According to police crime statistics, 260,000 bicycles were stolen in Germany in 2020. However, because many of those affected do not report a bicycle theft, this is only the tip of the iceberg. The number of unreported cases is probably much higher. Bicycles are not only stolen from unlit corners in large cities. They also disappear from locked bicycle basements.
300,000 bicycles stolen – what can be done for more security?
For you as a bike owner, this means that good anti-theft protection for your bike is a must-have. The more expensive your bike, the better this anti-theft protection should be. A bike lock, no matter how high quality, is not enough. Experienced bike thieves can pick even the toughest bike locks in a short time, or they can transport your bike in a sprinter to a remote location and then remove the bike lock. Bicycle alarm systems promise more security. However, only specific alarm-capable devices fulfill this promise.
What does a bicycle alarm system mean?
The basic principle of a bicycle alarm system is the following:
- Most alarm devices work with a motion sensor. It triggers the alarm when your bike is moved.
- The alarm is a very loud, audible signal that sounds over some time. Ideally, this sound already leads to the thief immediately taking flight and/or other people are aware of the theft attempt and intervene.
But that is it for the similarities. When you start looking for a bicycle alarm system, you will come across many different options, with or without a bike lock, with various settings for the alert, app, or remote control, for gluing or screwing. The prices for bicycle alarm systems also vary greatly. That makes it difficult to decide at first.
What forms are there: Bicycle alarm systems and bike locks in comparison
Bicycle alarm systems can initially be divided into three types.
External bicycle alarm system
“External bicycle alarm systems” you attach to your bike in addition to a bike lock, for example, with adhesive strips or – in the case of higher-quality models – with an extra bracket that is included in the delivery.
Typical places to mount a bike alarm are under the saddle, on the handlebars, or under the luggage rack. There are also bike alarms that can be inconspicuously integrated into the light.
No matter where you mount it, make sure that the alarm system cannot be removed too easily. Otherwise, a 100 db loud alarm signal is of little use.
Alarm system in the bike lock
An alternative to an external bicycle alarm system is a (chain/cable/steel/frame) lock with an integrated bicycle alarm. Remarkably inexpensive are “internal bike alarm systems” in the form of a brake disc lock. This is a handy lock that you attach to the brake disc of your bike or motorcycle.
However, such a bike alarm system is only suitable for a vehicle with a disc brake. In addition, an experienced thief has an easy game with a brake disc lock.
High-quality folding and U-locks are much more challenging to pick. These are also available with an integrated bicycle alarm system. The advantage: You get a good bike lock and an alarm in one.
External and internal bicycle alarm systems are available in different price ranges and with varying functionalities from brands like Abus, Achilles, or Fischer. If you opt for an internal bike alarm, it is usually worth spending more money on a resistant lock.
Are you looking for the best lock for your bike? We are here to help. Read our article “Best bike lock with GPS – how to protect your e-bike” and get an overview of different bike locks and their features.
Bike alarm system with GPS
GPS trackers are attached to your bike or e-bike like an internal alarm system, preferably inconspicuously. The tracker then notifies you via an associated app on your smartphone as soon as your bike is moved without permission.
In addition, the GPS tracker app informs you in real-time where your bike is. This pays off at the latest when your bike is stolen despite all precautions and you want to get it back. Bike alarm systems with GPS are available with or without a SIM card. How they work and what advantages they have, we will discuss separately.
Which is the best bike alarm?
As you probably guessed, there is no universal answer to this question. If you want peace of mind and buy a bike alarm, ask yourself the following questions beforehand:
- How expensive is your bike? Is it a rickety city bike that your grandpa left you, an average trekking bike, or a luxurious e-bike that cost a few thousand euros?
- How often and where do you go cycling?
- Where do you store your bike? Does it spend most of its time in your private bicycle basement or is it often parked for hours on the side of less frequented roads?
Depending on how you answer these questions, a simple solution may be enough or you may be better off choosing all-around anti-theft protection.
Let us assume that you are looking for a high-quality alarm system for an expensive bike and do not want to compromise on anti-theft protection. In this case, pay attention to the following features of classic bike alarm systems – we will come back to options with GPS below:
The warning signal – loud and with pre-alarm
Loud, louder, loudest. A cycle alarm system should sound so unpleasant that a thief immediately takes flight. Above all, the alarm sound should be loud. It should be more than 100 db (decibels), most alarm systems for bicycles reach 110 db or even more. By way of comparison, this is about how loud a circular saw is in the immediate vicinity. Nobody likes to stay there for long.
