Manchester police say bike thieves researching targets through club websites

Plus our online cycle security tips to make sure you don't give too much away on the web

by Simon_MacMichael   January 8, 2013  

Ollie the tea-leaf

Greater Manchester Police have warned cyclists that thieves are going online to scan forums and social media sites such as Facebook to work out where cyclists live and target expensive bikes they can then steal.

According to the Stockport Express, during the past three weeks, there have been 15 reported instances of bikes being stolen from garages and garden sheds in Brinnington, the Heatons and Reddish, with three of the victims belonging to the same mountain bike club.

Inspector Pete Smith commented: "Three members of the same club falling victim at the same time is too much of a coincidence and makes us wonder if thieves are getting details from websites or chat rooms.

"A combination of posting photos, putting on personal details and descriptions of routes cycled mean thieves can work out addresses where there is likely to be a bike of decent quality.

"We are advising people to be careful about what details they give out on club sites, forums and on Facebook."

Police believe that the thieves are getting around by using a van into which they load the stolen bikes, and have advised cyclists to have their bikes security marked and to note down details such as frame numbers.

Inspector Smith added: "The other thing we would recommend is to take bike racks off your car when not being used. Thieves will know that if there is one on a car roof then the owner will probably have a reasonable bike."

Anyone who has information regarding these thefts is asked to call police on 101 or the charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

road.cc’s online security tips

We’re all for online communities here at road.cc – after all, we are one and the interaction between our own users is one of the things that makes the site what it is – but as the story above shows, there may be people watching who have intentions that go beyond taking exception with your opinion of helmets or Rapha and who’ll give you more than the odd flame to worry about. Here’s some pointers to keeping safe online, with an emphasis on bike security.

If you mainly post online under a pseudonym and never mention your real name in connection with that, you’re already a step ahead. If not, there are a few things you can do to make yourself more secure, both when it comes to your bike and generally.

  • Since Facebook accounts tend to be under users’ real names, it’s not difficult for thieves to link that and other information to publicly available address information, so you may want to review your privacy settings to have control over who can see your profile (yes, we know Facebook keeps changing them, but try and keep on top).
  • Be very careful about posting images online. We all like to post pictures of our new toys online, but a bit of common sense is needed. A photo of your brand new bike with your house clearly identifiable behind it could attract unwanted attention. You may wish to disable GPS information used by some photo sharing sites.
  • The same goes for information you share on sites that track your rides and make the information public. Strava has a feature that enables you to hide the start and finish point of your ride, particularly useful if that happens to be your home. Use it.
  • Don’t go into detail online about the specific type of security you have, whether in relation to your bike or your home generally; you’re giving the thieves a chance to prepare by making sure they have the right tools for the job. Likewise talking online about going away for a while, on holiday perhaps, can flag up an unoccupied house to the thieves .
  • Even if you don’t post on social media under your real name, be wary about how much information you make public. The less you reveal, the less others know about who you are and where you live. Keep it vague – town or district, fine, the street you live on, think twice.
  • It's not just Facebook and Twitter, either that you need to be careful about - as the story above shows, even club websites can be trawled by the crooks for information. Site admins may want to consider a private area of the site where members can chat.
  • This isn’t specifically online-related, but we know that cyclists are sometimes followed home, the thieves returning later once they know where you live. If, close to your house, there’s somewhere you can go on your bike that someone watching you in a car can’t, go there. Try and vary your route if you can. Or ride a little way past your house then loop back.

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

It takes me so long to cross the road outside my house that any car driver trying to follow me home would die in a road rage attack from someone in the traffic jam they'd cause!

More seriously, does this mean road.cc will stop offering incentives/competitions to use Facebook? I've not taken part precisely because I don't want Facebookers being able to see all about my home and bikes!

posted by a.jumper [709 posts]
8th January 2013 - 22:25

14 Likes

3 riders from the same club? Id wonder if it was another club member before blaming social media

posted by fiftyacorn [91 posts]
9th January 2013 - 9:12

11 Likes

Strava users can mask an area around their home (or any postcode they specify).
Here's a video showing how to do it :
http://www.scarletfire.co.uk/2012/05/lock-your-gps-data-against-bicycle-...

deadhead1971's picture

posted by deadhead1971 [26 posts]
9th January 2013 - 10:01

15 Likes

If there wasnt a market for stolen bikes, then the incentive to steal wouldnt be as large. perhaps a central register for bikes where you can check details before buying would be a good move...all new bikes above say £300 registered on there automatically ?

not enough people can honestly say they would refuse a too good to be true deal when buiong a used bike

I am aware that sometimes the parts can be worth more than the whole, and if the bike is stripped down, its unlikely to ever be traceable

Hidden GPS trackers are the way forward, then open teh doors of all these social networking sites to make it easier to catch the little scallys

posted by scrapper [61 posts]
9th January 2013 - 10:14

11 Likes

Chorlton in South Manchester is a hotspot for this at the moment. One lad had his 6ft wall scaled (gate was locked), entire shed door removed(because it was locked), and 3 bikes taken after removing the individual bike locks. That's power tools, bolt cutters, a van (or up to 3 people), and 'casing the joint' to know which house to do. I spoke to him and he doesn't use Strava or Garmin etc, there's not enough activity on the club website or forum to give anything away there, and he's only been a member since about June/July.

Can only assume someone has followed him home or one of his neighbours has some dodgy mates.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3242 posts]
9th January 2013 - 10:15

9 Likes

I happened across someone's ride on Strava where the route ended in the shed in their back yard. Whoops!

pedalpowerDC's picture

posted by pedalpowerDC [231 posts]
9th January 2013 - 16:00

9 Likes

I use Strava, and commute to work on my bike regularly, so my privacy is set high as to where I live.
As for where I work, I work in a Police Station, so to any thieves thinking of nicking it when I'm working, good luck trying!

posted by Mikeh2000 [11 posts]
9th January 2013 - 21:23

10 Likes

Bikes stolen from club same club members... years ago (early 90's) had this in a club and it turned out to be someone in the club....

posted by rootes [39 posts]
9th January 2013 - 21:33

7 Likes

Yes, Strava has a privacy setting, but if you export the ride data, the full route is available including the entire privacy zone.
Don't start your GPS until you're away from your house.

posted by nivagh [53 posts]
9th January 2013 - 22:37

10 Likes

Until I see confessions from bike thieves that say that this is how we chose a particular bike I'm still going to treat these Police warnings of the internet bogeyman with a grain of salt. Three high end bikes stolen and all members of one club? Perhaps *all* high end MTB owners in the area are members of that given club. Correlation is not causation.

ajft's picture

posted by ajft [7 posts]
9th January 2013 - 23:15

11 Likes