Bike security video special: Angle grinder vs chains and a ground anchor

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There’s a feeling a that if a thief really wants your bike, they’ll get it. And this isn’t helped by the ready availability of battery-powered angle grinders – whether that’s in your local DIY megastore or down the middle aisle at Lidl. But as someone who’s never wielded a grinder in anger, I was curious to find out just how easy it is to defeat motorcycle security.

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To find out, MCN headed to Image4 Security in the West Midlands – the people who design and build products including the Guardsman garage door defender and the Apex ground anchor. I explained that I’d got no experience using an angle grinder, which I expected to be good news for them as I was about to set about cutting up their products.

But actually, what followed was a crash course in metal cutting and a few practice cuts on some scrap they had lying around. With my Scouts badge in metal destruction attained, I set about doing my worst to Image4’s Apex Pro ground anchor, which is rated Motorcycle Diamond in Sold Secure testing.

Frustrated by design

Apex Pro ground anchor after attack

Within around five minutes I’d made a pretty decent cut the length of the anchor’s tunnel which seemed like the most logical place to start. I was pretty pleased with my efforts but dismayed to find that the Apex was standing its ground. I didn’t expect this single cut to defeat the device but I’d failed to create even a modicum of give or flex so our bike was safe for now.

The next most sensible cut seemed to me to be one parallel to the first. This took another five minutes and brought about the end of the first cutting disc – but had no effect whatsoever on the integrity of the ground anchor. At this point, I struggled to imagine a thief fitting a fresh disc after 10 minutes of making a racket in a stranger’s garage, but in the interest of science I persevered.

A third cut perpendicular to the first two still did nothing to the Apex’s structure and although a few hammer blows did now deform it, it would still be holding onto its prized motorcycle in a garage or lock-up.

Attacking a 20mm chain with an angle grinder

So, I think it’s safe to say that the Apex Pro is impervious to attack in a real-world setting with sparks flying and a screaming angle grinder in your hand in someone else’s garage. The next logical place a thief would try to cut is the chain.

Image4 don’t manufacture chains but they conducted extensive tests on chain products from various markets – as their so-called ‘chain graveyard’ attests – in order to choose the ones they supply. They eventually settled on a fairly high carbon steel construction in various sizes.

With my angle grinder technique improving, I set about a fairly portable 13mm chain and a chunkier 20mm version. Terrifyingly, I was through the smaller chain in around 30 seconds and the bigger in 1m 30s – albeit with the chain secured in a vice, which wouldn’t be the case for a thief and it would be harder with the chain looped around the bike and anchor with no slack left exposed to attack.

Security takes work

13mm and 20mm chains cut with angle grinder

Chains can be defeated by angle grinders. Naturally, I knew this before – I’ve seen enough videos of bikes being taken to have made this discovery. But far from this giving me a feeling of helplessness or wondering ‘what’s the point?’ if they’re going to get it anyway I feel a renewed sense of determination.

I want to make the task of stealing my motorbike as difficult as humanly possible, why give the criminals an easy ride? Force them to use a noisy angle grinder rather than being able to lift or wheel it away.

Use layers of security so more than one tool is required. Get an alarmed disc lock to accompany the sound of the cutting disc. If we give up just because angle grinders exist, we may as well just start leaving the keys in the ignition.