Theft-proofing Your Motorcycle

By Sharon Naylor

March 17, 2014 6 min read

Motorcycle owners are so dedicated to protecting their bikes that some set up baby monitors in their garages so they'll know in a flash if someone attempts to steal their bike.

Motorcycle theft is a serious concern, no matter what you paid for your bike. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, nearly 47,000 motorcycles were stolen in 2011. While that number is down 6 percent from the previous year, it's still enough to make you keep your eye on the reality that thieves are after motorcycles.

While any brand of motorcycle may be stolen, according to Esurance, the five most-stolen motorcycle brands are, in order, Honda (at 1 in 4 bikes stolen), Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Harley-Davidson. It's a common mistake to assume that thieves only want a Harley. Criminals will steal any brand at any time, so think of any motorcycle brand as a target to be protected. The best "bait" is powerful bikes with street-racing capability and profitable parts.

According to the Motorcycle Industry Council, more American homes have motorcycles on their properties:

"Motorcycling has captured the attention of the 'millennial' generation, at 75 million strong, more diverse, and motorcycling is more integrated into their lives than it was for the baby boomers. Take a look at how many two-wheelers you find in the toy aisles at big-box retailers, on TV shows, in movies, in hugely popular video games. Motorcycling is a more natural part of their pop culture, more acceptable and more desirable, all of which is great news, as they tend to find the money to spend on things they really value."

Thieves know that Generation Y has a penchant for motorcycles, which means they'll find more to steal and a bigger market when it's time to sell. Thieves also know that motorcycle owners often add additional features to their bikes after purchase, which makes bikes more alluring.

David Beaudrie, former private security specialist, says, "Security is all about seeing potential vulnerabilities before a criminal does and taking care of them before they get exploited." Beaudrie reports that motorcycles typically get stolen for several reasons. "Some people steal them simply to joyride around. Others steal motorcycles to commit additional crimes with them."

While there's no guaranteed way to prevent theft, here are the top tips for reducing the odds of having your motorcycle stolen:

--Don't think that your motorcycle can only be stolen during fair-weather months. Esurance reports that the months with the highest incidence of motorcycle theft are, in order, July, August and June. But bikes can be stolen during any season.

--Esurance says to lock your bike's ignition, because the majority of thefts happen when the ignition is turned off but not locked. While this is not foolproof, it does make it harder for a thief to steal, and the more time it takes for a criminal to steal a bike the safer it is.

--Lock the forks and disc brakes.

--Some models come with a centerstand lock so that the bike cannot be lowered to be rolled away.

--Lock your bike to a stationary, immovable item like a lamppost, if possible, and make sure strong locks are wrapped as tightly as possible. Esurance.com says that slack in your lock chain provides room for thieves to chisel or cut at locks.

--Always use a strong motorcycle U-lock, and loop the chain through the frame rather than through a wheel that can be removed to take the bike and leave that one wheel.

--Install a motorcycle alarm. An alarm that makes noise is likely to deter a thief. Choose an alarm that automatically pages you to let you know your bike is being tampered with, because people are now used to hearing alarms in parking lots and driveways. You can also get an alarm attached to your motorcycle cover.

--Install a kill switch or buy a model with a kill switch that shuts off the fuel supply to the motor when the bike is tampered with. Many thieves won't know how to locate this switch.

--If you park your bike in your garage, position it behind your car or some other large object to obscure it from street view. Install additional garage door locks, such as a lock on the door frame or a U-bolt on the garage floor, to keep thieves from accessing your bike and other valuables in your garage, as well as preventing entry into your home.

--If you store your bike outdoors, always keep it covered when not in use, and choose a neutral-colored cover without any motorcycle logo on it. A cover with metal grommets around the edges is ideal because you can use them to affix locks.

--If you park your bike outdoors, park it near other cars. If it's parked by itself in a driveway or parking lot, it will be more of a target.

If you are selling your motorcycle, don't get taken by the oldest trick in the book: allowing a potential buyer to take it for a test ride. Instead, start it up in front of any buyer, and then hop on to show the buyer that it works.

In case your bike is ever stolen, make sure to keep careful records of your bike and its components, and take photos of it for your records. This will help you file a proper insurance claim. Make sure you have theft coverage on your insurance policy, as well. Don't assume your homeowners or renters insurance will cover stolen bikes.

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