Bytes and wheels: High-tech ways to protect your bike from theft

Bike theft is a widespread problem, but thanks to technology, there are new options to prevent it  or at least to help recover the bike if it’s stolen. 

Digital locks are one solution. These are classic chain, bracket or folding locks that don’t need a key. “They can be opened and closed via the smartphone and an installed app,” says David Eisenberger from ZIV, Germany’s cycling industry association.

These locks usually work using either Bluetooth or NFC (near-field communication), which work wirelessly over short distances. They need battery power to operate.

Another option to prevent theft is an alarm system similar to the ones found in cars. If the bike is moved, an alarm will sound.

“The disadvantage, however, is frequent false alarms,” says Stephan Behrendt from German cycling club ADFC. As well as being annoying, they also drain the battery.

The second category of bike protection uses GPS tracking if the bike gets stolen. “In terms of recovery, GPS tracers can help,” says Felix Lindhorst from BIV, the German federation of bicycle mechanics.

These trackers are attached to the bike and transmit its location to the owner via smartphone.

Manufacturers often combine the different technologies. “Many systems are based on a combination of digital lock, alarm system and GPS tracker,” says Eisenberger.

A German start-up is offering a novel app. “Our anti-theft device, Insect, is screwed to the bottle holder and then communicates via Bluetooth with the Bike Hunter app,” says Markus Fischer.

First you install the app on your smartphone and register with the community. The app automatically detects if the bike is moved by someone other than the owner and sends a message to the owner and everyone in the registered cyclist community in a 100m radius.

This means third parties can intervene to stop the theft or at least act as witnesses. — dpa