Fat-tire bicycles theft rampant, insurance companies say NO to coverage

The Netherlands’ largest bicycle association, Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB), has announced that it will cease offering insurance for fat-tire bicycles due to an unexpected reason – thieves love ’em, and they are being stolen at a record rate.

The Netherlands is a cycling paradise, where bicycles are an integral part of daily life. With a bicycle count potentially exceeding the population, cycling is more than a mode of transportation – it’s a way of life. While the traditional Dutch-style bicycles with upright designs and narrow yet large-diameter tires used to dominate the scene, the rise of e-bikes has brought fat-tire bicycles into the spotlight. However, this popularity has attracted not only enthusiasts but also thieves!

A staggering statistic showcases the extreme nature of bike theft: “In Amsterdam, the likelihood of a fat-tire bicycle being stolen is 90%.” ANWB currently insures around 10,000 fat-tire bicycles and notes that the loss due to these thefts has increased insurance premiums by 800%. To minimize these losses, ANWB has decided to discontinue offering insurance for fat-tire bicycles.

This phenomenon is not unique to the Netherlands. Reports indicate that the United States experiences around 190,000 bicycle thefts annually. If unreported thefts (estimated at an additional 152,000 bicycles) are considered, the rate of disappearing bicycles is astonishing, with one bike being stolen approximately every 1.54 minutes. Bike Index.org, a national bike registry, reported a 24% increase in marked stolen bikes on their website in 2020 compared to 2019.

Behind the rampant theft culture lies the lucrative nature of e-bikes. This nearly risk-free endeavor can generate around $500 in net profit per stolen e-bike. Less than 5% of stolen bicycles are recovered, with stolen bikes being resold within days, sometimes even hours. Law enforcement agencies prioritize other matters over bicycle theft, resulting in low chances of getting caught. Moreover, the simplicity of disassembling, lightweight frames, and easy transportation contribute to the appeal. Thieves can even ride off on the stolen bicycle, leaving the victim bewildered and helpless. The probability of recovery is extremely low, as once the bike is out of a thief’s hands, it becomes nearly untraceable. Even if recovered, confirming ownership is difficult, as many bicycle owners fail to record serial numbers.

To prevent their bicycles from disappearing, many opt for sturdy locks. However, the reality is that thieves can either take the entire locked bike or dismantle and leave the frame. Some bikes are equipped with GPS tracking devices, but thieves have learned techniques to locate and remove these devices, rendering them ineffective.

While insuring a bicycle provides some peace of mind, especially for mid-range and high-end e-bikes costing thousands of dollars, rampant theft has reached a point where insurance coverage is no longer available. The focal point now shifts to addressing the theft rate, as the risk of investing significant money in a bike prone to being stolen raises questions about the long-term sustainability of such purchases.

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