Who steals your bike and how they do it

Bicycle theft is a crime that afflicts cities around the world. To reduce the risk of becoming a victim, the first thing is to understand what the modus operandi of bicycle thieves is.

Types of bicycle thieves

We can classify this type of criminal into two large groups. The first will be the opportunity thief, the one who takes advantage of the opportunity offered by poor security systems.

The second group is professionals. That shameless one who dedicates himself fully to this activity and is devising a way to snatch our beloved bicycle, no matter how safe it is.

Opportunistic bicycle thieves

This type of bandit is the most common, especially in large cities. He will always prefer to steal something that does not cost him work. Look for bicycles that are easy prey with the type of tool he carries with him and that the occasion is propitious.

In most cases you will be looking for bikes that are secured with steel cables, weak u-locks, chains and small locks that are easy to break. For the opportunity thief there is no cheap or too old bicycle if the opportunity presents itself.

Using a good security system and using it correctly will be enough to keep your bike safe from these types of thieves.

Typical tools of the opportunistic bike thief


As incredible as it may sound, there are cheap security systems that can be breached without the use of tools. Many of these systems consist of braided steel cables and chains with thin gauge links.

Wire cutting pliers

Pliers or cutters are sufficient to cut most stranded steel cables in a matter of seconds. Being cheap tools and easy to carry in your pocket, this is the one most used by opportunistic bicycle thieves.

Small to medium shears

Commonly used for cutting bolts, they are manufactured in a wide variety of sizes. The smallest and most common for the opportunity thief are the 8 to 12 inch (20 and 30 cm) shears. This tool can cut different materials such as sheet, chain and steel braided wire. It is easily concealed in a backpack and can cut steel cables of all gauges and some chains with ease.  

Small barrette

This tool is also manufactured in a variety of sizes. Barrettes and other long metal pieces are often used as levers to break u-lock type locks or to twist and break chains and steel cables. 

The longer the tool, the more leverage can be exerted and the easier it will be to break a lock. Obviously the larger the size, the more difficult it will be to hide, but our thief of opportunity knows that a bar that can be hidden in a backpack is enough to prey on a bike that is secured with a poor system. 


Cheap, low-quality mechanisms can be broken into pieces using a standard-size hammer. For the thief of opportunity, it is much easier to break a security mechanism against the floor, if it is made of concrete. Therefore, a good locking technique that keeps the safety mechanism off the ground is a good solution.

Professional bicycle thieves

On the other hand, the “professional” bicycle thief often has access to a wide variety of more sophisticated tools. This rogue usually targets high-end bikes and can even steal on demand.

A skilled thief can beat any lock, given enough time. To discourage this type of thieves requires high security systems and take special care of where and for how long you leave your bike unattended.

Typical tools of the professional bike thief

Large shears

If bolt cutters as small as 20 cm can cut through braided steel cable and steel shackles without difficulty, imagine what a larger one can do. With a shear of about 40 cm and long enough you can cut up to the steel shackle of a u-lock with a medium level of security.

Electric tools 

A portable electric grinder or angle grinder is a common and highly effective tool for the professional burglar. Although they are noisy and will produce sparks when cutting, if the bicycle is in a place with poor visibility and / or foot traffic, the thief will not hesitate to use it.

Not even the strongest padlock is infallible to an emery board. However, a system with a high level of security will put up more resistance and take longer to cut. This, combined with good use of the security system and securing the bike in an appropriate place can discourage the thief.

Hydraulic tools

Originally used to lift hundreds of kilos of weights, these types of tools are capable of exerting enough pressure to violate the locks with the highest level of security.

Hydraulic bottle jacks are used by professional bicycle thieves who know perfectly well that there is no security system or mechanism to resist them. Introduced in the space between the body and the shackle of a u-lock, this mechanism is capable of exerting enough pressure to destroy the most secure padlock.

However, all is not lost, because if you follow an adequate securing procedure in which you avoid leaving spaces that serve to be inserted and exert pressure on the security mechanism, it will be enough. 

Decrease the probability of having your bike stolen

There is no way to guarantee that our bike will be safe. The only thing we can do is decrease the possibility of our bicycle being stolen. To achieve this it is important to consider three fundamental factors:

  1. A security system with adequate level
  2. Use the system properly
  3. Leave the bicycle in a safe place

Adequate security level

The main brands use security levels to classify their products. The level of security you decide to use for your bike should always be based on how safe your city is, how long you will leave the bike unattended and how attractive your bike can be.

Each manufacturer uses its own scale to classify its products, so it is advisable to compare different brands based on their Sold Secure classification.

Sold Secure is an independent organization that tests and qualifies the security level of padlocks (and other products) of different brands. This organization classifies bicycle locks into three categories, according to their resistance to attack with different tools:

  • Bicycle Gold: maximum level of security
  • Bicycle Silver: medium level of security
  • Bicycle Bronze: low level of security

Our recommendation is to only use Gold or Silver rated systems (depending on your needs). If you still do not have a good lock, we invite you to review our selection of the best bicycle locks . Here you will find Gold and Silver systems, as well as tips to determine the level of security you need.

Use your security system correctly

To get the best out of your security system you have to use it correctly. If not, not even the safest lock in the world will be able to protect your bike.

With correct use we mean to ensure the most valuable parts of your bicycle (frame and rear wheel as a minimum) and that the lock is attached to a solid structure . In case your bicycle uses a lock on the front wheel, it is advisable to supplement with a second lock or a steel cable only for the front wheel .

Secure your bike in a safe place

In addition to the proper use of the security system you have chosen, it is extremely important to consider where you will leave your bike.

Preferably you should choose a site that is visible, where there is a constant circulation of people. You can preferably choose a site with security cameras.

Remember that time is a determining factor for the thief. The more eyes are on your bike, the shorter the time window will be.


Now that you have a better idea of ​​the modus operandi of bicycle thieves, you can make better decisions to reduce risk. Remember: use a lock with a good level of security, use it correctly and chain your bike in a suitable place.

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