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As I'm planning a trip around the world I ponder about the best way to secure a bike. I have seen that a number of people have had bikes stolen and I'm curious as to the scenarios in which they were stolen. I would love for everyone to share how their bike was stolen on this thread. Including:
- where you left it
- where it was - what country/town
- what time of day it was nicked
- what you were doing at the time
- whether you were solo or group travelling
- what security measures you had in place
- and anything else that may be relevant (or not)
Been lucky enough not to have had a bike stolen from me yet... but here´s my take:
- Two most critical factors regarding theft are: which bike, and kept where. Certain bikes, like big sportsbikes and Harleys seem to attract thieves. And also even if your bike is not so high-value, but it´s very common in your area, they might want to steal it to sell as spare parts.
- Parked on the street in the big cities is a high-risk thing to do (much riskier than taking it into a courtyard, for example, or a garage, where it can´t be easily spotted, or taken). In rural areas, the risk is much lower, but it can still happen anywhere. Luckily, especially in the 3rd world countries, hotel and guesthouse owners often permit you to walk the bike to some place, where it´ll be a lot safer than on the street. Inside the reception, or on the hallway right next to your room is actually pretty common.
- Very few people seem to pay any attention to alarm units going off especially in the cities any more. Add to this the amount of trouble they seem to develop with the batteries dying during the trip, or possible malfunctions in the alarm itself, and I would consider very carefully, if an alarm is really worth it. Especially modern FI-bikes require the battery to stay in perfect condition, otherwise there may be many problems. But like everything else, this is just my view, and I´m sure a lot of people will disagree.
- By using extra locks, immobilizers, etc., you can pretty succesfully prevent an occasional junkhead from riding away with it. The downside is, they might break a few things like brake discs or ignition locks in the process. That´ll suck, but it´s usually still a much better outcome than if they get to ride it, because then it is often found crashed in some nearby ditch.
- But if a professional gang, who usually have a van, decides to steal your bike, they have ways to deal with the extra locks very quickly, and might very well succeed. It´ll be lifted to the van & gone in just a few seconds. It might help (but only a little!), if the place where you keep it is such, that they will be unable to get their van right next to your bike. Your best hope against these guys is that they dont spot your bike, dont want your bike, or that they see an easier suitable target close by.
- A bike cover seems to be a surprisingly effective way to ´hide´ it from view. Even the professionals would probably need to approach the machine & lift the cover first, to see what exactly is underneath - I dont think they´ll just set off and look for "any bike", that´ll be the junkheads who do that. And the pros certainly don´t like to spend any more time than is absolutely necessary, at the possible crime scene. A cover naturally won´t prevent anyone from stealing it, though, but it just might raise the odds in your favour a tiny bit.
- For me (a Finn), it seemed really tough to find any suitable comprehensive insurance for the bike, that would be valid outside the Green Card countries, so sometimes I´ve had to do without. This has naturally given me some extra motivation to always search for a place, that I have assumed will be safe, especially for the night-time.
It is rare, but it has sometimes happened even to RTW-travellers, and it really would be a nasty blow to the long-anticipated "big trip"! I wouldnt lose my sleep over this matter, but the things you _can_do_ are pretty simple in the end, and then it´s just hoping for the best!
Central London 2002: came back to the F650 to find the ignition was stuffed due to having a bent screw driver in it. Up pops the typical cockney half wit to tell me a bloke had come along, wrecked the lock then spotted the huge chain through the back wheel (and over the seat, not where he could chisel it against the road) and realised it was beyond him. No one had called the police or done anything except watch. The next bike in the parking bay had it's alarm wailing away for the whole time it took me to get going. The police constable who walked by wasn't going to do anything until I spoke to him then had the attitute that stolen bikes weren't his problem. I rode for a week with that screwdriver working the ignition.
Services outside Cardiff 2003: Went for a pee, and came back to find the bike on it's side. A truck driver had seen a kid shove the bike off it's stand, realise he couldn't push it against the disc lock and then ran off when the truckie shouted at him. The police were called by the service station staff , were actually helpful and went off to see if they had the kid in CCTV. Heard no more, but they tried.
Tip 1: The locks on the bike are a joke. Better not to use them than have some cretin break the ignition switch.
Tip 2: Obviously large and quality locks are going to defeat anyone short of specially equipped gangs. These gangs want new BMW's, Harleys, Ducati's etc. not fifteen year old XT600's with the same milage as the Starship Enterprise.
Tip 3: Big Western cities are the places where the bike will be stolen. A Nigerian street kid might like your GPS or tool kit, but he's got no use for the bike. Hide stuff from the kid, made the screwdriver brigade think you are too much like hard work.
