Electric Bike Theft (And How to Prevent It)

It happened to me. I had parked my bike with the dozen other bikes locked to the bike rack. When I had returned, my bike was simply gone. All was left was the sawed off lock. Knowing what I know now, I could have taken many other precautions to protect my bike. Keep reading while I’ll share with you the best tips for preventing ebike theft.

This article will cover:

  • How often electric bikes get stolen
  • How to lock your bike to prevent theft
  • The best locks to use
  • Alternative safety devices
  • Low cost strategies for keeping your bike safe.

Do Electric Bikes Get Stolen?

Unfortunately, the answer to that is a resounding yes. Amsterdam, an early adapter to eBikes, and a city where eBikes out-sell standard bikes, have had double the amount of eBike thefts in the last three years. The higher price tags have also led to eBikes being three times more likely to be stolen than a standard bicycle. As the interest in the US grows and eBikes become more popular, it’s logical that the trends in theft will follow.

It’s not just the whole bike that can go missing, either. Electronic Bikes are powered by expensive batteries that are often removable to help the rider recharge them quickly without too much inconvenience. But a valuable, easily removable item will be appealing to a potential thief. As the technology of bikes develops, it’s important that we come up with new, effective strategies to keep eBikes secure. 

Anti Bike Theft Devices

If you’re looking for the device that can 100% guarantee the safety of your bike you’re going to be disappointed. A report by Project 529 estimates over 2 million bikes get stolen each year in North America. It’s fair to say that at least some of these will have had highly rated locks and careful owners. Even the toughest locks are scarily easy to break as you can see in the video below by the City of London Police.

A determined, expert thief, will likely be equipped with bolt cutters and a battery powered angle grinder. These angle grinders can cut through even the toughest locks in less than 60 seconds.

Does this mean there is no benefit in developing an anti-theft system? Not at all. There is a lot that can be done to protect your eBike and to make it as difficult as possible for potential thieves. We will be looking at the best way to combine different types of anti-theft devices and how to protect your investment if the worst does happen.

We will also look at different budget options. As a very general rule of thumb, it is often recommended that you should budget about 15% of the cost of your eBike on ways to secure it.  The reality is to secure something that will most likely cost upwards of $1500 you need something credible and serious.

eBike Bike Locks

ebike locked to railing

The first thing that would come to mind for most people for securing an eBike would be a bike lock. There are lots of different types and brands and the best ones can form the basis of a good defense against thieves.

Cabe Bike Lock

These are amongst the cheapest locks available. But unfortunately, these locks put up little resistance to even non-power hand tools. Most are quickly snipped by pliers in less than a second. Even some of the stronger cable locks fall victim to bolt cutters too easily. Cable locks might be suitable for an old bike with little value, but even the price of the removable parts of an eBike would make a cable lock unworthy.

U Locks

U-locks, sometimes called D locks, are a much better option. As we touched on in a previous post about eBikes for food couriers, there is a technique for using them.

While it might seem logical to buy the biggest and toughest looking U-lock, you actually want one that fits tight around your bike and around the post you’re going to attach it to. The aim should be to fill as much of the U as possible as this prevents bar attacks. This creates less leverage for the thief to use.

If you’re commuting to somewhere regularly, it’s worth spending time finding the best railings, parking meters or signs to attach it to in advance. Make sure that what you choose is tougher to cut through than your bike so effectively your bike frame becomes the weakest link.

The best way to use a U-lock is to lock around the bike frame and wheel, rather than the top tube.  This will help secure your wheel and help fill the space inside the U. When the U is tight against your frame, any potential thief may need to cut the U twice to get the bike which can cause them unwanted time.

So which U locks are up the task?

Two of the most reputable brands are Abus and Kryptonite. Both have good reputations and will no doubt come into consideration for anyone buying a serious bike lock. 

Kryptonite offers anti-theft protection where they will pay up to a certain value if your bike is stolen. This is certainly worth looking into. Some Kryptonite users, however, hae complained that this becomes void under some circumstances which are quite likely to occur (power tools been used being for example). While it’s great Kryptonite backs their own products, we would recommend that you read the fine print carefully. In any case, it’s best to consider getting insurance for your ebike instead (more about ebike insurance below).

A Kryptonite lock that we feel is well suited to eBikes is the Kryptonite New York Heavy Duty U-lock. This heavy-duty bike lock has a hardened 16mm steel shackle and meets the Sold Secure rating of 9/10.

What is the Sold Secure rating? The Sold Secure is an independent body that assesses locks by the tools (and time) needed to break them.

