“Remarkably, 48 percent of stolen bikes are recovered by the police; however, only 5 percent of stolen bikes are returned to their owners.”
– Bob Mionske, Bicycle Law Specialist
As this quote shows, stolen bicycles are rarely returned to their original owners. Why is this? Although I do not have any official statistics, I would speculate that this is largely due to the inability of the original owners to prove their possession.
Even if they do find their stolen bicycle, many cyclists do not have the proper documentation to establish ownership and recover their cycles. In addition, this documentation is also needed to prove a bicycles worth in the event of an insurance claim.
Thankfully, this dangerous lack of credentials can easily be fixed. In less than thirty minutes, you can get the most important information listed below, and the rest can be easily completed with a little more time.
What To Keep
These are the documents that can save the day if your bicycle is stolen.
Original Purchase Receipt
When you purchase a new or used bicycle, keep the receipt. If you have already thrown away your receipt, don’t worry; the other pieces of documentation should be enough.
Any time you get your bike services, save that receipt also. While it may seem like overkill, this paper trail will help you establish the value of your bike for any insurance claims. This step is especially important if you did not save your original purchase receipt.
The owner’s manual can help to prove ownership, but, if you have already disposed of this, don’t worry.
This is very important. First, take several pictures of your entire bike from different angles. Next, photograph any identifying parts, such as serial numbers, scratches, or handlebar grips. If you make any major changes to your bike (i.e. repaint, add accessories, etc.), hold another photo session.
This is by far the most important, and most simple, step to documentation. Every bike has a unique serial number stamped into its frame. Most of the time, this number is located on the underside of the bottom bracket (the place where the pedals connect).
Recording this number should be enough to identify and claim your bike but do not rely too heavily on it because some thieves may file the number off.
In addition to the serial number, some bicycle experts recommend engraving unique identifying marks on your bicycle in addition to the serial number. For instance, some college police departments recommend etching your driver’s license number on your bicycle. That way the police can trace the original owner, you, if they recover the bicycle from the thief. Unfortunately, this number, like the serial number, can also be filed off by a determined thief. If you do engrave a special identifying mark remember to photograph it to aid in identification.
Where To Store
Once you have completed your documentation, store all the information in one or more secure locations. Statistically, your information is safest if it is stored in more than one location, so try to find two different places to keep your documentation.
For instance, you could keep some information, such as the paper documents and a few printed pictures in a fireproof storage box with your other valuable documents, and the digital information, along with photos of the paper documents, on your computer.
By keeping two different records of this important information, you double you chance of success.
While this documentation process may seem like a waste of time today, this documentation could enable you to safely recover your bicycle if it ever is stolen. Invest in your bicycle’s safety!