The sad reality of the e-bike world is that e-bikes have become an excellent target for thieves. The combination of an expensive e-bike and usually inadequate theft protection makes electric bikes easy prey for scoundrels engaged in bike theft.
Electric bikes, like all bicycles, are usually stolen in one of two ways: either by extracting parts from the e-bike or by stealing the entire electric bike in one fell swoop. It's best to protect yourself from both of these scenarios. Follow these tips to protect yourself and your bike.
Location, location, location
Let’s address the obvious first. It might be common sense, but it still needs to be said: be cautious where you lock up your e-bike. You know where the bad areas of your city are—just don’t park there. Why increase the likelihood of theft unnecessarily?
Do everything possible to avoid shady places that are likely hotspots for bicycle theft. If you know that certain blocks are notoriously bad areas, park a bit further away and cover the last stretch on foot. Not only will this reduce the likelihood of your e-bike being stolen, but it also gives you a chance to get some free exercise!
Take Your E-bike with You.
Sometimes you can't avoid trips to the bad parts of town. Maybe there's a farmer's market, or the best pizzeria in town, or the only Wal-Mart (god forbid). If you need to park somewhere shady, try taking your e-bike with you.
Many commercial establishments, such as supermarkets and shopping centers, actually allow people to bring their bikes inside the building. Ask an employee if you can bring the bike inside and leave it near the door. Then lock the wheel to the frame so nobody can easily roll it out. It will be quite obvious if someone tries to haul a heavy locked e-bike from the store to their car.
Don't Get into a Routine with Your E-bike
Avoid parking in the same place every day. Electric bikes are excellent suburban vehicles, and for this reason, e-bikes often become part of daily life. Many people use their e-bike as a daily driver to get to work, school, and so on. However, when you park in the same place every day, it gives diligent thieves the opportunity to study your pattern and locking system to prepare a targeted attack.
These types of thefts are hard to guard against because a thief might take weeks or even months to prepare for your particular lock, the traffic pattern in that area, and even set traps. I've seen thieves tamper with signs so they would slide out of the ground. Unsuspecting riders lock up to a "Stop" sign as they do every day, but on this day the thief simply lifts the sign out of the ground and walks away with the bike. Yet another solid reason to double-check that any object you lock up to is indeed secure.
Park in well-lit areas.
At night, park in a place with good visibility, preferably right under a street lamp. Thieves don't like being in the spotlight while they're at work, and having a giant spotlight shining on them as they work is a strong deterrent.
The decision is still out on whether it's better to park your bike near a lot of foot traffic. Unfortunately, many experiments have shown that at least in the U.S., almost nobody will interrupt a bike thief at work stealing a bike. Studies have shown that fear of confrontation causes most people to ignore a bike thief at work or quickly walk past, avoiding contact. This means placing your e-bike near a high foot traffic area does not necessarily deter thieves from attempting to steal it.
In fact, placing your electric bike in a high-traffic area actually exposes your e-bike to many more eyes and, therefore, more opportunities for thieves to spot it as a target. On the other hand, parking in an alley means that thieves have fewer chances to know your e-bike is there but ensures fewer chances that someone will catch a bike thief in action if they find it.
However, when in doubt, I still prefer a crowded place and hope for the best in people. The fact that studies show most people will not stand up to a bike thief does not mean that thieves will have the big balls to test this theory.
Bike Locks: The More, The Better
Use more than one bike lock, preferably of different styles and brands. If one bike lock is good, then two bike locks are even better. Here's how a typical bike theft operation goes: the bike thief scopes out a potential target bike and weighs their chances at successfully unlocking it (never a guarantee), how much time it will take, and the chances of getting caught. It's not uncommon for a rider to return to their bike and find a mangled but still intact lock, indicating a thief who lost at their game and decided to cut their losses and flee.
When you add a second lock, it significantly decreases the bike thief's perception of their chances at a successful bike theft. They're not only risking one lock, but now they have to deal with two locks, and neither is a guarantee. All but the boldest bike thieves will see two sturdy locks and immediately walk past the bike, instead looking for an easier target. This is one of the best ways to increase theft resistance for your electric bike: just add a second lock.
Plan Your Locking Method for Maximum Destruction
Lock your electric bicycle in such a way that it could be seriously damaged to unlock it.
This means you need to consider a few things. First, whatever item you lock up to, it should be stronger than your bike (and preferably stronger than the lock). Stick to things like solid metal posts, street lights, concrete barriers, and steel parking meters. Don't attach to fragile objects such as a chain-link fence, wooden post, a tree thinner than your wrist, etc.
If the lock and the attached object are stronger than the frame of your bicycle, it means your bicycle is now the weakest link, forcing a bike thief to cut the bike to steal it. If the only option for a bike thief is to destroy the bicycle to steal it, they will look elsewhere.
Next, make sure that however your lock goes through your bicycle, removing it requires the maximum possible damage to the bicycle. Ideally, the lock should go through both the triangle of the frame and at least one wheel, preferably through the motor-wheel hub. This means the bicycle thief would have to cut the electric bicycle's frame, essentially ruining it, AND cut the motor-hub rim, ruining it as a useful wheel.
