On the road, parked on the street or even in the garage – motorcycle thieves strike anywhere. Armed with bolt cutters, angle grinders, saws, ice spray, lock-picking systems and electronic aids, they tamper with the valuable machines. If you want effective motorcycle theft protection, you should implement several security measures.
If you want to protect your motorcycle from theft effectively, you should implement several security measures.
In Germany, about 56 motorbikes were stolen per day in 2019. The police registered a total of 20,425 cases. In Switzerland, there were 2,000 motorcycle thefts, and in Austria, around 1,000. According to the Dutch security company, “Investigation & Recovery Service”, the most popular motorcycle models among thieves are BMW und KTM. Thieves often load their booty on a trailer or in a transporter. Once they have made their getaway, they have enough time to crack the technology of whatever fitted locks.
Gerrit Walgemoet is the CEO of “Investigation & Recovery Service”. He knows how thieves tick: “The machines are often given different ID or frame numbers, and are sold throughout Europe. The thieves also sell individual parts.”
So, what is the best theft protection for your motorcycle? GPS transmitters, alarm-secured locks, mechanical locks or immobilisers? In this article, we explain to motorcyclists what the best options are for the optimum protection of their bikes.
The Following Types of Motorcycle Locks are Available
Steering Locks and Immobilisers
Steering locks are the easiest option for protecting your vehicle from unauthorised use. For example, in the German Road Traffic Licensing Ordinance (§ 38a), the German legislature prescribes such a safety device for motorcycles that can travel faster than 45 km/h and have a cylinder capacity of more than 50 cm3.
If you turn the key to the left, to the “lock” position, the handlebars lock into place so that the front wheel is facing to the left. Even if you did manage to start the machine without the key, it would only move in circles to the left. The lock works either mechanically (via a bolt and groove) or electronically. Only when the key is reinserted and turned to the right, can you steer the vehicle in all directions again. In the “off” position, the machine can be pushed (without the motor running), and in the “on” position, the motor starts.
A supplementary immobiliser, usually electronic, is mandatory for vehicles (passenger cars and motorcycles) first registered in 1995 or later. It prevents the engine from being started without a key, and it also prevents the machine from being started by short-circuiting (hot-wiring). It also makes it difficult for unauthorised persons to replace or manipulate the combination switch module. Immobilisers can be retrofitted in machines that are not fitted with a standard immobiliser.
- Quick and easy locking possible
- Limited security; a steering lock alone does not protect against theft
Activate handle-bar lock; remove key.
iIt is already integrated into the motorcycle
If you rely solely on a steering lock and an immobiliser, you are taking a big risk. Thieves who target motorbikes know exactly when a motorcyclist neglects to protect his machine adequately. That is an easy prey for them. Without having to use loud tools, like bolt cutters etc., motorcycles can be lifted onto a (small) truck. Later, the thieves can calmly crack or deactivate the steering lock and the immobiliser.
Did you know?
An activated steering lock and an immobiliser are prerequisites to ensure insurance cover in the event of possible theft. Experts also recommend using at least one additional lock.
Disc Brake Locks
The diameter of the bolts in smaller locks starts at five millimetres; in larger locks, it can be up to 16 millimetres. When buying such a lock, you should be aware that not every bolt fits through every hole on the disc brake.
As the lock is attached to the brake disc, the attack surface for bolt cutters and saws is small. Locks in signal colours also have a deterrent effect on thieves. Even if you forget to activate the steering lock or immobiliser, an additional brake disc lock will prevent the motorbike from being pushed away. However, this does not prevent the motorcycle from being carried away, especially in the case of lighter machines.
Some types of disc brake locks are equipped with a supplementary integrated locking system, and they sound an alarm in the event of vibrations, if an unauthorised person tries to remove the lock. The strength of the vibration should be adapted to the circumstances, otherwise a passing vehicle could trigger the alarm.
It is advisable to attach a memory cable to the lock and handlebar grip. This reminds the motorcyclist to remove the brake disc lock before driving off. If he does not do so, he will destroy the braking system.
Alternatively, a disc brake lock (with an alarm) can be used to lock a chain lock.
