About GPS trackers for bikes in a nutshell
- GPS trackers determine their position using satellite signals. They send the location data to a smartphone via, for example the mobile network.
- ou can use a GPS tracker for a lost bike or e-bike and report its location to the police. However, this only works if the device enables real-time tracking.
- There are major differences between GPS trackers for anti theft protection. In addition to seamless live tracking, a long battery life, a good smartphone app and an integrated SIM card are particularly important. In addition, the bike tracker should be well hidden on the bike, or even better, like the BikeTrax GPS tracker in the bike, so that it cannot be discovered by thieves.
Bike stolen, bad luck? That was once upon a time. With a GPS tracker, you have a good chance of getting your lost bike back. However, this only works with a device that is capable of live tracking. And there are a few other things to bear in mind when choosing one. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of money on a GPS tracker that thieves will simply remove.
Here you can find out more about how bike trackers can complement your bike lock. We also present the most important differences between the various models and give you tips for making the right choice.
How does GPS tracking work?
A GPS tracker is used to locate objects such as cars and bikes or even people. It uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) for this purpose. This satellite system, originally developed for the US military, consists of 24 satellites orbiting the earth. The tracker itself is equipped with a microprocessor, a GPS receiver and usually a GSM module.
The GPS system with a tracker works as follows:
- The tracker’s GPS receiver picks up signals from several satellites, which constantly send position information. At least three, usually even four satellites are required for positioning.
- The microprocessor in the tracker collects the satellite data received and uses it to calculate the exact position of the tracker.
The determined location data is sent to a central database or an app on your smartphone via via internet connection through WiFi, radio or cellular frequencies. By using the GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), a GPS tracker can use satellite data to provide real-time location data.
- You can then use the tracker’s own app or a website to display the current location of your GPS tracker in real time. This way, you know where your bike or e-bike is, for example.
Modern GPS trackers for bikes are usually linked to a smartphone app. In the case of our BikeTrax GPS tracker, this is the PowUnity app.
Important: Depending on the device, GPS trackers provide you with information about past locations (passive GPS) or current locations (active GPS). Passive trackers work via a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone to say where they are. This information is then transmitted to you via the phone’s wireless connection. These trackers are suitable for recording routes. To know the live GPS location of a vehicle, you need active GPS. Active GPS devices have an own wireless network connection and can then signal its location independently. After all, you want to know where the bike is now and not where it was an hour ago when a bike thief got away with it.
Would you like to find out more about how GPS works and how it came about? Read our article “How GPS tracking works“.
Is a GPS tracker for your bike a proper bike security investment?
The big advantage of GPS trackers for anti theft protection is as follows:
If a bike thief picks your lock and flees with your bike or e-bike, you have a good chance of getting it back. This is because you can track the bike’s location on your cell phone and pass it on to the police. Trackers with motion detectors also warn youth a bike alarm on the phone if a thief is tampering with your bike.
Thanks to these features, GPS trackers are a valuable addition to one – or better yet, several – high-quality bike locks. Data traffic is associated with running costs. However, these are usually limited.
We therefore believe that if you own an expensive bike or e-bike, you should not do without a bike tracker. But “one” doesn’t mean “just any”. On the contrary.
If you have a GPS tracker for your bike, that doesn’t mean you should do without a bike lock. But which lock is the right one? We’ll help you choose. Read our article “Bike lock with GPS: Which combination is safe? | Info & models at a glance”.
How do GPS trackers for bikes differ?
The range of GPS trackers is growing and at first glance they (almost) all look the same. But that is deceptive. The differences between individual models are huge. The same applies to their protective function. While some take theft protection for bikes to a new level, others are only suitable for finding parked bikes.
How can you tell the difference?
We recommend that you pay attention to the following factors when making your choice:
Ideally, a GPS tracker should be easy to attach to your bike – without you having to spend hours screwing it on. More importantly, it should be hidden on the bike. If it is clearly visible on the bike frame, there is a high risk that a thief will discover and destroy it. On the other hand, the signal suffers if the tracker is mounted in the frame or the seat tube, for example.
