Motorcycle locks aren’t just for peace of mind – they’re as important as regular maintenance if you want to enjoy your motorcycle for years to come. But picking the best motorcycle lock for you can be overwhelming – there are many different types of locks to choose from, so we’ll help find the right one for you.
No matter which one you choose, security must be a priority. Motorcycles are easy to steal and easy to sell off as parts. Thefts in some areas are on the rise (with a 30% surge in the USA in 2020) and recovery rates in many countries hover around 50% or lower. However, motorcycle security tech is rapidly advancing as well, which makes this a good time to invest in your bike’s security.
How do you keep a motorcycle from being stolen?
Motorcycle security is a complicated topic with a lot of aspects to cover, but there are a few simple basics you need to know:
1. Park in a safe location
Because they’re easier to steal or tamper with, always try to find the safest spot to park your motorcycle. The safest spot will always depend on your situation, but here are some things to consider:
- Visibility: when you park, will the motorcycle be visible to you or someone you trust?
- Stationary objects: Is there a lamp post, barrier, or other object that you can lock your motorcycle to so it can’t be carried off?
- Lighting and surveillance: If you’re parking overnight, is there sufficient lighting or camera coverage to make a night-time theft a risky proposition?
- Foot traffic: Are there a lot of people walking by your motorcycle? Who are they? Crowds of commuters or shoppers might be a deterrent to thieves, but passersby in a nightlife neighborhood might tamper with your bike even if they have no intent of stealing it.
- Secure access: If you can, try to use private garages you trust. This is one of the best ways to keep your bike secure.
- How many other bikes are there? If there are other bikes, check to see how they’re secured. You might get an idea of whether the neighborhood is safe, but more importantly, you’ll have a minimum standard to beat. Thieves prefer lower-hanging fruit, so if your bike is the most secure bike in the area, they’re not likely to target it.
Learn to lock up right
We’re going to share lots of motorcycle lock tips further down, but it’s also important to know how to use those locks to their greatest potential. Here are a few tips you may not have thought of:
- Chains are easiest to break when they touch the ground: A chain on the ground can be frozen and smashed, or it can be conveniently braced when using a bolt cutter. A suspended chain is harder to attack in these ways.
- Front wheels are easy to replace: If the front wheel is the only thing securing your bike in place, thieves can simply remove it and leave it behind. A replacement won’t be too expensive. Try to secure your bike through the rear wheel or, even better, the frame.
- All locks can be broken: The power of a lock is measured in the time it takes to pick or break it. So don’t just think about locks – think about deterrence. Which brings us to our next big tip…
Prepare for the entire theft process
We’re going to focus on locks in this article, but that’s not all you should think about. There is a broad range of motorcycle security devices that work at different stages of the theft process.
- Casing: This is when thieves patrol neighborhoods looking for potential targets and decide on a plan of attack. How do you prevent your bike from becoming a target? Maybe you can hold off on replacing those cracked fairings so it looks like a low-value target. Maybe you want to use a cover so it’s not immediately obvious what your bike is worth. For some thieves, the sight of a really heavy-duty lock might be enough of a deterrent.
- Attack: This is when the thief actually does the work to overcome your motorcycle’s security, so it’s where your motorcycle locks need to shine. What will the thief need to do to break the locks, and how risky can you make it for them? Will you know that the theft is underway?
- Recovery: Once the theft has occurred, do you have a dependable way to recover your bike? The tool of choice here will be a motorcycle tracker like Monimoto. Not only will it notify you of a theft in progress and allow you to intercede, it will enable you to retrieve your bike should it actually be stolen.
Now that we understand some of the basics for how to secure your bike, let’s take a look at some of the best motorcycle lock strategies.
How to Lock a Motorcycle
There are different methods for locking up your bike, and each has its pros and cons. Let’s review the best ways to lock a motorcycle.
Is a motorcycle disc lock enough?
Motorcycle disk locks clip onto your motorcycle’s brake disk, preventing that wheel from spinning. Most also include motion detection alarms that will emit ear-piercing alarms if they detect movement.