The catch with some inexpensive bicycle alarm systems: The bicycle alarm goes off every time a passerby bumps into your bike or a strong wind comes up. This will quickly make you unpopular in your neighborhood.
Many alarm systems, therefore, have a “pre-alarm”. This means that they first trigger a few short tones and only switch to the real alarm mode when further vibrations occur. If you can adjust the volume of the alarm signal differently, you can adapt it to different environments – for example, a residential neighborhood or busy places in the city.
Sensitivity – the most adjustable
A real plus is the possibility to adjust the sensitivity of a bicycle alarm. Then it will not trigger with every gust of wind, but only with a stronger movement.
Smart bike alarms can distinguish between short jolts, such as those caused by a “jostle,” and longer ones that indicate an attempted theft. This significantly reduces stress for you as the owner and your neighbors.
Operation – best via app
The operation of the bicycle alarm system also plays a role. Simple models can be activated and deactivated directly on the system. To do this, you use a code or a key in the case of bike alarm systems in bike locks.
In other cases, you operate the bicycle alarm system via remote control or a hand-held transmitter. Smart bike alarm systems can be connected to an app. Then you can make all the settings for the warning tone and the like on your smartphone. If in doubt, this method is the most convenient.
Robustness – rather resistant
Even a thunderous alarm system is of little use if it dies after the first downpour. Therefore, make sure that the model you choose is robust and waterproof, especially if you often go on adventurous bike tours.
Robust bike alarms also protect better because they cannot be silenced easily by a thief.
Batteries – long-lasting and easy to recharge
A bike alarm gets its power from a battery, which you need to replace or recharge from time to time. It is practical if the battery can be charged from the dynamo of the cycle or from the motor of an e-bike. They should also provide power for a long time and have a long life.
Setup – quick and easy
You certainly do not want to read pages and pages of instructions before you can start using your bike alarm. With good bike alarms, you do not have to. You can set them up yourself in a short time and operate them without hours of reading.
Price – more investment pays off
You can get cheap bicycle alarm systems for around 15 euros. If you want to buy a high-quality device or a bike alarm integrated into a stable (chain/cable/steel/frame) lock, it will be much more expensive. The same goes for GPS trackers.
Our advice: Do not save money when it comes to theft protection. In case of doubt, the loss of an expensive bike or pedelec will cost you much more than buying an alarm system with a bike lock for 80 euros. In addition, decent bicycle alarm systems make you relaxed. Because so you know that your bike is protected and do not have to be constantly afraid of bike theft but rather have peace of mind.
Tip: When buying, make sure that the bicycle alarm system fits your bike. If the device is attached to the frame, the frame width, for example, plays a decisive role, in the case of GPS trackers for e-bikes, the manufacturer of the bike, or the motor.
What solutions are there if the bike is stolen? Lock your bike!
A good bike lock and a good alarm system, whether separate or integrated, are a strong combination for theft protection for bikes. But even this has limitations. Not only theft professionals are skilled at picking locks in record time and disarming alarms in just as short a time.
Experiments in the past have shown that passers-by often ignore the signal from bicycle alarms because they assume it is a false alarm and do not bother. Especially in large cities, an alarm is part of the normal background noise. When passers-by consider an attempted theft when an alarm sounds, there is still the question of whether to intervene or instead not put themselves in an uncomfortable situation.
That is why a bike is often stolen despite a working alarm system and loud alarm sound. Fortunately, this does not mean you are defenseless.
Because there are two methods to ensure that even if the theft is successful, you will be the last to laugh.
You can get bicycle insurance from more and more insurance providers at different options. Depending on the tariff, you can insure your bike not only against theft but also against accidents or even wear and tear.
However, you cannot simply insure every bike. Pedelecs of a specific age or in a certain price range are often excluded from insurance coverage. If it turns out that you did not lock your bike, you are left empty-handed.
And, of course, the insurance will only reimburse you for the cost of your bike. You will not get the bike back, no matter how much you have grown to love it. How quickly and accommodatingly the insurance company reacts in an emergency depends on the provider.
