Almost every biker thinks about it at one point or another: Is my bike safe where I parked it? The reality is that all of us on the road are vulnerable to bike theft, whether we believe it or not. Today more than 55,000 bikes are stolen every year in the US alone! That is one stolen bike every 9 minutes. Now with rising gas prices theft rates are expected to be on the rise, as well. Equip yourself with all the information you need to learn how to protect your bike this summer.
There are ways to prevent your bike from being stolen, but of all the ways to prevent theft there are different levels of security and different levels of safety. When using a system to protect your bike it is not unlike choosing a helmet, gloves or boots. There are different qualities for each brand and style. Often, safety is overlooked when choosing a security system. This article will compare the most common security systems and the safety for each when implemented.
The first line of defense after your ignition is locked; the fork lock. Almost every motorcycle has one, and they’re supposed to be the standard equipment for your peace of mind. What we have heard from riders when asked if they lock their bike is just, “No, I use my fork lock. That’s good enough.” The main problem with a fork lock is that the motorcycle can still be rolled away. A locked fork may be able to discourage a thief from attempting to ride the bike away, but to even an amateur criminal it is easily defeated. There is a large amount of leverage created when a person sits on the seat and kicks the low side of the handlebar to break the small pin, and it does not take a very strong person to do it!
Most fork locks can be defeated in record time. If your motorcycle is equipped with a fork lock you should use it. It is the first line of defense when you leave your bike unattended.
Security Level: LOW - Fork Locks have a low security level because they can be easily defeated.
Safety Level: MED/HIGH - It is difficult to ride when the fork is locked.
The next level of security beyond a fork lock is the disc lock. Disc locks are a relatively cheap way to prevent a motorcycle from being rolled away. Some disc locks use audible alarms as an additional deterrent along with being a handy reminder to the rider that the lock is on. The alarm is usually powered by a small watch battery which can die causing the alarm to fail and leave the rider vulnerable to riding off with a locked rotor.
In most cases a brightly colored reminder cord is used to reduce the chance that a rider will take off without removing the lock. The cord is stretched from the lock to the handlebars. This can be effective, but to riders that like to show off their bike when they park, the cord may become a gaudy accessory and avoided all together.
The trouble with using a disc lock or padlock on your rotor is the possibility for damage. When a loose disc lock is placed on the motorcycle rotor there is a compromise being made. The motorcycle cannot be rolled away, but there is a possibility for damage if it is left on while riding away. Believe it or not, a locked rotor can roll approximately 6 feet before the lock smashes into the caliper or fender. The job is done in that the motorcycle cannot be moved, but there is now damage that must be repaired.
Security Level: MED/HIGH - Disc Locks actually lock the wheel.
Safety Level: LOW - A forgotten lock can destroy your caliper, fender or rotor and potentially cause the rider to drop a bike and be hurt.
Installed Wheel Locks
A new approach to traditional disc locks is a permanently installed locking system. The only installed rotor locking system is the RoadLoK. Designers at RoadLoK have created a system that locks the front wheel of a motorcycle, eliminating all movement and, because it is permanently installed, the chance for damage is also eliminated.
There is no storage problem either, because the unit is installed and stays on the caliper. The only part that needs to be carried is a removable pin that locks the rotor that is the size of a small battery. The system does not need a reminder cord or audible alarm because even if the pin is not removed before the rider takes off, the bike will stall. Imagine holding the front brake and letting out the clutch. The bike doesn’t move and the engine stalls.
Security Level: MED/HIGH - The rotor is locked and the bike cannot move.
Safety Level: HIGH - An installed system cannot cause damage or hurt the rider.
Chains and Cables
Chains are another method for locking your motorcycle, and due to their intimidating metal structure, they are sure to deter a theft. Some brave riders have no problem carrying a large chain on their motorcycle to lock up after a ride, but undoubtedly, some do. If you have ever seen the largest chains available on the market and had a chance to hold them, you might decide that they are not your preferred choice. Chains are an effective way to prevent a bike from being lifted into a truck or van.
The storage of the chain is the main issue. There truly is a sizeable risk putting a 15lb chain around your waist.
Security Level: HIGH - The bike is locked to an immovable object and cannot move.
Safety Level: LOW - A rider can move and forget the wheel or frame has a chain on it, Carrying a chain around the waist is dangerous.
Alarms have always been around as an option for securing anything on wheels, and many city bikers choose this security method. As technology allows these systems to become smaller and more affordable, audible alarms are extremely popular today.
However, there is actually an interesting downside to this method. How many times have you heard an alarm go off and done nothing to stop it? The way people tend to mind their own business despite hearing those loud alarms is a phenomenon called “the bystander effect.” It’s real! The more alarms that are present in a given area, the greater the bystander effect can be seen. Cities like New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles are prime examples of areas where this phenomenon is extremely noticeable on a daily basis.
Alarms are useful for sending a thief on their way to an easier (and quieter) motorcycle to steal, but they all still have the disadvantage of just being another noise among the traffic.
Security Level: LOW/MED - Can scare away some thieves, bystander effect and potential malfunctions.
Safety Level: HIGH - There is little risk for damage or injury.
GPS Locators / Recovery Systems
Global Positioning Systems and terrestrial antenna based locating systems are great for targeting and identifying a stolen motorcycle, and the use of these locators is emerging as one of the most technologically savvy ways to combat motorcycle theft. Most GPS locators are small enough to be hidden on a motorcycle frame and only require a small amount of power to stay working when a bike is stolen.
However, a major problem arises in port cities where stolen motorcycles can be exported quickly. In addition, some GPS signals may have trouble transmitting through the steel sides of an export container. Some motorcycle owners truly and honestly would not want their stolen property returned to them after a theft incident. To the majority of bikers their motorcycle is very personal and the idea of retrieving a motorcycle after it has been stolen is not well received.
In addition, for the same reason that there is no image for GPS locators for this article, it is difficult for a GPS locator to be an effective deterrent. Most thieves would not recognize a motorcycle with an installed system; therefore, the bike is stolen. Unless a rider advertises on the motorcycle that there is a recovery system installed, locators are not effective theft prevention systems. GPS locators are for recovery after the fact.
Security Level: LOW - (unless advertised on the bike) Thieves do not know a bike is protected.
Safety Level: HIGH - There is little chance for damage or injury.
It is obvious that there are several available methods to help riders prevent motorcycle theft. Not all methods carry the same level of protection and safety. The best way to make your bike less of a target is to utilize multiple systems. Safe wheel locks, such as the RoadLoK, can be used in conjunction with alarms and GPS recovery systems. There is no one system that can do everything.
The overall goal is to deter a potential thief and make their job more difficult when it comes to taking your bike. The more levels of security that need to be defeated the greater the chance the bike will be bypassed for an easier target. There is never a good reason to forget security all together. This summer remember to lock your motorcycle.