In the world of cycling, bike theft hurts. What are your chances of recovering your stolen bike? Bike Revolution is a concept founded in England that uses the web community to help recover stolen bikes.
Australian Cyclist magazine (May/June 2009) has quoted that one in 10 Australian bicycle owners are likely to have their bike stolen in the next five year, a loss of $14 million per year. While prevention is always better, even the best lock and keeping a close eye on your property is no guarantee. If your bike can be more easily identified and tracked and recognised as stolen property, you are increasing the chances of recovery.
Stories of recovered bikes are few and far between – what if you could mark your bike in such a way that the police or even a would-be detective can let you know if they have found your bike? Bike Revolution have introduce an idea that encourages others to help identify stolen bikes.
Bike revolution works in two ways, the first is registering your bike as a precaution and adding unique identifying stickers to discourage thieves and ‘tag’ the bike. The second way is in the case that a bike is stolen, it is possible for the police, would-be detectives or potential buyers to check whether it is stolen and if so, inform the rightful owner.
Bike registration and the Pulse ID
Registering your bike in the Bike Revolution database is easy. You simply create a record of your bike details, just-in-case, you should include the bike serial number and a photo. The Bike Revolution concept however comes into full-swing with the purchase of a set of the "Pulse ID" stickers that includes a QR code and are fixed to your bicycle.
The pack of three QR coded stickers are tamperproof and weatherproof and need to be applied to the surface that has been thoroughly cleaned (with the provided towel), after three days they are sufficiently ‘stuck’. The three stickers should be place at three different locations on the frame. Keep reading as I was curious just how tamperproof these stickers are and put them to the test.
For top end bikes, there may be some concern that the Pulse Tags are unsightly. While they are not pretty, you can choose hard-to-see locations such as under the bottom bracket, or the inside edge of the forks and the chain stay. The comparatively low purchase price of the stickers is almost an obligation for expensive equipment.
How it all works
The advantages that the QR tags have over other ‘identification’ systems is that when an owner marks their bike as stolen on Bike Revolution, it can be very easily be identified by anyone with a smartphone. Free barcode readers are available for the the most popular mobile devices; iPhone, Windows, BlackBerry, Nokia and Android. When you scan the QR tag, you are taken to the Bike Revolution website and details on the bike are provided.
I recommend being cautious when adding your bike details to Bike Revolution. If you scan and check a bike that is not stolen, you can view many of the details that the owner has added about the bike, in my view more information is available than is actually necessary to inform digital detectives that a bike is registered and the world is ok. This is an example of the information that is displayed – my commuter bike.
The convenience of the QR Tags would certainly suit the police who recover stolen property and then try to track the owner. The police don’t require any special equipment, as would be the case with DataDotDNA or ImmobiTag, the Bike Revolution Pulse ID tags are a very accessible solution as just a smart phone is needed.
3M Tamperproof Stickers
The basis of the identification system are the three Pulse ID stickers with the QR code. These are called "tamperproof", this doesn’t actually doesn’t mean they are impossible to get off, however if applied correctly, it will be a messy job and for a stolen bike that is going to be sold-on, a tell tale sign that it is a dodgy deal.
As part of this review I received two Pulse ID sticker packs, one set was used to trial registration and the other set sacrificed to satisfy my curiosity, just how tamperproof are they? Using an old city bike which has one foot in the junkyard, I applied the stickers and waited for three days (as instructed) before selecting three weapons of attack; a rusty blade, my thumbnail and a lighter.
Using the blade, the sticker can be removed as I expected, though it doesn’t peel off. It is a painstaking job of trying to remove the sticker bit by bit and I wasn’t able to do it without damaging the paintwork, this approach with time consuming and I was left with a mess so even if each sticker was completely removed, the damaged frame (where each sticker was) would be a dead giveaway.
Using my thumbnail I could avoid damaging the paintwork though was a very slow option and even if I spent 30 minutes or an hour removing each sticker, the sticky residue that is left over would be the next challenge. Using this approach I broke my thumbnail after a short while and assume that a thief would have a time consuming and unrewarding task at hand if they choose to forcibly remove the stickers.
My joker was a lighter. What if I could easy use the flame to burn the sticker off? 3M however must have thought of this already as the sticker doesn’t giveup. The sticker blackens and even after some time remains intact. I tried burning and peeling and burning again though ened up with a sticky ugly mess.
This all means that while it is possible with a lot of patience to remove the stickers, it is highly likely that the frame would damaged or marked in the process. Just like a car in which the motor number is filed, the damage and residue is a tell-tale sign for any buyer to take caution.
The Bike Revolution Concept
Bike Revolution is not a commercial operation though they have partnered with Krypotonite who are supporting them through their retailer networks. As a non-commercial entity, Bike Revolution can cooperate with authorities and organisations without vested interest. This is good news for cyclists and cycling groups and Bike Revolution are looking for groups and clubs to get on board, this concept relies on generating a critical mass.
Launching Soon in Australia
The Bike Revolution Pulse IDs are coming soon to Australia and to date the price has not been set. In they meantime are slowly becoming available with some UK retailers packaged with Kryptonite bike locks. Bike Revolution plan to have the Pulse ID tags available at Local Bike Shops throughout Australia.
EDIT: mybikeREGO has been launched in Australia in 2011. It is not owned or partnered with Bike Revolution and has a different system though uses the Pulse ID tags. More info www.mybikerego.com
Find out more and register your bike at: www.bikerevolution.org
The Australian version of the Stolen Bike Alerts is at: aus.stolenbikealert.co
The Final Word on Bicycle Theft
Remember, in the case of theft, report it to the police. Too often bike theft is not reported which means that this issue is given a low priority by the police. Stolen Bike Announcements can be made in the Australian Cycling Forum as well as at Bike Revolution Stolen bike Alerts. You will also find a a comprehensive list of measures for preventing theft and tracking stolen bikes.