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Police warning: Thieves using Strava to target expensive bikes in Wales

Dyfed-Powys Police advise cyclists to check their Strava privacy settings + road.cc online security tips

Thieves in Carmarthenshire have been using GPS ride-recording apps like Strava to seek-out and steal expensive bikes, Dyfed-Powys police have indicated.

DC Ciaran Ryan of Llanelli CID said that many of the cyclists whose bikes had recently been stolen had in fact been using social ride-sharing websites and apps like Strava to map their rides.

Following reports last week that bike thefts were on the rise in the area, and the description from Llanelli CID that this behaviour was “not normal”, police have issued a statement advising cyclists to treat online security as seriously as locking their bikes up.

DC Ryan said that apps like Strava could lead thieves straight to the door of owners of expensive bicycles.

"Some GPS data is shared publicly on these sites and is so accurate it pinpoints the exact house where their rides have begun and ended,” DC Ryan said.

"This information, along with the facility to post a description and photos of bicycles owned, give a potential thief all the information they need to steal the bike.”

DC Ryan went on to suggest steps that riders could take to try and obscure the storage location of expensive bikes.

He said: "we are encouraging users of these apps and websites to check their privacy settings to ensure their home address is hidden, and to consider not recording their ride until several streets away from their home address.”

On a related note, DC Ryan also advised prospective buyers of bikes, especially those in the area, to check the authenticity of any seller and ask for receipts of purchase or related documentation if possible to ensure that the bikes on sale are genuine.

Strava’s privacy options allow users to choose to only share the information about their rides with other riders that they are connected to. 

Expensive bikes have always been a target for thieves, and, if you're not careful apps like Strava can help thieves identify where to find them. In the past year we have reported on similar warnings from police in Manchester and Bristol regarding posting ride data online that includes your start and end point if you're riding from home.

Fortunately, Strava makes it very easy for you to protect your privacy, and even has a Privacy Zone option that automatically does a similar job to the tactic of turning your ride-recording app on once you're a few streets away from home that DC Ryan suggested.

If you don’t know whether your rides are being made public, or you want to know how to protect the privacy of your ride routes, here’s a whistle-stop tour of Strava’s privacy controls:

Accessing privacy settings in Strava is easy, especially from the browser version of the app.

Head over to www.strava.com and after logging in to your account click on your profile picture in the top right corner of the page. This will give you access a drop-down menu which houses your My Profile link.

That link will take you through to a profile page featuring the basic information you gave Strava upon sigining up. The Privacy link on the left-hand menu will take you through to the page that will give you control over who can see your ride information.

Here you have two options. If you click ‘Enhanced Privacy Mode’ you’ll open a menu where you can turn on Strava’s recommended privacy settings. These settings will hide your information, including your full name, from anyone - on Strava or not - who you are not connected with.

Alternatively, if you still want to remain accessible to the Strava community, but want to protect your home address, you can create a privacy zone.

Simply pop your postcode into the ‘Create Privacy Zone’ box, and Strava will hide any activity that you make with a 500m-1km radius. Beware that if one of your beloved segments lies within that area, you will be removed from the leaderboard.

Finally, if you're still worried about the safety of your bike because of the information that's available online, here are some of our own pointers for you:

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.

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31 comments

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Kadinkski | 9 years ago
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I don't really get it. Even if a thief can see exactly where I live from strava, all they will know is that somebody lives in a certain house and that they own a bike. They'll be pretty dissapointed when they break in and see that its about 20 years old and pretty much worthless.

I'm no expert but surely there are more effective ways to steal things.

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Vlad Levachyov replied to Kadinkski | 9 years ago
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It's quite simple. There's a field where you can input the bike you were riding. I realised this after I'd been changing the names of rides for about 6 months to reflect the bike I rode that day. All my rides are called "morning ride specialized", "virtuoso", "carlton" or "pompino fixed".

I should perhaps think about changing stopping the practice, or at the very least enabling privacy, but not one of my bikes is worth more than about £400 second hand; hardly worth breaking into a house for?!

I hope...

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ch | 9 years ago
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Another danger to consider (at least in the USA) is that if you have a regular route passing through a desolate area, and a nice bike, someone could lie in wait for you and take the bike at gunpoint.

