Playing with thieves: How to make your bike or e-bike theft-proof

Before we started designing the Tiller Rides Roadster we spent a lot of time looking into what stopped people riding bicycles more often. One thing we discovered, and that I had experienced myself, was that fear of a bike being stolen, or parts being stolen off the bike, is a major reason. We then chalked this up as a problem to be solved and started looking more deeply into how bikes are stolen and what can be done about it and hence what we needed to integrate into the Roadster’s design.

Our research revealed that thieves usually steal a bike to quickly onsell it for cash or strip it for parts that they can onsell. Perhaps somewhat obviously, this means that desirable expensive bikes, such as carbon road bikes, high end mountain bikes and electric bikes, are the main targets for bike thieves. If you have one of these types of bikes then the following anti-theft measures will probably save you a lot of money and hassle and enable you to use your bike whenever and wherever you like.


Stopping your bike being stolen


If you don’t want to get too sophisticated, the cheapest and most effective way to secure your bike is to have a physical lock that can withstand most of the lock cutting tools that thieves will carry around. Viewing the various YouTube channels created by people who love to show everyone how to break bicycle locks reveal that the current lock-breaking tools-of-choice are: cable cutters, bolt cutters, nut splitters and cordless angle grinders.




It is difficult to find a bike lock that can’t be cut by the cordless angle grinder but most conclude that few thieves will use one in a very public area as they are loud and send lots of sparks flying so can’t be used covertly. The goal then is to have a lock that can resist the other three.


For starters you can rule cable locks out for expensive bikes because they can be cut in seconds with just the small cable cutters that can be easily carried and used covertly. The goal then is to get a lock that can resist the nut splitter and bolt cutters. The only physical lock that can do that is a large diameter hardened D lock - the larger the diameter the wider the bolt cutter jaws need to open and the harder it is for the thief to get the leverage to cut it. There are a large range of these on the market these days.


Because all physical locks can be cut, the next level up in security is to put some form of alarm and GPS tracking system on a bike like we have done on the Roadster. Because no thief wants to be tracked, the GPS is more of a theft deterrent than a bike finding tool.


For electric bikes, the next level up again from an Alarm and GPS is to create a bike that has little value if stolen - for example a system that disables the electrics when stolen. On our Roadster, if the alarm is activated all the electrics are turned off, the battery and rear carrier are locked in, and the storage locker is locked shut. A thief could cut the quick tether cable and steal it but it is no longer an electric bike - it is a heavy regular bike, and one with very few parts that could be stripped and sold for use on another bike or e-bike.


Stopping things being stolen off your bike


Once you have prevented your bike being stolen, the next task is to stop things being stolen off your bike. Electric bikes make this a little more challenging because of all the extra components they have.


Wheels and seat


It is not uncommon to see a bike frame locked to a pole in the street with one or more of the wheels or the seat missing. This usually occurs because the wheels and seat had a quick release system that a thief can undo by hand. For e-bikes with motors in the wheel hub this is a particular problem because of the extra value in the wheel.



An example of a quick release wheel

There are a few simple ways to solve the wheel and seat theft problem.


The first is to make it harder to remove the wheels. This can be achieved by either getting wheels (especially the front wheel) with nuts instead of a quick release system or replacing the wheel attachment with something that requires a special security spanner to undo.


A simple solution if you have quick release wheels is to replace the wheel skewers with a release that requires a special security key as shown in the photo’s below. You can often get these in a set that also includes an anti-theft seat bolt that replaces the quick release seat clamp. On our Roadster we have nuts on both wheels and have designed a special anti-theft seat post that can’t be removed from the bike so the seat is readily adjustable using the quick release clamp.


These wheel and seat security sets are available on eBay or Aliexpress or similar for between $15 - $100.

An example of a wheel and seat security set


An example of a wheel and seat security set

Battery locking


Because electric bikes have a number of extra components onboard there is an extra challenge when it comes to preventing things being stolen. One of the most valuable items on an e-bike is its battery which is usually removable and so needs some way of preventing it being stolen.


The most common and simplest solution is to use a key operated battery lock. To prevent you from having to remember to lock it, the best arrangement is one that only requires the key for removal but locks in upon installation. On the Roadster we have designed a keyless electronic central-locking system that locks the battery in when the bike’s alarm is armed.



An example of a key operated battery lock

Lights


Riding a regular bike at night usually involves strapping removable lights to the handlebars and rear of the bike and then removing them when you reach your destination so they aren’t stolen. Having to remember to remove them is problematic and most people report forgetting them one day and having one or both stolen.



An example of removable front lights

An example of removable rear lights

The only solution that I am aware of to this problem is to have bolt on lights that are hard to remove or get a bike like our Roadster that has fully integrated lights.


Tyre repair kit theft


Unlike cars, bikes don’t usually come with a spare tyre so if you want to prevent being stranded with a flat tyre, carrying some form of tyre repair kit is essential. Tyre repair can be as simple as a small bottle of puncture repair goo but because there isn’t anywhere on a regular bike to store anything it usually needs to be carried. Most people either carry it in their hand luggage or more commonly, in a small pouch strapped to the frame or under the seat.



An example of a tyre repair kit pouch strapped under the seat

Because of the risk of forgetting it, carrying a tyre repair kit in hand luggage is quite inconvenient and so most regular riders choose to put theirs in a pouch that straps to the frame or under the seat. I am yet to see one of these pouches that is lockable which means that the tyre repair kit will inevitably be stolen if you leave your bike in the street. To overcome this problem, our Roadster has a centrally locked storage locker where an emergency tyre repair canister (and micro rain jacket) is kept.



The above anti-theft measures are sure to make the thieves walk past your bike and go for one that is easier to steal or pinch things off. It may take a while to make these changes and a bit of money depending on what you have already but if you want to enjoy riding more often they are a necessity. Of course if you are looking for a new e-bike you can always get a Roadster where we have done all the hard work for you!


By Julian Ilich, Co-Founder of Tiller Rides


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