If you are interested in bike insurance and are looking for guidance in the insurance jungle, take a look at our guide “E-bike insurance – everything you need to know about the topic“. We introduce you to recommended insurances for your bike and give you tips on how to choose.
GPS tracker for e-bikes
The best GPS tracker tells you the location of your bike in real-time and notifies you immediately via your smartphone if your bike is moved without permission.
The key difference to a conventional bike alarm system is that you have a very good chance of recovering a bike after it has been stolen. Thanks to precise GPS data, you can inform the police of the bike’s exact location – and often of the thieves as well. With a device equipped accordingly, tracking works at home, abroad, and even in remote areas. It does not matter how thieves transport your bike or how fast they move it.
Advantages and disadvantages of bike alarm systems with GPS
In contrast to conventional alarm systems and the combination of a simple alarm system and a bike lock, a bicycle alarm system brings several advantages:
- Motion alert to your smartphone: As soon as someone moves your bike without permission, you will receive a warning on the associated smartphone app. You then have the opportunity to react immediately if you are in the vicinity.
- Effective protection after thefts: One of the biggest benefits of a bike alarm with GPS is that police can locate and recover a stolen bike. In most cases, you get your own bike back. This also works for professional gangs of thieves who do not bother with picking locks on the spot but load your bike onto a van right away. In this case, the police track your bike in the van.
- Modern app with additional features: High-quality bike GPS trackers come with an app that includes various additional features. These include a bike passport with important details about your bike, such as brand and model.
- Flexible use: If you have a business that uses multiple e-bikes for a rental or delivery service, you can even use GPS trackers for fleet management. Provided you have a suitable app or platform, you can keep track of all the bikes.
The disadvantages depend mainly on the tracker itself. Models that are visibly attached to the frame should be treated with caution. Here, the risk is high that thieves will remove them and then steal your bike. Much better are trackers that are hidden and integrated into the bike’s engine. Real-time tracking is crucial to track a bike thief but requires an appropriate radio standard. Currently, only the 2G and LTE-M radio standards allow real-time tracking.
Also, make sure you have an extra battery that ensures the tracker will continue to work when your e-bike’s motor stops running.
Finally, a good app is a crucial purchase criterion. Ideally, it gives you an instant overview of your bike’s location. Additional features like a bike passport with all the details about your e-bike or the option to send a theft report via the app are the icing on the cake.
Tip: If you have a GPS tracker installed on your bike, this does not mean that you should do without a good bike lock. On the contrary, it is best to combine a lock and a bike alarm system with a GPS tracker for maximum security in any situation.
Beware of tests on bicycle alarm systems or GPS trackers
Whether it is bike locks, bicycle alarm systems, or GPS trackers, you will find numerous comparisons and tests on the Internet. Unfortunately, these are often pure affiliate marketing. This means that the portal earns money from the sales of products linked in the article. Real practical tests have not taken place in such a case.
You should become suspicious if
- a test description is missing.
- the photos of alarm systems, trackers, or bike locks are the same as those used by online retailers for their products.
- there are clearly marked links to the dealer.
- there are only positive reviews.
For more tips on how to recognize a “fake” test and how to find the best GPS tracker, check out our article “GPS tracker bike: test 2021 – how to find the best device for you“.
Conclusion: A bicycle alarm pays off, especially for expensive bikes
In Germany, 300,000 bicycles are stolen every year. The dark figure, how many of them are e-bikes, is not known. But since every sixth person in Germany now rides an e-bike, you can guess. Especially in the age of expensive e-bikes, it is advisable to invest more in theft protection and thus also security because a mechanical bike lock is by no means enough to deter thieves.
For example, with a bicycle alarm system, you benefit from more security than with a bicycle lock alone. The prerequisite is a sound alarm system. This starts with the fact that you can adjust the sensitivity of the alarm sound and extends to the combination with a high-quality lock.
Even more effective – especially for a pedelec – is the combination of a bicycle alarm system with a GPS tracker. In contrast to a classic alarm system with a simple alarm function, this not only helps you protect your bike from thieves. It also enables you to get it back if it is stolen because a GPS tracker allows you to locate your e-bike in real-time. Ideally, you should combine a good bike lock, a classic bike alarm system with a warning sound, and a GPS tracker. Equipped in this way, you are on the safe side even with an expensive e-bike.