Here’s a sobering fact: over 6,000 motorcycles, mopeds and scooters were stolen in Greater London last year.
What’s worse, under-reporting of PTW theft means that the real figure is thought to be over 9,000 powered bikes*, with the worst affected boroughs Southwark, Croydon, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, Wandsworth and Brent.
Sadly, stealing an unsecured bike is easy; it takes only seconds for thieves to break the steering lock and wheel it away. While organised gangs are rare there are still some who will wheel or lift a bike on to a low loader or into a van, and drive off.
So how can you stop your bike becoming part of the problem? By making life as hard as possible for the bike thieves. Accept you can never make your security foolproof but you can deter the thieves from targeting your bike. Put obstacles in their way and they’ll move on.
So how can you avoid your precious PTW falling foul of bike thieves?
First, never leave your bike unsecured, even for just a minute or two. We’ve all been in a hurry and needed to dash into a shop and left the bike unlocked – indeed, one bike insurer said seven out of ten owners admitted often leaving their bikes unlocked when they parked them.
The secret is to secure it every time: think ‘Lock-Chain-Cover’.
Lock: Use a disc lock to help secure the front brake disc, or a grip lock to secure the brake and throttle controls. The addition of a D-lock on the front wheel will stop it being wheeled away. Secure it to fixed street furniture, such as a motorbike security post or lamppost.
There are locks built specially for scooters and mopeds. Although they tend to be a bit weaker than their big bike counterparts, they are still a significant deterrent, especially if paired up with another form of security.
Chain: To prevent thieves from breaking the steering lock and wheeling it away, use a chain lock through the back wheel (remember, the front wheel can be removed). We all know that any bike chain you buy can be cut through with bolt cutters or an angle grinder, but will the thieves go to that much trouble in a busy street? No: too noisy, takes too much time, and generates too much attention. They’ll move on and look for an easier target. Secure your bike, with the lock taut to an immovable object such as a ground anchor or street furniture. If this isn’t possible, thread the chain through your bike frame and back wheel.
Cover: Thieves are often on the look-out for particular high-value bikes or particular models. By covering your bike you force them to waste time finding out what’s underneath. Bike thieves don’t want the hassle and often will move on without taking a peak under the cover.
It’s all about deterrence. No security measure is foolproof: none of the above will guarantee your bike won’t be stolen but, by using multiple security measures, you can make it harder and less attractive for thieves. Most thieves are opportunists on the look-out for bikes that are quick and easy to steal; make them think twice about taking your PTW.
Other top tips:
Never leave the keys in the ignition. What do you mean, ‘that’s obvious…!’ Might sound it, but thousands of bike riders do just that every year. In fact, I bet we’ve all done it at some point. Just don’t…
- Always apply the steering lock. It’s the simplest way of making it harder for thieves
- Alarms might seem pricey but they are an effective deterrent. Thatcham-rated 1 or 2 alarm systems with tracking, immobilisation, anti-grab and movement sensors can help protect your vehicle and trace it if it is stolen, so you can recover it. Fitting an alarm can also reduce your insurance premiums.
- Try marking your bike parts. Some thieves strip bikes down and sell them off for bike spares. They will spot the telltale signs of the markings and that makes it harder for them to move the parts on, so your bike is less attractive to steal.
- When parking in London, always park in a well-lit area, preferably one that’s busy, too. Remember, thieves are happiest operating in the dark and the quiet, so leave your bike in exactly the opposite spot: somewhere that is well lit and busy.
Home security is easier to manage. Keep your bike in a locked garage or shed when possible. If that’s not an option, fit a ground anchor and secure it to that. Think about fitting security lighting around where you park it: thieves hate operating in the light!
Keeping your bike secure can seem expensive – but it is far cheaper than trying to buy a replacement if yours is stolen. As a rule of thumb, expect to spend around 10-15 per cent of the value of the bike on security.
Finally, one last tip: remember that parking on the pavement is not allowed in Central London. It’s an automatic fine. Many PTW owners learn this lesson the hard way; don’t be one of them.
Always park in a designated spot.
* estimate taken from Metropolitan Police website.