Advertisement

Sign up for our newsletter

Advertisement

Buyer's guide: GPS bike trackers

Cyclist magazine
30 Aug 2021

Devices that’ll help you hunt down and recover your bike should it go missing in action

If the idea of hunting down your stolen bike and going Charles Bronson on whoever nicked it appeals, then a bike tracker could help lead you to this potentially ill-advised showdown.

However, we would caution that without the kind of regular power source available to an electric bicycle or a motorbike, you may find the battery life of most GPS trackers is shorter than you imagined. Equally, given the difficulty of transmitting a signal through a bike's frame, several are also less than discrete.

Bearing this in mind, some of the slimmer models around are more useful for keeping an eye on your bike during events or when in transport than they are for the day-in-day-out protection of the average commuter.

Either way, have a look at our survey of the latest bicycle trackers and make up your own mind.

1 Sherlock GPS Tracker

This invisible GPS anti-theft device for bicycles works in conjunction with the free-to-download Sherlock app (available for iOS or Android). Once the app is launched, you create a bike profile, adding a picture of your bike, the frame number, and details such as make and model before pairing it to the tracker.

You then slot the GPS unit into your bars. As the 11.5cm, 40g plastic tube is flexible, it’ll work with most drop and straight handlebars (you can check online). Simply pop your bar end out and slide the GPS in. We found the fit snug enough to prevent rattling, with the integrated bar end keeping things firmly in place. There’s even a twin bar end included in the box so you can match things up on the other side.

The device is charged via the USB port and cable with a single two-hour charge providing around two weeks’ worth of juice. You then activate Sherlock via the app whenever you leave your bike unattended. You’ll be sent an alert if the bike is moved, and you’ll be able to track where it is via the wonder of Google Maps. Two year’s worth of internet connection is included in the price, with a £2.50 per month subscription kicking in from the third year.

Buy now from Powerbikes for £125

2 See.Sense Air

Currently available to pre-order, the See.Sense Air comes from a brand we’ve had good experiences with in the past. Now its Air GPS tracker promises to provide an accurate GPS location, immediate alerts, plus a long battery life. Sending you notifications to your phone if your bike gets moved, it also has an inbuilt alarm.

If some ne’er-do-well nevertheless makes off with your machine, you can then immediately forward its current location on to the police. I'ts made to sit under the saddle, though one disadvantage we can spot is that the Air looks obviously like a tracking device, and that’s before it’s started beeping.

Despite coming with a security fitting, I also can’t imagine it would be too tricky to tear off its GoPro-style mount. But then, living in London means I’m a person who has witnessed someone remove the internal battery from an Uber rental bike using only a brick. On the plus side, you do get up to three months of coverage per charge. Likely to be a good bet for mass participation events and less mean streets, you can currently save 26% on its RRP if you order now in time for its release in Autumn.

Pre-order now from See.Sense for £89

3 Boomerang Cyclotrac V2 Bike Tracker

Peace of Mind. Anywhere. Anytime. That’s the promise anyway. A properly chunky device that a thief won’t fail to notice (and then should accordingly be put off by) the Boomerang attaches via tamper-proof bolts to your down tube bottle cage mounts.

The self-contained device has multiple sensors and an alarm that will send out a loud, shrill sound when your bike is tampered with. A text message is then sent to any phones that you have set up to be contacted in the event of a theft, and you can then track its movements in real-time via Google Maps online. 

Arm it before you leave your bike, and anyone moving it nefariously will also get blasted by the built-in alarm. Although theft protection and tracking is its primary purpose, the Boomerang can also give you bike-computer-style feedback on things like your calorie burn, distance ridden and elevation.

Weighing in at 145g, it has a rechargeable battery that lasts around two months on a single charge. However, once you activate its tracking mode, you’ll only have 10 hours to locate your bike, and that’s assuming a full battery to start with. The price includes a year’s worth of internet connection with a $3.99 a month subscription after that.

Buy now from Boomerang Bike for £99

4 Tile Pro BlueTooth Tracker

Rather than working off of a GPS signal, the Tile Pro uses Bluetooth to connect the tracker to an app on your phone. As such, the range this device works at is limited to 400ft – although that signal can be extended. If you’re within this range, the location of your paired Tile will pop up on the map, while you’ll also have the option the set the Tile to emit a loud and repetitive ring.

Alternatively, select the ‘Notify When Found’ option on the app and any other Tile users (there are 10 million worldwide) in the vicinity of your missing Tile who have the app open on their phone will anonymously send you a notification relaying its location on Google Maps.

About the size of a large coin, the device runs on a replaceable CR2032 battery, and once activated, will last a claimed 12 months. It's easy to discreetly attach to the underside of your seat post with a cable tie, and the firm also sells stick-on versions it specifically markets to cyclists. However, their limited range means we prefer this slightly larger model.

As the budget option here, its Bluetooth based design does have its drawbacks. Still, the Tile could prove a smart solution at busy sportives or crowded parking facilities when you’re struggling to locate your bike.

Buy now from Tile for £29

5 Velocate VC One - GPS tracker

With a choice of fitting locations, including on your seatstay, just below your saddle or mounted to the rear of a pannier rack, this GPS tracker is secreted inside a pretty decent rear light unit. Working in much the same way as other devices here by linking the tracker to a free app on your smartphone, the motion sensors onboard will detect when your bike is being tampered with.

It will then send push notices to your phone via Bluetooth and allow you to track your bike’s location and movements using Google Maps. This wins further approving nods from us for the way it’s powered – although it can be recharged via a USB port, it doesn’t rely on this and instead can be kept juiced up via a dynamo (as well as an e-bike battery), meaning that as long as your bike is moving, the GPS won’t run out of power.

With a standalone battery life of up to thirty days, this is pretty robust. It's probably most secure when bolted onto the back of a rack, since using other fixing points stikes us as leaving the light more likely to being removed by a thief. Weighing in at around 100g, the Velocate VC One – GPS tracker now comes with an unlimited lifetime tracking subscription and covers all of the EU.

Buy now from Velocate for €199

6 Guardian Bike Light Tracker

Marketed as the perfect cross between a regular bike light and a GPS tracking device, we can see one significant fault with the design of the Guardian. If a bike thief is familiar with this product, they’re going to know from the start that your bike has a tracker fitted to it – and as removing this integrated bike light and GPS unit takes no more than a second, that makes the Guardian a bit low on security.

Similarly, there’s no guarantee that the light will stay on the bike once it’s been pinched. Also, if you leave your light on the bike while it’s locked up, the light alone is liable to get robbed. Assuming you’re happy to take a risk on this significant list of variables and drawbacks, the Guardian offers a tracking system that’s hidden in plain sight.

Rechargeable via a hidden USB port, it has a battery life of around a week. With the light itself housing a SIM card, you top this up with £10 worth of credit to activate and then set up your phone to be sent text alerts in the event that the bike is tampered with. The tracker's location can also be viewed live online at back2youtracking.com, which links to Google Maps to pinpoint where your bike is. Or in the event of them just nicking your Guardian, where that is instead.

Buy now from Back2You for £125