Watch Real Thieves Get Caught at the European Bike Stealing Championships

A bike is stolen every five minutes in Europe. It's a sorry stat and one that inspired the team at We Love Cycling to create a European Bike Stealing Championship with bait bikes set in the continent's worst offending cities. Whichever city saw its bike get nabbed first, was crowned the champion. After narrowing down the competition to Rome, Amsterdam, and Prague, the We Love Cycling team rigged the bait bikes with powder bombs and a hid a band to congratulate the unlucky thief who thought they were getting a free ride.

After just 23 minutes of sitting in a town square, a man in Amsterdam attempted to steal the bait bike before getting scared off by the powder bomb and general ruckus of the We Love Cycling band. The group made it clear during their experiment that they are not attempting to end bike thefts, but to better learn how to avoid them. Across the world, bike theft is one of the most difficult petty crimes to stop because it is deemed a low priority, and stolen bikes are nearly impossible to track down. Between 800,000 and 2 million bikes are stolen in the US each year, and only 5 percent of stolen bikes are ever returned to their owners. Here's a quick guide to locking your bike and ensuring it never disappears on you.

  • Always lock your bike when it is not in your immediate possession — even if you're just going to be gone for a second.
  • Avoid cable locks and light-duty chains, they can be snipped with wire cutters.
  • Never lock your bike through just a wheel. Secure the lock through the bike frame. 
  • Your best bet is to double up with both a U-Lock (such as the Kryptonite Fahgettaboutit Mini, $84) to secure the rear wheel to the frame, and a heavy-duty chain (we like the OnGuard 8020 Mastiff, $80) to lock the frame and front wheel to an anchor.
  • Lock up to a metal structure that is set in cement. Don't lock up to trees or wooden structures. If thieves can cut through it, they will.