Mountain bikers, roadies, and casual riders all share a profound appreciation for the breathtaking vistas their bikes can transport them to. For many bike packers, car campers, and RV travelers, camping involves bringing their bicycles. It also poses one pressing question: how will you protect your bike when it’s not in active use? Whether you are bike packing, car camping, or embarking on an RV adventure, theft remains the most significant threat to your two-wheeled companion. Understanding how to safeguard your beloved bike while you explore the outdoors is the best way to ensure it stays safe and sound throughout your shared escapades.
Why must I keep my bike safe when it’s not in use?
The experience of embracing the great outdoors often requires sacrificing certain modern-day conveniences, such as the protective shelter of a garage or shed that shields your belongings from potential theft. Unlike your typical urban setting, you can't merely stow your gear in a secure storage space, lock it up, and walk away. Instead, when you venture into the wild, you must take extra precautions to ensure your bicycle returns home with you in the same condition in which it initially embarked on the journey. While it may seem that the isolation of remote camping locations would deter potential thieves, the unfortunate reality is that plenty of opportunistic bike thieves keep a close eye on popular campsites, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. As a result, it becomes imperative to adopt proactive measures to keep your bike secure.
How can I keep my bike safe when it’s not in use?
Thieves generally approach a target with a plan, but if that plan has to change, they’ll gladly make necessary adjustments, if it means they walk off with their intended target. Using multiple security methods that take into consideration their “go-to” methods for stealing is vital in keeping your bike safe. It might feel like you’re trying to beat them at their own game, and in a way, you are: you’re going to have to strategically devise a bike security plan so that they end up walking away frustrated, and empty-handed.
Create a protective barrier between your bike and thieves
Whenever possible, lock bikes inside the RV or vehicle to protect them from potential bike thieves. Even though locking your bike inside your car or RV is the best way to limit unwanted access, it’s not an option for everyone. Here are some solid ways to secure your bike, no matter how you choose to travel or camp:
- RV: For those who prefer to explore by RV, locking bikes inside is the most secure method of protection. However, enclosed bike carriers can be installed on almost any recreational vehicle. Some carriers can hold as many as three bikes!
- Car: If bicycles cannot be kept within your car, opting for a bike rack with extra security measures can do the trick. Use a chain to secure the bike to the hitch through the safety chain loop.
- Truck: Trucks offer the greatest number of options for bike transport and security, so there’s bound to be a way that accommodates your circumstances. Trucks equipped with a topper, or a tonneau cover, offer excellent built-in protection: simply store your bike in the secured bed. If this isn’t an option, side clamp racks installed onto the bedside rails provide the next level of security. For more options, see our article on how to transport your bike in a pickup truck.
Secure your bike to an immovable object
Always secure your bike to an immovable object with a durable lock — even when locked in a vehicle. An immovable object is one that cannot be moved, picked up, or carried away with the bike. Most vehicles that can accommodate an adult bike for inside storage do so by laying the back seat down and exposing metal latches that secure the seats when they are in the upright position. These metal attachment points serve as the perfect anchor, impose additional effort on the thief’s part, and require specialized tools if they are to be successful. A sleeved hardened steel chain is compact and agile enough to secure a bike to even the most hard to reach anchors.
If storing your bike in a locked vehicle isn’t an option, alternatives include a bike rack bolted to the ground or set into concrete, and bike carrier racks installed on a vehicle. If you are in a remote area with only trees available as anchors, choose one substantial enough to deter potential thieves. To learn more about various bicycle locks and how to secure your bike to an immovable object, read our article A cable lock will not save your bicycle from theft.
Secure bicycles in transit
It is very uncommon for people to secure their bikes when they are traveling, after all, who is going to steal the bike from a moving car? The flaw in that thinking is that sooner or later you’ll have to make a pit stop, be that a rest area, a gas station, or a restaurant. During these moments most people are focused on the task at hand and often forget about the bike on the rack, and those are the exact moments when thieves jump into acvtion. Taking a bike off a rack, throwing it into the bed of a pickup truck and peeling off takes seconds, not even minutes. Making a habit of locking your bike to the rack or, even better, something sturdier, like the hitch safety chain loop or truck bed rail attachment point, is a practice that not only will lower your anxiety when walking away from your vehicle, it will ensure that your bike remains yours. A sleeved hardened steel chain is easy to feed through the tightest of spaces, a long enough chain could secure multiple bikes, and it looks stout enough for even the most enthusiastic thieves to think twice.
Install a tracking device on your bike
Statistics analyzing bike theft within the United States show that approximately 185,000 bicycles are reported stolen each year; if unreported thefts are included, the number jumps up to nearly 1.7 million, which is approximately one bike being stolen every 30 seconds. A tracking device can be an easy way to recover a stolen bike—especially when action is taken immediately after the theft has occurred—and can save you a world of stress (and your trip). No matter how confident you are in your abilities, do not attempt to recover the bike alone, it’s a job for the law enforcement.
