thing you should do is take out our specialist cycling insurance.
We provide cover to protect you, your bike and your cycling equipment in the event it’s stolen, damaged, or lost.
What’s more, we offer Public Liability, so you’ll be protected from legal fees if you damage someone else’s property or injure someone whilst on your bike.
With our specialist cycle insurance, you’ll be back in the saddle as quickly as possible. Get a quick quote today.