Theft Prevention

Story by Costa Mouzouris//
August 1 2013

If you’re like me, you like your bike . . . a lot. And there’s probably nothing more disheartening than going out to where you’d parked it last, only to discover it’s not there. I have been extremely fortunate – I have never had one of my motorcycles stolen, or one of the many press bikes I’ve ridden. In fact, I’ve only purchased theft insurance maybe twice since I’ve been riding, and that was to satisfy some legal clauses in the fine print of the bank’s lending agreement.

However, I do take precautions to deter opportunistic thieves. The more difficult you make it for a thief to steal your motorcycle, the more likely said thief will move on to a less diligently guarded motorcycle. Thieves are crafty, they’re heartless, and they’re often lazy. They’d much rather go for an easy score, like a bike left with the fork unlocked or with no additional theft-prevention measures taken.

Motorcycles are, unfortunately, well behind automobiles when it comes to the types of theft-prevention systems delivered with them from the factory. The first line of defence is the ignition key. It’s the first layer of protection you’ve got against theft, but it provides a rather thin security blanket that is all too easy to infiltrate. A semi-determined thief can easily break the ignition switch barrel, giving access to the switch mechanism hidden behind, which can then be rotated with a screwdriver, both turning on the bike’s power and unlocking the fork.

Some motorcycle manufacturers have electronically coded keys that prevent the bike from starting without the key even if the ignition switch is compromised, but you still want to prevent a thief from rolling away with your bike, even if it doesn’t start.

There are several things you can do to protect your machine, and the cost is minimal compared to the aggravation, frustration and red tape you’ll have to face if your motorcycle gets snatched. Not to mention the increased insurance costs after you’ve made your claim.

First, consider where you park your bike. If you have no choice but to park it outdoors at your home, buy a good quality lock and hardened chain from a reputable manufacturer, like Kryptonite, and lock it to something solid. The heavier the chain, the better, and you don’t have to worry about carrying it around; just leave it at home. If you park your bike in a garage, you should still lock it to something solid inside; motorcycles have been stolen out of homes, while the owners were asleep.

When parking while travelling, choose brightly lit areas with lots of pedestrian or car traffic. If you spend a night at a hotel and can’t park your bike in front of your room window, ask the hotel manager if you can park it at the hotel entrance, where it’s lit and there are most likely security cameras aimed at the door. Don’t forget to lock it, though.

When travelling, carry a U-type lock if you have the space for it, or buy a good-quality disc lock. Both of these are excellent theft deterrents, and they are relatively inexpensive. The Boxer disc lock from OnGuard will set you back about $50. I recommend you buy a brightly coloured disc lock and lock the front wheel so it will be easy to spot if you forget about it when you get back on your bike. Spend another 10 bucks for a disc-lock reminder, which is just a brightly coloured tether that attaches to the lock and extends to the handlebar. Many disc locks come with a belt pouch. Sliding the pouch onto the clutch lever is also a good reminder, as there is no way you can miss feeling it before riding off, as it will rotate the lock into the fender and/or caliper, causing expensive damage if not removed before riding.

Alarm systems are supposed to be deterrents. When parking at home these can be quite effective, but if you park in public places, people just don’t pay attention to them, because too many car alarms go off unintentionally and people become complacent.

Disabling the ignition system is a very good deterrent, and I do it all the time if I leave my bike or my car in a suspect area. When I travel, for example, and I leave my car at the airport, I pull out the fuel pump fuse, located in a fusebox under the hood, making the car undriveable. I’d do the same with my KLR650, but the fuses are under the seat, which is bolted to the frame. If your seat lifts with a key, consider doing this.

If you’re carrying your bike in a trailer or in the back of a pickup truck, there’s no reason not to use the added security measures you take at home or when parking on the street. Lock it and disable the ignition if you can. Lock the trailer if it’s a closed trailer, lock the trailer to your vehicle, and make sure your vehicle is also theft proof. When travelling with a bike in a trailer, it might be more difficult to park in a conspicuous area, but make sure it’s not too out of sight or in a dark, secluded place.

My least preferred theft deterrent is branding. Insurance companies and dealers try to push this, but I just hate marring parts of my bike, even if unseen. And thieves aren’t really deterred by this; these marks can be sanded down and painted over or polished right off. But, if combined with some of the other measures mentioned here, you probably won’t have to suffer the anguish of walking to a vacant parking spot.

Technical articles are written purely as reference only and your motorcycle may require different procedures. You should be mechanically inclined to carry out your own maintenance and we recommend you contact your mechanic prior to performing any type of work on your bike.


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