- Limited attack surface for thieves; small and light
- If you forget to remove the disc brake lock before driving off, you could destroy your entire braking system.
Place the lock over the brake disc, insert the steel pin/steel bolt through one of the holes in the disc or push it behind the rim of the disc and lock it with a key.
In your backpack or under the seat
Between EUR 20 and 250
0.5 – 1.5kg
Armoured Cable Lock
The basis of a cable lock is a braided steel cable, just a few millimetres in diameter, which is covered with a plastic sleeve and a combination lock – usually with four digits – to close it.
An armoured cable lock is similar to a cable lock, but it is much more secure. It also consists of braided steel cables that are encased in hardened steel capsules. The capsules or sheaths can be shifted together to a greater or lesser extent, so that armoured cable locks also retain some flexibility, depending on the model. The closure is either a combination lock or a cylinder lock.
- Easy to handle; small and light
- Very low level of security
Easy, convenient handling.
A pair of bolt cutters can cut through (armoured) cable locks within a few seconds. At the most, they are suitable for double-locking the machine to a fixed object, or for securing individual items, like your motorcycle helmet.
Not heavy, and easy to carry in your backpack or bag, or under the seat.
Between EUR 20 and 110
0.6 – 1.6kg
Armoured Chain Locks
Chain locks are about 70 and 120 centimetres long, with links that are four to 15 millimetres thick. When securing a motorcycle, a minimum thickness of ten millimetres is recommended. The chain links are made of solid steel (sometimes even reinforced with titanium), and they are rounded or angular.
In the case of high-quality models, bolt cutters are not sufficient to cut through them. For such locks thieves need at least an angle grinder, a saw or a welding torch. Chain locks are covered with resistant, tear-proof textile or plastic, on the one hand to prevent them from scratching and damaging the paintwork, and on the other hand, to protect the chain from the weather.
Locking options are either a separate U-lock, a padlock, a combination lock or a cylinder lock, some of which are even alarm-secured.
Alternatively, a converted disc brake lock is also suitable for locking.
There are models available with an illuminated key, which makes it easier to open or close the lock in the dark. Good cylinder locks are tamper-proof and have a protective cover that prevents dirt and dust from entering.
Chain locks are usually flexible and long enough to attach the motorbike to fixed objects, such as a fence, a lamppost or a similar object.
- Easy, flexible handling; variable options for use
- The longer the chain, the heavier it will be.
Thread the armoured chain through the front or rear wheel and fasten it around a fixed object (a tree, a lamppost, a fence or an anchor in the ground, among others) and lock it.
Thick, high-quality chains offer optimal protection.
Generally, chain locks are easy to store, but depending on the model, they can be very heavy and take up a lot of space.
Up to EUR 200
0.7 – 5kg
U-locks consist of a plastic-coated, U-shaped metal shackle, which can be up to 20 millimetres thick. High-quality models are hardened on the outside and somewhat “softer” on the inside so that they are not vulnerable to cold spray attacks. The ends of the shackle are inserted into the actual lock, which is a metal cylinder with two openings. The locking mechanism works with a number code or a key (and in some models with LED).
Due to their stable, rigid design, and the fact that they have no additional moving parts, U-locks are relatively robust, and they offer only a small attack surface for thieves and their tools. The only devices that could be used are an angle grinder or a welding torch. But thieves would have to cut through the U-lock in two places before being able to remove it, which is very time-consuming and, above all, conspicuous. The cylinders are designed in such a way that it is almost impossible to open them without the right key, and they are virtually impossible to lockpick. There’s a good reason why U-locks count among the most secure locks on the market for both motorcycles and e-bikes.
In this article, you can read about which lock will provide the best theft protection for your E-bike.
The only disadvantage of the U-lock is the rigid form and the limited flexibility. When buying a U-lock, you should make sure that the shackle is long enough (considerably longer than U-locks for bicycles) to lock the motorcycle to something like a lamppost, a fence or a similar object. This works well for small bikes. For big models, U-locks function more like a wheel clamp that prevents someone from driving the bike away, but not from carrying it away.