GPS trackers use the Global Positioning System (GPS) to calculate the geographic position of an object or person using satellite signals and are becoming increasingly common in everyday devices. Most GPS trackers are small, easy to use, and while considered “affordable,” can still prove to be a bit on the pricey side. They are also power-hungry and require regular battery charging. Most trackers last up to eight days on one-minute reporting and up to 15 days on standby.
Some trackers, such as Apple AirTags and Tile Trackers, rely on “Ultra-Wideband” (UWB), which uses surrounding Bluetooth signals instead of satellite to determine location. They’re a more affordable alternative to GPS trackers and their batteries last a lot longer, but they’re not without their drawbacks. UWB trackers receive signals over relatively short distances, don’t provide as precise a location, nor can they provide real-time movement. Instead, they simply help you find your bike and are better thought of as “finders.” If the bike is stashed in a remote location, a UWB tracking device will prove useless.
Newer high-end e-bikes come with a built-in tracker as a security measure and provide a way to remotely lock, unlock, and deactivate the bike. However, this technology only works when correctly set up and paired with the rider’s phone, making it imperative that this step isn’t skipped before rolling out.
What if my bike is damaged or stolen from a locked vehicle?
Securing bikes within a vehicle is a smart way to deter bike bandits looking for a quick grab. However, even with the best precautions in place, some persistent criminals may attempt to overcome these defenses. Thieves often gain access to bicycles inside locked vehicles using methods that leave signs of forced entry, including electronic hacking tools to wirelessly unlock the car, and an inflatable wedge or “slim jim” to pry open the door. Securing bikes to an immovable object within the vehicle, like the previously mentioned seat latches, can also dissuade thieves because there’s a good chance they won’t have the tools to cut through a solid lock or chain. Having your bike stolen despite your efforts can leave you feeling helpless. Knowing how to handle a bike theft may not offer much immediate comfort because your bike remains missing.
Document the crime
In the unfortunate event that your bike is stolen from a locked vehicle, your first line of defense is documentation. Given the slim chances of recovering a stolen bicycle, it’s crucial that you gather as much evidence as possible. This documentation can be vital, especially if the stolen bike was insured at the time of the theft.
Capture photographs or videos of the crime scene, focusing on any damages and evidence the perpetrators may have left behind. Pay special attention to details that might indicate forced entry, but be careful not to disturb the crime scene by moving objects or touching surfaces that the thief could have handled, such as door handles and damaged locks.This caution preserves potential fingerprint evidence, which could prove critical during the investigation.
File a police report
The next logical step after documenting the crime is reporting it to the police. Because bike theft is notoriously difficult to solve with less than 5% of recovered bikes being reunited with their owners, it’s important that you remain realistic about the outcome. The low bike return rate can be attributed to fewer than 20% of bike owners being able to prove ownership, so if you haven’t done so yet, take photos of both sides of your bike and the serial number, usually stamped under the bottom bracket. If you have purchase receipts, take photos of them, to make them available on your phone when away from home. Being able to prove bike ownership will make the process smoother and more efficient.
Consider bicycle insurance
Even with all the right precautions in place, accidents can happen. That’s where bicycle insurance comes in, offering a crucial safety net for unforeseeable circumstances that can leave you vulnerable to injury or loss. One such trusted provider is Velosurance, a bicycle insurance company dedicated to providing cyclists with coverage that suits their lifestyles. Whether you’re out on the road or hitting the trails, riding with Velosurance coverage offers peace of mind. It means that if something goes wrong, your bicycle will be repaired or replaced, and you’ll be back in the saddle with minimal downtime.
Customizable coverage for cyclists
At Velosurance we talk to cyclists all day, every day, and understand that every cyclist’s needs are unique. That’s why our bicycle insurance policies are customizable, allowing you to select optional coverage for specific risks. These options include medical, liability, vehicle contact (UM/UIM), and worldwide coverages. Theft and accidental damage coverages are standard with every Velosurance policy, insuring your bike at full value.
A Velosurance policy also offers protection for various scenarios, such as crash damage and vandalism, and all types of accidental damage, including while the bike is in transit on or inside a vehicle. This coverage extends to situations like if your bike is hit from behind or accidentally falls off the rack. Please take a look at this bicycle insurance comparison page to see how we stack up against competition.
Filing a claim with Velosurance
If you were a Velosurance policyholder when the theft occurred, your next step should be filing a claim. To initiate the process, you’ll typically need to provide a copy of the police report. Any additional evidence you can provide, including photographs and your recollection of the circumstances leading up to the crime, can be especially helpful during the claims process.