The Cyclist’s Guide To Bike Registration

Bicycle License Plate

“It is estimated that some between 800,000 and 2 million bicycles . . . . are stolen annually.”

– Bob Mionske, Bicycle Law Specialist

If your bicycle is stolen, you will be much more likely to safely recover it if you have registered your bike. In addition, registering your bike may even help deter thieves in the first place!

Registration Process

In general, registration officials will record information about your bicycle and about you. For your bike, they will note the serial number (which is stamped somewhere on your bicycle’s frame) and possibly a few other distinguishing characteristics. In order to quickly contact you if your bicycle is stolen and found, they will also log your personal information, such as name, address, and phone number.

Historically, registered bicyclists were issued small, metal license plates, but now you will most likely be issued a license sticker that you can apply to your bike.


Registering your bicycle in as many databases as possible is advantageous in three significant ways.

  1. Before it is stolen, the registration sticker will help deter all but the most determined thieves.
  2. After your bike is stolen, your registration record will enable the police to identify your bicycle and trace it to you.
  3. Finally, if you discover your bicycle yourself, such as in a pawn shop or police impound yard, your registration will make it easier for you to prove ownership.


Registration can be done through a number of different agencies. If possible, try to register with more than one service.

Local Police or Fire Department

Depending on where you live, this may be required by law. Even if it is not required, however, this is probably the most important place to submit an application. Once you have registered, don’t simply forget about it. After five years, your original record will expire, and you will have to apply again.

College Police Department

If you are attending college, you may find that your campus police agency offers its own bicycle registration service. In fact, you might even be required to join. Because campus police departments are usually more active in locating stolen bikes than normal police departments, registering with your college police will give you a large advantage if your bicycle is stolen.

Lock Company

When you buy your lock, you will probably be given the opportunity to register, for an extra fee, with the lock company. In addition, this registration is usually combined with a guarantee that will generally cover $250 to $500… enough to pay the deductable on your homeowner’s insurance.

National Bike Registry

By paying the inexpensive fee and getting your bicycle registered in a nationwide database you will increase the chance of your bike being recovered if the thief takes it to a different town… or even a different state. Unlike records at your local police station, registration in a national bike registry can help police agencies anywhere in the country recognize and return your stolen bike.

Don’t wait until it is too late. Register your bicycle today!

Image Credit: Flickr

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