“GPS bike tracker test winner – we found it for you!”
With such headlines, reputable sites suggest at first glance that they have conducted an extensive GPS tracker comparison. But, in fact, they have only gathered the most prominent anti-theft tracking device offers from the internet and incorporated them with affiliate links into a text about bicycle GPS trackers.
Affiliate marketing translates to “referral marketing”. If you click on an affiliate link and later buy the product, the page on which this link is presented receives a commission for the sale – in our case, a GPS tracking device.
Stiftung Warentest urges caution, as advertised products can be an absolute flop.
According to Stiftung Warentest, you can recognize dubious GPS tracker tests by these characteristics:
Only positive reviews: often, all anti-theft devices are evaluated with positive reviews only – after all, fake testers want to entice sales.
Treacherous photos: if the alleged test only includes photos that the linked online retailer uses, you should be suspicious. Pictures that show the GPS tracker in a test situation are better.
Clearly marked link to the retailer: an unmistakable sign that the alleged test portal collects a commission from retailers are references to selected online stores such as Amazon.
Test description is missing: reputable testers explain and publish how they tested and evaluated the GPS bike trackers..
Subtle differences: why GPS trackers are not equal to bicycle GPS tracking devices
A bike tracker is clearly different from a GPS tracker for cars. A reputable test portal like Stiftung Warentest in Germany or the Austrian test magazine Konsument would, therefore, publish a test for car GPS devices and one for GPS bike trackers.
Why are there test portals that lump all devices together and compare them?
“GPS tracker car test” and “GPS tracker bike test” together have a higher Google search volume than just “GPS tracker bike test”. However, websites that publish GPS bike tracker tests and other tests want to bring as many visitors to their site as possible to earn more money. Therefore, the tests are more general in order to increase the search volume and thus the number of potential site visitors.
Anti-theft protection: the three necessary features bike tracking devices should have
If you are looking for a tracker for your bike, you primarily want to protect it from theft.
A smart tracking device should therefore meet at least three basic features to keep your bike safe.
The device is mounted hidden in the bike.
The GPS device has good battery life.
You can connect to the device with a smartphone app to track your cycle.
Feature 1: Hidden in the bicycle
You can find out how tracking devices for bicycles work in detail in our article “GPS tracker: how GPS tracking works”.
Briefly summarized: The position of the bike tracker is determined via a satellite system. The position coordinates are forwarded to a server via the telecommunication network (e.g. GPRS or 2G), the server temporarily stores the data and sends it to the owner’s smartphone.
For accurate tracking, the device must connect to at least three satellites. The signal to the satellites can already be significantly affected by weather conditions (cloudy, fog, etc.). However, metal has the strongest impact.
Therefore, where the GPS device is placed plays an important role in two ways:
- The thief should not discover the hidden device on the bike.
- The signal should be affected as little as possible.
Feature 2: Sufficient battery life
Connecting to the satellites and communicating with the server requires a lot of energy. You might know it from your phone as GPS drains a lot of energy. Long battery life is, therefore, a basic requirement for smart GPS devices.
Feature 3: Functioning smartphone app
In older bike trackers, communication worked via text messages. For example, real-time coordinates were retrieved via a text message. This is no longer up-to-date. Therefore, a functioning smartphone tracking app that is permanently connected to the device is key.
We at PowUnity have specialized in the development of a tracking device for electronic bicycles. E-bikes have the advantage that the frame geometry is more generous, and there are plastic covers, especially in the motor and battery area. This allows GPS devices to be mounted invisibly on the bicycle. Additionally, e-bikes have large batteries which provide the tracker with power. The prerequisite for this is a motor-specific connection cable as with our PowUnity BikeTrax GPS tracker.
GPS bike tracker: the correct position – different options in comparison
Important: The bike GPS tracker should be mounted in and not on the bike. If it is installed on the bike, the thief can remove or destroy it within 20 seconds.