A good solution is to install trackers such as BikeTrax from PowUnity inside the motor of your e-bike. There it is guaranteed to be invisible.
Seamless real-time tracking
The more precisely a GPS tracker locates your bike or e-bike, the better. The decisive factor here is the mobile phone standard. Only if this enables seamless real-time tracking can the police track the thieves on your bike in an emergency, even if they are already on their way towards the border or even beyond.
PowUnity currently (December 2023) relies on 2G technology and in future on LTE-M. This means you benefit from seamless data transmission at home and abroad, in the city and in the countryside. Ideal for e-bike tracking applications. The next generation of the BikeTrax GPS tracker will be based on the promising LTE-M technology and will also enable live tracking.
Important: Real GPS tracking should not be mixed up with Crowd GPS, on which Apple’s bluetooth chip AirTag or Tile trackers are based. The AirTag for example uses Apple’s FindMy network to track down your lost bike. When you flat your chip as “lost” iPhone users can localize the chip and send it via icloud. Tile is open to all phones and other devices which have Bluetooth active and the Tile app installed.
Crowd GPS is based on bluetooth connectivity and are suitable to a certain extent for finding lost objects. However, real-time tracking of moving objects is not possible. So if you use an AirTag as a tracker after a bike theft, you are in a bad position.
Wenn deinem GPS-Tracker mitten im Live-Tracking der Saft ausgeht, hat die Verfolgungsjagd ein Ende. Achte also auf die Akkulaufzeit von Geräten.
Der GPS-Tracker BikeTrax bezieht seinen Strom aus dem Akku deines E-Bikes. Für den Fall, dass die Stromversorgung unterbrochen wird, hat er einen Zusatzakku. Dieser liefert im aktiven Modus 14 Stunden lang Strom, im Standby-Modus bis zu drei Wochen.
Long battery life
If your GPS tracker runs out of juice in the middle of live tracking, the chase is over. So pay attention to the battery life of devices and better use a tracker with a rechargeable battery.
The Tile sticker doesn’t have a replaceable battery, which means you’ll need to replace it when the battery is empty. The BikeTrax GPS tracker on the other hand draws its power from the battery of your e-bike. It has an additional battery in case the power supply is interrupted. This provides power for 14 hours in active mode and up to three weeks in standby mode.
Integrated SIM card
GPS trackers for bikes are available with and without an integrated SIM card. The version with a SIM usually has several advantages, provided that the provider is reputable. For example, you don’t have to worry about unexpected costs for international roaming and the tracker is dustproof, waterproof and slimmer because the card is integrated to save space.
User-friendly app with useful functions
The quality of the associated app plays a key role in determining how efficient and user-friendly a GPS tracker for bikes is.
Pay particular attention to this,
that the connection to the tracker and the tracking function without any problems,
the app is easy to use and
practical additional functions such as a bike pass are included.
Ideally, the app is available for android phones and apple devices and will alert you immediately with a push message and a bike alarm on your cell phone if someone moves your bike or e-bike without permission. The PowUnity app also records the routes you have ridden. You can store valuable data and even one or more photos in the bike pass.
What exactly is a bike pass, why is it so practical and what are the advantages of the digital version? You can find answers to these questions in our article “Bike ID: All info & apps at a glance“.
How do the costs of bike GPS trackers differ?
As a rule, the cost of a GPS tracker is made up of two components:
the purchase costs for the GPS tracker and
the running costs for data transmission between the GPS tracker and your smartphone.
The running costs for the data flat rate are around 3 to 7 euros. The purchase price for good GPS trackers is between 150 and 200 euros.
We recommend: Always set the cost of the tracker in relation to its features, especially those listed above. The Apple AirTag is a real bargain, but will hardly help you recover a stolen bike as it is only a Bluetooth chip. High-quality GPS trackers cost considerably more. However, this really pays off in an emergency.
