Motorcycle theft is often a crime of opportunity. If you make your motorcycle more difficult to steal, you'll reduce your theft risk and better protect your prized possession. We have some key information and practical tips that may help you minimize the danger.
1. Familiarize yourself with motorcycle theft statistics
To adequately protect your bike, you first need to recognize the risks. Not surprisingly, thefts are more common during riding season (May–October), when bikes are out of storage and more visible to prospective thieves.
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, motorcycle thefts in 2016 totaled 46,467. The good news is we’ve seen a steady decline in the years since, with 2019 showing 40,380 thefts. We won’t know the complete picture for 2020 until the next report is published sometime later this year. But even if that encouraging trend continues, it won’t be much comfort if you’re one of the tens of thousands of riders who have their bikes stolen.
Let’s look at how you can avoid joining that group.
2. Prevent motorcycle theft on the road
Parking your motorcycle near a gas station, restaurant, hotel, or at a rally or event can provide an opportunity for theft. Here are some steps you can take to help protect your bike:
- Travel with theft prevention gear: Buy good locks and chains and keep them with your travel gear—and be sure to use them. If you use a motorcycle cover, make sure it doesn’t identify the make or model of your bike.
- Find a well-lit location: Avoid the shadow of darkness, which can encourage thieves and help hide their activities.
- Locate nearby security cameras: Park in sight of security cameras to help dissuade potential thieves. Security footage may help with recovery if it identifies a thief’s face or getaway vehicle.
- Park near other bikes: Leave your ride near other motorcycles and you’ll gain the benefit of having other owners watching their bikes, potentially alerting you to any suspicious activity.
- Secure your motorcycle: Lock the ignition and steering head and pocket the keys before taking off your helmet. Use a brake rotor lock—even during short stops. Remember: "Lock it or lose it” is always good advice.
- Check on your bike regularly: Set a timer on your smartphone as a reminder for you to check on your bike to make sure it’s safe and secure.
3. Practice situational awareness
Some bold thieves prefer to pick out a target and wait for the right moment to make their move. For example, they see you riding and follow you to see where you live or work. That’s why situational awareness is essential.
If you notice a vehicle that seems to be following you, change directions frequently and randomly. If they keep following you, don’t go home or to your workplace. Ride to a public place with plenty of potential witnesses in case they consider bike-jacking you. Stop and wait for them to leave.
If they’re persistent and you feel threatened, call 911 and describe the vehicle and the occupants. If the situation escalates, remember—it’s only a bike. Don’t start or engage in a confrontation. Your safety is more important.
4. Prevent motorcycle theft at home
Even at home, you shouldn’t let your guard down. That’s where your motorcycle will likely be parked most—and you won’t always be there to watch over it. Take these basic tips:
- Store your bike in a garage: Park in an attached garage to help hide your bike from view. A detached garage or shed are good alternatives. Because power garage door codes can be hacked, lock the door and add additional locks.
- Install motion-detection lighting: Use motion lights that cover a broad area in front of your garage. Place motion lights over any side doors, since your bike could be pushed through a standard doorway.
- Use security cameras: Add an extra layer of deterrence by installing video cameras and make them visible to someone passing by. Motion-activated recording can also help provide evidence if your motorcycle is stolen.
- Keep prying eyes out: Use curtains to prevent anyone from peeking inside windows.
- Don’t advertise your ride: Use a plain motorcycle cover with no brand, make, or model if you must park outside. It’s best to have a cover that you lock or strap onto the bike. You should also choose a color that blends in with your house, and park so it can’t be seen from the road. Lock the bike to a solid structure with a strong chain.
5. Bolster your locks
Locking the ignition and using the steering lock can help prevent theft, but if the thief has time and tools, that might not be enough. Consider using other locks as well:
- Disc lock: These attach to brake disc rotors and reduce the ability to roll the motorcycle. Using these on the rear wheel, especially on baggers, makes the lock harder to defeat. Improve security by using one on each wheel.
- U lock: This attaches between the frame and wheel, or to an immovable object. There are two options for this kind of lock: One is shaped like the letter “U” with a locking bar across the open end, the other has a “U” at both ends—which requires a thief to cut both, doubling their time and effort.
- Cable lock: This allows you to attach the motorcycle to an immovable object. You can even loop it through a helmet and jacket. However, a thief with a good pair of bolt cutters can easily defeat a cable lock.
- Chain lock: A heavy chain lock made of 5/8-inch thick links is a good deterrent. Links that have minimal space to insert a tool are best. Use one to secure your motorcycle frame to an immovable object or lock multiple motorcycles together.
6. Organize your motorcycle documentation
We encourage you to keep your required legal motorcycle documents with you when you ride—with one key exception. Let’s take a look:
- Registration: If you’re pulled over or pass through a DUI/DWI checkpoint, you’ll probably need to provide your motorcycle registration. If you don’t have this information on you, law enforcement could perform a time-consuming vehicle check.
- Proof of insurance: Some states require you to provide proof of insurance upon demand by police. Similar to registration, if you fail to provide this information, it could result in a vehicle check.
- Photos: Keep detailed photographs of your motorcycle with you when you travel. These photos can be very helpful in recovering your bike if it’s stolen, especially if they show unique modifications or markings.
- Title: This is one document you should never keep with your motorcycle. This piece of paper is the key to legally transferring ownership of your motorcycle. Lock it up at home or in a safety deposit box at your bank.
7. Install an alarm system
A physical, add-on lock isn’t your only option for protecting your motorcycle. An alarm system can give you an audible warning if someone tries to take your bike. However, you shouldn’t count on it as a sole motorcycle anti-theft device—particularly in areas where car alarms are so common they’re often ignored.
8. Invest in theft-prevention GPS units
You can hide theft-prevention GPS units on your motorcycle, which may speed up recovery if the bike is stolen. Some use the motorcycle’s power, while others have separate batteries. Understand that a GPS unit requires a separate service that sends location information to you. In addition, your motorcycle needs to be visible to satellites for it to work. An underground garage or dead battery will stop the signal.
9. Use a kill switch
A kill switch allows you to disable the motorcycle’s ignition system. If you choose to install one, make sure it’s well-hidden and easy for you to use without revealing it to others. The switch can help you avoid ride-off thefts, but make sure you can’t accidentally activate it while you’re riding.
10. Lean on your fellow riders and other experts
You get what you pay for with motorcycle security equipment. Research any device before you buy. Online reviews and motorcycle forums can provide you some extra insight. Also, your mechanic may be able to share what other riders recommend.
Remember: No matter what kind of bike you ride, security devices are only effective if you use them. You’re the key to protecting your ride. And with our affordable coverages and safety resources, we’re here to help you along the way.
Until next time, ride safe!