Jan 9, 2011

I am a Bike Revolution Guinea Pig

I replied to a post on Bike Love about a week ago and got to be a test pilot as a result. Beau at Penn Cycle received a few sets of Bike Revolution stickers from the company and offered them to the cycling community to test them out.

Penn has deservedly earned a bit of a reputation for helping Twin Cities cyclists recover their stolen bikes. I am aware of several episodes were stolen bikes were brought in to Penn or seen in the neighborhood and ended up getting returned to their owners because the folks at Penn follow the missing bike posts on CL and Bike Love and maintain a constant vigilance. This good karma resulted in Bike Revolution contacting Penn to see if they wanted to carry the I.D. tags, I suspect.

Bike Revolution is an on-line registry service for your bike (and Krypto locks, too). The Bike Revolution kit comes with 3 stickers with identical Pulse barcodes and numeric codes on each sticker. The large sticker is the "deterrent" and should be placed visibly on the bike (I stuck mine on the top tube). The other two are smaller and can be hidden somewhere else on the bike or kept for files, I suppose.

The on-line registration was easy and straightforward, but you will need your bike's serial number to complete the process, obviously. I chose to register my Raleigh single speed commuter because that seems like the mostly bike to get stolen, since I lock that up all over the place. The registration page has a box to describe the bike, so certain details, like the fact this bike is singled and has generic flat bars, can be added to the basic facts such as make, model, size and color. I also registered one of my Kryptonite locks while I was at it.

Once the registration is complete you are taken to a "My Bikes" page. You get a unique user name and pass word on the site when you register, so if you have say, half a dozen bikes, and you bought 6 of the I.D. tags, you could register them all and see them listed on this page. I only have the Raleigh here because that's the only bike I have in the program at this point, but it's infinitely expandable, it seems. This is the page where you can list your bike as stolen if that does happen.

When the registration process is all done, a PDF certificate of registration is sent via email to the email address you provide during the registration process.

Bike Revolution/Kryptonite offer a free bar code scanner software application for smart phones that enable the phone to become a barcode scanner, read the tag and identify the bike. I already had a free app, called ScanLife, on my phone and was unable to read the bar codes with that. I tried to download the application from the website, but had trouble doing so the first time I attempted it. I'll give a shot later and see if I can get it to work, and actually scan my bike, later. For now, I figure that I get the most benefit from having the bike registered in the system. This is probably easier with a Droid or iPhone rather than my out-of-date Motorola Q, but even so, the website is not smart phone friendly, which seems really stupid.

The other minor tweak I would make to this is that I would make the stealthy stickers smaller and design them to fit in the rim, attached to the rim strip. I suppose you could stick them on the steerer column of the fork and in the seat tube, where they might be found, but I think the odds of a stolen bike being brought in to a shop for a flat tire is a hell of a lot higher than coming in for a headset. When I remember to do so, I write my name and phone number on my rims strips, since that might help a stolen wheel find it's way back to me. Seems like the stickers would be as good or better if they fit in the rim channel.

Aside from the stealth sticker size, the bar code scanner seems like the weakest link in this system. We tried to scan a bike that had been entered into the system when I was at Penn Cycle on Wednesday night and neither my phone nor the mechanics phone would register the Pulse I.D. I bet you can still manually enter the numeric code on the website, but I bet fewer people will take the time to do that.

Whether or not this will catch on remains to be seen. I think it certainly can't hurt the odds of recovering a bike. Whether bike shop owners embrace this will be one test of its success. If few mechanics take time to read the code or check the site, this will ultimately be less effective.


  1. This is a really cool idea, and I'd love to see something like this take off... a couple of questions, though:

    How much does registering cost?
    If it does catch on, won't thieves be smart enough to remove the stickers ASAP?
    Is there a way to transfer ownership of a registered number from one person to another?

    I wonder if an easier solution might be to have something mandated legislatively to systematize serial numbers - a lot like VIN numbers on cars - all bikes sold would be required to use a standardized format & placement (this system could still easily lend itself to stickers & bar codes & sticker-reading apps & stuff).

  2. Registration is free and comes with the $15 purchase of the stickers. I think it's the same registration system as they current use for the Kryptonite locks, which enables you to get a replacement key.

