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

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.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.