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Lock up your apps, say police — thieves use ride-tracking sites to target bikes

Privacy settings essential to protect home location

With the mild weather and days finally getting longer, a timely reminder from Humberside Police not to give away the location of your precious bike - or bikes - on ride-tracking apps such as Strava and Map My Ride or via social media.

The Hull Daily Mail's Kevin Shoesmith reports that police and bike shop owners believe thieves are using information from the apps to guide them to valuable bikes.

It's vital that privacy settings on the apps are switched on, warned Sergeant Rob Danby, of the Riverside neighbourhood policing team, which covers Hull city centre.

He said: "Members of the public should take care when using apps such as Strava to ensure they do not inadvertently give away private information and locations.

"Such apps can give criminals a clue to where valuable items may be stored."

Bike shop owners report that customers increasingly suspect ride-tracking apps have guided thieves to their bikes.

Wayne Preston, of Cliff Pratt Cycles said: "People who have had bikes stolen come into the shop and we get into the conversation of what happened.

"In some cases, people have not activated the privacy settings on Strava."

Information posted on social media can provide a clue for thieves, and ride-tracking apps can leave them to bikes, Mr Preston believes.

"I don't have any pictures of my bikes on Facebook, but I know people do," he said.

"People happily put photos of their shining £3,000 bike up for everyone to see."

A Strava search for the owner's name can then reveal where rides start and finish, leading the thief to a valuable bike.

Mr Preston said: "The best advice I can give is if you are going to use apps make sure you switch it off a good distance from your house.

"Personally, I would much rather lose a mile off my Strava record than have my house or garage burgled and my bikes stolen."

You can also protect your home location by setting a privacy zone, which masks a location on your rides, or restricting who can follow you.

Luke Anderson of Freetown Sports also believes thieves are using Strava to find bikes and urged people to use the service's privacy features.

"It is definitely happening," he said. "There is the option to block your start point and people need to use it."

Proper bike security is paramount, Sgt Danby said.

"A lot of people keep bikes in sheds with minimal security," he said. "People need to be wary about where and how they store their bikes.

"We've known people to use a £2 lock to secure a bike worth £4,000. They won't spend £50 on a decent lock."

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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