There’s been a sudden explosion in the number of people using online ride mapping and logging sites, but there’s a potentially sinister side-effect to having all your data made freely available on the internet.

Sites such as Strava and MapMyRide use GPS logs from bike devices such as Garmin Edge computers to map your rides in intricate detail – including where the ride starts and stops. For most of us, this means that the place where you keep your bike is clearly visible on the maps shown online and to the rest of the world.

An unscrupulous individual could use the information to easily pinpoint the storage location of bikes in any given area – and since some sites allow you to name your bike, they could even identify the location of an exact make and model.

Cycling Weekly has been told of several incidents recently where thieves have appeared to target a particular address, turning up fully equipped with cutting equipment and getting away with thousands of pounds worth of cycles. Several of these stolen bikes have been equipped with GPS computers.

Now, the fact that the pinched bikes were equipped with GPS computers might be coincidence, but it’s best to be on the side of caution. Strava, for example, sensibly allows you to hide the position of a specific address on your ride maps – your home, for example – by setting a masked area around it.

Anyone then looking at a map of your ride is not shown a selected area around the address – 100 metres or 500 metres and so on. This does not affect the length of your logged ride, just the information displayed on the map.

This masking function is switched off by default, so you need to go into your Strava account, select ‘Privacy’ from the drop-down menu under your name at the top of the screen and follow the instructions to obscure your address. I’d urge everyone to do this.

It goes without saying – but I’ll say it anyway – that you should also keep photographs of your bike(s) and make a note of their frame numbers should they be pinched.

Showing the world how great you are on a local climb is one thing, but showing the world that you have several thousand pounds-worth of bikes tucked up in your garage is not a great idea.

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  • Dan

    @ Dan T:
    Stolen bike finder web site:
    https://racklove.com/stolen-bike-finder/
    But only for those of us who live in the colonies. Note sure if there is an equivalent in the UK.

  • Tom

    It would be far simpler for a thief to simply follow you in a car and see where you leave your bike. Stop being hysterical!

  • Verilocation

    Soundsa like a good idea!

    Check out here for more on GPS tracking

    http://www.verilocation.com/

  • Alan Thompson

    Quick video tutorial here which highlights the dangers of sharing too much info, and how to protect yourself on Strava – http://www.scarletfire.co.uk/2012/05/lock-your-gps-data-against-bicycle-thieves
    hope someone finds it useful

  • GGR

    following on from Bob, do that and then write it’s some sort of carbon beauty on your strava listing!

    It really wouldn’t surprise me if determined thieves did go to the trouble of doing this, more “cost effective” for them, they hit a house and walk away with some serious money’s worth, instead of a failed attempt on either an empty house, or one which contains undesirable/low value bikes. I mean what else are they doing all day except waiting for nightfall?? ;-) Worth thinking about anyway. Glad I dont use Strava, I wouldn’t have thought of it.

  • Bob

    Get a rubbish old bike and let the thief be disappointed :)

    Or don’t spend 1000′s on a bike…

  • Fin

    How about actually going riding with other people to show how fast you are…….

  • Calum

    “Strava can be set to just use your initial not your full surname, as well as hiding the last 1 mile, 1000ft or 500ft as mentioned.” Exactly. What the big deal. And it’s like there are no bikes locked around the streets of value to pinch. Sounds like a very fear mongering story to me. Life’s too short.

  • Dan T

    Sounds like there’s a need for a web site where people buying used bikes can go to quickly check to see if a bike is stolen (of course this will require people to note their serial number(s) but that isn’t so tough is it?–take a photo and store it). Few people want to buy a stolen bike and this will at least help to some to think twice about pinching a bike.

  • Maryka

    I’m a bit suspicious of the claim “Several of these stolen bikes have been equipped with GPS computers.” Nobody leaves their Garmin or iphone attached to their bike once they get home, come on. It’s indoors, uploading data, being recharged, etc.

    That said, you’d be stupid not to use Strava’s privacy options of hiding your address. Use 3-4 postcodes from places near your house too to increase the circle and make it harder to know exactly where you live.

  • Tim

    Avoid attracting bike thieves when using sites like strava by registering in the name of a neighbour you dont like.

  • Dave

    Or a simpler solution. Don’t start and stop your GPS at your house. Cycle off and when you get to a main road junction start it. For the 500m or so lost data is it really worth risk your stead?

  • Kev D

    Strava can be set to just use your initial not your full surname, as well as hiding the last 1 mile, 1000ft or 500ft as mentioned. I use strava with those settings

    Both these seem sensible precautions to me, and I use them. I also use a motor-bike “ground achor” to lock the bikes to even when locked in the secured garage. Again all precautions. My mum on the other hand wont use facebook in case a thief is watching her profile to see when she isnt at home to rob the house – which seems a little OTT to me.

  • simonfbarnes

    modern smartphones’ GPS’s work just as well and come with a free phone :)
    I thought it was kinda obvious not to start tracking from your house ?

  • emil

    if I was a thief isn’t there an easier way to find potential targets for stealing stuff that browsing strava, finding a person who has created a bike that sounds expensive, look up his name in a directory, go to the actual site and see what the location looks like, etc.

    Sounds like false insecurity to me. If I was a thief I would go to a rich neighborhood and look for an opportunity. The return on invested time must be much higher, no?

    I feel like the fear of not using Strava, is the same fear not to use facebook because you are afraid your girlfriend will see how good-looking friends you have and will breakup with you.

    There might be cases were a thief has found you via a gps website, just like there are cases of breakup caused by facebook, but this has got to be a very very small number.

  • Mark Harding

    I use Strava and quickly switched on the masking facility, but that doesn’t give me peace of mind.

    I have made myself and all my rides private.

    As the popularity of cycling increases, so does bike theft.

    Mark Harding
    Founder
    Cyclosport,org

  • Ray

    Have been considering a GPS to replace my perfectly good Sigma computer.Had made the decision I could justify spending about £150 and was about to take the plunge. This report alone that raises some blindingly obvious negatives has totally put me off.Will invest in some new riding gear instead.

  • Mick

    Whilst the privacy setting on Strava will help mask the location of your starting point, a clever thief would also use your name (asuming you use your real one) to look up your home address using any one of a number of online resources. So, if you use your real name on Strava and keep your bikes at your home address, using the security setting does not make you immune to being targeted. The solution here is not to use your real name so that the thief cannot identify you – but if you do this, nobody will know that it’s you who is beating them on the climbs! Dilemma!