Note: This story originally appeared in the New Zealand motorcycle magazine, BRM. I am embarassed to say that the bike in the photos is no longer in my possession. It was stolen out of my own yard, because I foolishly ignored my own advice. Among other things:
Scene of the crime.
So, don't assume that a bike in your yard is safe! The only safe bike is one that you are riding! My bike was removed, I assume, simply by smashing the wooden beam it was attached to, and lifting the bike, lock and all, onto a truck.
To have something stolen is one thing, but to have something stolen to which you have a genuine emotional attachment is another thing entirely. It is a feeling that can devastate you, both emotionally and financially. After the theft and eventual recovery of my bike, I became much more safety conscious. It was a little like closing the barn doors after all the horses had escaped, but at least my bike never got stolen again. Let's look at some of the techniques you can use to keep you bike yours, and not the plaything of some punk.
There are a million different ways to make it less likely your bike will be stolen... no single one is going to make it totally theft-proof, but if you use as many of the following techniques as you can, you stand a much greater chance of never finding an empty space where your motorcycle used to be. You want to make your bike a less-tempting target than the one next to it, or around the corner. A determined thief is going to get your bike if he really wants it.... it's up to you to make it easier to take someone else's. Try to think what it would take to steal your own motorcycle, then think of what you could do to make it more bothersome to do so. You want to reduce the thief's privacy, and do anything you can to slow him down.
First thing you can do is to make your bike inconspicuous. The less it's seen, the less likely it is that it will be seen by a potential thief. The easiest way to do this is to keep it locked inside your garage. Of course, you may not have this luxury, so the next best thing you can do in this regard is to keep your bike covered, preferably by a plain cover with no markings or logos. If a potential thief is not able to easily determine the make and model of bike under a cover, he is more likely to go onto one that he is certain meets his particular twisted requirements. The thief also has no idea what other security measures are under the cover, making it difficult for him to assess the difficulty of stealing it. Make sure your cover is locked to the bike by a cable lock as well. When I think back on how I stored my bike, out in the open, right beside a busy public thru-way, I realize I was almost challenging someone to try to take it.
If you do have to park your bike outside, park it in a well-lit, conspicuous area, for obvious reasons. Don't rely on this to keep your bike safe though. I had a colleague whose bike, secured by a disc-brake lock, was stolen in the mid-afternoon from the sidewalk in front ot his office on a busy downtown street. Anyone who looks confident and purposeful, can probably devise a way to steal your bike. Any passer-by will assume that this person is the legitimate owner, perhaps removing a broken-down bike or removing a lock whose key he has lost. Besides, who would want to get involved, and challenge a complete stranger on the ownership of another complete strangers motorcycle? Not many people I'm sure.
Always use your steering lock. Although mostly easily defeated, it is a first-step defence and prevents easy manouevering of the bike so that it can be hoisted or loaded.
Next, you should always try to lock your bike to a stationary object. A disc-lock, or a lock through a wheel might hamper a joy-rider, but a determined thief can simply hoist such a bike into a waiting truck or van, lock and all. Even a bike locked inside a garage should be again securely locked to an immovable object. A steel eye cemented into the floor of a garage would be an excellent idea. There are other products on the market that are designed to securely fasten mounting lugs to cement surfaces. Locking your bike to an immovable object is the only thing that is going to prevent (or at least slow) a "hoist" robbery.
This lock is correctly secured. It is attached to the bike through a frame member, and is not resting on the ground. Furthermore, it is attached to a strong steel pole, that will ring loudly if pounded on.
Any lock attached to your bike should not hang so that any part of it rests on the ground. If it does, this gives the thief a surface on which to pound or pry your lock. The lock should be attached to your bike through the frame, or less desirably, the forks or a wheel. If it is locked to something steel and hollow, like a lamp post, any pounding on it will also cause the post to ring, increasing the chances that the thief will be discovered. It is also a good idea to put the lock through a structural member of a house or building, provided it is very secure itself. Any pounding or tampering with the lock is likely to be heard by the occupants of the building.
Note that the lock is resting on the ground,making an ideal surface on which to pound. Also, note that this lock is attached to a flimsy wooden beam, and is anchored only through the wheel. A thief could easily remove the wheel, and take the rest of the bike.
If you can, use two or more locks of different types. For example a serpentine link lock and a u-lock. Often a thief will have the tools to defeat one type of lock, but be unprepared to tackle another of a different kind. Many u-locks are easily defeated by prying on the mating mechanism, or shattering the steel after spraying with nitrogen. Cable locks can be "chewed" through with bolt cutters, and chains can be hacked, ground or cut.
A good u-lock will help prevent casual joy-rides, but do little to deter the determined "hoist" thief.
If you do have a u-lock, a simple anti-prying device can be added to it by buying a heavy-duty steel t-junction at the local plumbing supply store. Feed the mating ends of the lock into this, and it will be much more difficult to pry. Make sure, too, that any u-lock you buy has a modern round pick-resistant mechanism.