But what options do you have with common devices for bikes in comparison?
is mounted hidden from thieves
NOT mountable hidden from thieves
good GPS signal
poor GPS signal
suitable for e-bikes
not suitable for e-bikes
PAJ GPS Allround Finder in comparison – too big and bulky
The PAJ GPS Allround Finder, which is touted in many tests, is, unfortunately, the wrong choice to keep your bike safe. This is because the PAJ GPS Allround Finder has the size and shape of a cigarette pack. This means that if the PAJ Allround Finder is part of a GPS tracker comparison, it indicates a dubious test. This does not imply that the Allround Finder from PAJ is bad, but it is u suitable as a bike tracker due to its size and shape.
Why is the Allround Finder advertised as a GPS bike tracker anyway? PAJ GPS strongly focuses on Amazon marketing.
Mini GPS tracker for bikes in comparison – no sufficient signal
Even a so-called mini GPS tracker is not suitable as a bicycle theft protection:
- If the device is small enough to fit inside the bike’s frame, then aluminum, carbon, or steel will shield the signal.
- If it is attached to the outside of the bike, even a mini tracker will be quickly detected by the thief and removed from the bike or destroyed.
Velocate light GPS theft protection in comparison – acceptable solution for regular bikes
Velocate is a German GPS tracker manufacturer. Its product velocate is a device disguised as a bike light. Such light is an acceptable solution for anti-theft protection of non-motorized bicycles and is definitely better than placing an uncamouflaged GPS tracker outside the bike.
Bike GPS tracker hidden in the handlebar tube in comparison – recommended
Most bicycle handlebars have a standardized tube diameter. Such a handlebar is exactly 22.2 mm and is spacious enough to place a specially designed GPS tracker. Additionally, the end of the tube is open. Bicycle GPS trackers specially developed for this application have radio antennas on the outside or camouflaged as tube end caps. Because the antennas are located at the end of the tube, the GPS tracker’s signals are only slightly affected.
Thus, several criteria are fulfilled by this position:
- The protection device is hidden and camouflaged.
- The signal is not shielded too much.
GPS tracker for the bicycle seat post in comparison – still a thing of the future
Caution! There is no working GPS tracker solution for the bicycle seat post or seat tube on the market (as of 2021). Such offers and crowdfunding campaigns are circulating on the internet, but they are rather unserious.
The reason is as follows:
A GPS tracker mounted in the bicycle seat tube, or seat post is completely surrounded by metal. However, metal completely shields GPS signals. Even unique antenna technology cannot prevent this. Successful real-time tracking is thus impossible.
In 2018, we at PowUnity have designed a seat post made of a signal-permeable material. At the same time, we developed a tracker specifically for e-bikes: BikeTrax. The development and sales success of the e-bike GPS tracker has been great, so we did not want to pursue the seat post concept any further. However, we can report that a seat post made of special material is the only conceivable way to install an anti-theft device in it. However, such a model does not yet exist on the market.
The following factors are the main obstacles
- There exist several standard diameters.
- The certification effort is high (material must not “break”).
- Telescopic seat posts are on the rise.
- The demand for a GPS tracker for the seat post is deficient compared to an electric bike tracking device.
GPS tracker for e-bikes in comparison – well hidden in the motor housing
The pedelecs trend is rising. In the future, most bikes will probably be motorized. However, the average value of an e-bike is much higher than that of a cycle without an engine. Accordingly, theft is lucrative, and thieves are increasingly specializing in stealing electric bicycles.
The good news: e-bikes have a significant advantage as the motor housing is made of plastic and provides enough space to hide a GPS tracker.
The right battery for your bike GPS tracker
Having to charge the tracker for the bike every day is tedious, and the bike would be unsecured during this time. Therefore, every bike tracker manufacturer aims to combine a long battery life with small battery size.
The best GPS bike device has its battery hidden in the bicycle together with the tracker and rarely to never needs to be changed.
How does this work?
Save power by using the standby mode of a tracking device
The best GPS bike trackers have an accelerometer (vibration pickup) that automatically puts bikes into standby mode:
- When the accelerometer senses no movement, the sleep mode is activated.
- If the cycle is no longer moving, no further GPS coordinates are received, stored, or transmitted for tracking.
