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Agreed with the previous post, plus if you´re in a big city, where the possibility of theft is probably the highest, there are usually alarms going off here and there for whatever reason most of the time, so no-one could care less. So unless YOU can hear, that its coming from YOUR vehicle, really not much use.
I have no idea if it's relevent to bikes, but the biggest problem with cars/4x4's is when they are linked with an immobiliser. Trying to bypass a factory fitted immobiliser on a piste in N Africa is not something i'd wish on my worst enemy, we very nearly had to abandon the vehicle.
Some are affected by Radio Signals and can set the alarm/immobiliser until you get our of range, it happened to us in France. Also what do you do on a long ferry crossing or shipping when the bike is loaded on the boat by someone other than you and the alrm goes off all the way across.
And anyway, alarms are a waste of time as the thieves just roll up in a van, pick up the bike, throw it in the back and they're gone, nobody sees it, nobody hears it (once it's in the van), you're much better off chaining the bike, through the frame, not a wheel that can be removed, to something solid.
If the alarm goes off, no one except the owner will do anything except wonder what the annoying noise is. Only the owner will run back to the bike, but what are they supposed to do?
Thieves that would leave at this point would be defeated by a big chain. Thieves who know their business turned up in a van that looks likes it's from a repair shop, brought a set of petrol driven grinders, some plumbers nitrogen and the screeching bike is gone in seconds. They carry tyre irons (or worse) for dealing with owners who turn up unexpectedly and complain.
Electronic immobiliers are the single biggest cause of stranded vehicles in the UK. Like any electronic system, when they fail you won't be fixing them at the roadside on your own unless you can simply cut them out of the loom. Tyres are more reliable which tells you just how poor these things are.
If you want to secure a bike get it Datatagged/marked with Smart water/painted an odd colour/covered in stickers to deter steal to order types in "civilised" places. Get a dirty great chain long enough to go round the frame and street furniture to slow down blokes with grinders and stop the average third world chisle merchant. Fill the chain with bike and lamp post, don't leave stops where they can get the grinder in. Secure your luggage with steel netting to slow the slash and grab brigade and remove items like your GPS and camera that druggies and street kids might like to grab. The idea is a layered defence where the worst that can go wrong is a broken key that a locksmith can sort for you.
Steering/ignition key locks BTW should never be used if you have the big chain. Scum will screwdriver the ignition in seconds (your £10000 bikes only built in security is a £0.30 chinese made lock) leaving you with a biggish repair job, but will then fail on the big chain. Let 'em realise the ignition is just in the off position, see the chain and **** off, it won't ruin your day.
Now my garage, that's alarmed. Me or the neighbours will do something about that screaming (call the plod, make enquiries about peoples feelings about large dogs and cricket equipment etc.) while the thieves think about the big chains and tie down points. Another layer of defence, but one that isn't really mobile.
Alarms are fine if they, a) "alarm" you (as already stated, others will ignore/ curse it), and b) don't break down.
We had one: I had it installed on the bike long before leaving and so was not inclined to have it removed for a trip... no problems for us.
A Las Vegas casino vault is probably one of the surer ways of storing your bike.
Failing that, as also said earlier, a chain, welded section of frame and an immovable object are also good bets. However, when you are one the road that is pretty much impossible to use.
Having seen the videos of their rapid destruction, I have foregone most of the "market leaders" and instead own a number of Almax chains for my two bikes. Any useable length however, will weigh a ridiculous amount (20kg, roughly).
Managable at home: prohibitive on the road. If you can, park it in secure premises at your hotel or nearby, or sleep under the bike holding a grenade with the pin half out....
So back to alarms.
If it makes you feel better, then get one (half of the benefit is the peace of mind, perceived or otherwise), or if your bike has one, don't rush out and sell the bike as a result. However, accept that it is something that can go wrong and a RTW trip will tax a unit more than life at home.