    As for removing the stickers, the adhesive is very tenacious. They removed one at Penn and ended up destroying the sticker. I suppose they could be removed, but you could still list the bike as stolen and if the description/serial number is a match you might get the bike back without the sticker.

    I have no idea about transferring ownership of a bike. I suspect the thing the manufacturer wants you to do is to remove your bike when you sell it and have the new owner buy a sticker. I have not looked into transferring a bike at all.

  3. Regarding transfer of ownership: The old owner logs in, marks the bike as sold which deletes the bike details from his list of registered bikes. The new owner then registers the bike as his, providing bike information, including the Pulse ID number attached to the bike. It's up to the seller to decide if he wants to charge the buyer for the Pulse ID tag. Hope this helps.

  4. Thank you, Briand. I think these are a great idea and really like the concept of a national stolen bike database. It seems well worth the $15 price. Are you with Bike Revolution? If so, can you tell me if shops are currently stocking these and how we can find vendors? It seems like this is a new thing over here.

    Thanks for stopping by and filling in some of hte blanks!

  5. Thanks for the write-up. There's a couple things we can clarify if you're interested. The platform is global but works at a local level. So bikes stolen in MPLS only go to people in that area. However, the power of social media is great and growing. There's no reason why Neighbourhood Bike Watch can't work as we're a pretty small but loyal group of people who do by nature look at other bikes out of sheer curiosity. There is over $3billion of bikes stolen annually, with over 2 million in the US alone so this is a big problem that needs to be solved. Thanks for your support.

  6. Yes, I'm co-founder of Bike Revolution. It's a non-profit company set up to fight bike theft on a global/local level. The Pulse ID tags will be available in selected bicycle dealers beginning in February 2011, both in the USA and UK, with roll-out throughout the remainder of the year. You will be able to find the Pulse ID tags where ever Kryptonite bike locks are sold, as they are our security partner and we're working with their distribution chain. Just to clarify, whenever a bike is listed as stolen, a Stolen Bike Alert goes out to fans and followers in that area only. Here's an example of an SBA http://usa.stolenbikealert.co/

  7. Your comments are very helpful! After some more work on the scanner I have concluded that my issues are twofold: first and most signifcantly, my phone is out of date enough that the software won't work on it. The website is a Windows application site that is hard to navigate (had trouble finding out where to click to download the software). It's moot at this point because of my ancient phone, but the issue is Microsoft and not Bike Revolution, so I wanted to point that out. Like I said, this would be easier with an iPhone.

  8. We've done comprehensive testing on all mobile platforms and they work fine. You're right though. If you have an old platform, this won't work.

  9. Thanks, rtw. These are the best comments I've ever gotten on this stupid blog. Rock on, Bike Revolution, rock on.

  10. Hi SS,

    Glad we can be of help. We're happy to answer any questions posed by yourself or your readers on the service and platform we offer.

    Getting the word out is important and we have a growing outreach program to bike clubs, shops, bike coalitions and advocacy groups, bloggers and the mainstream cycling community.

    The goal is to use social media and higher rates of bike registration to recover stolen bikes. I wish there were more shops like Penn Cycles that actively look out for the interests of cyclists as their anti-theft actions bear results.

    We believe we can have an effect on culling bike crime with social media, Pulse ID tags and educating the general cycling public on how to correctly secure their bikes.

    At present we monitor all stolen bike reports on FB and Twitter and respond with tips on how to recover bikes. You can find our SO ME channel handles here: Twitter: @bikerevolution and FB: Stolen Bike Alert. Both channels are pretty robust with a growing base of fans and followers. The 10 Tips section found on the home page is very popular and the first port of call for victims of bike theft. I invite you to take a look.

    In the meantime, I invite you personally to share any news, articles, trends, bike thefts or cycling issues in and around MPLS with us. We'll be happy to share these with our growing cycling community of readers.


  11. There are several free bike registry services on the web (though $15 for 3 decals is not exactly free). Regardless of which service you select, make sure to TAG your bike in multiple places as shown in www.bikeregistry.com/install.php . If stolen, even a stupid crook will peal off what he can easily see. The one he misses will be his undoing....