motorcycle on the open road

Keep your bike safe: Motorcycle security and theft prevention Tips

Adventure 4 min read

Nobody likes to think about it, but the fact is motorcycle thefts are on the rise in the United States. In 2016, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, 26,467 motorcycles were reported stolen in the United States, a 2 percent increase over the year before.

You invested a lot in your motorcycle. Beyond the cost of the bike, you spent plenty in accessories, performance enhancements, or saddlebags. But what about security and theft protection?

I’ve been fortunate. Thanks to good judgment, common-sense practices, and a bit of luck, I’ve never experienced the theft of my motorcycle or any of my accessories and belongings—even after traveling over 100,000 miles around the world and across these great states. So let me share with you a few tips on security and theft prevention.

By following a few simple rules, combined with any of the following security devices, you can deter and prevent would-be thieves from walking—or riding—away with your bike.

First, use your steering lock. I’m surprised how many riders ignore and don’t use the simplest security device—nearly every motorcycle has one. Second, take a strategic approach to parking. Park where you can keep an eye on your bike or are in view of a security camera. At night, park in a conspicuous area under a bright light and near lots of activity. Finally, don’t leave your key in your luggage or leave loose belongings on your bike.

Lead them not into temptation

After all the miles traveled and spending more than a thousand nights on the road, I’ve parked my motorcycle everywhere from Albania to Zanzibar—and most places in between. I’ve learned the best way to secure your motorcycle and prevent curious eyes and hands from desire, is to hide it from view. A potential thief is tempted by what he or she sees.

How do I do it? First, I find a parking place well out of view and off the main drag. Then, I cover my bike with a lightweight and dark motorcycle cover. This makes it almost invisible at night and during the day an inconspicuous black blob. People only want what they can see. Don’t tempt them.

My bike cover, an Aerostich Ultralight cover, protects my bike from view and minor weather elements. Other manufacturers, such as Dowco and Harley-Davidson, offer all-weather covers with optional alarms that are triggered when the cover is removed.

If you’re a motorcycle commuter and forced to park your motorcycle in the same place every day, you may need more than a motorcycle cover to prevent theft. Various options include locks, chains, kill switches, and GPS tracking devices.

Motorcycle locks

There are several locking systems available for your motorcycle. Some are more likely to deter thieves, such as handlebar, throttle, U-locks, or disc locks, while others such as chain and padlock combinations may be more effective in preventing the more determined thief from making off with your bike.

Perhaps the best of the deterrence devices are disc locks. These locks attach to either the front or rear brake discs, and when attached, prevent the motorcycle from rolling more than a few inches.

The best disc locks include shock and motion detector alarms. If anyone gets near the bike or tries to move it, an ear-piercing alarm will sound. Riders using disc locks must be careful, however. Often they forget the disc lock is attached and try to ride away, likely causing damage or injury. Most of the lock manufacturers offer optional lock reminders—a simple cord that attaches to the clutch lever. For the most part, disc locks are small and easily stowed, with some compact enough to carry in your pocket.

Though less common, some ambitious thieves can bypass disc and other locks by removing the wheel, or, with help, pick up a bike and load it into a van or truck. By using a chain and padlock that anchors your bike to the ground or something fixed is perhaps the best all-around locking solution. If there’s nothing to lock your bike to, you can lock two bikes together making it more difficult to lift and move.

No matter what you anchor your bike to, be sure to thread your chain lock through the frame of your bike—not a wheel. The best motorcycle chain locks are made of hardened steel and are at least 15mm in diameter—look at Kryptonite, Abus, and Xena.

Ignition locks, alarms, and GPS tracking devices

There is no shortage of advanced technology solutions for motorcycle security and theft deterrence. Motion-detecting and shock-sensing alarms, for example, are so loud that potential thieves and anyone nearby will run away plugging their ears.

Some systems combine audible alarms with a keyless ignition lock. In addition to the alarm, these cut power to the ignition when you walk away from the bike. The bike will not start without the wireless key fob. This also gives you the added convenience of a keyless ignition.

Even if you used all the anti-theft solutions available, yet somebody still stole your bike, you might locate the bike and track down the thief using a GPS tracking device. These are tiny boxes that are hidden on your bike. Most are battery powered or can be hard-wired to your bike. Some use cellular phone networks while others offer better coverage via satellite. All require a subscription to a tracking service allowing you to track the location of your bike through an app on a mobile phone or internet browser.

With so many security and anti-theft options available, consider your specific situation such as where you live, park, and ride. By assessing the risk of theft or vandalism and using common-sense practices combined with a practical security device, your bike will be much more secure and you will sleep easier at night.

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