- High level of security; robust against cold spray attacks
- Rigid and inflexible
U-locks are easy to lock. To make it even more difficult for thieves, the U-lock should be mounted in such a way that if a shackle has been broken open on one side, it cannot be unscrewed, which means that thieves are forced to cut two sides open.
U-locks offer a high level of security. If the U-lock is too short to lock the bike to an object like a lamppost, you can combine it with another lock (a chain lock or a second U-lock).
U-locks are relatively large and can take up a lot of space.
EUR 30 – 220
1 – 4kg
How does a Motorcycle GPS Tracker Work?
Even if you combine several locks, if a thief is really determined, he usually manages to steal the motorbike. If every lock can be picked or broken within seconds, or if the machine can be loaded onto a transporter, and driven away, the motorcyclist has to be even cleverer if he wants to protect his beloved bike, e.g. by being able to track the position of the motorbike via GPS tracking. PowUnity’s GPS tracker BikeTrax for motorcycles (link Landingpage) is one example of this type of digital theft protection.
And exactly how does the PowUnity GPS tracker BikeTrax work? It is mounted inside the bike, and not on the bike, which makes it invisible to thieves. But is does more than just trick people who are up to no good! The direction-finding transmitter provides the owner with the actual location of the bike, in real time, via the associated PowUnity app (link PowUnity app). He can monitor the whereabouts of his bike on the end device of his choice (smartphone, laptop, tablet) at any time. If the motorcycle is removed from the place where the owner has chosen to leave it, the app triggers an alarm. The owner can react immediately and catch the thief in the act. And if he has a supplementary brake disc lock, chain lock or U-lock, along with the GPS tracker, time is on his side.
If the theft of the bike cannot be avoided, despite digital theft protection, the owner can send a theft report to the police via the app. Besides the time of the theft and the GPS coordinates, the report also contains a profile of the motorbike – the Bike Pass, which specifies the unmistakable tire print of the motorbike. The proof of purchase and details of the actual model is also available in the Bike Pass.
Gerrit Walgemoet of “Investigation & Recovery Service” works together with PowUnity, because his daily bread is tracking down stolen motorcycles, e-bikes and boats, all over Europe. “Often, stolen motorcycles are offered for sale on the internet, with forged documentation. Ideally, you should thus buy your bike from a professional dealer or specialist and have it registered,” Walgemoet advises.
Above all, Walgemoet swears by the PowUnity app’s Bike Pass:
Motocross bikes, which are not driven on the road, and therefore have no registration number, are not registered anywhere. This makes it difficult to trace the owner in the event of a thwarted theft attempt. However, the Bike Pass in the PowUnity app automatically registers every motorcycle.
Depending on the manufacturer, a motorcycle GPS tracker can be connected onto the bike, or inside it, either by the dealer or by yourself. The BikeTrax GPS tracker can also be mounted onto the light inside the engine compartment.
GPS trackers offer a very high level of security. Depending on the manufacturer, direct monitoring of the motorcycle is possible via a smartphone app. The BikeTrax GPS tracker, for example, is invisible to thieves and sounds an alarm if the bike is moved without permission.
A GPS tracker is permanently attached to the motorcycle, or in the case of BikeTrax, it is built into the motorcycle./p>
EUR 40 – 200
< 100g (BikeTrax approx. 53g)
Summary: Protect your Motorcycle with Various Locks and GPS Tracking
If you own a bike worth several thousand Euros, you should not cut corners when it comes to protecting your motorcycle against theft, and in addition to a steering lock and/or an immobiliser, you should also use at least one other lock. This increases the level of protection considerably because thieves will need more time to pick two locks. Another reason why two locks are safer than one, is because thieves usually only specialise in one type of lock. To prevent thieves from loading the motorbike onto a transporter and taking it away, you should always chain your machine to a fixed object.
But if you want the best theft protection for your motorcycle, you have no choice but to rely on another modern, smart solution, such as an integrated GPS tracker or a GPS transmitter. Because despite all your security measures, any lock can be picked and any bike can be stolen within a few minutes. If your motorcycle is equipped with the BikeTrax GPS tracker from PowUnity, you can keep an eye on your bike at all times, via an app, and you can act quickly in the event of theft or locate the bike in real-time and send a theft report to the police immediately.