The problem is that motorcycles can be carried, wheels can be removed, and disk brakes can be cut. Motorcycle disc locks do not offer the highest standard of motorcycle security, but they definitely have their uses. For the best security, combine them with at least one other security device.
- Convenient: The heaviest and bulkiest motorcycle lock won’t do you much good if you never use it because it’s so big. You won’t have that problem with disk locks. Most of them are somewhere around the size of a canned beverage, so you’ll always have yours with you. Combine that with the ease of use and you have a device that you’ll be using all the time.
- Built-in alarms: We recommend getting a disk lock with an alarm. This way, in addition to physical security, it’ll also deter potential thieves and notify you if you’re close enough.
- Easy to attack: As we mentioned, disk locks can be attacked or even ignored entirely. Depending on the bike and the location, the thief could choose to remove the wheel with the disk lock, cut through the brake disk to remove the lock, or carry the motorcycle into a waiting vehicle. Furthermore – brake disk lock shackles are often on the thin side, since thick shackles may make them impossible to use on some bikes. That means that the locks themselves can sometimes be broken easily.
Are U-locks or chain locks secure?
Both u-locks and chain locks are a step up from disk locks. Both are capable of not only preventing a bike from rolling, but also attaching it to a stationary object to prevent the bike from being carried. In fact, a u-lock or chain lock should form the backbone of your motorcycle security – but which one should you choose?
- Different weights: U-locks are lighter, making them easier to transport. The main characteristic that makes u-locks and chains secure is the diameter of their shackles or chain links – the thicker the diameter, the harder the locks are to break. Many motorcycle u-locks come with 16mm shackles that are quite secure. A chain with similar-sized links will be on the borderline of what is comfortable to transport on your motorcycle.
- Different lengths: Chain locks are long and flexible, making them more versatile. The greatest strength of both of these locks is that they can be used to lock your bike to a stationary object. However, this is much harder to do with u-locks because they’re smaller. With a motorcycle chain lock, you’re almost guaranteed to find a way to lock your bike to something. You’ll also be able to pass it through your frame, which will be difficult or impossible with a u-lock.
- Different vulnerabilities: These locks must be used differently to protect them from attacks. The inner gap of a u-lock offers a place for thieves to apply powerful leverage and break the shackle – something that’s much harder to do with a chain lock. On the other hand, if your chain touches the ground, it can be smashed with a sledge hammer or easily cut with bolt cutters. A smaller u-lock is less likely to have this problem.
Using two or more different locks and a motorcycle alarm
The best security setup is one with multiple devices that all complement one another.
Using two different locks is a great start. You could use a disk lock to immobilize a wheel and a chain lock to lock your bike to a lamp post. However, adding an alarm will take your security to the next level. There are essentially two types of alarms:
- Silent alarms notify someone else, like the owner, that the motorcycle is being tampered with;
- Loud alarms notify anyone within earshot – starting with the thief – that the motorcycle is being tampered with.
Like with all security tools, these each have their strengths and weaknesses.
Silent alarms won’t deter a theft in progress. However, there is a greater chance of interrupting the thief in the act. Either they get a good scare that will make them less likely to return, or they will be caught by law enforcement.
In fact, we’ve got a story about how someone using the Monimoto motorcycle GPS tracker and alarm was able to foil a motorcycle theft thanks to the silent alarm function:
“They had bolt-cropped the chain, defeated the steering lock, and had lifted my bike off of its side stand, ready to push it away…”
Loud alarms may have little or no effect depending on the location. They may also not work as well as we might hope – most people ignore alarms on other people’s property when they’re out in public. However, in the right situation, they can scare off thieves or notify the owner or passersby that there’s something fishy going on.
What are the best motorcycle locks?
Now that you have some idea about what kind of lock you might be looking for, here are some of our best picks:
The Kryptonite New York M18-WL U-lock
Kryptonite’s New York M18-WL has all of the best features you can expect from a motorcycle U-lock. First and foremost is the double lock. By locking the U-shaped shackle at both ends, any thief will have to cut through the lock twice to remove it. The 18mm shackle is among the toughest you’ll find for this type of lock, and this model has the dimensions to secure a motorcycle.
