What's Britain's most stolen bike? The answer will surprise you

Not carbon bling, but mid-range flat-bar commuter bikes turn out to be thief magnets

by John Stevenson   May 16, 2014  

The Specialized Sirrus — the UK's most-stolen bike

How likely is your bike to get stolen? Put it like this: if you commute on a midrange Specialized or Trek, you might want to invest in the biggest, beefiest, most bad-ass lock you can get your hands on.

At the end of April, the Metropolitan Police warned that bike thieves were targeting less distinctive mid-range bikes, rather than helping themselves to high-end blingocipedes.

The explanation, according to Inspector Dave Dixon from the Met’s Cycle Task Force, is that they’re easier to sell and harder for the owners to trace.

“If they nick a customised bike it is very hard to sell,” he said. “It’s like bike porn to cyclists and if they see one they’re all around it, and also cyclists are very active on social media so it’s likely to be spotted.

“A bike like a Specialized Allez – there are hundreds of them and thieves know they can shift them quite easily.”

Fortunately, though, bike thefts have gone down in the capital, and the news that a massive Met operation has arrested 45 people for bike theft on Wednesday should mean it continues to decline.

But we wanted to know just which brands and models of bike were the most popular with light-fingered lowlifes. The Met didn’t have detailed figures to hand and suggested we submit a Freedom of Information request, but we’d rather they were out catching bike thieves than digging through databases.

The folks at bike registration service BikeRegister.com were more easily able to help out, though.

Spokesperson Angela Singleton sent us these two tables.

Bikes stolen in 12 months to April 30 2014, by brand

    UK London
       
1 Specialized 28.2% 27.6%
2 Trek 17.0% 17.3%
3 Giant 14.4% 11.5%
4 Carrera 8.8% 8.4%
5 Ridgeback 8.0% 8.4%

Bikes stolen in 12 months to April 30 2014,​ by model

Position     UK London (position)
  Manufacturer Model    
2 Specialized Sirrus 14.3% 15.9% (2)
3 Specialized Langster 12.2% 15.9% (1)
4 Specialized Allez 11.2% 10.1% (3)
5 Trek 7.3 9.2% 10.1% (4)
6 Trek 7.2 8.2% 10.1% (5)

As you can see, Specialized, Trek and Giant make up almost 60 percent of bikes stolen in the UK. They’re also the dominant brands of bike shop bikes in the UK, but they don’t dominate the sales figures quite as much as they dominate the theft data. This supports Dixon’s belief that thieves are going after less-distinctive bikes.

The top five models being stolen in London are all from Specialized and Trek, and, with an exception we’ll explain in a moment, that’s true for the UK too.

At number one with a bullet, the Specialized Sirrus is exactly the sort of bike Dixon was talking about: a mid-priced commuter model. Specialized takes the next two spots too, with the singlespeed Langster and the Allez road bike.

Two of Trek’s flat-bar bikes round out the top five, the 7.3 and 7.2. They’re classic examples of Dixon bikes: common, practical and easily fenced.

Three of the top five have flat bars, which points up an oft-forgotten fact that the majority of mid-priced bikes sold in the UK are not enthusiast-type race bikes with drop bars, but bikes like this that make people feel confident and comfortable. Hybrids might not be sexy, but the category is the Ford Focus of bikes: popular and practical.

You’re probably wondering why the make-and-model listing for the UK starts at number two. In fact the number one bike stolen on BikeRegister’s database was the Giant Revel mountain bike, but Singleton told us: “This is distorted by the fact that we worked with the police to identify a criminal who specialised in this make and model.”

Code of practice for secondhand buyers & sellers

Speaking of BikeRegister, the service has just launched its Code of Practice for the Purchase and Sale of Secondhand bikes.

The code recommends checking a bike you’re thinking of buying against BikeRegister’s BikeChecker facility to make sure it’s not stolen.

The code of practice has been developed in conjunction with the Met’s Cycle Task Force and other police forces, who are looking at ways to expand Project Cycle Ops, which has helped drive down bike theft in the capital. The officer behind that initiative, Chief Superintendent Sultan Taylor, said: “We want retailers and buyers of secondhand bikes to be assured that they have taken part in a legitimate sale and that the bikes are not stolen.

