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Germany: How to Protect Your Bicycle from Being Stolen

Every 90 seconds, one bicycle is stolen in Germany. In Berlin alone, one bike disappears every 17 minutes. Got a shiny, elegant bike? It will definitely be stolen unless you protect it properly. This is how.

Berlin, July 6th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — There are more than 73 million bicycles in Germany. Most residents own one. And far too many people know what it feels like to have theirs stolen. Bike theft is like a pandemic, in the sense that it keeps on spreading no matter what you do. Some 300,000 bicycles are stolen every single year. But there are remedies that will protect you. Some will make things a whole lot harder for thieves.

Rusty and Ugly

Velocipedes are great inventions. They get us from A to B, from B to C and back to A. While they do, they give us the daily training we need. On top of it all, they protect the environment. No other invention can do all of these things at once. Because bikes are machines almost everyone needs or wants, they are in high demand and they can be expensive. Sure, e-bikes can cost several thousand Euro, but so can bikes that are propelled by human power only.

When you rent a bike whenever you need one, instead of buying your own, yours can’t really be stolen, because you don’t have one.

One way to protect yourself is to buy a used, rusty, ugly, crappy bicycle for 30 or 40 Euro. When you purchase it at a flea market, it might need some repairs first. This is the kind of bike you need to park around the corner when you meet Jeff Bezos for a coffee, because it is just too embarrassing. On the other hand you will not be ruined when someone steals it. In that case, just purchase the next bike for 40 Euro.

Easy and Expensive

Another way is to rent bikes every time you need one. In Berlin, those rental bikes and e-bikes are all over the place. We trip over them on the sidewalk. Just get a Nextbike app or one from a similar company. Splendid. There are two disadvantages here though: When you use rented bicycles a lot, you will have to ask Jeff for a loan soon. Yes, it is easy, but it costs money. Secondly, you have to set up those rental bikes whenever you use them. By the way: Make sure your leg is stretched when the pedal is at its lowest position. Of course, this applies to any bike, rented or owned.

So, all of the above does not make sense and you have decided to get a new bicycle? O.k., excellent. There are good bikes for 300 to 400 Euro, but the sky is the limit. Do you want a city bike, touring bike, racing bike, transport bike or e-bike? Whatever you do: Pick the right one and the right size. In case you intend to get an expensive one: Where are you going to park it when you are at home? Find a solution first. Leaving a 3,000 Euro bike outdoors in winter or in the rain all the time is not ideal.

Lock and Insurance

We are finally getting to the part which tells us what to do to prevent theft or to minimize the effects it would have on our wallets. Here we go:

> Get a good bike lock. Spend at least 60 or 70 Euro on it. A lock of this kind is pretty safe. In case your bicycle is expensive, get an even better one. Get a second lock if you want to be on the safe side.

> Lock your bicycle properly. Lock it to a lamp post, a stable bike stand, a metal fence or a similar object. Make sure the lock goes through the bike’s frame, the back wheel and the object you are locking it to. In case you have a second lock, use it for the front part of the frame and the front wheel.

Bikes are the best invention ever. Photo: Imanuel Marcus

> Get a bicycle insurance. In Germany, this makes a lot of sense. Enra (website in German only) is just one of many insurances that cover bikes. Once you are insured, you are required to use a good lock and lock your bike properly in order to make sure it is covered. In case it gets stolen, they pay for a new one, even when yours is a couple of years old when it disappears.

> Have your bicycle coded. In some cities, the police offer this kind of service. In others, the German Cyclists Association (ADFC) or the General German Automobile Association (ADAC) code bikes. That way, the owner can be identified and notified when a stolen or lost bike is found.

Tail Light Gadget

You can combine several options. Of course there is no way around the lock. In case you want to spend even more money for even more safety, there is a way: A German company called Velocate (website in German only) offers a GPS tracker hidden in an additional taillight. That way, you will always know where your bike is, unless the thieves read this article and remove the tracker.

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