Why Do People Steal Bikes? | PedalChef

Why do people steal bikes, and how can you stop them? To understand how bike thieves do their job and how they think might just save your bike.

The most common reason for stealing bikes is financial gain or joyriding. People usually trade bikes for other goods and cash or steal them for entertainment. Sometimes, drug addicts also steal bikes for drugs. They steal them and supply them to different dealers in return for drugs.  

Many bike thieves are underage kids or teenagers who sell the bikes for the money. Some thieves operate in sheds, while others target secluded streets. Some offenders will go as far as to steal them from your home.

After speaking with different crime prevention agencies and interviewing professionals working to prevent bike stealing, we have put together this guide that provides useful insights into why people steal bikes.



Why Do People Steal Bikes?

Thieves usually sell the stolen bikes on the street or get them exchanged for what they need. They may also fence it at the flea market or a pawn shop, depending on the worth of the bike. Professional thieves bargain for better prices as they have more bikes to sell and have more value in the market.

Most bike thieves are harmless as they're trying to make ends meet. For example, while interviewing a professional, we discovered that the offender in a stolen bike case was a forklift driver, but his wage was barely enough to pay his rent and other bills. Today, it is not possible to survive on minimum wage. The lack of employment opportunities makes it more challenging for mediocre, blue-collar workers to find better jobs and make a living.  

Some thieves may also get involved in petty crimes, such as shoplifting or bike stealing, to fit in or get acquainted with a criminal group. They do it for the thrill and to make easy money.

Joyriders steal a bike solely for the excitement of riding a stolen bike for entertainment and may even abandon the bike after using it. Ideally, these offenders are under 16 and are not looking for financial gain or any other exchange.

Drug addicts usually steal bikes to exchange better, high-quality drugs and supply them to juveniles and delinquents.

Bike stealing is a serious concern for cyclists, and anyone who takes up cycling as a hobby or recreational activity should know that people steal bikes to sell machine parts at higher prices and value. Not every incident is reported, and people often neglect the crime's repercussions.  

How Do People Steal Bikes?

Bike thieves are not necessarily huge and scary men who roam around at night looking for bikes with balaclavas on. You'd be surprised to know that everyone (even you) is capable of stealing a bike. A thief only needs two things: tools and time. They'll be gone away with your bike before you know it, and there is not much you can do to catch them, especially if you're on your feet.  

There are two types of bike thieves: the opportunist and the professional.

The opportunist bikes thieves are the ones who don't carry tools or have enough experience in bike stealing. Most of them don't have any prior knowledge about stealing anything, let alone a bike. The opportunists are the most prevalent bike thieves and are found almost everywhere.

An opportunist either carries no tools or merely a small pair of bolt cutters to do the crime. So if you've got low-quality, cheap bike locks, chances are that an opportunist will steal your bike.

Conversely, a professional thief targets specific bikes and steal them for a living. They carry high-quality tools, such as large bolt coppers and hydraulic jacks. This means they know exactly what they're doing since they have been doing it for a long time. If professional thieves get sufficient time, they can easily remove even the highest quality bike locks from almost any bike.

What Do Bike Thieves Look For?

Although bike stealing is a common issue, it has increased over the years, especially during the pandemic. The increased demand and lack of bikes being produced have led to bike theft.

Bike thieves usually look for a quick getaway. Don't get under the impression that bike thieves will only target fancy bikes. If they get the chance, they'll steal about anything. The best way to prevent this crime is by investing in high-quality locks and keeping your bikes in a secure location.

Why Is It Easy to Steal Bikes?

Bikes are never usually kept at home during the day. You will find most of them parked in the street or left outside a retail store.

At the end of 2020, the total number of bikes stolen was 96,583 in the US. This is largely attributed to the rise of new bike riders and increased sales. However, not all incidents are reported, and it is difficult to gauge the exact number of stolen bikes in the country. And once the bike gets stolen, it is almost very rare for the owner to retrieve it.

The biggest issue is that people who steal bikes usually get a free pass on the crime. Whether you're storing thousands of bikes in a truck and driving to sell them across the country, or you're trying to make a few bucks on the street, the chances of getting caught in the act are far less. For all reasons, stealing bikes has been deemed a 'risk-free' crime and does not involve any danger. This is partly because most places don't have any incentives to go after bike stealers. According to research, the only cops that help track down bike thieves are those who ride bikes themselves.

However, even when they genuinely care, there isn't much that can be done. There are two main reasons for why. First, it is difficult to identify the suspect due to the lack of evidence and the relationship between the two parties. Second, if the bike is not registered in your name, you cannot do much about getting it back (even if they find the suspect).

Another reason (and probably the most important) it has become so convenient for people to steal bikes is that the locks have not picked up the pace with time and technology. Effective locks are either too expensive or heavy to discourage people from purchasing them.

On the other hand, GPS trackers are a good way to keep track of the bikes, but it's only a matter of minutes until it gets stripped away or dismembered by the offender. The best way to keep your bike safe is to invest in a foldable bike that you can carry with you wherever you go.

What To Do If Your Bike Is Stolen

Once your bike gets stolen, there's no guarantee that you'll get it back, but here are a few steps you can take to try.

Use the Power of Social Media

Get the word out on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform that you use. Make sure you enter all of the bike's details and ask people to share the post as much as they can.

List the Bike

If the bike is already registered under your name, you should get it listed as stolen to prevent further problems.

Talk to the Police

You should file a report at your earliest, even if you think it is a waste of time. Sometimes the stolen bikes are recovered at the police station, and the chances are that you might find yours.

File for Insurance

If you haven't already, get your bike insured! You need to alert the insurance company as soon as possible to get the most compensation.

Put Up Posters

Putting up posters is probably the last resort, but this strategy will widen the search party and reach many people that other steps probably won't. It's worth a shot!

Don't Give Up Cycling

One of the saddest things to note is that people who have had their bikes stolen either ride less or completely give up on cycling. We don't want you to be one of them. Even if your bike is not recovered and all else fails, don't forget that you can always get a new bike. And it doesn't have to be too expensive.

Get a new bike and get better locks. Also, try parking your bike in a safer location. Please don't leave it stranded outside in an ally. Knowing that there is nothing you can do to get your bike back is gut-wrenching and upsetting, but giving up on cycling would mean that you're letting the thief win. You must not let that happen!


Danny Lawson

Danny Lawson

Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.

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