“I urge all second hand cycle retailers to ensure that they check bikes with BikeRegister before purchase to verify legitimacy of sales. Should they discover that the bikes are stolen they should report it immediately to police.”

For more information about the Code of practice, drop BikeRegister a line at support@bikeregister.com.

23 user comments

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Get a dutch bike, thieves don't even touch them as they are deemed uncool!! Wave

posted by velorucion [1 posts]
16th May 2014 - 16:50

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soooooo according to this, i should buy the most expensive, lightest and fastest bike possible!! any excuse Big Grin

posted by ryanwitch [1 posts]
16th May 2014 - 17:03

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get your bikes marked .... Smile

So much harder to sell them on...

posted by Paul_C [176 posts]
16th May 2014 - 17:06

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It's good to know thieves are quite likely to remove those Allez from all those idiots crawling out of Clapham each morning with zero spacial awareness and a pair of Hockey socks.

Sadly they're just sold onto the next chinless wonder around the corner.

posted by georgee [137 posts]
16th May 2014 - 17:14

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It stands a good chance that these figures also show that expensive carbon road bikes aren't left parked on the street (I know mine isn't), but mid range commuter bikes are.

@rich22222

posted by rich22222 [109 posts]
16th May 2014 - 17:40

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Paul_C wrote:
get your bikes marked .... Smile

So much harder to sell them on...

Got any evidence for that? There's scant evidence that marking your bike does anything at all, and when this was raised in a recent Bikeradar article, Bikeregister threatened legal action and generally behaved like petulant dicks.

http://www.stolenbristolbikes.com/2014/04/why-i-wont-be-working-with-bik...

Writing down the serial number would be a good start, it's more than most people seem to do.

And doing something - anything - to make it distinctive.

And posting details of it somewhere online. The police in Bristol are currently searching in vain for the owner of a £4k mountain bike - Fox forks, XTR, etc - that was confiscated in suspicious circumstances, but there's no trace of it online.

posted by Mr Agreeable [139 posts]
16th May 2014 - 17:40

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rich22222 wrote:
It stands a good chance that these figures also show that expensive carbon road bikes aren't left parked on the street (I know mine isn't), but mid range commuter bikes are.

Bingo. I'm sure these bikes are targeted because they're easy to sell, but they're probably treated in a way that makes them easy to steal in the first place.

As for me, I have a custom painted Pegoretti that gets chained to a minotaur in a maze within my garage, which should make it fairly safe.

posted by Gordy748 [84 posts]
16th May 2014 - 20:47

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rich22222 wrote:
It stands a good chance that these figures also show that expensive carbon road bikes aren't left parked on the street (I know mine isn't), but mid range commuter bikes are.

100% correct. Expensive bikes are just a lot less likely to be in a nick-able position. Most bike thefts are opportunist.

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [1091 posts]
16th May 2014 - 20:58

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Unless you keep your £6k TT bike with Zipp wheels in your shed in S. London.

Airzound

posted by Airzound [283 posts]
16th May 2014 - 21:10

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... and maybe high end bikes are not sold as bikes anyway, but stripped down and the components sold separately?

???

didds

posted by didds [41 posts]
16th May 2014 - 22:04

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In south london they don't call them sheds, they call them houses. Still worth £1,000,000 each though.

posted by musicalmarc [51 posts]
16th May 2014 - 22:46

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There are simply too many variables to judge the relative risk of theft based on theft data.

One might argue that sales data doesn't translate in to a risk profile because how a bicycle is used, and how, when and for how long it's locked up count more.

For example, without knowing anything else, we might assume that bicycle models preferred by commuters are more likely to be stolen than serious road or high end mtn bikes, because commuters are the ones who lock bikes up all day, while serious bike owners don't.

The only way to gauge thief preferences, is to census the available inventory (bikes locked in public) and compare to the census of stolen bikes.

So what we have here is data without meaning, and folks should be wary of making decisions based on it.

