If you just returned back to the spot you locked your bike and found it empty, came home to find your bike missing, or had your windshield broken and bikes removed from your car, it can be the worst feeling ever. And it’s not uncommon: According to Markel Insurance, on average, over 188,500 bicycle thefts are reported stolen each year in the United States. And that’s just reported thefts: Many go unreported! So, let’s talk about the practical steps to take when your bike gets stolen.
First, take a few deep breaths. In the case of a bike missing from where you locked it, scout around a bit—is it possible that you actually locked it somewhere else and forgot? Likely not, but ensure that you didn’t just misremember where you put it. But regardless, try to stay calm. It’s tempting to start shouting, crying or cursing, but unfortunately, while momentarily satisfying, these reactions won’t get your bike back.
Don’t pretend it’s nothing.
Funny enough, plenty of people will just drive away, writing off their stolen bike as gone for good and irreplaceable. But don’t just write it off or forget about it! Even if you don’t have bike insurance coverage (although, what are you waiting for?) there’s a chance that you have some amount of coverage through renter’s or homeowner’s insurance. Or you may actually be able to get your bike back, if it is recovered—many bikes are. So don’t leave the scene of the crime before you properly handle the situation.
It’s 100 percent worth filing a police report, even for an inexpensive bike. For one thing, typically you need this in order to work with insurance companies to replace your bike. And of course, there is always the chance that your bike will be found! Don’t assume police will recover it, though. While it’s good to have the police report for insurance purposes, unfortunately, many bikes are never recovered. But you might get lucky—and some stats suggest that almost half of bikes do get recovered.
Document document document.
Write out exactly what was taken. Take photos of the scene. Check for security cameras pointing towards the area your bike was stolen. Hopefully, the police will also be doing this documentation, but it’s worth doing on your own as well. And in some cases, you may be dealing with the police over the phone or at the station, rather than at the ‘scene of the crime,’ so the more information you can compile, the better.
Alert social media
Especially if you have a large cycling community, it’s worth turning to your social media accounts to share a photo of your bike and any information: It’s amazing how many bikes are spotted by others in the cycling community and eventually recovered!
As soon as you can, look for all the evidence that your bike is, well, your bike. Receipts from buying it, photos of your bike (and even photos of you on your bike) are helpful in establishing both ownership and value—and good photos of your bike might make it easier for police to match your bike to you if it is recovered! It’s also worth looking for receipts from any added components—tires, saddle, et cetera—as they can add value when working with an insurance company.
Contact your insurance companies.
While bike insurance will be your best bet for theft protection and should be the top insurance company that you should be contacting, it’s worth checking with renter’s, homeowner’s, and even automobile insurance if you don’t have bike-specific insurance, just to see if your bike is at all covered. Often, the deductible is far too high to make it worth applying if you’re using renter or homeowner insurance, but it’s worth investigating.
Register your bike.
Yes, you can register a stolen bike, as long as you have the serial number. The National Bike Registry will add your bike to its database for six months for less than a dollar, and may be able to help recover your bike.
Keep your eyes on local buy and sell forums.
Watch your local (and close-to-local) Craigslist ads, Facebook Marketplace, and other spots where bikes may be sold online. If you have local bike shops or pawn shops, consider dropping a flyer with a photo of your bike and pertinent information (like the serial number) so that they can keep an eye out for it.
Use this as a reminder.
If you haven’t already, make sure your other bikes (and your new bike) are taken care of with photo documentation. Serial numbers (usually found on the bottom bracket), receipts, close ups of components… All of these things can be helpful when it comes to getting your bike back in the future, so set yourself up for success now. Check for any local bike insurance registries: Some big cities that deal with high amounts of bike theft have them. And definitely look into investing in two things: a gold-rated Sold Secure bike lock and bike insurance to protect your investment.