Innovative bike tracking: Deter theft with an AirTag bike mount?

Bike theft sucks.

Your bike is probably really special to you, and your financial investment is worth protecting.  A bike AirTag mount can help.  When I first moved to the area, I was so worried about theft, that I bought a second “beater” bike to get around town. I bought a good U-lock to lock my frame and a cable to deter a theft from stealing the wheels.  I even bought a smaller cable to keep the seatpost in place.

To prevent theft when locking:

Use a good lock

Ideally the lock will be strong and thick enough to resist bending or cutting with a saw or angle grinder. The key and shackle mechanism should also be resistant to tampering.  The lock should go through a part of your frame (not just the wheel!) so that, assuming the lock is intact, the bike cannot be removed without cutting the bike or cutting the thing you have locked your bike to.

Use a second lock or cable to secure your wheel

I often try to lock my wheel and frame together with the U-lock.  Then I use a second folding lock, or a cable, to secure the wheel to the frame or to the post/bike parking area.

Bike locking resources

Bike East Bay has a good summary on how to lock your bike securely to deter and prevent theft.

Here is a guide for what makes a good u-lock.

There are ways you can track your bike.

If you want peace of mind in knowing that your bike is where it’s supposed to be, or if you want to know if your bike has gone missing, there are ways to track your bike.

GPS bike trackers were expensive

GPS trackers sort of work like a mini cell phone with GPS capacity that either communicates with a server via SMS or data.  As you might expect, these can be kind of expensive and require both a capable battery as well as a payment for some type of cellular plan to pay for network coverage. These cost between $30 and $100+, and usually require a monthly charge of $9/month or more, to maintain communication with the device over cellular networks.

Now with Apple’s AirTag network, you can track it with an AirTag bike mount.

In 2021, Apple introduced AirTag, which is a tracking device that communicates with nearby iPhones via bluetooth.  The identity of the device is encrypted, but location data is fed to apple who stores it in case the AirTag’s owner requests its location.  AirTags are relatively inexpensive ($29), especially compared to the cost of GPS trackers.

What about unwanted tracking

AirTags that follow someone other than the owner around for more than a few hours may issue a safety alert to the person’s phone, letting them know that an the owner of the AirTag can see their location.  Apple then helps the person locate the AirTag so they can remove the battery and disable it.

There are many reports of people having recovered their bikes using an AirTag

Here are some examples of recovered bicycles:

How do you attach an AirTag to your bike?

There are a few main ways. There is a mount that goes underneath the water bottle cage.  Other mounts replace the headset cap or hide under the steerer. Others are simply little silicone cases that you can strap onto some other part of your bike. There are also under-saddle mounts that either attach with sticky foam tape or that clamp onto the saddle rails of your bike.  A lot of these mounts are hidden so that a potential thief will not be able to see it and try to disable it.

There are expensive AirTag bike mounts

Muc-Off makes a fancy aluminum AirTag holder for a bicycle called the Secure Tag Holder.  It fits under a water bottle cage, is made of attractive anodized 6061 aluminum, and costs $45.

Cheap bicycle AirTag mounts

There are cheap and crappy AirTag mounts produced overseas that don’t fit well and are made of not sustainable materials.  But many of them function okay, as all they need to do is hold an AirTag onto your bike.

You can 3D print your own AirTag mount for your bike

If you’ve got access to a 3D printer, there are a few different designs for AirTag bicycle mounts on Thingiverse.  I tried one and wasn’t happy with it, and I didn’t like the other designs.

I made my own bicycle AirTag mount

I’m 3D printing my own design for a bicycle AirTag mount, with the goal of offering a mount made from bio-based or biodegradeable plastics that’s made in the USA, and provides weather sealed protection for your AirTag at an accessible price.  I hope to release it soon.  If you need something sooner, some of the above options may suit you well.

 

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