First there is confusion, then anger and then a deep sense of loss. To bike riders of all kinds, theft is more than losing a possession – it’s like losing your best friend. In this neighbourhood there is sometimes more value in bikes in a garage than cars in the driveway. We talked to the local experts on keeping your bike safe, insured and ready to ride down the mountains.
You can never be too safe
The North Vancouver RCMP report bike thefts remain pretty constant year over year with a slight increase in 2020. Only about 10 % of bikes are recovered.
“People move here to ride,” said Rick Loader, owner of Lynn Valley Bikes. “When your bike is stolen it feels like a violation. It’s their second-best friend, treated better than a spouse sometimes.”
During peak season, his shop deals with customers almost once a week coming in to replace a stolen bike.
“It varies at times throughout the year,” he said. “It averages out to two or three times a month.”
But there are some people who aren’t completely broken up about it, he said.
“A mountain bike only lasts about five years of the hard riding we have here,” said Loader. “There is the rare occasion that insurance comes in at a good time. For those without insurance, it stings them a lot harder.”
Protecting your bike on paper
Empathy abounds from Central Agencies insurance broker David Fiteni, who has had his own bike stolen from a Lynn Valley condo building.
“Often people find out too late that their insurance has a bike limit – much less than the cost of the bikes we see here in Lynn Valley,” said Fiteni. “Protecting your bike isn’t like ICBC coverage where a car of a certain make and age has a set insurance value. You need to go to your insurance broker to have coverage for the replacement cost of the bike plus all the hundreds of dollars of upgrades if you aren’t riding stock.”
It pays to seek out local experience when choosing your broker.
“It might be standard practice when looking at home insurance to ask about jewelry or art,” he said. “Here in Lynn Valley, I always ask ‘Do you have any bikes?’ I have never had someone who didn’t want to have their bike fully covered.”
Fiteni says the best way to insure your bike is to sit down with a broker you trust.
“If you deal with a particular institution, they offer you what they have. We will look at eight-12 different options to see how they can best cover your bike,” he said. “We don’t fit them into a product, we find the best product to fit them – every case is different.”
There are changes coming into the insurance industry but not all coverage is equal and there are key questions to think about.
“People are spending a lot on bikes because they have value to the rider,” he said. “One underwriter might allow you to have a $7000 bike in your contents insurance, but another may charge you $300 a year for that.”
Fiteni suggests starting your bike insurance conversation by covering these areas:
- Mysterious disappearance – is the bike covered if it is not at home? Or if it’s on your vehicle?
- Will a bike claim impact “claims-free” discounts? A bike’s inherent mobility puts it at increased risk.
- Does the policy have a maximum for bike claims?
- Are there requirements for securing bikes for them to be covered at home? On the road?
- Is there a different deductible for bikes vs. a different kind of claim?
Protecting your bike in practice
Both Loader and Fiteni along with the RCMP recommend registering your bike with Garage 529. The free service is used by police and citizen groups to get stolen bikes back in the hands of their owners.
“Don’t store your bike in a condo bike room or a plywood storage locker,” said Loader. “They are tucked out of the way, they don’t get visited very often. It’s too easy for thieves to get access and spend some time getting all the bikes they want.”
A sentiment echoed by Fiteni.
“A builder puts in the cheapest materials it can, and most stratas don’t reinforce security hardware until ‘17’ bikes are stolen.”
For home, Loader recommends keeping bikes in earshot and locked up. On the road, he brings multiple locks.
“There are four locks that live in my van – one that is a 6-foot, 35-lb chain,” he said. “Another is a motion-sensitive alarm. If the bikes are on the rack, I back it in where I can keep an eye on it and at very least be outside and hear it.”
The thought of spending hundreds of dollars on locks may seem excessive but when looking at the numbers, $350 in locks is just a five percent investment in protecting a $7000 bike. Some experts recommend 10 percent of the value in security. When out with your bike Loader also reminds riders to check what you are attaching the lock to.
“There are poles all over the Vancouver-area that aren’t secured in place, a simple tug will lift out the pole. I have even seen a guy on another’s shoulders unscrewing the sign at the top so they can lift a bike up and over,” said Loader. “Parking meters are a little better.”
Loader’s last tip: “Don’t flaunt your bike. Get it inside and your door closed. Don’t sit there in your garage with the door up working on your bike all afternoon with four other bikes hanging up.”
As the value of bikes rises, the protection policies are improving, said Fiteni. But when it comes to talking about e-bikes they are their own unique circumstances you need to discuss with your broker.