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Alan Tullett replied to ch | 9 years ago
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ch wrote:

Another danger to consider (at least in the USA) is that if you have a regular route passing through a desolate area, and a nice bike, someone could lie in wait for you and take the bike at gunpoint.

That sounds seriously nasty!

On a lighter note if I fancy a bike from a famous TTer not a million miles south of where I live I know which cafe he goes to a couple of times a week! And I bet he doesn't lock it up.

And out of curiosity how many members of anyone's group ride actually take a D lock with them. A couple, none? And in the winter a lot of bikes are out of eyesight.

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horizontal dropout | 9 years ago
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"One additional thing i'd suggest is to use a postcode that's near your house, and hides your home location, but isn't *actually* your postcode. that way the privacy circle isn't centred on your gaff."

Then your neighbour gets burgled : -P

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mtbtomo | 9 years ago
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That's excellent MrMo

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mtbtomo | 9 years ago
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How can I check what other users can see on my Strava feed?

When I upload a route, it shows the actual start and finish to me despite having privacy zones set. Can other users see this or will they see a cut down version of my route?

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mrmo replied to mtbtomo | 9 years ago
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mtbtomo wrote:

How can I check what other users can see on my Strava feed?

When I upload a route, it shows the actual start and finish to me despite having privacy zones set. Can other users see this or will they see a cut down version of my route?

there are pages on Strava that explain better than I am about to.

Go to an activity, any of your activities.
Scroll down to the map
Top right it says Terrain map, I think that it Is a default???
click on it
Bottom of the menu is a tick box that says privacy zone.
click on it.
Now zoom in where you think the privacy zone is and you will see red circles.
What others see ends at the circle.

hope that helps.

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Pierre | 9 years ago
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Have the police actually got any evidence for this? I'd guess that owners of expensive bikes are more likely to report when they are stolen; coincidentally owners of expensive bikes are more likely to use Strava and other apps. There's nothing saying correlation means causation in this case.

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TheFatAndTheFurious | 6 months ago
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.

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mrmo replied to TheFatAndTheFurious | 9 years ago
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neildmoss wrote:

Garmin Connect doesn't seem to have a privacy zone setting at all (unless anyone knows any better.... ?)

As a result I don't actually start recording my trip until I'm well away from the house.

Under settings you can limit who sees your activities, but it doesn't look like it has a privacy zone as such.

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kitkat replied to mrmo | 9 years ago
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mrmo wrote:
neildmoss wrote:

Garmin Connect doesn't seem to have a privacy zone setting at all (unless anyone knows any better.... ?)

As a result I don't actually start recording my trip until I'm well away from the house.

Under settings you can limit who sees your activities, but it doesn't look like it has a privacy zone as such.

Yes, this is a major issue with Connect. Compromising your users privacy is a PR suicide! I like to make my routes public so people can maybe get inspiration about where to go but having to start/stop when you're away from the house is a pain.

Garmin have introduced segments and the like but still haven't addressed this simple issue

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joe24737 | 9 years ago
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Thanks Hennahairgel, wasn't aware of that.

However, if they're on Strava and you aren't, you won't have a Privacy Zone.

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pmr | 9 years ago
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Great tips good sensible advice.
Lots of facebook groups are public and thats just one area where potential thieves can gleam information

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Alan Tullett | 9 years ago
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Believe me if they want to break into your home they will. There's a lot of stuff worth stealing in my house that's more valuable than my bike but it's just stuff. It can be replaced. And I am aware of the hassle factor as I have had about five bikes stolen, my older daughter two and my wife two and once had a room broken into for a stereo (and I still have the replacement for it about 37 years later). But it's still just stuff. I use my real name, my address is easily found. If they want to steal my three and a half-year old Specialized Secteur they're welcome to it. I might buy a better bike soon and they're welcome to that as well as I'll buy a replacement.

Obviously none of this means I'm in favour of bike thieves or don't feel for the people who lost something valuable to them but after nearly 40 years in Cambridge you get a bit of immunity to it.

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Alan Tullett | 9 years ago
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How about just insuring your bike. That way when it's stolen you get money to replace it. It's just stuff!