However, if we could only choose one U-lock, it would be a lock from Abus. German companies have a strong reputation for engineering and Abus both design and manufacture their locks in Germany.

The Abus Granit 59 Extreme D-Lock has won a number of comparison tests against the other locks in this class. This lock has proven to take up to 4 times longer than other locks that succumb to bolt-cutter attacks. It’s made with hardened steel and is even often used for motorcycle security.

If you have multiple Abus locks, they allow you to send them off and have the locking mechanisms synchronized so you only need one key. This is a nice feature, but the main reason we recommend this lock is for its security and toughness. It’s resistance to both twisting and cutting puts it at the top of the market.

Once you have a U lock, you will need at least one more supplementary lock. Having multiple locks has been identified as one of the highest deterrents for bike theft. The need for multiple tools, different techniques, and the extra timed required makes a second lock essential.

Chain Locks

Chain locks are another very useful addition and come in different sizes and weights. The Kryptonite New York is a strong contender but the larger model does come in at a weighty 15lbs. 

There is a relationship between how strong a chain is and the size/weight, meaning you’ll need to decide how much you’re willing to carry. With the eBike taking some of the load, it might be that you’re happy with something substantial in a pannier. If not, these can be a good back up locks for use at home or the office where the lock can stay. 

Some people prefer to buy the chain and lock separately to ensure both are of the highest standard, with the thinking that bundled items can often cut corners. Additionally, it’s worth ensuring if you buy a chain that it has some kind of cover, as you don’t want the bare links scratching against your frame.

While it’s worth mentioning Disk Brake locks, they fall into the same category as cable locks. That’s to say we wouldn’t recommend one. If you already have one, it’s probably worth adding it to your arsenal, but in reality, it’s not something that will offer the type of protection you need. And yes, you do of course need a bike with disk brakes!

Folding Locks

Where U-locks and chains can be cumbersome to carry, folding locks contract into a portable shape. These can be easily attached to your bike. Although they’re still heavy, they are much more mobile.  The other benefit with folding locks is they can be wrapped around in a similar way to a chain and some models like the Abus Bordo Granit X- Plus are tough durable locks.

While we wouldn’t recommend one as your only line of defense, we would have no problem recommending one as part of your overall plan.

eBike Alarms

The growing interest in eBikes has led to a number of Kickstarter projects and some unusual innovations in anti-theft. While a lot of these haven’t gone on to offer credible products in the market place, there have been some products that are worth serious consideration.

Alarm locks, used more typically with motorbikes, have been introduced and the versatile Wsdcam 113dB is a favorite amongst cyclists. The idea is simple; there is a transmitter that generates an alarm after being tampered with. Like most alarms, there is a pre alarm and as the Wsdcam isn’t attached to a lock it does give the potential thief an opportunity to find and remove the device. Even taking this on board, it’s a good product and most thieves would be likely to leave upon the sound of an alarm.

A new design that shows a lot of promise is the Abus Bordo Alarm  This takes the already very good Bordo and adds a 100db alarm that is corrosion resistant. While the volume isn’t as loud as you might want on a busy street, it’s another product that would add to the concern of a thief and having the alarm integrated into the lock makes it more effective.

Battery and Accessory Locks

There are different battery locks on the market, some of which fit around the frame like a frame lock. These are lightweight and not too expensive, but replacing the battery is the biggest cost you could incur.

Our recommendation? Take your battery with you. The small hassle of detaching it (providing it is a debacle model of course) would outweigh the cost and inconvenience of replacing it. It’s the single most valuable detachable part of your bike. And, your eBike would be less attractive for a potential thief without it. Even if the worst happens and your bike gets stolen, at least you’re left with something.

Other parts of your bike won’t be as valuable but there are still decisions to be made. While wheels can be secured with your U-lock or chain, bike saddles are often designed to be removed as quickly as possible for your convenience. This is, of course, pretty convenient for a thief as well! If your bike seat is valuable a simple saddle lock like the  Kryptonite Kryptoflex can be quickly attached.  While we wouldn’t use this to secure an eBike, it provides a level of inconvenience for an opportunist thief.

Bicycle GPS Trackers

Unfortunately, less than 5% of stolen bikes are returned to their owners which makes security crucial. But as advances in GPS systems have developed over recent years, so has the ability to track bikes. The main issue with GPS is that a professional thief may well be checking your eBike to remove any device as quickly as possible.

At the budget end, people have for found the SinoTrack reliable with a good range. It’s 8cm x 7cm so you need to get creative finding somewhere that thief wouldn’t find it.

