Bike theft has been a hot topic in recent years, with over 30,000 scooters and motorcycles declared stolen in 2017 (the most recent figures available), compared to around 8,000 five years earlier.
This massive increase has impacted massively on motorcyclists, especially in urban areas, and while the police and wider motorcycle industry continue to tackle the epidemic, there are steps small and large which we can take as individuals to protect our bikes from theft, and to improve the chances of recovery in the event that they are stolen.
We’ve taken a look at five ways in which you can reduce the chances of you becoming the next victim. It’s worth noting that while none of the tips here can guarantee your bike won’t become a statistic, each of them can play a part in putting the odds back in your favour, especially against the casual criminal who might otherwise see your bike as a soft touch.
Lock and chain
At the most basic level, a good quality lock and chain should be a core security device for all motorcyclists.
While there has yet to be a chain made that can withhold the attentions of the most determined thief when armed with suitable tools (angle grinder, bolt croppers and a sledgehammer, for example) but a good lock and chain can make your bike unstealable to the casual thief and will certainly mean that any tooled up criminal will have to take their time (not to mention create some noise) if they are to break the device.
As with most things, you typically get what you pay for. Cheap locks can often be broken with one blow of a hammer, or snip of a bolt cutter, so buy the best you can afford. Motorcycling publications like MCN and Ride magazine regularly review security devices, so do your research before purchasing. Thatcham Research, the not-for-profit Berkshire based organisation that was set up in 1969 with the aim of reducing the cost of motor insurance claims and maintaining safety standards, also tests and rates these devices, giving buyers an indication of the levels of security offered. These results are usually published by the manufacturers.
It’s also important to ensure that you lock your bike to an immovable object, like a lamp post, ground anchor or railing, otherwise a gang of crooks may simply lift your bike, bundle in the back of a van and break the lock at their leisure, which is why disc locks (like the one pictured) rarely provide a complete security solution in isolation.
Motorcycle covers are primarily designed to protect your bike from the elements when parked up outside, keeping it cleaner and less prone to corrosion, buy the secondary benefit is that bike covers are proven to reduce theft rates.
Why? We know that many bikes are stolen by opportunists who see a bike that’s not well secured and take it without the owner’s consent. If a thief wants to make the minimum commotion, so if they can’t see what lies below, or they have to go to the hassle of removing a cover, they may well pick on the bike parked next to it – whose owner chose not to cover up.
Fit a bike tracker
On their own, bike trackers won’t stop your bike being nicked but they can help it be quickly recovered in the event that it is stolen.
Bike trackers detect when bikes are moved with the ignition off. Most systems send a message to your phone, while fully-managed, subscription based trackers will fully manage the process and work with the police to track down your bike and, hopefully, the bad guys with it.
A typical subscription costs £100 per year (plus the purchase and fitting costs of the GPS device) but most insurance companies will recognise the importance of a tracker, making it an essential security device for many riders in high risk areas.
Immobilisers are pretty much standard equipment on new motorcycles these days but bike alarms remain options in many cases.
In some ways the alarm has fallen out of fashion, no doubt thanks to years of screeching car alarms going off inadvertently during the night, but for many riders – especially those who need to park their bikes on the street overnight – they provide a good degree of reassurance and added security.
The reason for so many false alarms in the past came down to poor fitting or dodgy connectors, often as a result of being exposed to the elements. These days, alarms tend to be more robust and a professionally installed, Thatcham approved, unit should be reliable for many years.
Of course, we’ve all seen the viral videos of crooks bundling a blaring bike into the back of a van regardless, or ripping off the side panels to pull out the alarm, but in many cases the sight of that flashing red alarm light is enough to have them looking at the next bike in line.
For many, the appeal of the alarm is that you will hear it go off if someone tampers with your bike during the night. That reassurance is enough for many, and helps eliminate the worry of waking up to the sight of an empty space where your bike was the night before.
Mark your bike
Part of the skill of protecting your bike from theft is about making it as undesirable to thieves as possible.
Stolen bikes regularly find themselves broken up for parts or sold on with cloned identities. Kits that allow you to indelibly mark the parts on your bike makes them less desirable to thieves looking to steal for profit, simply because the individual parts can be traced to the original source. Sometimes bikes that are simply tatty can be undesirable to thieves for this reason, but technology also exists to discretely mark your motorcycle without damaging the aesthetics.
Carole Nash offers its DNA+ forensic protection system to all customers purchasing a motorcycle insurance policy from them. This allows the owner to dab the special solution on parts of the motorcycle, and this can be detected easily by police on recovered bikes – while a holographic sticker acts as a deterrent to any would be thief by warning them that the bike they are considering lifting is protected in such a way.
Find out more about DNA+ here: https://www.carolenash.com/carole-nash-dna/