We’ve all seen the worrying motorcycle security statistics: according to Motorcycle News, from 2015 to 2018, over 45,000 motorcycle and moped thefts were reported in London alone. However, only 1200 people were ever charged with an offence. In other words, over 31,000 investigations of motorcycle theft were closed with no suspects identified. Over 800 bikes are being stolen in London every month, totaling to over 10,000 bikes stolen annually, and more than 40% of them are never recovered.
The numbers aren’t pretty, and although the Metropolitan Police has been implementing new strategies to fight motorcycle theft, it’s still largely down to bike owners themselves to ensure the security of their motorcycle. Before you head over to EBay or Amazon to shop for disc locks, however, make sure you know what makes a motorcycle an easy target. Understanding why it’s so easy to steal a motorbike will help you protect it as best as you can, using multiple tools, strategies, and technology.
As motorcycle theft is becoming a widespread epidemic not just in London but across the entire UK, it’s no surprise that there is a whole new industry of motorcycle security devices developing around it. On the one hand, that’s great news: the more options you have to keep your bike safe, the better your chances of avoiding theft. On the other hand, it can be a little overwhelming when you have to choose from hundreds of different motorcycle security products and new technology. Deciphering how thieves think and work, what bikes they target, and why it’s so easy to steal an unprotected motorcycle will enable you to make informed choices and, hopefully, prevent motorcycle theft.
When thinking of a new brand motorcycle, nobody likes to ponder the possibility of bike theft – especially not bike manufacturers. What motorcycle designers and engineers care about is customer satisfaction, and the key factors in building a high-performing motorcycle model include ergonomics, weight, fuel economy, and aesthetics. When it comes to manufacturing motorcycles, security often comes last. Steering locks, alarm systems, and key fobs are, in most cases, the best a motorcycle manufacturer can do. The rest is up to you.
In addition, motorcycles are simply physically easier to steal than cars. Two wheels are easier to move than four; there’s no need to break windows or come up with elaborate lock picks. If your bike is protected by nothing more than a steering lock, it can be stolen in seconds:
It’s equally easy to disarm or work around the electronic system, start a bike with a duplicate key, or simply wheel it off. According to police sources, bikes can also be lifted off the ground and loaded into vans before you can say “alarm”. The fact is, motorcycles are relatively lightweight, harder to lock up, and more vulnerable to theft because of their design.
What does that mean for you? Use strong disc locks on both wheels, chain your motorcycle to something solid, use locks with integrated alarm systems, and throw a cover over the bike to make it extra hard to spot and target. The more security measures you take, the less attractive your motorcycle will be to thieves.
Even when motorcycle thieves are caught and taken to court, the legal consequences are rarely enough to deter others from stealing. In the UK, bike thieves often get away with a cautionary slap on the wrist; unsurprisingly, they continue to offend. As seen in the Bristol motorcycle gang case, even when bike thieves are caught red-handed, they often walk free. Community service, rehabilitation programs, and very light prison sentences that are often suspended seem to be the most common court decisions when it comes to bike theft, often because the offenders are young or teen-aged. Even more shockingly, only 2.6% of all reported motorcycle thefts in London from January 2015 to October 2018 resulted in a conviction. Lack of serious consequences and extremely low conviction rates fail to both deter thieves from re-offending and prevent newcomers from entering the motorcycle theft “career”.
What does that mean for you? Since bike recovery by the police is rarely guaranteed, and the thieves will not be facing hard consequences, make sure your motorcycle is insured from theft. Those premiums may not be among the cheapest, but a peace of mind is worth more. Insurance will not prevent your bike from being stolen, but it will help if the worst does happen.
Stealing a motorcycle means the perpetrators can break it down for parts and make a quick buck. Stolen motorcycles are rarely sold as they are for fear of detection and recovery. In most cases, stolen bikes are stripped down, their identity markers erased, and the parts are sold quickly on various online sites or through second-hand bike garages and shops. While organized crime does exist and some motorcycles stolen in the UK end up being transported to South-Eastern Europe or Northern Africa, in the majority of cases, a stolen motorcycle is more likely to end up being chopped up for parts. This makes motorcycles and scooters a very desirable target for thieves and makes it that much harder for the police to find stolen bikes.
What does that mean for you? To help the police trace your bike even after it’s been stripped down for parts, mark it in some unique way. Markings on not just the bike’s frame but also wheel rims, shock, levers, and handlebars will enable the police to track the thieves down even once your bike has been taken apart.
Most Commonly Targeted Bikes
According to police statistics (and confessions of ex-motorcycle thieves), certain motorcycle makes and models are more likely to be targeted. The simple principle of supply and demand dictates the thieves’ choices: most routinely targeted bikes are those that are the most common in a given city or area. This explains why moped theft is so prevalent in London – scooters are extremely popular run-around means of transport in a crowded city.
