We all have seen the posts—be on the lookout for a stolen mountain bike.  You know it could be you, yet we don’t think too often about how to keep our mountain bikes from being stolen.  Here are a few simple steps to prevent your mountain bike from being stolen:

  1. Lock your bike – Ok it seems cliche, but most bikes aren’t locked.
  2. Lock/secure your bike rack/carrier to your car.
  3. Use a quality bike lock.  I’ve found KRYPTONITE to be excellent.
  4. Pay attention to people and your surroundings.
  5. Never store your bike outside or in an open garage at home.
  6. Choose wisely where you lock up your bike.
  7. Keep photos and all the pertinent information about your bike.
  8. Buy a GPS tracking device for your bike.
  9. If you are using an app or social media, do not let users see your location.
  10. Register your bike with The National Bike Registry.

Lock Your Bike

This seems like a no-brainer, huh?  You would be surprised how many people don’t lock up their bikes.  They are just going to get a quick bite after a ride, they have to stop in a store to pick something up, or take a quick bathroom break on the road.

The easiest way for someone to steal your bike is to just take it off your car, or take it from whatever location you have left it unlocked.  Don’t make it easy for them.  Thieves are smart and know what bikes and components are valuable.  Unfortunately, we cannot trust everyone at the local trail.

Buy a good bike lock system.  Don’t just use one lock; use several.  If you are using a cable, make sure it winds through your wheel (yes, thieves know how to easily remove your wheel), and make sure the cable cannot be easily cut.

 Lock/Secure Your Bike Rack/Carrier to Your Car

Most people feel secure after properly locking their bikes to their cars.  You are safer but not as safe as you could be.  Make sure your bike rack/carrier is also secured to your vehicle.

If a bike thief is intent on stealing your bike, taking the rack is also a possibility.  If your car has a tow hook on the back, thread a cable lock through the frame and rear wheel and lock the ends onto the metal loop under the car.

Lock for Mountain Bike
Lock for Mountain Bike

If you are carrying multiple bikes in a truck bed, you can also use a cable lock to thread through them to secure them all.

Several bike rack manufacturers now offer locks made specifically for their racks.  Do a quick search for your specific bike rack online to see if there is a lock made for it.  It is best to do this when you purchase the rack (or when you are reading this!) because by the time you think you need it, it may be too late.

MTB Tools I Love and Recommend

Bike Hand Repair Stand
Bike Hand Repair Stand
Bike Hand 37 pcs Tool Box
Bike Hand 37 pcs Tool Box
Topeak Smartgauge D2 Air Pressure
Topeak Smartgauge D2 Air Pressure

I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.

  • Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand.  Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential.  I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it.  This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur.  Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
  • A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit.  Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained.  The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider.  Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
  • Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure.  A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not.  Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use.  An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
  • Carry a multitool with you on every ride.  I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool.  I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works.   Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19

Use a Quality Bike Lock

Okay, you know you need a lock for your bike, but it should not be just any lock.  If you have an inexpensive bike that you wouldn’t miss, then you can use just any old lock.  However, if you want to really prevent theft, you need to purchase a quality lock.

The three main types of locks are U-locks, chain locks, and cable locks.  U-locks are just what they sound like—a U shaped metal lock.  A chain lock has a chain and is usually covered with some type of coating (plastic, etc.).  A cable lock is a cable with some type of locking mechanism.

U-Locks—They come in various sizes.  The benefit is that it is difficult to cut them, and they can be too cumbersome for a crowbar, etc. to break.  The key is to decide what you want to fit inside the U-lock, so you know what size to buy.  Remember, you need the wheel locked so thieves cannot remove it and then remove your lock.

Chain Locks—These are probably the best at preventing theft because they are difficult to cut through/break.  The downside is that they are heavy and not flexible, so it is not the easiest to work with.  You also need to make sure there is a very sturdy lock because if the thief can break the lock, it won’t matter how good your chain is.

chain for bike
chain for bike

Cable Locks—These are typically flexible, thin, easier to use, so they are ideal for everyday use.  However, they can be cut, so it is best to use them in combination with another lock(s).  The flexibility allows you to wind them through your bike or multiple bikes.