For a standard bicycle, this would usually be a deterring factor enough as a non-usable bicycle would lose much of its value after its frame and wheel have been destroyed. However, it has a slightly lesser deterring effect for electric bicycles since the engine, battery, and other parts could still be sold, even if the thief has to destroy the frame in the process. Nonetheless, it still creates more barriers which might deter a potential bicycle thief. The more of a headache you can make your electric bicycle, the more likely a bicycle thief will walk away.
Secure the components on your e-bike
Attach the individual parts of your electric bicycle to the bike itself
Start with the battery. Batteries for electric bikes are the most frequently stolen part of any electric bike. If you have a battery designed for easy removal, such as a battery in an aluminum or plastic casing that slides in and out, you need to find a good way to secure it firmly.
These types of e-bike batteries almost always come with a factory locking solution, but for proficient bike thieves, it's never enough. The kind that slides along an aluminum or steel plate often requires only the smallest of hand shears to cut a hole in the plate and release the pin. Sometimes you can even simply bend the plate with a screwdriver, freeing the battery.
To counter this, thread a lock through the battery handle, if it has one. This provides a bit more deterrence for casual bike thieves, but won’t stop any serious attempt to steal the electric bike battery. For more theft protection, consider adding a chain, plate, block, etc., that goes through the end of the battery, secures to the frame, and prevents the e-bike battery from being removed without your key.
Additionally, if you do not plan on removing the battery from the bike for charging, you might use a more permanent method, like bolting or welding a plate to the end of the battery. Keep in mind, however, that this may create an issue if you ever need to service the battery.
Disguise Your Electric Bike
It's simple: make your e-bike less appealing. Many people might not want to go this far, especially if you like how your electric bike looks, but making your e-bike ugly can be a great way to protect it from thieves.
There are many different ways to disguise a perfectly working bike into what seems like a piece of junk. Some of my favorites include artificial rust, strips of duct tape, random splotches of spray paint, a grocery bag on the seat, mismatched grips, etc. Anything that prevents your e-bike from screaming, "I'm a brand-new, expensive toy!" will divert attention from bike thieves.
Making your electric bike look unattractive to potential thieves could significantly decrease the likelihood of it being stolen. This approach of disguising could be a fun and creative project that not only serves a protective purpose but also makes your e-bike uniquely yours. Remember, the goal is to make the bike blend in and look as unappealing as possible to those with nefarious intentions, without affecting its functionality.
Choose Your Company Wisely
Park it near something more attractive. By this, I mean choose a location with better bike theft options than yours.
It could be a sleek, brand new, apple-caramel-colored racing motorcycle.
It might be another bike with a flimsy cable lock next to your electric bike with two U-locks.
It could be a more expensive e-bike than yours.
Anything that makes a thief want to swap your bike for something else will work. Some people might object to such a fairly selfish approach, but the fact is you can't stop all electric bike thefts, you can only stop the theft of YOUR electric bike. There will always be thieves looking to steal bikes. The best you can do is just try to make sure it's not yours.
By surrounding your e-bike with more tempting targets, you could potentially divert the attention of a thief. It's about making the theft of your e-bike seem less appealing compared to the alternatives nearby. However, remember that this strategy doesn’t solve the larger problem of bike theft but merely redirects it. This method prioritizes the safety of your property possibly at the expense of someone else’s, which is an aspect to consider ethically.
Apply Creative Measures for Protection
Implementing a fake GPS tracking sticker on your e-bike is an ingenious idea. Crafting a simple fake GPS tracking logo on your computer, printing it on glossy adhesive paper, and attaching it to a conspicuous part of the bike operates on a similar psychological principle as home security company logos or "Beware of Dog" signs that people place near their homes. Even the mere implication of active, relentless surveillance 24/7 is enough to deter many bike thieves and push them to look elsewhere.
Certainly, there may be some doubt in the thief's mind regarding the authenticity of the GPS tracking, but at least it's making them think twice. Again, all of this impacts their mental calculation of the risk they're taking. It's up to you to stack the odds against them.
Oh, and actually employing a real GPS tracking device is an option too. Real GPS tracking devices can provide actual security alongside the perceived security the fake sticker offers. They can be discreetly placed on the bike and can provide real-time tracking capabilities, which could be invaluable in recovering your e-bike in the event it is stolen. Moreover, it may serve as a valuable piece of evidence in reporting the theft to the police.
In conclusion, employing both real and perceived security measures, and being creative in how you implement them, can significantly increase the level of protection for your e-bike against potential thefts.
The General Picture of Electric Bicycle Thefts
Many of the aforementioned tips for protecting against electric bicycle theft are simple behavioral changes you can make to better secure your e-bike, while others represent hardware options that require some spending. How much your e-bike is worth to you is up to you.
When it comes down to it, you're really fighting against two different types of bicycle theft: opportunistic theft and deliberate, targeted theft. Opportunistic theft is when someone walks by and sees an easy chance to snatch your seat or battery. Deliberate targeted theft is when someone studies your e-bike and prepares for the job. The best way to prevent both types of electric bicycle theft is to combine several different options listed above. The harder it is for bicycle thieves, the more likely it is they will look elsewhere.
At Movin Mobility, we are always concerned about the safety of our bikes, sharing tips on how to prevent theft and selling proven accessories to protect your e-bikes.