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Effective Motorcycle Security

By James Wages

On the whole, motorcycle owners put more love and care into their machines than do owners of cars or trucks. That "love and care" directly translates into hundreds of dollars spent on customizations and maintenance. Sadly, between 30,000 to 50,000 bikes are stolen each year in the United States alone (based on theft rates from 2000 through 2005). And to think, many of these thefts could have been prevented with a little common sense and security.

Common Sense This should go without saying, but don't leave the keys in the ignition or the motor running when you're not on the bike! Never leave your bike in a dimly lit, hard to see location. Put the bike in your locked garage when you are at home.

Locks and Chains One item every bike owner should purchase is a thick U-lock or chain that can be easily spotted by anyone, day or night. This is a must- have, unless its so big that it's impossible to tote around with you. Simply wrapping your chain through a wheel and your bike frame is not enough -- you have to mount the bike to a sturdy pole or clamp mounted in concrete. If the bike isn't mounted to a stationary object, a thief could just pack up your bike in a truck and drive away.

Electronic Alarms Most modern bikes (larger than a scooter) have some form of factory immobilization that prevents casual theft, but such immobilizers alone won't stop a determined thief. It's therefore best to consider an electronic security system, often called an "alarm." A good alarm system does more than just make noise, it has circuitry that prevents false triggers, adds secondary points of immobilization, and sounds a loud siren only when a threat against your bike is real. Some have digital tilt sensors, shock sensors and other sensors that trip the system into action. One excellent electronic alarm from Japan is the CYCLONE 866F: www.kiramek.com. The Japanese manufacturer of Cyclone also offers a 1-way paging system that instantly alerts you when a threat occurs. The system is also claimed to be very low-power, eliminating worry of your battery being drained.

Two-way Paging Alarms Over the last 3 years, some electronic alarms have begun to include 2-way pagers. These systems allow you to both control the alarm and receive notification of threats. Unfortunately, battery life for many of these two-way pagers is limited to about 1 month, and the pagers themselves can be easily broken by a simple fall from your pants pocket. Two-way systems also may drain a bike's battery quickly unless you ride it daily. Even so, for some people the convenience aspect may outweigh the negatives for some bike owners.

Tracking Systems As of 2005, some companies have come out with GPS tracking systems for bikes that allow a stolen bike to be traced. While tracking systems do have merits over other types of security, there are three important downsides that must be considered: (1) battery drain on the bike, (2) service area (tracking) coverage, and (3) monthly cost.

Most tracking systems require you to pay not only for the product itself but also each and every month to keep the "service contract" alive. The long term cost of tracking systems may leave a bad taste in the mouth of the average bike owner. Think about how much you already pay per month (phone bill, mobile phone, internet, etc.) and you can see why tacking on another subscription is cost prohibitive.

LoJack is one tracking system manufacturer who does not charge any monthly fees, but their least expensive bike system runs $595 and traceability is limited to the coverage area of wireless towers installed by LoJack and some police stations. Once your LoJack "protected" vehicle exits the coverage area, its off the map and not traceable. Of course, LoJack will refund the price of the product, but that refund doesn't replace your bike. Nor does that refund cover any special installation fees you might have paid or any insurance deductible you might have.

Conclusion Use a layered approach to security. Common sense dictates that you put your bike in a location that is not an obvious target for thieves. You'll then need a chain or U-lock to prevent casual theft. And lastly, even if your bike has a factory immobilizer, the addition of an electronic alarm or tracking system will act as a significant deterrent to theft.

SECURITY RESOURCES: CYCLONE Motorcycle Security VISION 2-Way Paging Alarms WORCH Tire Locks

ABOUT THE AUTHOR. James Wages has a BSEE from CSU Fresno and has worked in the automotive security aftermarket since 1994.


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