Bike crime blights the industry and can even put off potential customers. BikeSecure has been launched this year to make selling stolen bikes more difficult. BikeBiz interviews ex-Met cop Paul Troughton, the brain behind the new initiative…
You’ve got a unique perspective on bike crime, because I believe you were in the police force yourself?
Yes, I was in the Met and my time there highlighted some of the issues around bike crime. I am a keen cyclist myself and I race for the Wheelbase shop team and it just kind of came about when I was working in the Met. The Sergeant that I worked under was in charge of one of the cycle teams for the borough and we’d done partnership days – like on a Sky Ride where you’ve got the gazebos up and you do the protective marking schemes.
I’m not knocking those schemes – they’re always helpful for repatriating goods.
But what we were finding on the bike products was that you get any Joe Bloggs coming up to you saying they wanted to mark their bike. It creates a nightmare when someone falsely registers them.
One thing that came back is that the Police National Databank is good for some things, but unfortunately for verifying lawful ownership of bikes it just wasn’t helpful, really. So the idea was born out of that. I sat down and had a think about how best it could be done and what existing schemes are out there and came up with the BikeSecure product.
And the main unique selling point is that the bike is registered at the point of purchase, so it can’t be falsely registered after its been stolen?
Exactly. One point against it is that someone who has a nice bike at the moment can’t register it, so we’re working on a plan to do a retro-registration, but that has to be done securely, obviously. The USP of BikeSecure is that it is done at POS, but it’s also that it’s all done for the customer. We’ve all done it, been to Comet, or a similar store and bought something like a microwave – you get the warranty cards and you just don’t send them off. They just get thrown in a drawer and left. So one thing we wanted to do was to take that out of the customer’s hands and register the bike automatically.
That was where Toby [Dalton, Cybertill director] came into it and why we teamed up with Cybertill. It comes straight from the POS and if the BikeSecure product is opted into, Cybertill do a sweep at the end of the day so any product sold with the BikeSecure option gets picked up and sent across to our database.
And how long has it been running now?
It has been running for just six months. Wheelbase has been the test bed for it and has been really helpful. We’ve got all the bugs out of the system and it’s now running brilliantly. A letter has now gone out to all the shops that use Cybertill’s system informing them of the product, so we’re rolling it out.
In an ideal world the system will be running with most bike shops?
That’s the long-term aim, yes. I’d like to see every new bike sold in the UK registered on our secure database.
I’ve lived in London and I’ve raced, and it feels like pretty much everyone in London has had a bike nicked somewhere down the line. It’s an issue for bike shops as well: One of the guys told me that they lose out through sales from people that say they’re not going to buy another £1,000 bike to ride to work on because it’s going to get nicked a few months down the line. So yes, for me I’d love to see it rolled out. I don’t see the mentality of spending thousands of pounds on a bike and having no history to it.
One of the other benefits of it is that if you want to sell your bike in the local paper, or online, if you can verify the history of the bike you will gain extra revenue.
We’ve all been on some online marketplace auction sites and seen some questionable bikes. If you make the product harder to sell after it’s stolen then you hit the ‘nickability’ of it. If you can’t sell it, nobody will want to nick it in the first place.
You can transfer ownership of the bike using BikeSecure and the name stays with the bike. I’ve got six bikes on the site of my own. You can interact with it too. If you buy a new set of wheels, say, you can update the entry.