Preventing bicycle theft

Written by the Square One team

Updated June 25, 2024 | Published November 8, 2012

Thousands of bikes are stolen across Canada each year. In Vancouver, as cycling becomes a more common mode of transportation, the police advise that the rate of thefts is also going up! It is estimated that a thief can steal your bike in less time than it would take you to order a cup of coffee. In 2015, Vancouver had 513 thefts per 100,000 people. Compare that to Toronto where the theft ratio was only 119 thefts per 100,000 people.

A locked bicycle wheel

Most other major cities in Canada range somewhere in between, but in general, Vancouver sees double the amount of thefts per capita compared to any other major city. Bike theft also goes unreported a lot of the time, with police estimating they only hear about just over 50% of thefts. So having said all this, if you live in an area where bike theft is common, what can we do to protect our bikes?

How to protect your bike from theft

Most experts agree on some theft prevention measures. While this list is not exhaustive, following these tips will definitely increase the security of your bicycles.

Lock your bike properly

  • Lock your bike, always, even if you’re just leaving it for a moment.

  • Buy a U-lock or D-Lock with a flat or disc key. U-locks are strong and the better ones even come with theft warranties. Never use a cable lock alone as it is very easy to cut through.

  • If you do lock your bike outside, choose a public space and never leave it outside overnight.

  • Lock through the frame and a wheel. Add a cable, cable lock, or second U-lock to lock the second wheel. If you use two different locks, such as one for each wheel, a thief would need two different types of tools.

  • Make sure the pole you’re locking your bike to is bolted down and can’t easily be removed. Make sure your bicycle cannot be lifted over the object.

  • Don’t lock your bike to objects that can be cut, such as wire fencing, trees, or wooden railings.

  • Lock your bike even when keeping it in a garage, storage facility or shed, or even on a porch.

Protecting your bike gear and accessories

  • Remove any detachable items like lights, bags and quick release parts and take them with you.

  • Store your bike inside if space is available.

  • If you have your bike locked outdoors and return to find it damaged, try to bring it home with you right then. It is possible someone damaged it intentionally hoping you would need to leave it unattended longer, giving them more opportunity to steal it.

  • Consider investing in a bicycle GPS tracker. These devices come in many shapes and sizes, with all sorts of features, but the main function is to allow you to track your bike’s location—enormously helpful if it goes missing.

Recovering your bike after a theft

The following tips may not help to prevent theft, but if you find yourself in the situation where you are dealing with a loss, they could help you to recover your bike:

Record important details about your bike

  • Record your bike’s serial number, and keep the receipt.

  • Etch your name into the frame of the bike; it can help identify it in the event of a theft.

  • Take a photo of you and your bike.

  • Watch for your bike online. Many stolen bikes are resold on Craigslist or other online resale sites. If you see your bike online, contact your local police department to assist you with recovering it.

  • Broadcast that your bike was stolen on social media. Friends or family can help recover it.

Get police involved

  • Make a police report if your bike is stolen, and supply them with the description and serial number. Often, even if a bike is recovered, police have no way of knowing who the owner is.

  • If your local police department has this service available, consider registering your bike. If it is stolen, and they recover it, it makes it much more likely that they will be able to know who to return it to.

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Campus life and bike theft prevention

Being a student on campus often means that bicycles are your mode of transportation to class and around campus. Don’t fall victim to on-campus theft. Check out some tips in this video.

Bikes and home insurance

Finally, make sure your bicycle is properly insured by your home insurance provider. Don’t assume it’s covered. Check with your agent! Some policies exclude bikes unless you specifically add them. Other policies have limits on the amount they’ll pay for any one bike, which can be increased if necessary, or they may require some sort of receipt or valuation on file showing the replacement cost of the bike prior to the loss.

Discuss how much it would cost to replace your bicycle with your insurance provider and make sure you also consider any upgrades or add-ons, or customizations you have done. Any valuations or receipts they require would need to be on file with them prior to the loss. You will want to confirm your bicycle coverage is for the full replacement value of your equipment and discuss any deductibles that may also apply.

Hopefully these tips help keep our bikes safe! Be especially alert during summer months as these are the busiest times for cyclists, and unfortunately, also for thieves.

Commonly asked questions

How do I report bike theft?

To report the theft of your bicycle, call your local police department’s non-emergency number. If you’re planning to claim the theft under your home insurance policy, you can also contact your insurance provider to start a claim.

What is the average cost of bike insurance?

Bicycles are often covered, to a certain limit, under your home insurance policy. Standalone bicycle insurance starts at about $100 per year.

What kinds of bikes can I insure?

Any bicycle can be insured in theory. However, if you have an expensive bicycle, you may need to add an endorsement to your home insurance policy for coverage. As well, many insurance providers treat e-bikes very differently from typical bicycles.

Want to learn more? Visit our Home and Personal Safety resource centre to find more information about protecting your family and your home. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.


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Protect your family

Even when you take precautions, accidents can happen. Home insurance is one way to protect your family against financial losses from accidents. And, home insurance can start from as little as $12/month.

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