GPS tag, Apple Airtag, technological tools to prevent bike theft

Bicycle theft (400,000 per year in France, let’s remember) is one of the reasons why a large number of French people do not dare to take the step of cycling. In addition to the lack of infrastructure or the high cost of electrically assisted bicycles, theft is a scourge that is very difficult to combat. Despite the multitude of conventional mechanical locks that may exist, when a thief really wants a bike, he will have it.. The quality of the lock will simply lengthen the duration to blow it up. Once the much-desired object is in the wild, there is only one solution left: remote tracking. And there, two options are available to you: one inexpensive but not always very reliable, and the second more precise, but much more expensive.

Apple Airtags

Thanks to the Muc Off system, you can install an Airtag directly in the tire (in Tubeless mounting, only)© Muc Off

Since their launch, Airtags have been a great success. What looks like a large shirt button is actually a battery-operated beacon. Autonomy is announced at almost a year by Apple for the Airtag, which is based on a very simple principle: the meshing of Apple smartphones in the world. Concretely, the Airtag communicates via Bluetooth with Apple mobiles in the vicinity (a few meters). Each time an iPhone passes by, it sends the position of the Airtag over the data network. This allows the Airtag owner to locate their Airtag easily. Initially, it was thought for lost objects, but its use has been diverted to counter thefts.

The Airtag offers many advantages: compact, inexpensive, autonomous and easy to locate via Bluetooth at short distance. However, it has a big drawback, since its location is based solely on the presence of a nearby Apple mobile device (iPad, iPhone, other, etc.). Clearly, if your Airtag is in an area where there is no passing Apple device, you will never have its position.

Another big problem with the Airtag: to prevent it from being used for dishonest purposes, Apple has put a system in place that allows the person who “carries around” an Airtag that is not theirs to be notified of its presence. Clearly, if the thief leaves with your bike equipped with an Airtag, he could sooner or later receive an alert telling him that an Airtag is around. Concretely, this means that from the moment your bike is stolen, it will be necessary to act quickly, and pray that the thief has stashed the bike in an area covered by Apple devices. Obviously, once your bike is located, don’t act alone: ​​notify the police, who will intervene to recover it.

The question that finally arises is the location of the Airtag on the bike. You can tuck it discreetly under the saddle, or even in the frame for those who have storage space inside. Otherwise, there is a much more vicious location: in the tire! The Muc Off brand has developed a tubeless valve system where the Airtag is housed. Neither seen nor known, even if one wonders how the Airtag will be able to resist shocks at this place. An alternative exists, still at Muc Off, with a spacer to put under the bottle cage. Wedge that discreetly integrates the Airtag.

GPS beacons

To have real real-time monitoring of your bike, it is better to invest in a GPS tracker. Obviously, this is for bicycles whose cost is far from negligible. There is little point in installing such a tool on a used bike bought for €100. But knowing that the average price of VAE in France was around 2000 € last year, and as their number continues to grow, it is clear that this technology will become very useful. Several solutions compete today, even if there are two protagonists. The first is French: Hoot Bike. The company offers two distinct formulas: a GPS tractor to be installed in your fork tube, and another in the form of a bottle cage. Both are theoretically impossible to remove since you need a specific key, like a car lock nut. The beacon is therefore discreetly housed on the bike and invisible to the thief.

On your smartphone, the dedicated application allows you to find your mount almost anywhere… as long as there is a signal. Even better, the Hoot Bike GPS tracker has functions like the alert in case of movement of the bike (less than 20 seconds) and an SOS button which is automatically triggered in the event of a fall, notifying your loved ones of your position. It is today the most successful system, but it is expensive: 200 € for the bottle cage, same price for the fork tube version. The 5-year GSM subscription is still free (3 €/month thereafter). Next step for Hoot: a GPS tracker suitable for electric bikes, hidden at the battery level!

For those who would like a slightly cheaper solution, there remains the Invoxia range. Tracers with or without subscription, including a model that takes the form of rear lighting to be fixed on the seat post. But in this case, the thief can easily blow up the tracer by destroying the rear light as a precaution. Otherwise, it exists in the form of a small tube barely bigger than a mini powerbank. Practical, but less well integrated on a bike than the Hoot Bike system. Prefer all the same the versions with subscription, which have a better tracking network. Rates vary between 100 and 150 € on average.

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