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Travellers' questions that don't fit anywhere else This is an opportunity to ask any question, and post any notice you wish that doesn't fit into one of the other sections.
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  #1  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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Stop your bike getting nicked when travelling?

Hi everybody

I have been thinking of doing a solo ride through, well, almost anywhere (South America, Europe, Africa). I guess one thing that sort of weighs on my mind is the knowledge that if my bike gets stolen I'd be kind of f****d and really sad.

It's easy enough when you're at home commuting day-to-day or your destination has a good lock-up, but on the travelling road it's different. Every day a different place, etc etc.

Like, what do you do with your bike if you want to stop by the side of the road and walk through a marketplace? Or go for a swim at the beach? Go for a hike in the forest?

I have issues with this in Australia as it is as to what to do with the bike, and I have no idea what other countries are like when it comes to bike theft. I feel like when travelling on the bike I wouldn't want to let it out of my sight, and I think that would be really limiting my activities if that were the case.

Anyone have any suggestions on bike anti-theft solutions in any/all countries? I guess it may differ place to place but there will almost always be someone wanting to nab your bike....

Kind regards,

Nicola
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  #2  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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Parking off the street is usually an option--secure parking, backyards, hotel lobbies, more like that. Having someone watch your bike is usually an option--a paid guard, a local shopkeeper (buy something small, then ask), a local kid. Covering the bike, preferably with an old, tatty cover helps. A big old honking chain and giant lock works in most developing world countries, though not in New York or London. I've used alarms, but rarely--seems like too much of a temptation for local kids to jostle the bike then run away, just for the hell of it.

I worry most in European capitals, where the guys with the big bolt cutters, battery powered grinders, cans of freon, and panel trucks live. Same with North America, where I'm often parked overnight in an unguarded lot. Not so concerned in Africa or Latin America, where first of all security is taken seriously and second you seldom hear of those fancy tools in use.

I think if you did a full search of reported thefts of overland bikes, the overwhelming majority take place in industrialized countries, where it's common to hear of garages being broken into, shackles being clipped or cut, vans being used, etc.

On the other hand...there's no doubt you'll find yourself declining to do stuff from time to time due to the undeniable hassle of securing your bike and belongings. There'll be times your choice of places to stay is limited by the availability of secure parking. It's a balance, and sometimes I'm glad to be without my bike.

The final word on any of this is that if you can't recover from losing your bike, you probably shouldn't own it in the first place...and certainly shouldn't bring it around the world. Same with your camera, your laptop, or whatever else you carry. Worse stuff happens.

My 2 cents, and worth every penny.

Mark
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  #3  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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A Masai tribesman or Uzbek goat herd has little use for a large capacity bike, your enemy is Western teenagers, street scum and depending on the bike organised gangs. So:

Remove or hide anything that might be useful to our rural friends like the tool kit or that nice woodcutting tool you'll see strapped to the engine bars. Do the same for anything your city druggie can trade for white powder like the GPS, phone, camera.

Use locks above the local standard. This means never the steering lock (can be opened with a screwdriver and won't work with the key afterwards) but a disc lock for petrol stations where some teenager might hop on and go for a ride and a dirty great big chain for the street (fasten the frame of the bike to something solid if you can, leave none on the ground). In the UK we have 5-minute rated locks that cost about four times what the DIY stores sell basic stuff for. You can open a Homebase (or Touratech pannier) non-rated lock in 30 seconds with a hammer while a 5-minute rated ABUS or similar is over an hour with an angle grinder.

Making the bike undesirable will vary depending what it is. A brand new GS with all the Touratech bling is exactly what your London gang with their van full of lock breaking kit wants for their next shipment to Moscow or Saudi. Marking systems like smart water or datatag mean that if they get caught in the UK the court system will work but these are unknown in most of the world. Scratching your name in the paint or taking a bread knife to the seat foam for some practical purpose is just as good, the margin on steal to order isn't enough to start buying seats.

A scruffy bike cover can be handy, even if you are seen riding into town you then disappear (the one the dealer will try to sell you with the new bike is just a big flag). Making contact with the locals is better though. A local bloke with a yard full of his tools or shop stock is going to know about the local scum.

Alarm your garage at home, you'll react to that. A bike alarm is just a means to flatten the battery or introduce a source of ignition failure, no one will give a rats **** if your bike is wailing as some big men push it into their van with fake dealers logo.

Take the dealer tags off your keys and maybe off the number plate. Dropping a key with a "Leeds Suzuki" fob is an invitation for the averagely dishonest to walk round the parking places looking for a Suzuki with number plates bearing the same logo. A BMW fob on a Suzuki key is just a lost key.

The main thing after you've taken reasonable precautions though is not to worry. If some Moscow Gangster Wannabee has a sudden urging for a WeeStrom with a post code scratched in the paint and can be bothered to have his blokes smash a hundred quid lock there is nothing I can do about it. If you let this stuff get to you, you soon realise the only 100% solution is to put the bike in the garage at home and brick up the door.