Whatever locks you decide to buy, spend the money to get good ones, (Kryptonite locks, Cobralinks, (serpentine link-locks), U-locks of hardened, not mild steel, or a strong chain, (5/8" or greater)). Cheap $20 bicycle locks can be broken simply by driving away with one locked in the rear wheel, (as happened to one Gold Wing rider at the motorcycle rental company I used to work at). When my bike was stolen, the u-lock lay twisted apart on the ground next to the lonely sidestand brick.
An alarm is probably not that effective alone, but it is another tool in your arsenal. Most people won't pay any attention to a wailing alarm anymore, so it is probably most valuable to alert you, either through a remote key fob, or your proximity to its annoying wail. Better alarms might disable the bike, but this still does not prevent your bike from being picked up and carted away. Even if you decide not to opt for an alarm, plaster your bike with "Alarm Installed -- Do Not Tamper" stickers. Once again, this can encourage a potential thief to move on to easier targets.
To thwart the casual joy-rider, an imaginative rider can make his bike impossible to start. There are a few interesting ways to do this. After my bike was stolen, I installed a hidden kill switch under the tank. It was very difficult to see, and would not be visible or evident to the casual thief. It was simply a matter of splicing a switch into a ground wire. For even more security, add multiple switches so that even if one is discovered, another will have to be defeated as well. Three unlabeled, (or mislabelled) switches in a row, even in the open, would delay a thief if they had to be flipped in a certain order. You can also wire your kill-switch backwards, or add a spring-loaded switch that must be held down when the start button is depressed.
Creative use of cable and brass locks can deter casual theft of luggage.
Make a record of your key numbers, then file them off the locks if they are stamped on them. With a key number, anyone can go to a key maker and have a key cut that will fit perfectly. Having a record of all your key numbers will also make it less expensive if you do lose your keys... you can have new ones made instead of having to buy all new locks.
Don't give a thief the tools he needs to defeat your locks. For instance, if you've parked your bike in the garage, have you given easy access to tools that a thief could use to break your locks? In researching this story, I read of one rider who had his bike securely chained to the floor of his garage. One day he lost his keys, and while puzzling over what do do, glanced at his workbench, pulled down his grinder, and had his bike free in only slightly more time that it would have taken to unlock it.
If you have an automatic garage door opener, it would be a good precaution to change your code. If it's never been changed, someone might easily be able to open the door with an opener from another garage.
Keep the keys to your bike well away from the bike itself... preferably in a hidden or inconspicuous spot inside the house, not in the garage.
Cover your windows so no one can see inside. Make sure they are locked and secure.
When travelling, try to park your bike directly in front of the unit you are staying in. Park it where the night attendant can see it, and ask him to keep an eye on it. If you can't lock your bike to something stationary, lock it to another bike, making it difficult to hoist.
There are a few high-tech ways to track your bike after it has been stolen. Yamaha is now offering a "Smart Water" system that is practically impossible to remove or alter, and virtually undectable under normal circumstances. Indelible ink is another option, but it fades with time and is easily detected. Engraving and etching are obviously more permanent, but might reduce the resale value of your bike. Micordots or datadots are a final option. These are very hard to detect, and difficult to remove, but none of these methods are going to keep your bike from being stolen in the first place.
If you use as many of the preceding techniques as you can, you stand a pretty good chance of keeping your bike. Remember, a security device is only good if you're using it. You have to be consistant and vigilant, because the night you decide that "it'll be all right until morning" is the night it will get taken. And then it will be you standing on the street, staring at an oil stain and a sidestand imprint. It's not something I would wish on anyone.
You do have insurance don't you? I sure hope it's replacement value insurance,otherwise you're looking at getting only the market value, less a 10-20% deductible, (or excess as it's sometimes called). In other words, you probably can't replace your bike with the money you will get from the insurance company.
If you add accessories to the bike, make sure you notify the insurance company in writing. Otherwise they are simply not covered.
Are you living up to the terms of your agreement? Are you properly licensed? You're not using it for commercial purposes? You have made reasonable efforts to secure your bike? Remember, the insurance company doesn't really want to pay out any claims. It will look for any excuse not to pay yours.
If your bike is stolen, report it immediately to the police. Get a police report number. Take a picture of the crime scene. Talk to your neighbors, see if anyone saw anything suspicious. This can not only help you find your bike, it will help to convince the insurance investigator you're not trying to run some kind of scam.
When you fill out your claim form, make sure you do it accurately. Do not leave anything out. Get your dates and mileages right. If any answer requires qualification, even if it seems irrelevant, note it on the form.
You might be visited by a private investigator hired to determine if your claim is legitimate. Be totally honest and open, you have nothing to hide. Gather all documentation you can: registration, receipts for modifications or parts added, photos of the bike, maintenence records. Red flags for the investigator are:
Another thing to be aware of, (although there is nothing you can do about it) is that when a bike is a total loss, the insurance is cancelled. You will not receive a refund from the "unused" portion of your insurance, and if paying monthy, the remaining premiums will be deducted from any payout to you. If you live in New Zealand, you will not get your ACC levy back either.
Copyright © Sean Lewkiw 2002. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without the express written permission of the author.