BikeTrax by PowUnity and most other high-quality bike GPS trackers have a motion sensor and use less than 2 milliamps (mA) of power in standby mode. So the battery is conserved when the bike is not moving. As soon as someone uses the bike again, the motion sensor detects this movement and wakes up the tracking device. The coordinates are received again, stored, and transmitted for tracking.
Not too long and not too short – transmission interval of a bike GPS tracker.
Also important in terms of battery life is the transmission interval. There are two aspects to consider.
- A bike tracker that sends a signal every 5 minutes requires less energy than a bike tracker that transmits the location every 10 seconds.
- However, to successfully detect a stolen bike, a real-time location with a 10-second interval is necessary.
A real-world example illustrated the latter:
The electric bike equipped with the BikeTrax tracker of a PowUnity customer from Bonn was stolen during the night. The police were able to stop the fleeing perpetrators, running towards a van, within 30 minutes. If the GPS tracker’s live location had no 10-second intervals, it would have been impossible for the police to locate them.
If you are interested in this success story in more detail, you can watch an interview here..
Conclusion: when looking for the best GPS tracker for bike enthusiasts, a compromise between good battery life and a high enough transmission interval is key.
The Powunity BikeTrax device has the advantage that it is connected to the battery of the e-bike and has its additional battery, which is charged via the e-bike. Thus, BikeTrax can easily transmit your location every 10 seconds. In addition, a taillight GPS tracker can be charged via the bike’s dynamo. Most trackers that are not charged via the bike dynamo or the electric bike have a low transmission interval or a short battery life.
Additional function: route diary
Apart from protection against thieves, the investment in a bike tracker is worthwhile due to valuable additional functions.
A route diary automatically records the ridden routes in the app. You can view and manage the routes and export them to other apps like Strava or Komoot. Recording functions are convenient if you want to retrace specific routes at later times or are interested in your biking statistics.
How such an export works in Komoot is explained by Youtuber Björn Kübler in this video.
You can track your routes right away via Strava or Komoot. However, for this, the smartphone must always be with you, and you must not forget to press the start and stop button. On the other hand, a GPS tracker bike with an accelerometer automatically starts and stops recording.
Again, the higher the real-time transmission interval, the more accurate the route diary. Additional route functions like the diary only work if the bike tracker battery has enough power. However, only a dynamo-powered bike tracker (rear light) or a GPS tracker linked to the electric bike can supply the battery with energy.
Mobile app: alarm in case of unauthorized movement and other essential functions
Besides real-time tracking, an alarm in case of unauthorized movement is the most crucial function of GPS trackers for bicycles:
Here’s how the tracker works:
- You activate the alert via the mobile app.
- If a bike thief then moves your bike, this triggers an audible and visual warning.
Important: For this function, a tracker for the bike also needs an accelerometer.
A GPS tracker’s sensitivity is set perfectly if a gust of wind does not trigger an alarm. On the other hand, a continuous slight movement, such as when trying to pick the mechanical lock, will trigger a warning on the owner’s cell phone.
Excursus: why a geo-fence does not play a significant role
A geo-fence is a geographical fence, i.e., a geographically delimited area from which an object is not allowed to move. A geo-fence makes sense for GPS tracking of cats and dogs, for example. Because here owners want to receive an alert when their dog moves out of a particular area. However, it is crucial that you are alerted immediately when a theft attempt is made when it comes to bike protection. The sooner you act, the better.
For this reason, a geo-fence is one of the least relevant features of a GPS bike tracker. Many manufacturers on the market praise such functions mainly because they are easy to implement.
Tracker for the bike: additional functions
If a thief steals your bike, then quick action is crucial to successfully regain it. The prerequisites are the following:
- You are reliably alerted as soon as your bike is moved.
- You have stored your bike data (frame number, proof of purchase, photo …) properly.
- The police react quickly.
Besides the already described real-time tracking and the smart alert when your bike is moved, two additional features prevent a successful theft.