As with everything else in mountain biking, if you ask ten people what the best lock brand is, you will probably get ten different answers.  Quality matters.  This is not something you want to bargain shop if you want to protect your bike.

Pay Attention to People and Your Surroundings

This is true of any situation involving personal safety and crime.  Pay attention to what is going on around you.  Did that car drive through the parking lot several times and not have a bike rack?  Did that guy in street clothes walk up and check out an expensive bike on a car?

Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they need help on the trails or have questions.  Call the police if you truly suspect someone of casing a bike or trying to steal it.

Also, if you see a really good deal online on an expensive bike, ask questions.  If it is too good to be true, it probably is.

Never Store Your Bike Outside or in an Open Garage at Home

Storing a bike outside on a patio
Storing a bike outside on a patio

I used to store my bike in my garage, but we frequently leave one side open because we are coming and going.  I realized that one of the most expensive things I own was just hanging out there for someone to easily take.

If you have to store your bike(s) in a garage, use a quality lock to keep them locked when you are not riding.  All of the same concepts of locking your bike apply when it is at your house.  Thieves don’t hang out only in bike trail parking lots.

More Ways to Stay Safe On Your MTB

Choose Wisely Where You Lock Up Your Bike

You think that nice tree at the bike trail is the perfect place to lock your bike while you go to dinner with friends or do trail work?  Guess what, that bike thief is clever and has no qualms about cutting down a decent-sized tree.

Think about where you lock up your bike.  If you take it to work, don’t lock it in the same place every day—a thief could learn your patterns and find a way to steal the bike.  Make sure the structure you lock your bike to is secure enough to deter a would-be bike thief.

Keep Photos and All the Pertinent Information About Your Bike

You can do everything right and still fall victim to bike theft.  If that happens, you want to catch the bike thief if possible.  The best way to do this is to be able to prove that you own the bike.

Take detailed pictures of your bike, especially of anything that is unique.  Take pictures of yourself on the bike, so you have proof of ownership.

If you bought your bike new, keep all the receipts, information on service, etc.  If not, make sure you have a record of the serial number, etc. on the bike.  If you have details, it is easier for people to find your bike on a second-hand sales site.

Buy a GPS Tracking Device for Your Bike

This may seem extreme, but, hey, if you have a $6,000 bike, you want to protect it!  Buying a GPS device for your bike is an option to help retrieve your bike if it is stolen.

The device works by tracking the location of your bike and sending back signals/info to your cell phone.  Most are not easily detectable, so the thief won’t know he is being tracked.  Obviously, you must exercise caution and call authorities if your bike is stolen and you know its whereabouts.

A year ago SHERLOCK came out with bike specific GPS tracking.  It was a runaway hit during it’s crowdfunding campaign – Read more about it at Sherlock – The Ultimate Anti-Theft Tracker. ((Link to website)

If You are Using an App or Social Media, Do Not Let Users See Your Location

I know, I know…..we all LOVE Strava, but Strava and other social media sites and apps alert people (even strangers) to our location.  That is not ideal when we are dealing with someone who would like to take our bikes.

An article in Sky News (https://news.sky.com/story/cyclists-warned-to-beware-sharing-data-on-ride-tracking-apps-11273754) alerted bikers to a significant problem—it lead to bike thefts.  According to Lorna Shaddick, bikers are helping thieves by telling them where they were and what type of bikes they have.

Thieves can see when you start and end a ride and where you are.  This helps them know your movements and where your bike is.  You need to look at any mapping app and look at your privacy settings to make sure they are public.  Do some research about the app and its privacy features before you use it.  It could help protect you and your bike.

Register Your Bike with The National Bike Registry

I certainly hope you never need the services of The National Bike Registry, but if your bike is stolen, this is another great way to prove ownership and improve your chances of getting your bike back.

From the NBR site:  “Many stolen bikes are recovered by police but there is no way to identify the owner. With the NBR/529 Garage service, you can register your bicycle by serial number in our national database and apply the special label you receive to your bike. If your bike is ever stolen, it can be identified and you can prove ownership. Law Enforcement anywhere can access our database, advise us that your bike has been recovered, and you can be notified immediately.”

Go to http://www.nationalbikeregistry.com/ for more information.


David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or making YouTube videos at 👉 DIY Mountain Bike Read more about David HERE.