Doesn't mean it will fail, though: ours never did and I have never known anyone to have their alarm strand them somewhere, although it does happen occassionally.
If you have an alarm/immobiliser that you don't wish to remove (personally I would), make sure of two things. One, know where it connects into the bike. A lot have an inline-fuse which if it blows activates the immobiliser circuit. You can be stuck for the sake of a 2g spare if the alarm uses a different type to the bike. Two, look at the loom. If the clown who installed it used scotchlocks for once you are better off than if he cut three inches out of the loom. Think about how you could remove the alarm circuit if it fails.
One that hasn't been mentioned is BMW style coded keys. The key has a chip which the bike reads via the well known ring antenna. Screwdrivers don't have the chip so won't work in the 30 pence lock they still fit. In cars these work fine and have failure rates under 1 in a million, but that's a dry enviroment. When the key looses it's coding (EM fields or plain bad components) or the ring antenna fails you need to know how to deal with the software to get it to pair new parts. I've never dealt with a bike with this system but would suggest it's new enough on bikes to still have glitches. The biggest thing putting me off is that if I loose a key I can't just have another cut. Steal to order thieves won't see these as a massive issue, they will either steal to break for parts or will know people who can clone keys for them. Removing such a system would I believe be almost impossible as it's part of the main electronic system.
In the last ten years I've never see an OE imobiliser fail, but I've seen lots and lots of aftermarkets stuff go. And like everyone else's observations, alarms only work if you can hear and identify it - then you need the balls to do something about it!
Ye' ole' thieving scumbag may on the other had be put off by a screaming bike, so in some cases it might work. You need to balance this out against any hassle the thing is going to cause you.
I have an alarmed disc-lock, sure it's not going to stop a determined thief, or a man-in-a-van attack. It's not loud, but it's so dammed high frequency that re-setting with the key is a task that leaves your ears bleeding, never mind trying to defeat it, or drag the bike away with it. But it's only a deterant and at least if it fails I can ditch the battery's and carry on using it as a lock! It also goes off at the first movement, this can be a double edged sword at times!
I too have dispensed with the big selling chains and locks, go for a mixture of things, If you can buy it, then so can a thief, then figure out how to defeat it. The best chain I ever had is a piece of lifting chain my old man got for me, it took me 10 minutes to cut it down to size in a workshop with good cutting gear. I figure it gives the bike 10 minutes of noise - maybe someone will notice, maybe not.
I also, use some steel wire 'slings' (for lifting steel), thinish and quite light. Cuting with a grinder is difficult (as the strands snag the blade), bolt cutters don't work too well, but you can get through it with good quality wire cutters with some time. It's not going to stop anyone, but it will slow them down, and hopefully they'll move on
I work on the assumption that if my bike is a bigger pain in the ass than the one next to it, then it's a bit safer. Hey, if I go to the effort then I don't feel bad about the bloke next door who's bikes gone but got into his room 5 minutes sooner!
Back to the topic, I don't think Alarms themselves should be singled out as problems, but anything electronic can go wrong - so the more basic it is, the easier it is to repair, fix, ripp off or bypass on the road.
I'm considering getting one myself. It's a visable deterrant in itself and you can chose whether to arm it or not.
A quality cable lock is great to lock a few bikes together or to lock your helmet to your bike on walk abouts. Check out the "KABUL" lock by Motrax.
I had a Gorilla "direct to battery" Alarm on my XT in South America.
I could disconnect it at will but I ended up removing it as it was a big drain on the battery and it would go off all the time in the wind.
The hardwired ones are definately a complication you DONT WANT on a long trip. Only an experienced auto electrician/technician can fit/remove them "properly" and they go wrong all the time and really flatten batteries FAST !!
I have a Xena alarm disc-lock... but the alarm side is a joke, the sound is simply not powerful enough, and once it rained for a few days, the alarm was gone, or went off whenever. Took off the batteries then.
It´s still a good mechanical lock. But PLENTY of development ahead on the alarm side.
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