Francis
www.chain-L.com

posted by FBinNY [4 posts]
16th May 2014 - 22:54

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Well done FB. You just killed the article. I jest, but you are right. There's so much missing from this that it's meaningless. Why not straw poll a bunch of bike thieves? Which do you prefer to steal a) carbon b) aluminium c) bamboo?
Much of thieving is about opportunism, so the longer a bike is locked up outside the more likely it is too be stolen......but this theory isn't even tested. Nor is 'cyclists who ride a piece of s€$t are less likely to take the right precautions to avoid bike theft'.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1120 posts]
16th May 2014 - 23:10

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It also tells you a bit about the buying demographic.

For example, if the bike most commonly stolen is the bike most commonly sold, that's no surprise. But if the numbers indicate that it is more commonly stolen than sales saturation would indicate, it also indicates that people who buy those bikes care less about their bike.

Does this mean that those cheap bikes are used as commuters and runabouts and placed more often in vulnerable locations or perhaps that owners are less serious about protecting them from loss?

I do find it amusing that the two top retailers in UK only sell a weak assortment of Kryptonite locks. I had to buy mine from the US because CRC and Wiggle don't carry the high end models.

A NY Noose and a Fahgettaboudit with disc-type tumblers are highly effective deterrents. Not sold by Wiggle and CRC.

posted by eschelar [35 posts]
17th May 2014 - 6:23

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Gordy748 wrote:
rich22222 wrote:
It stands a good chance that these figures also show that expensive carbon road bikes aren't left parked on the street (I know mine isn't), but mid range commuter bikes are.

Bingo. I'm sure these bikes are targeted because they're easy to sell, but they're probably treated in a way that makes them easy to steal in the first place.

As for me, I have a custom painted Pegoretti that gets chained to a minotaur in a maze within my garage, which should make it fairly safe.

Indeed - at work whatever bike I commute with is chained with 3 level 10 locks in the car park under the building out of sight, past the security guards. At home, inside the house, locked again.

That should do it

Extra bike? What extra bike dear?

goggy's picture

posted by goggy [92 posts]
17th May 2014 - 7:27

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Ok! Just to throw a rock in the mill pond how about these suggestions. Devil

1) Chipping and marking don't work as it relies too much on people, including the police, being bothered to check or scan to see if a bike has been stolen.

2) Don't leave your bike anywhere that you do not control the environment. Even the best locks only offer limited protection.

3) Any employer who has five or more employees who cycle to work must provide a secure cycle parking facility. The number of cycling spaces provided to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that provision matches demand.

4) On the basis that the best (i.e. most pleasant) public toilets to use are those that have an attendant, how about extending this idea to cycling. Here is how it would work. The facility would be open from 0700 - 2000. For a small fixed fee (say £1 or £2 for half a day, £5 for a full day) an attendant would take your steed and in return would give you a token. When you return you would surrender the token and get your steed back. Similar schemes do exist elsewhere in the world, some of them are free!*

Discuss. Big Grin

*Just had an additional thought. How about using some of those closed up shops on the high street. You know the ones put out of business by parking restrictions, out of town development and the big supermarkets. If the store is large enough and maybe has a back yard they could offer additional services such as a simple clean & lube. Now I really am sprinting for the bunker and putting on my tin hat!

posted by levermonkey [362 posts]
17th May 2014 - 11:27

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Any employer who has five or more employees who cycle to work must provide a secure cycle parking facility. The number of cycling spaces provided to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that provision matches demand.

"On the basis that the best (i.e. most pleasant) public toilets to use are those that have an attendant, how about extending this idea to cycling. Here is how it would work. The facility would be open from 0700 - 2000. For a small fixed fee (say £1 or £2 for half a day, £5 for a full day) an attendant would take your steed and in return would give you a token. When you return you would surrender the token and get your steed back. Similar schemes do exist elsewhere in the world, some of them are free!*

How about using some of those closed up shops on the high street. You know the ones put out of business by parking restrictions, out of town development and the big supermarkets. If the store is large enough and maybe has a back yard they could offer additional services such as a simple clean & lube.

Two really great ideas...
Particularly like the 'service' aspect...
Perhaps some of the bigger bike stores could sponsor storage units?