The bike pass
In the bike pass you store all relevant bike data:
- bicycle manufacturer
- bicycle model
- bicycle color
- bike photo
- engine type
- date of purchase
- purchase price
- proof of purchase
- frame number
You must provide the police with these and other data when filling a complaint. If you have already saved those details digitally, the police can act more quickly. However, many bicycle owners do not think about the “emergency” and search diligently for this data. As a result, valuable minutes are lost in searching.
Therefore, if your bike tracker is operated via an app, this app must have a bike pass function. In the bike pass, you store all the necessary data for a theft report to prove that this is your bike.
It is also helpful if the data stored in the bike pass and the theft details can be summarized in a report and sent to the police as a PDF. Relevant data about the theft are:
- Where is the bike’s location (current live location)?
- When was it stolen?
- Where was it stolen?
The best bike GPS tracker app has a theft reporting feature in addition to the bike pass feature. An app that is equipped with these features in addition to the live location and motion alert increases the chances of success in the event of theft.
Bike GPS tracker: with or without SIM card?
These four factors speak for a factory-installed SIM card on the bike tracker:
Per SIM card ex-factory #1:
The high transmission quality and roaming
The accuracy of the live location is determined, among other things, by the communication quality between the bike GPS tracker and the smartphone. The communication quality depends on the network strength on the one hand and the roaming quality of the network provider on the other hand. By roaming, we mean switching to other mobile networks by changing location.
GPS tracker manufacturers that offer a SIM card ex-works have usually dealt with these factors in great detail and present the best possible SIM card or network provider for the corresponding application – in our case, for a GPS tracker for the bike.
Per SIM card ex-works #2:
No unexpected costs
If you integrate your own SIM card into a bike tracker, it can be expensive. If your stolen bike is shipped to Switzerland or another third country, for example, you may incur very high international roaming costs. The situation is similar when you go on vacation with your bike.
For a bike GPS tracker with a pre-installed SIM card, reputable providers charge a monthly subscription fee of about 4 euros or 40 euros per year to cover the SIM card. cost These costs are manageable, and you are protected from unwelcome surprises. It also ensures that you can safely track your bike abroad.
Some GPS tracker manufacturers even give you the cost of the first year for free. Another argument for choosing a GPS tracker bike with an integrated SIM card.
Per SIM card ex-works #3:
High system quality and customer support
The GPS tracker hardware makes up the visible 20 percent of the iceberg. The software, firmware, and back-end system are the remaining invisible 80 percent. Yet, they are responsible for making sure the bike tracker is reliable.
Additionally, it builds trust if you have access to proper customer support. A proper SIM card management system, such as Jasper of Tele 2, improves the overall system and customer support quality.
Per SIM card from factory #4:
GPS tracker form and function
If a soldered-on SIM card or an e-SIM card is used, the additional slot for the card is eliminated. This saves space and helps make the tracker even slimmer.
A good GPS bike tracker is also dust and water-resistant. This function is an important plus point, especially for a bike that is ridden in all weather conditions. A GPS bike tracker is sealed accordingly in order to achieve the “dust and water-resistant” approval seal in the first place. Sealed also means that it is impossible to change the SIM card later.
Conclusion: If these four mentioned factors are relevant to your eyes, then we recommend going for a tracking device with a SIM card already installed.
Bike GPS tracker comparison: summary
Not all GPS trackers are the same. However, you need a good GPS tracker if you want to protect your bike from theft effectively. Then monthly costs are worthwhile, and your expensive bike is always safe:
To find the best GPS bike tracker for you, pay special attention to the following points:
- the right place (well hidden, without shielding the signal too much)
- a standby mode automatically triggered by an acceleration sensor
- a good transmission interval
- an integrated SIM card
- additional functions like a route diary
- a mobile app with a bike pass and theft reportg
Note: 20 % of the total package is represented by the visible hardware, 80% by the invisible software, firmware, and back-end (iceberg principle). If these three areas are not developed to the appropriate level, there will be gross disadvantages for the bike owner. Disadvantages that also affect the accuracy of the tracking.
Finally, when comparing GPS trackers for bikes on the internet, look for signs for a serious comparison. Affiliate partnerships in particular often lead to dubious test results.