Anti theft bike painting: clever idea or a waste of time?

How do bicycle thieves choose their prey? You'd think they'd go for looks. Then all you have to do is give your bike an unprofessional, colorful and demolished look and everything is safe. Good trick, right? We get to the bottom of this anti-theft method.

The most important facts about painting as theft protection:

  • There are various strategies for deterring thieves by painting bicycles: Some bike owners want to make resale more difficult by customizing them, others want to make the make and model unrecognizable. A third tactic is to make bicycles unsightly.
  • For painting, you only need a few tools apart from the paint in the colors of your choice. However, only carry out the work in a suitable room.
  • In our experience, you cannot rely on the visual appearance of bicycles as protection against theft. Experienced thieves are not deterred by this. Furthermore, defacing a bike can lead to damage.
  • Instead, we recommend a combination of the PowUnity GPS tracker BikeTrax, several high-quality bike locks and component security. This way, you can park even expensive bikes with a clear conscience.

Your six thousand euro e-bike is only parked at the station for a few hours, hidden among countless other bikes at the bike parking station. And yet it is yours that is stolen. Even though you had secured it with an expensive U-lock.

What difference do you think it would have made if your bike was pink, poison green or bright orange? Would that have deterred thieves?

That’s what many bike owners think. They repaint their bike to protect it from thieves. But does this deterrent method work? We show you which approaches to bike customization are available and whether the effort is worth it.

Paint against thieves: how it should work

There are various ideas on how new paint suppose to protect your bike from thieves:

Variant 1: Eye-catching color

You give your bike an individual and eye-catching paint job. The idea is that this makes it more difficult to resell and also helps to recognize the bike if it is left around. Whether neon pink, with zebra stripes or colorful patterns – there are no limits to your imagination.

Variant 2: Get rid of the brand recognition

You cover up all engravings, lettering and stickers. This way, no one will see that your bike or e-bike is a sought-after or expensive model from a popular brand. This should make people less interested in stealing it.

Option 3: Rust, duct tape and defacement

You deliberately rust your bike with a rusting agent or use dirt or stickers to make it so unattractive that no one else will want it. Some followers of this method repair damage by wrapping wire around joints, for example. Others apply a few strips of duct tape here and there to make it look patched up. Bikes with too much damage are not a big seller with thieves.

Whether matt black or neon pink, with a spray can, paintbrush or duct tape – the wide range of options in this area is shown by posts shared by bike owners in relevant online forums.

Of all the customization methods, the painting method probably has the greatest effect in deterring thieves. If not through color, then mainly because the frame number or coding is made unrecognizable during painting. This makes the bike or e-bike even less likely to be resold. On the other hand, this is exactly what makes it difficult for you to identify the bike: the frame number and coding are important for assigning a stolen bike to an owner.

There are a few reasons that speak against the anti-theft method of painting a bike, but we don’t want to reserve the right to give it a try – after all, more measures are better than none. But if you do paint, then do it properly:

Quick guide to painting

If you have decided to repaint your bike, either to protect it against theft or because you are simply bored with the original look, you don’t necessarily need a professional.

But you will need the following accessories:

  • a dry, well-ventilated and dust-free room
  • work gloves and clothing
  • breathing mask
  • some tools including sandpaper in various thicknesses
  • cloth and washing-up liquid
  • acetone
  • clear lacquer
  • primer
  • lacquer paint

Then proceed as follows:

  1. Remove as many parts as possible from the frame of your bike, for example the handlebars.
  2. Clean the frame with a cloth and washing-up liquid.
  3. Sand off the old paint, first with coarse sandpaper and then with fine sandpaper.
  4. Remove dust from the frame and then degrease it with acetone.
  5. Prime the frame. A spray can is sufficient for this, as for all other painting work.
  6. Paint the frame in two coats on all sides.
  7. Seal it with clear varnish.
  8. Refit all components to your bike.
  9. Wait until the paint has dried.
  10. That’s it.

Paint against theft – does it work?

Now to the criticism: Does it protect your bike or e-bike from theft if you paint your bike frame brightly or customize the bike in a different way?

Our answer is clear: professional thieves are just as undeterred by this as they are by bike locks. If in doubt, they will repaint your bike after a theft. In addition, trained eyes can recognize expensive bicycle or e-bike models in any condition – even if you paint them grey and remove all manufacturer markings.

And what about disfigurement as a deterrent? If you go to a lot of trouble, this method might work. On the other hand, opportunist thieves will still overlook this look. After all, if you’re just looking for a vehicle to make your way easier, you’ll take one with zebra stripes or a rusty frame.

And while you’re hoping that this measure won’t happen to your bike, you’ll have to ride around with a defaced bike every day. You also risk damaging your bike by sanding, stickering or rusting it, making it less fun to ride. A bad deal, we think.

When painting makes sense

Repainting a bike makes sense if you are bored with its appearance and want to try something new. In this case, specialist dealers offer their customers a large selection of bicycle paint in a wide variety of colors. Don’t fancy painting it yourself? Then let the professionals do it. It’s usually inexpensive, quick and guaranteed to look good.

Effectively protect your e-bike or bike – options

Zebra stripes or fluorescent paint against theft is a creative idea and can certainly deter some people. In our opinion, however, paint is not enough. This is also proven by the countless experiences reported by cyclists in the same online forums as above. So what can you do? How can you really ensure safety, no matter where you park your bike or e-bike?

We recommend combining the following measures:

  • Round-the-clock monitoring: Use a GPS tracker such as BikeTrax from PowUnity. This way, you will not only be notified on your cell phone every time a theft attempt is made. You can locate stolen e-bikes across Europe in real time via the PowUnity app and forward the location to the police directly via the app as a theft report. Testimonials from our BikeTrax users show that you can reliably get your bike back.
  • Always lock up: Use at least one, preferably several, high-quality bike locks and always lock your bike to a fixed object. You can find out which bike locks are among the most secure in this article. Alarm systems with locks can increase security. The extent to which they do this depends on the type and quality of the alarm system. Read here to find out which bike alarm systems are effective.
  • Bicycle parts are expensive: secure valuable components with a component security system such as HexLox. In addition to entire bikes, many thieves target high-quality bike parts such as saddles and wheels or even the e-bike battery.

To paint or not to paint? – Our conclusion

Preventing theft by making visual changes to your bike sounds tempting in theory. Unfortunately, this method is rarely effective in practice.

Experienced thieves recognize high-quality bike models even if you have given them zebra stripes. If in doubt, they repaint their stolen goods before selling them. Casual thieves usually don’t pay any attention to how the bike looks.

We recommend this: Regardless of whether you repaint your bike or not, make sure you have effective anti-theft protection. Ideally, this should consist of a good GPS tracker such as BikeTrax, one or more high-quality bike locks and possibly component locks for valuable parts. Don’t save money in the wrong place, but pay attention to quality.

FAQs on the subject of painting as theft protection

Does painting bikes protect them from thieves?


You can paint bikes conspicuously to make it more difficult to resell them after theft, make them inconspicuous or deface them. However, experience shows that all these measures only deter opportunist thieves at best.

Can I paint bicycles myself?

All you need to paint a bike is the necessary equipment and a suitable room. Specialist knowledge is not usually required. However, it can still make sense to hire professionals to do the work. This way, there is a high probability that the result will look exactly as you imagined.

Which bike theft protection is really effective?

The most effective theft protection for bikes at the moment is a combination: track your bike around the clock with a GPS tracker such as the PowUnity BikeTrax, secure it with one or more high-quality bike locks and use component locks for valuable bike parts.

Share article!

wurde hinzugefügt