Random thoughts of a Maidenhead man

What to do when your bike has been stolen

Posted in Cycling on Tuesday 8 March 2022

My son had his bike stolen but we got it back 24 hours later thanks to the kindness of strangers. Here is what we did to give us the best chance of having the bike returned. Although we were very lucky to get it back, we would not have got it back at all without doing these things.

First off - BEFORE it gets stolen

There are some things you need to do before your bike gets stolen.

Get the serial number

First make a note of its serial number. You will normally find this stamped under the bottom bracket. It is a series of numbers and letters that uniquely identify your bike.

Bike serial number

Take a decent photo

Secondly take a good close-up shot of your bike showing the whole frame and wheels; this will enable people to identify your bike. And keep taking photos as the bike ages and has accessories added and removed.

Mountain bike

Have you done those two things? Go and do them now!

Optional - get an RFID tag

An RFID tag will emit a unique number when checked with a wand. The idea is that police and reputable second hand dealers will check for an RFID tag, look up the number and find the item's owner. You can get RFID tags which you can stuff down the seat tube of the frame and are almost impossible to remove. Google "rfid bike tag" to find them. They give you another chance of recovering your stolen bike.

Optional - get an Apple airtag

A similar but more sophisticated idea. An Apple airtag can be hidden discretely within the bike - perhaps under an inner tube on a wheel. The small device interacts with nearby iPhones via Bluetooth and its position can then be seen on the Find My app. A great way of tracking down a lost bike.

My bike has been stolen - what should I do?

Report it to the police

Although the chances of getting your bike returned are low, reporting the loss enables the police to return your bike to you if they find it. Reporting also updates the crime figures and makes them more accurate. In my region Thames Valley Police have an online reporting system that is very detailed but easy to use. The police will respond with a crime reference number, useful for any insurance claim.

Add your bicycle to bike register websites

This is the crucial step that meant we got the bike back quickly. I used both and Registration and adding bike details on both are straightforward and free. Once your listing is live it is searchable. This is what our bike looked like on both these websites.

Above: Below:

On each page there is an option to contact the owner of the bike. Our bike was found abandoned on a nearby property and taken in for safe keeping. The kind-hearted people then contacted the police but also used these websites to look for anyone reporting the loss of a similar looking bike. They saw my bike. So as the owner of the bike I got a message sent from the finder using the website. I responded to the message (admittedly with an initial concern that I could be walking into some sort of scam) but it soon became clear they really had found our bike and were genuine.

I arranged to collect the following day and offered a reward for the time and effort they went to in reuniting a stranger with their bike. They have given the money to charity.

Use social media

If you use social media create posts on each about your stolen bike and remember to use the the recent picture you took earlier (see above!) Say when and where it got stolen and describe the bike. Here's my post on Twitter. Also post to relevant local groups or cycling groups you belong to. And if you use fitness apps like Strava you can post on there too, where cyclists in your network will see the details.

Monitor second hand sales websites

Watch for your stolen bike being sold. Websites like eBay and and Gumtree are sometimes used to sell stolen bikes. You can set up saved searches which email you results every day.

Check your insurance cover

Check your home contents insurance or any special insurance you took out on the bike.


Massive thanks again to the two people who took the time and trouble to help get our bike back!

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