Day Dreaming

posted by Sadoldsamurai [11 posts]
17th May 2014 - 13:13

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£5 a day is £1200 a year based on 48 weeks. I don't think anyone would be prepared to pay that to park a bike.

posted by Jerm [39 posts]
17th May 2014 - 13:34

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levermonkey wrote:

3) Any employer who has five or more employees who cycle to work must provide a secure cycle parking facility. The number of cycling spaces provided to be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that provision matches demand.

4) On the basis that the best (i.e. most pleasant) public toilets to use are those that have an attendant, how about extending this idea to cycling. Here is how it would work. The facility would be open from 0700 - 2000. For a small fixed fee (say £1 or £2 for half a day, £5 for a full day) an attendant would take your steed and in return would give you a token. When you return you would surrender the token and get your steed back. Similar schemes do exist elsewhere in the world, some of them are free!*

Discuss. Big Grin

3) Forcing small businesses to do this just wouldn't work for all kinds of reasons - better would be to provide an incentive, e.g. matched funding + tax break, to do so.

4) For £5 a day I'd want bike storage, servicing and a soapy handjob*

*I like my bike to be clean.

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posted by Ghedebrav [1091 posts]
17th May 2014 - 14:00

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Correct me if I am wrong but these statistics prove that Specialized owners are a lot less carring where they leave their bike ? ?

It also surely means that Giant bike owners continue to love their bike and care for it making sure it is less likely to be stolen. Nerd

Obviously it has nothing to do with the relative cost of different makes and the popularity in sales in the first place. Wave

Are there any statistics on the colour of the Specialized bike bening stolen ? I am willing to bet that the majority of Specilzed bikes being stolen are red Thinking Applause

Rupert's picture

posted by Rupert [83 posts]
17th May 2014 - 16:44

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1) £5 is merely a suggestion. But lets put it in perspective shall we. Do you put a fiver in your wallet or in your pocket with your loose change?

How much is a pint of beer?
How much do you spend on a coffee and a sandwich for your lunch?
How much does it cost to park a car for a full day in say Central London, Manchester or Birmingham?
How much is peace of mind worth?

And don't forget it has to be worth someone's while to provide this service and I'm suggesting we use empty shops on the high street. Do you really think that any council in this country is going to give out any rate rebates or incentives. They're the ones who killed the high street in the first place.

2) Secure cycle parking at a workplace doesn't have to cost the earth. We are not talking triple depth electric fences, razor-wire, attack dogs and machine gun towers here. Think about how many of your colleagues cycle in to work. What is it 1 in 5, 1 in 10, 1 in 20? For a company to have 5 cyclists then it is going to be either connected to cycling/sport/fitness or it is not a small company.
My company has a ratio of about 1 in 50 and if you take dedicated cyclists 1 in 200 at best.

A cycle stand in clear sight, cycle lockers, a fenced off area of a car park, even an unused room with a lock on the door. You could even use an old shipping container. All these could be described as secure.

I would hope that if an employer was prepared to provide something then the cyclists on their payroll would met them half way. For example if an employer lets the cyclists have an unused room then the cyclists could kit it out with wall brackets and shelving even if they only put it up and then maintained the room.

If it is made compulsory then any provision can be claimed as a business expense.

Stop thinking small! Dare to think big!

posted by levermonkey [362 posts]
17th May 2014 - 22:31

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Cambridge already has a bike hub that has the characteristics you descibe.

It is under John Lewis, which built it as a condition of being allowed to open in central Cambridge.

But such things are only going to work for people who want to be near the hub. One of the great things about bikes it that you can use them to get from place to place, rather than leaving them locked up all day.

Local autorities need to provide adequate numbers of bike stands of the right type, and we need to lock our bikes properly.

All of which has nothing to do with the statistic-abusing article.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [160 posts]
19th May 2014 - 11:15

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Solutions can be found or invented:
http://gizmodo.com/five-robotic-bike-parking-systems-that-solve-an-urban...

Political will to implement (or invest in) solutions may be more elusive.

Carbon fiber is a great material: It's laterally stiff, vertically compliant, and expensive in every direction.
— Bike Snob NYC

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posted by Old CA Guy [12 posts]
20th May 2014 - 19:07

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