Best GPS tracker for bikes: test 2021 – how to find the best device for you

Are you looking for GPS bike trackers and wondering how to find the right one? What are the pros and cons, and which tests can you trust? We have summarized what you have to look out for in a GPS tracker comparison in 2021 and how you can recognize dubious tests. We will also explain how various tracking models differ and what really matters when choosing the best GPS tracking device. The goal is to find the best bike GPS device for your needs, especially for your bicycle or electric bike. Why you can trust Stiftung Warentest more and other test portals less is explained in the first section.

GPS Tracker Fahrrad Test 2021

“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:

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.

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:

  1. The thief should not discover the hidden device on the bike.
  2. The signal should be affected as little as possible.

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.

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.

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?

Legend

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.

Manche GPS-Tracker sind zu groß, um sie vor Dieben zu verstecken
Das Signal des GPS-Trackers darf nicht abgeschirmt werden
Manche GPS-Tracker sind nicht für E-Bikes geeignet

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.
Ein guter GPS-Diebstahlschutz ist vor Dieben versteckt montiert
Wird das GPS-Signal zu stark abgeschirmt, dann funktioniert der GPS-Tracker nicht als Diebstahlschutz
Manche GPS-Tracker sind nicht für E-Bikes geeignet

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.

Ein guter GPS-Diebstahlschutz ist vor Dieben versteckt montiert
Das Signal des GPS-Trackers darf nicht abgeschirmt werden
Manche GPS-Tracker sind nicht für E-Bikes geeignet

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.
Ein guter GPS-Diebstahlschutz ist vor Dieben versteckt montiert
Das Signal des GPS-Trackers darf nicht abgeschirmt werden
Manche GPS-Tracker sind nicht für E-Bikes geeignet

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.

Ein guter GPS-Diebstahlschutz ist vor Dieben versteckt montiert
Wird das GPS-Signal zu stark abgeschirmt, dann funktioniert der GPS-Tracker nicht als Diebstahlschutz
Manche GPS-Tracker sind nicht für E-Bikes geeignet

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.

Ein guter GPS-Diebstahlschutz ist vor Dieben versteckt montiert
Das Signal des GPS-Trackers darf nicht abgeschirmt werden
Der GPS-Tracker muss für E-Bikes geeignet sein

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:

  1. When the accelerometer senses no movement, the sleep mode is activated.
  2. 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..

Additional function: route diary

Apart from protection against thieves, the investment in a bike tracker is worthwhile due to valuable additional functions.

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

Here’s how the tracker works:

  1. You activate the alert via the mobile app.
  2. 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:

  1. You are reliably alerted as soon as your bike is moved.
  2. You have stored your bike data (frame number, proof of purchase, photo …) properly.
  3. 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.

  • bicycle manufacturer
  • bicycle model
  • bicycle color
  • bike photo
  • engine type
  • date of purchase
  • purchase price
  • proof of purchase
  • frame number
  • etc.

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?

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.

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.

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