E-Bike Theft Prevention, From Locks to Urban Camouflage

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If you’re like me at all, getting a new e-bike makes you feel like Pee Wee Herman. It’s fun! It’s fast! It helps you get exercise! In some cases, it’s even a part of your daily routine and helps you make a living. Either for work or for fun, you take it out on adventures, including some that are, well, misguided. With all the fun you’re having, you don’t want to become a victim of e-bike theft.

But, it turns out that you’re not the only one who thinks your expensive electric bike is cool. For people who are your friends, and for strangers who just think it’s cool, that’s not a problem. But for people who aren’t your friends and want to get their hands on it, this can be a problem. So, you decide to start taking some measures to secure the bike:

The Problem: E-Bike Theft

You probably don’t put 100 yards of chain on the bike like Pee Wee did, but you decide to buy a big, heavy, thick bike lock. If you’re more savvy, you might add some cables to it to secure removable parts like the seat and front wheel. Like Pee Wee, you figure that this will keep people from stealing it. But many an e-bike owner has come back out of a business to the same horrors that awaited Pee Wee:

When you turn to the police, they’ll take a report, but probably can’t do anything to get you your bike back. They’re not going to set up roadblocks or call out the National Guard. Unless the Soviets really are involved, they’re not going to do anything. You probably won’t know who the thieves were, either, so you can’t track it down the way Pee Wee almost did. Fortune tellers are likewise not going to be helpful at anything but lightening your wallet. And, you’re not going to find it in the basement of the Alamo.

Even worse, you won’t get a movie deal out of your e-bike’s theft the way Pee Wee did. Why? Because e-bike theft is super common. It turns out that thieves know what kinds of locks you’re going to use and know how to beat them. While lithium batteries made practical e-bikes possible, they also made battery-powered angle grinders possible. Plus there’s the trick of freezing locks and cracking them, using a .22-caliber nailer, or even something as simple as a big pair of bolt cutters.

How To Avoid This Happening To You

First, let’s start with some basic security. If you have to lock your bike up somewhere, only do it for short periods of time, like to go into a store. And, follow the other tips in this video (and its sequel):

In a nutshell, use the highest quality bike-specific lock you can get. You’ve spent somewhere between $1000 and $10,000 on the bike, so it doesn’t make sense to just buy the cheapest crap lock you can find to secure it. But even the best locks only buy you time. They don’t make it safe to leave a bike out for hours at a time or overnight. So, if at all possible, bring the bike inside and lock it up away from the public.

There are also bike alarms, tracking units, and other things that can make a thief’s job a lot harder. Consider using those, but don’t depend on then alone. The idea is to draw attention to the thief so they’ll want to give up on messing with your bike, and find someone else’s bike that’s easier pickins.

E-Bike Specific Tips

There are also some e-bike specific tips to follow.

First, be sure to take the battery with you if you leave the bike locked up somewhere. This lowers the bike’s value by at least $500, and makes it so that the thief or their fence will have to come up with another battery to sell the bike whole to someone else. This makes your e-bike less attractive than the other e-bikes the thief might steal that day. For some higher-end e-bikes, the company won’t sell anyone a replacement battery without some proof of purchase and the bike’s serial number. If you’ve reported it to them stolen, this makes the bike worthless.

Second, try to camouflage the fact that it’s electric. For some bikes, it’s easy to tell it’s an e-bike because it says something big on the side in bold letters. If you’re going to leave the bike locked up outdoors, it’s probably best to remove or cover those decals. You might think about putting a crappy-looking bag over the bike’s hub if it has a hub motor, or a frame bag over a battery. Draping an old jacket over the mid-section could help hide a mid-drive motor. Also, do other things to make the bike look like it’s a piece of crap. Random duct tape, fake rust, electrical tape, and even decoy wires that are worn through to the metal could all make your e-bike look like it has seen better days and isn’t worth stealing.

Third, document as much as you can about your bike. Keep the bike’s serial number, photos, and anything else you can give the police in the event it’s stolen. It might not help you get it back, but if thieves start getting prosecuted for felony theft more often, fewer of them will think it’s worth the risk to steal an e-bike. Also, this will help a lot if your bike is covered by insurance.

Finally, many people are using e-bikes in place of “toads” (towed vehicles) for their RV adventures, and many more haul bikes in racks on adventures closer to home. The problem with this arises if you ever leave the vehicle behind with the bikes attached to it (which is something you’d frequently do on a trip, right?). Especially in rural areas, this gives thieves extra time to work at stealing your bike. Consider adding a camera to your vehicle or RV, or use more secure storage methods, like an enclosed trailer that doesn’t leave the goods out in the open.

Do you have anti-theft tips? Please feel free to share them in the comments so we can all learn more as a community to better secure our bikes!

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1956 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba