Last month's column about the theft of my Harley-Davidson Heritage Springer detailed the hassle and heartbreak that anyone can experience. I recounted the actions I took to prevent the theft. Seven years later, I am wiser and bike owners are becoming better advocates for themselves. We have to, because in 2010 nearly 50,000 bikes were stolen nationwide.
To prevent or discourage thieves from stealing your bike, use a lot of common sense. Here are some tips gathered from law enforcement, the motorcycle industry and other bikers. Bikes are stolen two ways: either lifted up and placed into a truck or trailer or literally driven away. Theft prevention needs to be top of mind every time you leave your bike.
Do all you can to enclose or cover your bike. Prevent others from seeing it and having easy access to it. Cover your bike when it is not in use. Do not use a popular name brand cover. That's like an advertisement to steal it. Similarly, displaying a manufacturer's flag out in your front yard is another invitation to would-be thieves that you own that brand of bike and they will be looking to see when you go to work or the house is vacant.
Chain or cable your bike with a high quality lock and cable. Secure it to the concrete floor or steel structural objects. And make sure you thread the cable through a part of your bike other than the front wheel. Remember the "weakest link" rule.
If a garage is not available, opt for enclosed, fenced areas often provided by apartment or office buildings. If that is not an option, seek out good lighting and a security camera. At your apartment or townhome ask the management or association folks if any bikes have ever been stolen. If you don't get the right answers, check with the local police. They will tell you. If you store your ride in a trailer?again keep it plain, without logos or decals. Those are like a billboard telling people to come steal it!
If you park at an event or regular parking lot, try to keep it in regular view, or by a business.
To prevent a ride-off, talk to your dealer or mechanic about installing a hidden or spring loaded switch necessary to start it.
A disk lock (applied through one of the holes of the front/ rear disk rotor) prevents your bike from rolling, thereby preventing a ride-off, but not a "lift and grab "hoist.
Install an audible alarm, which may stop a thief in mid-heist. Obviously, this works better in busy parking lots where your bike would also be visible to others. Try not to park in car parking spots, particularly between large picks ups or SUVs.
Consider equipping your bike with a theft detection system like Lojack. For about $600, and possibly earning a discount on your insurance premium, your chances of recovery certainly increase. Because your device is hidden from view, these products do not deter a theft.
There is really no way to guarantee your bike will not be stolen. But there are ways to make it harder for would-be thieves. Do all that you can. And bottom-line, make sure your insurance is up to date, and your agent has all the latest pictures and a list of accessories. A short phone call to your agent at the beginning of the season, to make sure your ride will be fully covered if it's stolen, will have been worth the time.