As you move up in budget, the options become a little more sophisticated in design. The Leo Gps Smart Bike Lock offers a tamper alarm, lock, and tracking device. One of the more established brands, Sherlock, has a GPS device that allows you to insert it into your handlebars and tracks through the mobile app.

Low Cost Strategies

While locks can be expensive, there are some things you can do to protect your bike that won’t cost you any money at all. Choosing a location where any potential theft is likely to create attention is key. If you’re going out for drinks in the evening, park your bike close to where the doorman will stand and choose brightly lit areas.  CCTV was listed as the biggest deterrent against bike theft in the UK so securing your bike to somewhere with an obvious CCTV presence would definitely help.

More than half the bikes stolen in the UK were from inside the home. So although you might think that having your bike inside is safe, the reality is it still needs securing. If you have already bought a lock it makes sense to use it indoors too.

If you haven’t chosen your eBike yet and are concerned about security, a folding model offers some advantages in terms of securing the different parts together. They also the advantage of being more mobile so can be taken into buildings which might not be practical for a non-folding model.

There are different places to register your bike including Project 529, Bike Index and Bike Registry. It’s definitely worth spending the short amount of time needed to fill your details in as it increases your chances of revering your bike if it’s stolen.  Some of these sites also let you check whether second hand eBikes being sold are registered as stolen. This can be very helpful to ensure you’re shopping for a used eBike.

We would also recommend taking photographs of your eBike as soon you have bought it. Keep these with your frame number, warranty and any other paperwork you have. Make a note of any modifications you have made to your bike as well as these can help you track your bike down if the worst happens.

Electric Bike Insurance

One rule which seems to be true in all areas of insurance is that you need to understand what your policy covers. And just as importantly, what it doesn’t. There are companies that offer eBike insurance, such as Velosurance, which a lot of riders use. In a lot of cases, these specialist policies will give you more protection than homeowners or renters insurance, but there are still parts of the cover you need to check.

It’s important to understand that the amount you originally purchased your eBike for is often not the amount you receive in a claim. Insurance companies have maximum payout values that you should be aware of. Policies will often depreciate the value of your eBike over time. In some ways, this makes sense as your eBike will become less valuable as it ages and new designs and technologies come on the market. However, if you need to buy a replacement eBike and your claim only gives you 50% of the bike value, you will be substantially out of pocket.

You should also look into whether the coverage would include damaged to your eBike in a failed theft attempt, and whether theft of your accessories such as GPS, battery, and helmet would be included.

Ideally, you want a policy that covers the eBike at home, outside and even on trips. While there are very good home and renters insurance, by nature these are only likely to cover your eBike at your residence. There are also some home insurance policies that don’t class eBikes as bikes and exclude cover on any bike with a motor. You should check this carefully before relying on this type of insurance.

Our final tip on insurance is to check your motor size and ensure the insurance company have confirmed your eBike model is covered under the policy which you have taken out. Both bike and home insurance providers can vary in the coverage of bikes with different sized motors. It’s much better to navigate this before you buy a policy, rather than when you’re trying to make a claim. 

What You Should Do If Your Bike Is stolen?

Reporting the theft to the police as quickly as possible is a vital first step. While the attempts made at finding stolen bikes of any kind will vary from one police force to the next, it’s a necessary step and is often a requirement for your potential insurance claim. The insurance company should also be at the top of the list of calls to make to start the process of filing a claim.

Any bike databases that you have used should also be contacted very quickly. Even though databases often help the police recover bikes less than 1% of people register their bikes.

The next step involves contacting your local bikes shops and communities where bikes are sold. Having photos of your bike as we suggested earlier can help a lot here to allow people to share the details. Checking Ebay, Craigslist, Gumtree and Facebook for your bike is also worthwhile. Having your original receipts, frame number, bike registry details, and photographs will help verify to the police that the bike is yours if you do find it.

Summary

The choices people make to protect anything in their life will likely be influenced by how valuable the item is. There is no 100% guarantee to protect your eBike, but we would suggest that such a large purchase requires a reasonable amount of investment to give you the best chance to enjoy it over the long term.

Three, or at the least two locks, one of which should be a high quality U-lock would be recommended along with an alarm if you’re going to be leaving your bike unattended frequently. Some specific insurance that will allow you to buy a new bike of similar value would also be a good idea. Also take advantage of the things you can do for free such as registering your eBike on online databases, and giving some serious thoughts to the safest places you can find to park it.

A multi-approach won’t guarantee the safety of your bike but above all else it will allow you to make life hard for a thief instead of letting them make it hard for you.