If you’re planning a long motorcycle journey, you don’t want to spend your entire trip worrying about your bike, and you certainly don’t want it to get nicked! To get some top tips, global motorcycle traveller Andy Davidson has prepared this guide for us…
Nobody wants to spend the trip of a lifetime worrying about their motorcycle. But it’s easy to do as horror stories of stolen bikes and kit plaster the internet; from bike theft while you’re sleeping to pannier snatches while you’re in a coffee shop. Worrying alone is enough to ruin a trip, but nothing compared to actually having your stuff stolen.
But keeping everything safe while on the road can be harder than at home. You’ll be visiting new locations every day and can’t be expected to take all your bags with you every time you go into a shop to buy a Coke. And you won’t always have the safety of a garage. So, what to do?
After years of riding the world, we’ve come up with a guide to help ease those concerns and keep your bike and kit as safe as possible while travelling. So, read on to find out how to keep your stuff secure on the road…
Blending in while travelling can be tricky. Most likely your bike will be bigger than those of the locals, and packed with gear and trinkets. But if you’re on a very expensive and shiny motorcycle you’re going to stick out even more. Screaming ‘money’ while travelling is never a good idea. Of course, ride whatever bike you want to, but when riding through poorer areas or places with higher crime rates, leave the mud on, slap a bit of gaffer tape on here and there and ‘down value’ the bike. Afterall, you’re not going to a bike show and don’t need unwanted attention. If it’s a seriously expensive bike, then it might be an idea to invest in a bike tracker.
Out of sight, out of mind
Buy a large and cheap motorcycle cover (we’re talking about the £12 ones from China on eBay) and take it with you. They pack up small and can be stuffed into your pannier. If you’re leaving your bike somewhere overnight, and it feels a bit dodgy, just chuck your cover over it. It works best if the cover is old, tatty, dirty and with a few bits of tape on it. It’s not an invisibility cloak but deters opportunists and stops your bike from catching a passing thief’s eye. Many long-term travellers swear by this simple technique.
Garages and hotels
If you really don’t trust the area, you can always ask to leave your bike inside or with a local business or garage. If you’re staying in a hotel then ask there first. I once asked a hotel owner on the Turkish/Syrian border if he’d keep an eye on my bike as I checked in. He punched and broke his keyboard and screamed “If anyone touches it – I kill them” … and he meant it! Not all hotel owners will be that protective of your bike, but it’s worth an ask. Tipping a security guard or local in poorer countries is a good idea too.
Carrying a lock is always a good idea. The type of lock is the question and it depends on how much space you have and how much weight you’re willing to carry. If it’s not a lot then a cheap-ish wire lock is easy to store and will act as a deterrent. If you can manage the weight and space then a quality lock from a firm like Abus is best. Make sure to thread your lock through the back wheel or frame and round an immovable object. The front wheel isn’t a good idea as thieves can remove them fast and just plonk your forks down onto a skateboard and push your bike out of there.
Some people leave their kit on their bike and some don’t, it’s really down to personal preference. We take our main bag into a hotel with us at night but leave all the unnecessary kit (like the camping bag) on the bike overnight. We use a PacSafe mesh net to keep it secure. It’s a stainless-steel net, which is big enough to hold our bag. You put the bag inside it, pull the steel cable drawcord and then padlock the net into place by weaving the drawcord around your pannier rack. It stops people from slashing your bag or unclipping it. If someone really wants your stuff then they can get through the cable with croppers, but it helps prevent opportunists and deters thieves from pinching your stuff while you’re in the shops. It’s best to use this option on bags that you don’t need access to on a daily basis. It’s a bit too fiddly to put on daily bags.
Sweating buckets as you walk around in bike gear because you don’t want to risk leaving it on your bike is no fun at all. Here’s where the PacSafe mesh net comes in handy again. We use an 80-litre net for a 40-litre duffel bag (it can be tightened so you don’t notice the extra space). But that extra space can come in very handy; the bike jacket, trousers and even boots can all be stuffed inside the net along with the camping bag and locked up.
You can also opt for a single steel cable with two loop ends and a padlock from PacSafe for your helmet. Abus also sell lightweight steel cable helmet locks. Open the visor and run the cable through the opening and through the frame.
Like at home, if a thief is dead-set on stealing your bike and kit then it’s going to be hard stopping them. The best you can do is try and put thieves off as much as possible by making your bike look old, hiding it, protecting it and making it more a hassle than it’s worth.
Andy and Alissa have been motorcycling in far flung corners of the world for the last 10 years. But on January 1st 2018 the pair gave up their lives in the UK for an indefinite life on the road. You can follow their round-the-world adventure online at www.madornomad.com or on social media as Mad or Nomad.