Tip 4: Never think that you'll only be away for 2 minutes. OK, the big chain is a PITA, so use the disc lock.
As Pecha says, know your enemy and layer your defence.
pecha and Andy...very useful advice! Thankyou. Good to hear some real life stories. I guess my biggest worry in all is not that I'll lose my bike (which is a worry too), but that I will miss too many opportunities for walking around shops/parks/walking tracks etc because I'm worried about it being stolen. I guess like many other threads and you guys have pointed out...a good chain is probably the best option. It will stop the dull thugs and kids. But won't stop the pros...but then again nothing will unless its inside a building probably.
Cheers for the stories and advice. Keep it comin!!
I will miss too many opportunities for walking around shops/parks/walking tracks etc because I'm worried about it being stolen.
My advice would be to do what you easily can, like get the sturdy chain or disc lock, and use your head, where youre gonna leave the bike..... and then just learn to relax, and not to worry about it all the time (that´ll be the hardest part I think, but there´s no point in using your energy for something like that!!)
One more thing: IF you use a disc-lock, dont do like I did, and try to start off with the lock still attached to the bike, because you may find that the universe has suddenly tilted 90 degrees right or left, and your foot is stuck under the bike, and you´re gonna need external help to rise up from the tarmac again! This happened to me once in Italy, and could have very easily been a trip-stopper, but I was very lucky, and my foot wasnt hurt in any way.... it had actually protected the bike from any scratches, too! But still this is highly unrecommendable, and if/when the place is crowded (like it always is, when something like this happens!) then your feeling of humiliation will be oh so thorough!
Parking the bike in a position, where you´ll need to push it back a bit to ride forward might help, if your memory is like mine, and often fails. Also a bright wire or cable from the disc-lock to the handlebar could be an idea. But the best thing is to ALWAYS use the lock, whenever you leave the bike out of sight, even if it is just for 1 minute. That way you´ll get used to always having to remove it first, before setting off.
Tens of thousands of miles on a bike in lots of very poor parts of the world: Not even the vaguest attempts of a theft of the whole bike. In Cusco, Peru a lad tried ineptly to steel my (empty) tank bag. The Hotel owner saw him and did a citizen's arrest. The lad got arrested and I asked that charges were pressed. Not sure of his physical state after being released from the jail.
Brighouse, West Yorkshire, UK (10 miles from Bradford) a couple of years ago: Locked Garage broken into by 2 lads with bolt croppers. My ex MOT station sent them (Odsal MOT, round the back of the Bradford Bulls Stadium...). Stole 2 bikes: 1 recovered immediately, the other 10 weeks later trashed.
Polis did jack sh!t. Comment by 999 despatcher when wife is on phone: "What's the point of coming to see where the vehicles used to be?" My wife's comment: "They are wheeling the bikes down the drive as I speak; You're looking for 2 bikes, or a van". It was 1am on a Monday morning in October 2008. Not exactly a motorcycle/traffic intensive time of the day/year... The polis managed to get off their fat arses at 6pm on Monday evening to visit my house/garage.
One lad (called Shane Cooper, lives in Bradford, just down the road from Odsal MOT) left a cigarette end outside our house and the polis tracked him using his DNA (He was already on their database for affray). He admitted it. They still let him off as he was only 17 and didn't know the difference between right and wrong...
Summary: You're much more likely to have your property stolen in the UK, than in any 3rd World country. The enforcement of the rule of law and the criminal justice system in the UK is sh!t IMHO. ? Rant over...
All the above advices are wise and absolutely right.
I'd only add my suggestion which is to park your bike in front of some crowded places such as restaurants, bars and so on.
Possible thieves cannot know if the owner is inside drinking a coffee or having a meal.
I always use to do like this and I can walk around more relaxed (of course, after locking the bike).
Long story short, rode half way around the world back to Scotland, spent £££s and time getting an Aussie bike registered in UK and as soon as the new reg plate was on it, it got nicked. It was chained to my other bike and covered and in a dead end side street so no through traffic.
Cops never found it or even looked for it despite me giving them a name.
While travelling, I never had a problem with anyone trying to steal the bike, it was just the stuff attached to it they were after.
One word of advice - don't ever rely on the helmet lock, use a cable/combination padlock as my helmet was nicked in KL while on the helmet lock when I nipped into a shop - they just cut the strap off it. It was on the pavement right in front of a busy shopping mall entrance and the alarm was on.
