Dealing with theft: five tips for beginners

My harsh learning experience...

SO MYmotorbike was stolen. I had been careless and was punished as a result.

Article originally written February 2013, updated July 2013

I had parked it up at roughly 8pm behind my flat, off the road as I always do. Disc lock on, steering lock on, cover over it, out of sight of the thoroughfare.  

When I came outside at 12pm the next day to ride it, it was gone. Disaster!

So I called the Met on 101 and reported it stolen. But hold on, according to the guy on the other end of the phone it had been reported abandoned earlier that day, just 50 yards from my present location, at 9.34 am. It was in the park behind the flat!

The council are aware of it I was told - they've 'logged' it. "And what are they going to do about it?" I asked. Nothing. At this point, son, you're on your own. Call somebody and get it taken away. 

So I trekked into the park to find it. After a few enquiries and a bit of sniffing about, I discovered that it had been removed. As luck would have it, my bike had been taken into custody by a kindly gardener who had called it in. The poor thing was in a sorry state, the ignition had been ripped out and the rear section of the seat prised up to access the battery; in the process they had taken a sizeable chunk out of the rear fairing. The disc lock had come off like a whore's drawers - what an utter waste of money! Although perhaps I should be grateful - it had been so easily overcome that there was no damage whatsoever to the brake disc. Every cloud...

I am one of the lucky 16% that recover their stolen bikes each year in the UK so I have reason to be thankful. But what have I learnt from the experience that I can take forward and share with others new to biking who may never have experienced having their bike stolen. 

1. Report it immediately - be proactive.

No doubt this seems like an obvious one - I got my bike back very quickly - this will not always be the case, of course, but the sooner you get in touch with the police the sooner you can find out what they know. Additionally to this, the process of reporting and receiving a crime number is quite long winded and the sooner you begin it the faster the situation can be resolved. Between discovering it was gone to having it in the local bike dealership being assessed for repairs, the entire shooting match was over in about three hours. Not bad. 

2. Lock your bike to something. 

The problem with my little CBF125 (fifth most stolen bike in the UK, what an accolade!) is that it is so light that to present any kind of problem for a robber it really needs to be attached to something - I know that now. The fact that I can almost lift it off the ground alone should have been enough to tell me that two or more people could just have lifted the front end and rolled it away on the back wheel . In future, I will secure my bike to something with a heavy chain - not just rely on the supposed 'deterrent' of the disc lock. From now on, heavy chain, padlock, alarm, disc lock - the whole schbang. It is just not worth the two minutes you save yourself in the morning not securing the bike to the maximum possible degree.

3. Keep the police as informed as possible, but don't rely on them to solve your problem.  

My treatment by the police was perfunctory. They receive a thousand similar calls a day and yours is nothing special - and don't they make sure you know it! Despite the fact that my bike had been stolen, vandalised and abandoned, they had no intention of attending the scene, finger-printing, asking questions, even salvaging the poor thing so it didn't get nicked again. They just record the crime for administrative purposes and move on. To add insult to injury, I was told that if I'd parked it illegally the council would have been straight down there to impound it - there's a whiff of injustice about that, I think you'll agree. The icing on the cake was the email I received with my crime number assuring me that they would be doing their utmost to resolve my case: forty minutes later, I received a further email breaking the news that they had 'examined the evidence' (or lack thereof) and would not be pursuing the investigation any further. Thanks for pulling out all the stops guys!

4. Get your bike salvaged as quickly as possible. 

Get it off the street, fast. This one applies to the lucky few who will get their bike back, of course, but still needs to be remembered keenly. With the steering and disc locks gone, there was simply nothing stopping my bike being and rolled away (which is one of the reasons I am so cross about the inaction of the police and local council). As a result, the sooner you can have it removed the better. Having it sat, unsecured, for any length of time is the quick route to theft number two. Now that would be annoying. 

5. Keep your bike in a well-lit place.

I had been keeping my bike in a dark corner - perfect for keeping it out of sight of passing opportunists. Unfortunately, absolutely ideal for those who know its there and want plenty of time and cover to work their mischief unmolested. Better to have the bike well-secured and well-lit than poorly secured and under-lit. Obviously keeping it inside a garage is ten times better, but for city dwellers it isn't always practical - so try to put it somewhere that a thief will think twice about trying to steal it whilst being lit up like a Christmas tree. A good bike cover has got a peripheral security benefit here in that a potential thief will have to lift it up to see what's underneath - they are likely to be loath to do that in a place where they think they might be seen. 

So what further tips do you have for me and other new riders trying to secure their rides? How do you keep your pride and joy safe and sound?