Post-Olympic popularity of cycling has led thieves to target homes, sheds, and outbuildings

Crime gangs are to blame for the 'explosion' in high-value cycle thefts from homes and gardens, Manchester Police have said.

Police in the area say that the problem is widespread, but centred in areas including south Manchester suburbs such Chorlton, Didsbury and Fallowfield - where more people ride bikes.

Some areas have seen a one-fifth rise, particularly in thefts from garden sheds - with the bikes appearing for sale online hours later.

According to the Manchester Evening News, "Officers believe that gangs will send out members on scouting missions to peer into back gardens and garden sheds - before thieves operating in groups strike.

"They break into often poorly secured sheds before using heavy-duty bolt-cutters to free the bikes.

"Dozens of bikes are then taken to store houses before quickly being sold - often on websites such as Gumtree and Ebay, as well as in second-hand shops up to 20 miles away."

The tactic marks a change from bikes being stolen from outside shops and bars in town centres.

Paul Kinrade, Inspector from GMP's Didsbury Neighbourhood Policing Team, said:”After the success of Team GB in the Summer Olympics, cycling is more popular than ever and criminals are fully aware of this.

“We don’t want to discourage people from getting out on their bikes, but what we do want is to make life harder for thieves by making it harder for them to sell bikes on.

“By purchasing a stolen bike, not only are you fuelling the stolen goods market but handling stolen goods is an offence in itself. If you are approached by somebody in the street offering to sell you a bike or your child comes home with a bargain bike that seems too good to be true, report them to the police and help us put a stop to this kind of crime.”

In the summer, we reported on the theft of a Pinarello Paris bike belonging to Olympic gold medallist Philip Hindes from the home he shares in Manchester with BMX rider Liam Philips, whose car was also taken and later found burnt out and abandoned.

Last year, we brought you crime statistics that showed that greater Manchester was the third worst area for bike theft in the UK, with 5,185 thefts reported in 2010.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.