While violent crime and to a lesser extent, property crime has decreased over the last few decades in most countries, those who are not cautious are still at serious risk of losing their property.
Motorcycles are something that thieves target.
Motorcycle thefts are increasing in some countries, despite decreases in overall crime.
Stealing a car is more complicated, and a bicycle is not worth nearly as much.
With the right tricks, one can minimize the odds of anyone taking their motorcycle.
Motorcycle theft in the U.S.
More than 40,000 motorcycles are stolen each year in the United States, according to [the national crime bureau].
Thankfully, the number of motorcycle thefts has been slowly declining since 2013, though the figures are not very different.
In 2013, there were 45,367 motorcycle thefts in the United States; this has decreased to only 41,674 in 2019. Some states are vastly worse than others as far as motorcycle thefts go.
Motorcycle thefts are concentrated in the worst areas and not found everywhere that does not have a minimal crime rate.
In California, thieves took more than 7000 bikes in 2018 compared to only 22 in Vermont [source].
Rates of motorcycle theft are decreasing but will remain relatively high for a long time at the current rate of decrease.
Florida, Texas, New York, South Carolina, and North Carolina were the five worst states after California.
Thieves stole more than 4000 motorcycles in Florida, the second worse state after California.
The National Insurance Crime Bureau recommends never leaving your keys in the ignition, not even if your bike is in your garage.
Motorcycle theft in the U.K.
Unlike motorcycle theft in the United States, motorcycle theft in the United Kingdom may be increasing at least if one is talking about the last five years.
According to the British Motorcyclist Foundation, a motorcycle has about a 1 out of 46 chance of being stolen per year [source].
These are not good odds if one keeps the same bike for several years! One can, however, keep the odds of theft much lower than that for themselves if they take precautions to protect their motorcycle.
An analysis of more the 27000 bike thefts in 2019 shows that thefts are overwhelmingly concentrated in England [source] with only a bit more than 5% of incidents occurring in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland combined.
Many people recommend using new tracking technology to deter theft and to maximize the chance of getting your bike back if it is stolen.
Total motor vehicle theft (of any type of motor vehicle) has decreased in the U.K. since the early 2000s, from 306,000 incidents in 2002-2003 to 114,000 in 2018-2019.
However, if we look at overall motor vehicle theft since 2013/2014, it has increased from 70,000 events to 114,000.
This is not nearly as bad as almost twenty years ago, but it is worse than six years ago.
Hopefully, the opening of a new national stolen motorcycle database could help prevent motorcycle theft from returning to the early 2000s levels.
Whether or not thefts of motorcycles follow the trend of a shorter run increase and a longer run decrease in thefts is not known.
The office of national statistics does not record thefts of motorcycles separately from thefts of motor vehicles in general [source], so we can only assume that motorcycle theft follows the same trend.
Motorcycle theft in Australia
Motorcycles are more likely to be stolen from their owners than most other vehicles.
This is easily true in Australia, where motorcycles make up one-sixth of motor vehicle thefts but only one twenty-fifth of motor vehicle registrations.
More than 115 different makes of motorbike have been stolen this year. In spite of the new tracking technology, less than half of stolen bikes are recovered [source].
Motorcycles are not necessarily stolen mostly on the street – 72% of bikes were stolen from a residence in Australia.
More than 8000 bikes were stolen in Australia in 2019.
Motorcycle theft in Canada
In Canada, there are roughly twenty motorcycle thefts per day, similar to rates in the United States relative to the population [source].
As is the case everywhere else, motorcycle owners are more likely to lose their vehicles to theft than car owners.
A few people can lift a motorcycle into a truck and drive away with it.
It is also easier to hotwire the ignition of a bike than of a car.
For very little money, you can have a killswitch hooked up to your motorcycle.
To start the motorbike, you must have the key and hold the killswitch down at the same time.
A thief will not always be able to find the killswitch, which should be found in an inconvenient location, and they may abandon the theft attempt after being unable to start the motorbike after hotwiring it.
Ten ways to avoid motorcycle theft
1) Buy robust and high-quality locks
Cheap locks are not good enough for expensive possessions.
A determined thief can find a way to open a lock that is of low quality.
A low-quality U-Lock can be fiddled open with a ballpoint pen, and cheap locks are vulnerable to force as well.
Don’t take any chances.
A thief can often identify a lock that is of low quality and find a way to open it.
Thieves are risk-takers, and depending on the bike’s location may be willing to use angle grinders and sledgehammers if they believe that they can break a lock quickly.
Chain locks are among the strongest, but they can be a hassle to take with you everywhere due to their bulk and weight.
A chain that is at least 5/8ths of an inch thick is particularly hard to cut through.
There should be only small gaps in the chain to prevent a thief from inserting a lever and twisting the bike-chain until it breaks.
While the weight is an issue, a good chain lock is the single most secure type of lock.
U-locks are another excellent choice that is difficult for a thief to break.
While U-locks can be weighty, they are still more comfortable to carry around than chains.