Examples of different GPS trackers for bicycles and e-bikes
Finally, let’s take a closer look at some specific models. This will give you a better idea of the best way to go about finding your GPS tracker.
You mount the AlterLock GPS tracker on the bottle cage of your bike. This is practical, but unfortunately also quite conspicuous. The integrated alarm system emits a loud sound if someone tampers with your bike.
The big catch with AlterLock: the GPS tracker with alarm only notifies you of your bike’s whereabouts at certain intervals, sometimes up to 30 minutes, and only when it is stationary. Real-time tracking is not possible.
This means that the AlterLock GPS tracker for bikes is only of very limited use as theft protection, for example during short breaks on bike tours. You pay around 4 euros per month for data transmission; the regular purchase price is currently 139.99 euros.
- Integrated acoustic alarm system
- modern app
- simple installation
- os quickly detected
- no real-time tracking of moving bikes possible
PAJ Allround Finder
As the name suggests, the PAJ Allround Finder is not a GPS tracker specifically for bicycles. However, the box-shaped device is often advertised as such. It can also be easily attached to a bike, for example with adhesive strips. Unfortunately, the Allround Finder is versatile but conspicuous. This means that bike thieves simply remove the tracker. Then it is of little use to you that the PAJ Allround Finder does a good job of tracking.
By the way: At around 50 euros, the finder is relatively inexpensive. However, the running costs are above average.
- Low purchase price
- Versatile in use
- precise location
- is quickly detected
- high running costs
BikeTrax from PowUnity
Our GPS tracker BikeTrax is a tracker specially developed for e-bikes. The bike tracker can be easily integrated into the motor. This has two advantages: Firstly, the tracker is invisible to thieves and secondly, it draws its power directly from the drive of your e-bike. In the event that this is interrupted in the event of theft, there is an additional battery.
As soon as someone tampers with your e-bike, you will receive an alarm and a push notification on the PowUnity app. Here you can also track the location of your e-bike in real time – regardless of whether it is stationary or moving. Because the tracking works seamlessly throughout Europe, the chances of getting a stolen e-bike back are excellent.
BikeTrax currently costs 199.90 euros including a free one year subscription. After that, you pay 39.50 euros annually.
- Invisible installation in the motor
Seamless real-time tracking throughout Europe, even when on the move
App with route recording, bike pass and theft report
1 year data flat rate included
- currently only for e-bikes, not for conventional bikes
Conclusion: Only some GPS trackers give you peace of mind
If you want to retrofit a GPS tracking device on your bike, you have a choice. More and more manufacturers are trying to take advantage of the demand for tracking devices. However, only a closer look reveals whether and how well a device is suitable for putting a stop to bike thieves and give you the piece of mind that you want. There is a world of difference between a real GPS tracker for bicycles and the Apple AirTags. Sometimes even the supposedly small details mean that a tracker only offers limited protection against thieves.
The best thing to do when choosing your GPS tracker is to consider the features listed above. That way, you’ll get a device that delivers what you expect from it in an emergency.
FAQs on GPS trackers for bikes
How does a GPS tracker for bikes work?
A GPS tracker for bikes uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite system for tracking. It receives satellite signals, processes them and thus determines its position. The device transmits the location data to your cell phone, for example.
What are the differences between the various GPS trackers?
GPS trackers for bicycles differ, for example, in their design and installation, as well as in the type and frequency of data transmission, battery life and whether the device has an integrated SIM card. The costs also vary.
How do I find the best GPS tracker?
After a bike theft, it is particularly important that a GPS tracker allows seamless real-time tracking. This is the only way to track down the thieves and the stolen bike. Also make sure that the device is installed as concealed as possible on or in your bike or e-bike, has a SIM card and a long battery life. User-friendliness and the range of functions of the associated apps are another important criterion.
How much does a GPS tracker for a bike or e-bike cost?
The costs for GPS trackers vary greatly (50 to 199.90 euros). It is important to note that they are made up of the purchase price of the tracker itself and the ongoing costs for GPS data transmission.