And I live in the bike theft capital of England and keep all my bikes indoors as leaving them outside was getting ridiculous!

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andyp replied to Alan Tullett | 9 years ago
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Alan Tullett wrote:

How about just insuring your bike. That way when it's stolen you get money to replace it. It's just stuff!

And I live in the bike theft capital of England and keep all my bikes indoors as leaving them outside was getting ridiculous!

Problem is it's not just replacing a bike, is it. Replacing my bikes is far less of a concern to me than having my home broken into and all the associated hassle/trauma *because* of the bikes.

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DeanF316 | 9 years ago
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Simple answer don't use Strava.

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DeanF316 | 9 years ago
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Simple answer don't use Strava.

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HalfWheeler replied to DeanF316 | 9 years ago
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DeanF316 wrote:

Simple answer don't use Strava.

Or use Strava with privacy settings. It's amazing how many people don't.

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willvousden | 9 years ago
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So when is Strava actually going to fix "enhanced privacy mode" so that my rides can't just be found on KOM boards?

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joe24737 | 9 years ago
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Another consideration may be to request your riding partners don't start their Strava app, or whatever they use, if they start from your house with you. Your privacy zone will hide your location but theirs may not.

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hennahairgel replied to joe24737 | 9 years ago
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joe24737 wrote:

Another consideration may be to request your riding partners don't start their Strava app, or whatever they use, if they start from your house with you. Your privacy zone will hide your location but theirs may not.

I pointed this out to Strava a few months ago (as in friends starting their activities in my circle of privacy), and within a week or so they'd fixed it, so kudos to them for reacting.

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dave atkinson | 9 years ago
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One additional thing i'd suggest is to use a postcode that's near your house, and hides your home location, but isn't *actually* your postcode. that way the privacy circle isn't centred on your gaff.

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mrmo replied to dave atkinson | 9 years ago
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Dave Atkinson wrote:

One additional thing i'd suggest is to use a postcode that's near your house, and hides your home location, but isn't *actually* your postcode. that way the privacy circle isn't centred on your gaff.

What i have done is pick a number of postcodes and create a privacy blob. Just breaks up what is obvious a bit more.

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HalfWheeler replied to mrmo | 9 years ago
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mrmo wrote:
Dave Atkinson wrote:

One additional thing i'd suggest is to use a postcode that's near your house, and hides your home location, but isn't *actually* your postcode. that way the privacy circle isn't centred on your gaff.

What i have done is pick a number of postcodes and create a privacy blob. Just breaks up what is obvious a bit more.

Same here. I've used the three nearest postcodes, blocks out about a square 1/4 mile or so.

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zanf replied to mrmo | 9 years ago
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mrmo wrote:
Dave Atkinson wrote:

One additional thing i'd suggest is to use a postcode that's near your house, and hides your home location, but isn't *actually* your postcode. that way the privacy circle isn't centred on your gaff.

What i have done is pick a number of postcodes and create a privacy blob. Just breaks up what is obvious a bit more.

Instead of postcodes, I picked several large roads near my house, my girlfriends and my work address to create irregular shaped bubbles around them.

For instance (I dont live in Brighton BTW!): //i.imgur.com/7ecGhgE.png)

This creates a zone like this: //i.imgur.com/2C2xza1.png)

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Poptart242 replied to zanf | 9 years ago
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Exactly what I've just gone and done Zanf - if you're looking for somewhere to centre it around, you can also just go into streetview on Google so that you can find out the residential street names around you.

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userabc replied to mrmo | 9 years ago
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mrmo wrote:
Dave Atkinson wrote:

One additional thing i'd suggest is to use a postcode that's near your house, and hides your home location, but isn't *actually* your postcode. that way the privacy circle isn't centred on your gaff.

What i have done is pick a number of postcodes and create a privacy blob. Just breaks up what is obvious a bit more.

I had thought that you could plot the centre of the privacy circle by drawing lines from where rides suddenly finish East, West, North etc of somewhere.
Thanks for the multiple blob idea! Will add a couple of decoys.

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upinthehills replied to dave atkinson | 9 years ago
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Would that not land the problem at some one else's door who maybe didn't have a bike but now gets broken into because its their post code being used and not yours.

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