All the things that make a motorcycle so unique—its light weight, diminutive size, and high performance—also make it make it both easy to steal and profitable to do so. Here’s how to prevent motorcycle theft.
Unfortunately for us motorcyclists, we’ve become obsessed with an object that is quite attractive to thieves. Motorcycles’ price per pound are higher than most other objects except the electronics we usually keep much closer, and their parts are of premium value. Unless a crime of opportunity, where this evil-doer see’s your bike with the key left in the ignition and decides he wants it or can sell it to his neighbor, most motorcycle thefts are done for their parts or to be shipped to other countries. This equates to two things. One, that they don’t care much about the how well you care for your bike and will laugh at your chain when they toss your bike in the back of a pickup. Two, that more common bikes are more attractive, because those forks they’re about to pull off will have more potential buyers.
We’re “bad news before the good news” kind of guys, so there’s one other thing we need to state. If someone is determined to steal your motorcycle, there’s a good chance he’ll succeed. With the proper tools and knowledge, any chain can be cut, and alarm disarmed, and any garage door opened.
This means that, while all those safety measures are great to put in place, the first step towards preventing theft is to attempt to ensure no one ever becomes determined to steal your motorcycle.
Theft Prevention Tip #1: Concealment
The first, and possibly best effort you can make in preventing theft is to not broadcast the value you’ve left sitting on the street. Motorcycle thieves, driving around in a truck looking for sportbikes, are less likely to target your bike if they don’t know what it is. Sure, it’s easy to tell based on the silhouette what type of bike it is, but a cover just make window shopping that much harder.
Park your bike in the same spot every day, uncovered during the day and covered all night long too? Or is it on the street in front of your garage during the day and then in the garage at night? Chances are, everyone knows what’s under that cover or behind that door. Any effort you can make to change up the location you park or disguise what’s under the cover will help.
An added benefit to using a motorcycle cover is that thieves won’t know what other theft-prevention devices you’ve used and so won’t know what to prepare for.
Theft Prevention Tip #2: Locks
Your motorcycle moves freely, without requiring a key. Steering locks are great, but I still don’t understand why no one has come up with a way to lock your bike in gear. If you really want to keep your bike safe, you’re going to need to add some aftermarket accessories.
Disc locks are great, both because they’re effective at keeping the bike from rolling freely and they’re easy to transport with you while riding. Wheels, unfortunately, are easy to remove which negates the effectiveness of disc locks. If you’re going to go with the disc lock option, make sure you get one with an alarm on it that will notify anyone around to what’s happening, which will act as a far better deterrent than the lock itself.
Chains are another great way to lock up your bike, but only if done correctly. Chains do a decent job of preventing someone from carrying your bike off, but really need to be attached to an immovable object if they’re going to be effective. If you can’t park close enough to an immovable object, look for another motorcycle with a chain and loop your chain through theirs. Either person will be able to unchain their bike from the connection, and it will help to keep both bikes more secure.
If you do find something you can attach the chain to, make sure the chain isn’t resting on the ground where it can be attacked with a hammer and chisel (loop the chain around multiple times if you have to in order to take up the slack).
A chain through one wheel, attached to an immoveable object, and a disc lock with an alarm on the other wheel, all under a motorcycle cover is about the best you’ll do to make your bike a pain to snatch.
Theft Prevention Tip #3: Booby Traps
Just kidding….well, sort of.
So What Should I Buy?
When looking at chains, look for something designed specifically for security that can’t be attacked with chemicals like liquid nitrogen. Girth, materials, and shape are going to be the biggest factors in a chain’s ability to withstand attacks. Obviously, bigger is stronger, but it’s also important to look for the specific materials used (you want boron, carbon, and manganese in the steel) and to make sure that the shape of the links is designed to turn bolt cutters.
When looking at locks, make sure the lock body encloses as much of the shackle as possible to prevent bolt cutters from being able to access it.
Using brands that aren’t common can also be helpful as many thieves have learned how to defeat popular brands. Those boutique brands you found online may frustrate or confuse them with their unfamiliarity.
The best chains in the world are by a company called Almax, unfortunately they don’t have a U.S. distributor. If you’re real smart, you’ll figure out a way to get one online, otherwise just compare anything you’re thinking of buying with their products.
Your choice in disc lock is less important, as it’s more effective in making your bike harder to steal than it is at preventing outright theft. We like XENA disc lock alarms, which are affordable and effective. As an added bonus, the alarm will sound if you forget the lock is there and try to ride off before removing it.
Park your bike in a garage or yard? Upgrade the locks on those doors or add a motion sensor light. Locks anchored into concrete will be more secure than those bolted to wood or thin metal.
Have windows in the garage? Put bars on them.
Always think about location, the closer your bike is to your person or other people the safer it is. Think about the areas you’re in and what’s acceptable in those areas. Know where you can park on the sidewalk and where you can’t, or where there’s a bar nearby that will have bouncers out front until 2am.
Remember, thieves are looking for the bikes that will be easy and quick to grab, so the more layers of security or deterrents you can add, the better chance your baby will be where you left her in the morning.
What steps do you take to keep your motorcycle safe?
This story from our archives was originally published in November, 2013. We've updated it and included more relevant product recommendations for today. – Ed.