The best bike GPS trackers can be the difference between being reunited with your stolen bike, and never seeing it again.
Your bike means a lot to you. It’s a vehicle not just for physical transportation but also for mental wellbeing. The world can be a scary place, especially in 2021, and being able to connect to the here and now through a bike is important. Then one day you look to the last place it was sitting and it’s gone. In a way, your whole world comes crashing down. That’s why investing in a great bike GPS tracker can insure yourself against the stress and financial disruption that follows.
We construct a feeling of security through a false sense of control in an uncontrollable world. Most people know that security is fragile but most people also prefer not to dwell on that. Then, it all comes apart when a prized possession, like a bike, gets taken. That feeling of security we’ve been so careful to construct is gone and in its place is vulnerability, guilt, and probably anger. The emotional toll of a stolen bike is big.
The financial toll is considerable also. Cars have insurance that isn’t too difficult to navigate and will, at least in theory, fairly compensate an owner for a stolen car. The best bike insurance will help negate this concern, but it is not a legal requirement, and even for those with a policy, it can be less clear-cut. Depending on your situation, a stolen bike might mean a loss of a hobby, a loss of a transport method, or even a loss of income. Whatever it means to you, a stolen bike isn’t a small thing.
Coupled with insurance, the best bike locks and doing your due diligence, the best bike GPS trackers provide an additional line of defence in the case of theft, helping you track down the bike, and being reunited with your pride and joy.
Best bike GPS trackers: Our picks
Most of the time bikes aren’t stolen. Whatever solution you find for keeping your bike safe is a device you have to live with the rest of the time when your bike isn’t stolen. The Samsung SmartThings tracker is a cellular-connected GPS device that does more than track locations. Using the Samsung app you can track where the device is as well as create zones for notifications when it enters, or leaves, an area. For those who have a smart home though, you can use it to trigger automations when you come and go from your home. Coming home on your bike and having your door unlock automatically is a true luxury.
When it comes to electronic options for tracking items, Tile is often the only company anyone has ever heard of. Being the market leader comes with benefits. The Tile Sticker is the smallest Tile tracker in the range but, like all of the Tile products, connection relies on a phone. That limit means the battery lasts three years and there’s no monthly charge but it also limits its capabilities.
To overcome the limits of Bluetooth, Tile leverages its market share. If you mark an item lost, it’s not only your phone on the lookout. If any other Tile user comes within Bluetooth range, you’ll get an alert. There’s a lot of feel-good reunion stories out there that revolve around Tile products.
How many times have you gone out for a ride and found your cycling computer is nearly dead? Cycling computers are an item you look at constantly and they give you tons of warnings that they are dying. Now consider something you rarely do much with but you need it to work if something goes wrong. That’s the idea with a GPS tracker and if it’s dead then it’s not going to be very useful. The Invoxia cellular GPS tracker is about the size of a USB thumb drive and it holds a charge anywhere from 2 weeks to 4 months.
One of the best ways to make sure you get your bike back is to grab it before it gets far. The Spytec GPS tracker requires a monthly subscription but can be set up so that it tracks location every five seconds. Combine the pinpoint accuracy and quick updates with a geofence and you might catch someone within a few minutes of a theft. Once it’s gone, the worldwide connectivity and tracking – even when unable to connect to a cell network – should make recovery more likely.
Some people prefer flexibility. If you like the idea of buying hardware then figuring out your own connectivity, the offering from TKStar might be a good choice. Inside the unit is a SIM slot and it’s up to you to find a provider. The upside, of course, is that there are no contracts and tons of flexibility. If you are traveling and need coverage in a different part of the world, all you need is a new SIM card.
One of the biggest challenges with a GPS tracker on any bike is where to put it. It might seem obvious to stuff it into the frame but you need to be able to charge it in some cases. Even if charging isn’t an issue a bike frame will limit signal strength and might even completely block the signal. One solution to the problem is to hide it in plain sight. It’s unbelievable how often bikes spend months in the hands of a thief and even accessories like lights never get touched. You just might find that no one bothers to remove a light and is as good a place as any to hide a tracker.
You came to this article looking for a GPS tracker so that when your bike gets stolen you can track it. Here’s another solution to the same problem. One of the most dangerous places for a bike is at home. This is especially true of some of the most expensive bikes that never find themselves locked on a street.
Garages, or sheds, are easy targets for a bike thief and they are places where owners often have relaxed security. When you get your bike home, even if it has GPS tracking, consider locking to the Hiplok ANKR using the ABUS 770X smart lock with an integrated alarm. Sleep soundly knowing that you won’t come out in the morning to a broken garage door and a missing bike.
Things to do before your bike’s stolen
Ask your insurance the right questions
Most people rely on their home insurance to cover their bike. Compared to dedicated insurance for a bike, it’s often inexpensive and you probably already have it. There are a few details to consider though. Those kinds of insurance policies are not designed for expensive bikes. In fact, unless you ask the right questions of the insurance company you might get incorrect information.
Homeowners’ insurance regularly has maximum coverage for personal property. This writer’s happens to have $109,900. Bikes fall under that coverage and it often applies even if your bike isn’t at home. Call your insurance company and ask them about it and they will confirm this.
If you ask for more details what you will find is that most coverage has a max per item coverage. In some cases, electronics, jewellery, and sports equipment will even have their own special per-item limits. A nice bike, or for that matter a nice laptop, will quickly blow through that max coverage. Most of the time all you have to do is make clear how much your bike costs new then make sure the max per item coverage is enough. Don’t stop there though.
You also want to ask the details about the determination of bike values and what proof you need. The last thing you want to do is get into a haggling war with your insurance company about your bike’s value. Make sure the coverage is for replacement cost, not depreciated cost, and what proof they need of that. You will want to have whatever proof of ownership and cost ready before a bike gets stolen.
Write down the serial number
Ask any police officer what information they need about a stolen bike and they will tell you the serial number. Without the serial number, even if by some miracle your bike gets recovered it might not ever make it back to you. Don’t be slow about it either, once the bike is gone it’s probably impossible to find the serial number. There’s a chance the shop you bought it from has a record, but there are no guarantees. It’s your bike, it’s your responsibility.
You never know who a bike thief is but there’s a good chance they are criminals in other ways too. Your local law enforcement may, or may not, spend resources on investigating bike theft, but even if not due to bike theft, criminals have a way of finding themselves into the hands of law enforcement. They might come in for some other charge and if you’ve got your serial number on record as stolen it will turn up with a quick search. Just having the serial number, and including it on the police report, makes it much more likely you will get it back.
Don’t have expectations
This one goes both ways. For a lot of people, the moment a bike is missing there’s an expectation it’s gone for good. On the other hand, there are other people who expect law enforcement is going to search day and night to get your bike back. Another common misconception is that bikes are instantly broken down into components and resold piece by piece. Or that bike theft is either highly professional or completely random.
What we’ve seen over and over is a complete mix. Sometimes law enforcement will have an entire division and tons of resources committed to bike theft. Other times you will be completely on your own. Sometimes bike theft is highly organized and efficient. A lot of the time it’s completely random and bikes turn up months later in almost the exact condition they were last seen. Even accessories like lights and bags will sometimes be there.
Instead of expectations, do what you can and move on. Move quickly to mobilise any organisation in your area to help. Pictures and serial numbers will help. At the same time know that it might be gone and you’ve got to take steps to move on.