The ABUS Granit Detecto Xplus 8077 disk lock
An alarm and lock combo on a motorcycle disk lock is the best you can expect from this lock category, and this offering from Abus is no different. Combine that with a 13.5mm shackle (unusually thick for a disk lock) and you’ve got quite a robust disk lock.
The Pragmasis Roundlock
Is it a disk lock? Is it a chain shackle? Yes! The Pragmasis Roundlock is a neatly designed, lightweight, and affordable lock that combines an exceptionally thick 21mm shackle with a tiny body that actually makes this lock more secure, as it becomes difficult for any tool but an angle grinder to find leverage. But it’s also a jack of all trades and master of none – before buying, check whether that shackle will actually fit through your brake disk or chain.
The Bully grip lock
By no means should a grip lock be your only security tool. With that being said, they are the lightest and most convenient motorcycle lock around, so if you’re in a safe location and feel confident, slapping the Bully Lock grip lock onto your brake lever is no sweat. While this device is made of hardened steel, riders should treat it first and foremost as a visual deterrent and use it as part of a broader motorcycle anti-theft toolkit.
The Kryptonite New York Legend 1515 chain lock
At 7.23kg, this motorcycle chain lock is at the upper limit of what some people would consider portable. If the weight bothers you, there are lighter chains offered by Kryptonite (like the New York Fahgettaboudit) and every lock manufacturer on this list. If it doesn’t, then the hardened 15mm links on this chain offer some of the best chain lock security out there.
The Squire Behemoth chain lock
Not all chain locks were meant to be portable. You could theoretically drag the Squire Behemoth around with you, but at a total weight of 22.4kg, that’ll be a big commitment. 1.5 meters of 22mm hardened chain links and a killer padlock with two keyholes means that your motorcycle will feel just as safe at home as you do.
Keep in mind that whichever device or devices you go with will be a vast improvement over your motorcycle’s standard, built-in security. Beyond that, you need to research the likelihood of theft for your model and the likelihood of theft in your area. This will help determine how much you may need to invest to mitigate the risk of losing your motorcycle to thieves. Or perhaps you can approach it from another angle – if you don’t love your bike enough to invest in a proper set of security devices, maybe it’s time for a new and better bike!
Q: What motorcycle gets stolen the most?
A: Here are the top 3 most-stolen motorcycle makes in the United States in 2019:
- American Honda Motor Co., Inc.: 8,122
- Yamaha Motor Corporation: 6,495
- Harley Davidson, Inc.: 4,737
It’s important to note, however, that statistics can be misleading. Honda motorcycles are quite popular around the world. They could be at the top of the list because thieves know they can easily sell Honda parts to unsuspecting buyers. Or they might just be the most common bike for opportunistic thieves to get their hands on. Consider finding statistics for your area.
Q: Is it hard to steal a motorcycle?
A: That depends on how well you secure it, but generally, motorcycles are far easier to steal than cars. The most fundamental reasons for this are that 1. Their controls (steering, brakes, clutch, etc.) are accessible to the public, and 2. They are light enough for as few as 1-3 thieves to roll or carry away if they can’t be driven. Furthermore, built-in motorcycle security is generally quite poor. Steering locks are easy to break and ignitions can be hotwired. Motorcycle security starts with locks and other security devices.
Q: What are the chances of recovering a stolen motorcycle?
A: The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported a 42% recovery rate for US motorcycle thefts in 2020. Keep in mind that the bike recovered is almost never in the same condition as it was when you last rode it. It could be totaled, gutted for parts, or damaged as a result of the theft process (broken steering lock/ignition, cut brake disks, etc).
Q: Which motorcycles are least likely to be stolen?
A: In 2005, Progressive, an insurance provider, published their top 5 motorcycle models with the least theft claims:
1. Suzuki 650 Savage (AKA the Boulevard S40)
- Honda Rebel Series
- BMW R1200C
- Honda Shadow Series
- Yamaha V-Star Series
These stats are a bit old, and they might not tell the whole story. In reality, the bike that’s least likely to be stolen is the one that you lock up tight and keep in a secure location!