Bicycle Theft Prevention

A bicycle can be stolen from just about any place, but simple precautions can deter would-be bike thieves and prevent a long walk home. Always lock your bicycle securely, whether you're gone for a few minutes or a few hours. Remember, most bikes that are stolen were not locked!

Mark your bicycle with an engraver to deter thieves and to help the police in identifying and returning a stolen bike to the rightful owner. Use a unique number such as your driver’s license number. Record the serial number of your bicycle and keep it with the sales receipt and a photograph of the bike.

Register your bike with the police


The most common tools used by a bicycle thief are bolt or cable cutters. These tools are powerful enough to cut through chains, cables and padlocks up to 3/8 inch thick. A hardened steel chain or cable at least1/2 inch thick with the same size padlock can provide a degree of security for an inexpensive bike in a low risk area. Try not to buy a chain that is hardened all the way through. Sometimes a 100% hardened chain can be broken with a hammer blow. A non-hardened inner core will still make it difficult to defeat with a hammer or bolt cutters, but the hardened outer jacket protects the chain from hacksaws.

It is important to incorporate a two-lock locking system. The minimum recommendation at UTA, is a U-shaped lock that utilizes a flat key. For the best possible protection in preventing your bicycle from being stolen, incorporate a U-shaped lock with a thick self-locking cable lock. This will require the thief to use two different tools to steal your property -- a cutting tool and a prying tool. On some of the reported stolen bicycles at UTA, the victim used a self-locking cable lock. These types of locks, by themselves, do not provide any security and will only keep an honest person honest.

If you decide to use a cable, select one at least six feet in length so the frame and front tire can be secured. Remember, the heavier the chain the better. Inspect the chain for welded link construction. A non-welded or twisted chain can be defeated by opening one link with a spreading tool.

A cable or chain requires an equally secure padlock. A good padlock should have at least a 7/16 inch hardened alloy steel shackle. (The shackle is the movable part of the padlock). The word 'hardened' will be stamped on the shackle. The shackle should also lock 'heel and toe'.  If the lock has the double-locking feature, an indentation will be present on each shackle leg.

The best security lock for a bicycle is a 'U' shaped lock specifically designed for bicycles. Their construction discourages sawing, cutting or smashing. Shop around and avoid cheaply made locks. The less expensive locks are usually made of a lesser grade steel and will not stand up to an attack.

How and Where to Lock Your Bike:

  • Thieves tend not to like crowds, so park your bicycle where there is a high degree of pedestrian traffic. If someone tries to steal the bike, it is possible that they might be seen by a passerby.
  • Always attach the bicycle to an immovable object, such as a bicycle rack. Make sure it cannot be taken by merely lifting the chain or cable over the fixed object. Try to avoid locking your bike to a tree or other living plant. The constant abrasion of the metal bicycle will damage the tree over time and may kill it altogether. Don't secure your bike to handrails, light poles, etc. Bicycles should be secured at bike racks and may be removed from unauthorized locations.
  • Position the lock as high off the ground as you can so it's difficult to gain leverage by bracing one leg of a bolt cutter against the ground. This will also reduce the likelihood of anyone trying to smash the lock or pry it open. Secure the bike by closing the lock's shackle around some portion of the bike such as the handlebar or seat support.
  • Always try to anchor both wheels as well as the frame with your chain or cable. If you have quick-release wheels, take the front wheel off the bike and lock it with the frame. Never lock your bike by the front or rear wheel alone. Thieves will as willingly steal part of your bike if they cannot get the entire bicycle.
  • If your bicycle is stolen, please report it to the Police Department. Many times the Police recover bicycles that have not been reported stolen, and we are unable to give them back to the rightful owners.