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Help! Why does my bike keep getting stolen?

Photo by: Stougard

Two-wheeled transportion is very popular indeed in China. However, bicycles (and electric bikes/scooters) are as beloved by thieves as they are by their rightful owners. Pretty much everyone in China has had a bike stolen at some point (sometimes many times over), so how can you minimize the chances of becoming a victim yourself? Here are a few tips we’ve learned – through painful experience.

  • Security starts with your purchase. If you can’t keep your bike inside your home, or at least off the street, consider your choice carefully. Be careful about choosing a flashy, brightly-colored bike – this will be a magnet for thieves. 
  • For a small fee (usually no more than a few mao), you can lock your bicycle at assigned places where it will be looked after by attendants in the daytime.
  • Don’t park your bike or e-bike with rickety older models. A shiny new bike will quickly be identified as a prime target.
  • Don’t leave your bike outside at night if you can avoid it. If you must, avoid leaving it in places which are isolated and where there is no security.
  • Be careful about the ends of bike racks. If you park your bike on the end of one of these racks, a thief could disassemble the end of the bike rack with a wrench, and slide your bike off it. By the same token, also check to make sure that the part of the rack you’re locking to is solid and not broken at the top or bottom.
  • A U-lock is always better than a cable lock, as they are too easy to open. The cheapest U-lock is better than the best chain. 
  • If possible, wind the lock through the frame and a wheel (both if possible) and around a fixed object (eg a fence). This provides added security. We have heard on more than one occasion of people driving around with vans and snatching free-standing bikes, then taking them away so they can cut off the locks at their leisure. 
  • Always use your lock. It doesn’t matter if you’re leaving your bike for one minute or one hour – many people have had bikes stolen while left unattended for the briefest of moments. 
  • Buy a wireless bike alarm. This can help you to find your bike in a bike park. It works exactly the same way as a car alarm.
  • Paint over expensive brand names or scratch them off. Simply adding stickers won’t fool a thief into thinking your bike is old or low quality (although it may make it easier to identify if it’s stolen).
  • Note that a cheap, poorly-locked bike is often a bigger target than an expensive bike with a sturdy lock on it.
  • Don’t forget that you can also use free public bikes in many larger Chinese cities. Get a public traffic card and swipe the card on the rack and you can cycle for free. Remember to put it back in the rack in the designated places – don’t become an accidental thief yourself!

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