Another popular bike category among motorcycle thieves is super sports. These bikes are fairly popular across the UK, which generally makes them the easiest to find, and super sports motorcycle parts are the easiest to selll. Another factor that adds to the spare part demand is the fact that super sports bikes crash the most, fueling the need for spares.
Dirt bikes are also among the most desired targets. Because many dirt bikes do not require registration, it’s much easier to both strip them down for parts or move them whole. Even YouTube star, racer, and traveler Lyndon Poskitt has had dirt bikes stolen in broad daylight:
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The stolen motorcycles were never recovered.
What does that mean for you? If you love sports bikes, you don’t need to give them up for fear of theft. You simply need to be extra cautious about the security of your motorcycle. Invest in heavy duty chains, locks, alarm systems, and a GPS tracker and make sure your bike is always parked safely in a garage or shed.
Lack of Resources
The Metropolitan Police in London, as well as several other police forces throughout the country, have all made serious efforts in getting motorcycle theft under control. However, the police do not have enough resources to ensure all two-wheeled machines are safe, nor do they have enough officers to constantly patrol the streets. In addition, other crimes will usually take priority over motorcycle theft, and as a result, stolen bikes often disappear without a trace.
Even when thieves are caught on the spot, police chases do not always yield results. Thieves are well aware of certain loopholes in the law. As an example, thieves fleeing on bikes or scooters will deliberately remove their helmets after which the police is legally not allowed to pursue them for fear of fatal injury in case of a crash.
What does that mean for you? The police will do all they can to help you if your motorcycle has been stolen, but make sure you’ve done your best to protect it and track it in case of theft. Parking your motorcycle under CCTV cameras is also helpful in case of theft as the footage may help the police identify the thieves.
Gone in Sixty Seconds
Another factor in what makes a motorcycle an easy target is the amount of time in which it can be stolen. According to police experts, the average time a thief is willing to spend on stealing a bike is thirty seconds. In some cases, thieves may risk taking as long as a minute and a half, but this is still an incredibly short amount of time. Yet, according to Bennetts Insurance, as many as 43% of motorcycle owners do nothing to protect their bikes from theft.
Bike thieves do not want to get caught, and the longer they take to steal a bike, the more they risk being seen and stopped. This is why it’s crucial to secure your motorcycle using multiple tools and devices: if it looks like your bike will take more than two minutes to steal, chances are, the thieves won’t target it.
What does that mean for you? Use as many precautions as you can. It’s true that plenty of motorcycle chains can be cut with a pair of bolt cutters, and no disc lock is ever 100% unassailable. However, a combination of different security measures will buy your bike time, and that alone can often be enough.
Motorcycle thieves tend to scout bikes. That means they will watch the bike they’re targeting and learn the daily routine of its owner. Most riders, especially those who commute to work, usually leave their bikes in the same places and often, with nothing but a steering lock on. The same goes for riders who do not have garages or sheds and leave their bikes parked out in front. In both cases, predictability of where the bike will be and for how long can contribute to your motorcycle becoming an easy target for thieves.
What does that mean for you? If you’re commuting to work, see if you can switch several parking places up every once in a while. Additionally, see if you can park at a friend or colleague’s garage nearby, or perhaps rent a self-storage unit. Always cover your bike when you’re parking it in a public place so that it’s harder to tell the model and make.
While motorcycle theft is usually reported to the police as soon as the owner realizes the bike is gone, the recovery rates aren’t very promising. If the stolen motorcycle has been stripped down for parts, tracing it becomes significantly more difficult. Most motorcycle trackers require to be wired to the bike, and thieves have long wizened up to this: one of the first things bike thieves check after they steal a motorcycle is extra wiring under the seat and tank. Finally, the more time it takes to recover your motorcycle, the more likely it is that the bike will be found trashed.
What does that mean for you? GPS trackers are among the best tools to get your bike back, even after it’s been stolen. There are several great options to choose from. However, a Monimoto tracker has the advantage of independent batteries, which means it is decidedly harder to detect and disarm. You can conceal the tracker anywhere on the bike, and even if the thieves disconnect the battery, the tracker will not be affected and will remain active. Check out how Monimoto has already helped recover stolen motorcycles significantly faster.
Motorcycle security is a serious issue in London and across the whole UK. This doesn’t mean that the situation is hopeless, however: you can prevent your motorcycle from being stolen as long as you understand what makes it an easy target and use as many safety measures as you can. Do your research, stay informed, and make sure your bike is safe both at home and when traveling. Monimoto is here to help if you have any questions about bike security or tracking systems!