How far would you go to protect your bike?

Published: 15 July 2001

This week, around 600 motorcycles will be stolen in the UK. Only 84 will be recovered and returned to their owners.

With organised criminals developing ever more sophisticated methods, keeping our bikes out of their hands is proving an increasing headache.

Tom Waterer, of the Motorcycle Theft Action Group, gives us some idea of what we’re up against. He said: " Motorcycle theft is a field where the professional thief predominates. It’s a field where the thinking criminal can make money at a relatively low risk of getting caught.

" Your average bike thief is not a casual opportunist. He’s clever, fastidious and calculated. Often it’s a network of individuals who will stop at nothing to get their hands on your bike. "

There are stories of garages being dismantled brick-by-brick, of bikes shackled in garages being lifted over parked cars, of advanced locking systems being dismantled or destroyed with ease with high-tech tools.

Security measures which prove effective once may simply make the thief laugh at the ease of his task a few months later as he wheels your bike into his van. Waterer added: " Some professional thieves hire bikes, take them to underworld electronics experts who analyse the security device in question and develop their own counter-measures. "

So, if garages, locks and chains aren’t enough, what can we do?

" Diversity is the enemy of the thief, " says Waterer. " If a thief finds your bike is fitted with something he didn’t expect, he’ll probably move on to another bike. "

The result is that we’re forced to come up with more extreme and inventive ways to protect our property. So over the following four pages we look at some of the ideas riders have come up with.

Some of them are ingenious and perfectly legal. Others, such as tripwires, booby traps, electrified doors, trenches and even guns, are of dubious legality. In the UK, protecting your property could actually land you in serious trouble.

But, despite the risks, many people will stop at nothing to protect their bike. It’s up to you how far you want to go…

Some names have been changed, for obvious reasons.

The Law

In South Africa, vehicle theft is so rife – and dangerous – that built-in flame-throwers are seen as an acceptable way to protect your property. In Texas, you not only have the right to shoot at trespassers, it’s expected. In Britain, the law states that " when defending property against trespassers, reasonable force may be used to prevent them from entering or to expel them if they have entered " . Last year, Norfolk farmer Tony Martin received a life sentence after he shot and killed a teenager who had broken into his home. So what counts as " reasonable " ?

Martin Herson, of Greenwoods solicitors in Peterborough, said: " What is deemed ‘reasonable’ depends on many circumstances. It is unlawful to set traps which are likely to cause death or serious injury. " You have been warned…

They’re looking out for you

The Motorcycle Theft Action Group was created in 1991, when insurers first identified bike theft as a major problem. It managed to reduce the rate of motorcycle theft, but by 1997 the problem had risen again.

The MTAG operates as a meeting place, receiving information from the police and Government departments and identifying aspects of motorcycle theft which need addressing.

It is open to everyone from the motorcycle community who has a legitimate interest in bike theft. These include manufacturers and wholesalers, dealers, riders, insurers, the police and the Government. It also compiles statistics on crime, the most relevant of which we have summarised here.

Details: 02476-222524.

Top ten stolen motorcycles by manufacturer in the UK

1. Honda: 22,522

2. Yamaha: 11,788

3. Suzuki: 8266

4. Kawasaki: 7906

5. Piaggio/Vespa: 1348

6. Harley-Davidson: 574

7. Triumph: 393

8. MZ: 360

9. BMW: 323

10. Ducati: 274

Top eight sports bikes/sports tourers stolen in the UK

1. Honda CBR600

2. Yamaha YZF750

3. Suzuki GSX-R750

4. Kawasaki ZZ-R1100

5. Suzuki RGV250

6. Kawasaki ZX-7R

7. Kawasaki ZX-6/9R

8. Yamaha R1

Motorcycle theft by engine capacity

0-49cc 23,230

50-125cc 35,386

126–600cc 23,410

601-1400cc 17,362

Total: 99,388

Source: Police National Computer 1998-2001