A high-quality U-lock should be made out of high-quality steel and, therefore, resistant to force.
The best U-locks should remain impossible to open even if a thief manages to cut through one of the two bars.
These particularly secure U-locks have a double locking system that requires two cuts to break.
Anything that maximizes the amount of time necessary to break the lock increases the chance of someone catching the thief in the act.
One reason why many people avoid U-locks is that it is more difficult to find anything that the lock will attach to you than is the case for a chain lock.
If you are looking for a lock that you can easily attach to anything and that is light, a cable lock might be the right way to go.
You can open a cable lock with either a key or a combination lock.
A lock key is a better idea as there are tricks for opening combination locks.
Unfortunately, cable locks are less difficult to cut through than chain locks.
While some cable locks are stronger than others, a cable cannot compare to a chain.
A thief might see a chain lock and avoid attempting to steal the bike but decide that their tools are a match for a cable lock.
For this reason, we cannot recommend cable locks unless motorcycle theft is rare in your area.
Another more recently invented option is the folding lock.
A folding bike lock is stronger than a cable lock, plus it is easier to find something to attach it to than with a U-lock.
A disadvantage of the folding bike lock is that attempted theft can permanently damage it.
If a thief tries to break a folding lock but fails, it can be left forever damaged. Even still, the folding bike lock is lighter than a chain and stronger than a cable lock.
Use a tracker
While an alarm and a tracker is secondary to a lock and should never be used instead of a lock, it can help in addition to it.
There is no guarantee that a thief will fear an alarm system and a tracker, but thieves look for safe targets.
You may be able to get cheaper insurance if you have an alarm system installed, so the device pays for itself.
A professional should attach the alarm system to your bike; we do not recommend doing this yourself.
Not all alarm systems are created equal. Thatcham should certify the quality of any alarm system you buy.
Protect your garage door
Just because your motorcycle is stored indoors does not mean there is little possibility of theft.
A garage door is easy to force open without security measures.
A garage door defender anchors your garage door to the ground and prevents it from being forced open.
Make sure that you install the garage door defender correctly, or else it may fail.
Make sure to bolt the garage door defender to the center of your door.
After securing the garage door, make sure that you chain your motorcycle up inside of the garage as well.
Use a disc lock
While you should never consider using a disc lock instead of a chain lock or a folding lock, it does provide added security.
A disc lock does not attach your motorcycle to an object.
Instead, it locks your wheel in place and prevents it from turning.
A thief could still lift your bike onto a truck and take it away, but a disc lock is added protection.
If property crime or specifically motorbike theft is prevalent in your area, multiple sources of protection can help you.
Park your bike somewhere brightly lit
Parking your bike in a dimly lit area where a thief could take it without being seen is never a good idea.
The right tools can break any lock – as long as the thief can do it without being seen.
In a brightly lit area, a thief will not dare to cut through locks.
Notice suspicious behavior
A motorcycle thief can spend days driving around, looking for the safest opportunities to steal a bike.
If you see anyone following you, they are trouble.
Simple alertness can protect you from all kinds of crime, including property crime.
You don’t have to be paranoid, but make a habit out of awareness.
Criminals look for those who are not paying attention.
Always lock your motorcycle!
That sounds obvious, but many people lose their bikes due to leaving them unattended briefly without bothering to lock them.
Even if you are only going to be away from your bike for a few minutes, you always want to lock it.
The wrong sort of person may not be able to resist the opportunity to steal an unlocked bike.
Attach a chain to your frame
If you attach a chain to the wheel rather than the frame of a bike, the chain is significantly easier to remove.
If you do attach the chain to the wheel sometimes, attach it to the rear wheel.
The front wheel is an even worse idea.
Don’t park your bike in the same spot every day!
Thieves often plan out their thefts in advance.
If you park your bike in the same spot every day, thieves will make a note of your bike as a potential target.
Purchase certified locks and trackers
A good lock should be certified.
One can easily look up whether or not their bikes are certified by Sold Secure or CEN.
Thatcham will certify tracking devices as well as locks.
While there are many ways to minimize the chance of theft, there are no guarantees.
One cannot make their bike unstealable; they can only make their bike difficult to get away with stealing.
For this reason, make sure you have theft insurance.
While a large majority of motorcycle thefts happen to people who do not take proper precautions, there are no guarantees.
A tracking device is no reason not to have a chain lock, and a chain lock is no reason not to have theft insurance.
Sources: https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/motorcycle-thefts-declined-2018  https://www.statista.com/statistics/519517/us-motorcycle-theft-by-state/  https://bikerrated.com/bikes/running/uk-motorcycle-theft-hotspots/  https://www.statista.com/statistics/303551/motor-vehicle-theft-in-england-and-wales/  https://www.ons.gov.uk/aboutus/transparencyandgovernance/freedomofinformationfoi/motorcycletheftintheuk  https://www.qbe.com/au/news/the-state-of-motorcycle-theft-in  https://fortnine.ca/en/tips-for-preventing-motorcycle-theft