Andy
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  #4  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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Let it get dirty and leave it that way 'til you get the joy of your life back to it's nice warm nest. Plus all of the above of course. ride safe.
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  #5  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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Big lock, scabby old tarp as a cover and try not to worry about it. Your bike will almost certainly not get stolen.
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*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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Old 6 Aug 2012
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Has there ever been a poll of the site's members to see how many (if any) have had bikes stolen while travelling? I've read loads of ride reports and haven't yet come across a mention of a nicked bike. Would be pretty interesting I reckon to see just how common or uncommon such incidents are
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  #7  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sennen View Post
Has there ever been a poll of the site's members to see how many (if any) have had bikes stolen while travelling? I've read loads of ride reports and haven't yet come across a mention of a nicked bike. Would be pretty interesting I reckon to see just how common or uncommon such incidents are
It would be pretty interesting to know. I read a lot of posts on two motorcycle forums, The HUBB and Aussie Street Bikes (ASB). On ASB there are endless issues with stolen bikes, but I suppose that makes sense because most members are based in the big cities of Australia.
I know you said 'whilst travelling' Sennen, so yeah I guess on HUBB there are more travellers, people on the move, perhaps that's the reason why there are very few reports of a stolen bike.

Which, all in all, is very good news! Thanks for the tips so far everybody, they have confirmed my thoughts and offered new ones (hadn't thought of using an old tarp).
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  #8  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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This is just anecdotal, but most of the time I've heard about travellers having their bikes nicked it seems to be after they get home to the city they live in. Big western cities are the issue I think. I read that in the UK something like 24,000 bikes get nicked every year (mostly sports bikes) and 13,000 of those are in London. I'm guessing the rest go in other big cities.

Using a tarp as a cover is good as it has multiple uses - you can lie on it when working on the bike or rig it up as a basha (hootchie I think you guys call it!).

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*Disclaimer* - I am not saying my bike is better than your bike. I am not saying my way is better than your way. I am not mocking your religion/politics/other belief system. When reading my post imagine me sitting behind a frothing pint of ale, smiling and offering you a bag of peanuts. This is the sentiment in which my post is made. Please accept it as such!
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  #9  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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Unless you're parking your bike in the Netherlands (like Colebatch or Jeffrey somebody or other, sorry forgot his name did), you're many many times more likely to have your bike stolen at home.

The only time in more than 100k miles of bike travel I've had a bike stolen was by Shane Cooper of Bradford from my (what I thought was secure) garage at home.

Apart from the 2 above cases in NL, I haven't read of any other cases of theft on the HUBB or ADVrider.
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  #10  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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When I lived in London in the mid-90's I knew of a few visiting bikes getting stolen. Usually people who were just unaware of the levels of thieving in the city and would do things like the leave the keys in the ignition while they went to pay for petrol or use think wire ropes through the straps to leave helmets on the bike seat.

I learned not to use the ignition lock the hard way, although the Cockney **** who had failed to see the chain through the back wheel did at least leave me his screwdriver to get home!

Andy
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  #11  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Threewheelbonnie View Post
I learned not to use the ignition lock the hard way
Pardon my ignorance... is using the ignition lock a false sense of security? I always use mine.
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  #12  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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Stick a screwdriver in and turn, you'll hear a cheap nasty crunching noise and all the lights will come on (unless it's a BMW style chipped key). These locks are truly a waste of time security wise. Take the screwdriver out and the lock internals will mesh together. The bike is now disabled until the lock is replaced, regardless of the fact that the thief then saw the huge chain and went off to steal something else.

The ignition lock is useful if you will stay within sight but other than that it achieves little and can leave you with a disabled bike. Some insurers however insist it is used as a way of getting out of paying, so it can be worth jumping through that hoop.

Andy
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  #13  
Old 6 Aug 2012
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If you don't have a screwdriver handy, sit on the seat and push against the handlebars with your feet: the steering lock will break and the bike can be wheeled off.

My bikes are not insured against theft, although I suppose if I lived in London I'd re-think.
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  #14  
Old 7 Aug 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chris View Post
Unless you're parking your bike in the Netherlands (like Colebatch or Jeffrey somebody or other, sorry forgot his name did), you're many many times more likely to have your bike stolen at home.

The only time in more than 100k miles of bike travel I've had a bike stolen was by Shane Cooper of Bradford from my (what I thought was secure) garage at home.

Apart from the 2 above cases in NL, I haven't read of any other cases of theft on the HUBB or ADVrider.
So the Netherlands are a particularly risky place? Never knew that and never knew Cole lost a bike there. Is it everywhere or just in the cities? I was thinking about passing through there next year
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  #15  
Old 7 Aug 2012
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Travelling through Russia and central asia I have left my bike in places that I would never dream of in an Australian city (or any western city for that matter).

The thing is a big late model bike is relatively rare in these places and thief is bound to be found out (IMHO).

Once I get to the US it will be a different story.
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