The National Bike Registry tells us that thousands of bikes are stolen every day in the United States alone, estimating a cost of around US$200 million per year. A stolen bike can take hundreds or thousands of dollars out of your pocket, leave you without a means of transit and turn into a frustrating, angering experience. The SpyBike Covert Bicycle GPS Tracker protects you from theft by tracking down your bike.

They may deserve every expletive-laced, demeaning name in the book, but there's no denying that bike thieves are crafty, determined folks. Even if you lock your bike up, thieves have a way of cutting, prying, hammering and hacking through your line of defense ... or maybe they'll just saw the fence post that the bike is secured to.

Since you're not a professional thief, it's difficult to protect your bike from every possible scenario, and your bike could get stolen even if you make every attempt to lock it securely. The chances of you getting the bike back are slim, and you may not see it again even if the police recover it.

The SpyBike GPS tracker from Integrated Trackers gives you a second line of defense. You should still lock your bike, but if a thief happens to break it free, you have a means to get it back. The device mounts inside the headset, where it is hidden and unassuming. You use a special wrench to secure the device, so it's not easily removed.

Activate the unit when you leave your bike using the accompanying electronic key ring. If the bike is taken before being deactivated with your key (i.e. stolen), the vibration sensor initiates the tracking system, which sends you an alert SMS message and begins uploading coordinates to the cloud every 20 seconds until the vibration stops. The unit will activate again when the vibration starts up (i.e. the thief is riding or transporting the bicycle), so you can continue keeping up on its whereabouts.

You can keep track of the bike's location via Integrated Trackers' website, and then relay its location to the police. If you forgot to arm the unit before your bike was stolen, you can remotely activate it by sending an SMS message. It checks its messages automatically every six hours, so it will begin tracking when it gets your message.

The tracking service is free, but users do have to equip the unit with a pay-as-you-go SIM card and will be charged for the data used in uploading coordinates. This may seem like an extra cost and work, but combined with the quad-band GSM modem, it allows the unit to work with nearly any mobile network in the world. You can configure it to the carrier that offers the best coverage in your area to ensure that it works when you need it. The unit uses GPRS to upload data, not SMS, and Integrated Trackers says it costs a fraction of a penny to send each update (in the U.K.).

The SpyBike runs on a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Integrated Trackers says that the battery can go for months between charges. The unit will send you an SMS message when the battery needs charging.

The SpyBike does have some limitations. Because it relies on GPS, the device will stop operating effectively if your bike is taken inside or anywhere there isn't a clear view of the sky. In that case, the unit will step down to GSM cellular triangulation. The company says GSM is only accurate to about 650 feet (200 m), which could prove all but useless in a building-dense environment like the center of a city. In fact, even GPS's claimed 16 to 82 feet (5 to 25 m) accuracy won't necessarily bring you right to the thief's doorstep.

Having a hidden tracking system keeping you updated on the bike's location will almost certainly increase your chances of recovery. By integrating it into the headset, Integrated Trackers makes it unassuming enough that thieves may not think to check for it, and difficult enough to remove that they won't be able to just pull it out or break it off. The remote activation feature is a smart inclusion that keeps the device active even if you don't have the key ring or your bike is forcibly stolen.

The SpyBike starts at US$153.58. The following video shows you how it works in a theft scenario.

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