Mike...thanks for that story! Good to hear it first hand. I always wondered how your DR got pinched when I looked at your signature and thought about my beautiful DR. I can't believe someone told you what was going on yet the cops did so little. Some great pics on that link to. Himalayas?
Cheers also Chris. Some good and bad luck there too mate! I suppose you can't expect too much from the cops at the best of times.
I think I'll hire Chuck Norris for a year...I'm a scientist and I believe in natural selection. Anyone that touches me bike would get naturally selected...
A Chuck quote calls - "there is no such thing as natural selection, only a list of things Chuck Norris let live".
I had first near miss back in 2008 at Balaton lake, Hungary. It was my first day of travel, I came to Balaton lake and lifted a tent in one of the camping areas, as it was summer there was a lot of other people there, cars, bikes, backpackers, etc... In the midle of the night Xena disc lock went off, waking up half of the camp, as my bike was right to my tent I sticked my head out within a second or two a few guys where running away. They tryed to push the bike away but they probably did't saw a disc lock. Really stealing a bike, one meter away from the owner... brainacs...
Second time was in the Armavir, Russia. I was in hotel and the bike was outside at the parking area, same scenario, someone tried to push the bike away...
Usualy hotel parking areas in Ukraine and Russia are safe, that means fence and guards. But this hotel had a little trail leading in parking area, to narrow to steal a car but more than enough for bike.
I have one method of safe kepping, send me a PM if you want. Thives also can read this posts, and we don't want that
Date: October 2007
Place: the sleepy quite town of Imbituba (Between Rio and Portio Allegre)
Model: BMW F650GS
Who: Maria (BMWF650- stolen bike) and Alistair (Dakar)
Circumstances: the town was very quite, we found a Pousada with a big shed, deep inside the Pousada. We stored our bikes there. No one could see the bikes from the street although the shed had no doors and the gates of the Pousada were not locked at night (despite the owner telling so to the Police!) The bikes were not chained, only steering lock. We thought the place was safe!
We had been there for 2 days when the bike was stolen.
According to the police we had been followed and targeted. The police arrested the thief and retrieved the bike few days later. He came from a town 150 further south. This was definitely planned: he was probably dropped off by a mate, and he had all tools at hand to brake the steering lock and start the bike without making a mess of it. Talented guy apparently, minimum damage! He then pushed the bike out of the Pousada and rode off with it.
I am not sure the lock would have stopped him. He went through the 2 locks of my top box and carefully locked it again. The cops told me thieves can get through any lock within seconds.
There are 2 sort of theft:
- One where the bike is put on the back of a truck, and there is not much that can be done to stop it.
- The other is when the thief rides off with the bike. Usually of all stories I read in the HUBB, it seems most of the time,. the bike is ridden off. So my suggestion is this one: if you stop somewhere and you have concerns, just unplug the battery (or anything else easy to do, depending on bike) that would stop the bike from starting. Not sure any thief would like to spend half an hour trying to figure out why the bike is not starting!
Ah yes and why my black ugly lowered bike, with its fitted metal pannier frame sticking out, was stolen instead of the shiny Dakar? Because mine had a low seat and the thief was short! I don't think you should worry too much if you have a very tall heavy bike, at least in countries where people are short!
Maria, I see you'd fitted a brand new battery just like I did a few days before it got nicked, must have been very nice for our thieves to find such easy starting bikes!! My battery had died the week before and wouldn't start at all. I wish I'd never put the new battery in...and as it was a new battery and a Scottish winter, I decided not to chance leaving the alarm on in case it drained my new battery...Doh!
All the advice above is really useful, to add to it, where possible park as close as possible to park entrances or attractions. Usually you can strike up a conversation with car park attendants, local police etc. Hotels are generally looking for your money so will if possible make sure your bike is parked securely close to reception or better still allow you to park inside the hotel. And if you're really lucky, for the price of a packet of fags you can have your personal enforcer complete with 'Don't touch device'
One more possibly useful if minor tip. Ditch the keyring your dealer gave you. I found a set of keys with a Rainbow BMW dealer key fob , recognised the ignition key style and was going to drop them in to a police station. Back where I'd parked there was a new RT with Rainbow logos on the number plate. I'm just thinking about what to do when a guy in a sytem helmet and the rest of the kit comes up and starts going through his pockets looking worried. He was very grateful when I handed the keys over and said I found them, although thinking back maybe I'd just helped him steal it
I like my MZ keys with the lock makers logo and Triumph Keyring over a set with adverts all over for which bike they fit. I could describe them to lost property people, but no clues to anyone dodgy who might find them.
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