These top 10 tips will help boost your motorcycle security, prevent opportune thieves and keep your bike gear safe while travelling.
Motorcycle Security When Travelling
Leaving your bike in an unfamiliar place is a worry. Leaving your gear and bags on the bike is also a worry. And if you let it, those worries can really get to you and even ruin a trip. Nobody wants to spend their adventures worrying about their stuff every time they go into a coffee shop or rest in a hotel after a long day on the road. But it’s tough, you’re away from home, your life is strapped to an open machine and easy to nick. So, check out these top motorcycle security tips for keeping you, your gear and your bike safe while on the road.
Motorcycle chain and lock
We’d recommend carrying a lock, but which type of lock is another question. It depends on how much space you have, how much extra weight you are willing to carry and how worried you get about your motorcycle. If the answer to all of the above is ‘not much’, then a cheap wire lock will suffice. They’re light, can easily be packed away and can help put off opportunist thieves. However, if you have the space and can take the weight, we’d suggest opting for a beefier lock like an Abus.
READ MORE: Abus Granite Extreme Review
A heavy duty lock and properly used is the best thing you can do for motorcycle security. We originally started travelling with an Abus, but have now switched to a cheaper wire lock to keep things as light as possible. It’s your choice on what level of lock you want, but any lock is better than none.
When using a chain lock, make sure you thread it through the rear wheel or the frame and then through an immovable object like a lamppost. Don’t run it through the front wheel as they can be taken off in less than 30 seconds. Thieves just let the front forks fall onto a type of skateboard and push your bike away.
The reason we don’t thread through the front wheel is the same reason disc locks aren’t that effective. They will, however, put off the opportunist, but a more serious thief will just remove your wheel and walk your bike away. You can also get disc locks with alarms on, once you get to Asia the alarmed disc lock will become a very fun game for kids who will enjoy nothing more than setting it off all night.
Out of sight out of mind
If you’re in a dodgy area, just ask the hotel manager to help put your bike somewhere safe. They normally take it as personal responsibility and will help. If not, ask a local business owner if he has a garage or locked area, or you could always tip a security guard to keep an extra watchful eye. I once asked a hotel owner on the Syrian/Turkish border if he would keep an extra eye on my bike that night as I didn’t trust the crowd of people that followed me to the hotel. He immediately punched and broke his computer keyboard and screamed, “If anyone touch your bike… I kill them!” Not every hotel owner will feel as passionate about motorcycle security as that guy, but it’s worth an ask.
So, let’s say there’s no one around to help. This is where you pull out your invisibility cloak. Buy a large and cheap motorcycle rain cover. They pack up really small and can be stuffed inside your pannier. Use it, let it get tatty, old and dirty (the more worn, covered in paint, oil and tape it is, the better) and when you’re not sure about somewhere, just throw it over the bike.
Okay, so it’s not actually an invisibility cloak and some may think it’s not an effective form of motorcycle security, but it is out of sight and so it’s out of mind. It stops your bike from catching a passing thief’s eye and will deter an opportunist. Many experienced bike travellers recommend and use this technique. Below are some examples of cheap covers. Don’t spend a lot of money on one, it’s supposed to look a bit rough. Just make sure you buy one that fits over your entire bike, including a top box if you have one.
Blend in as much as you can when travelling. Rolling through an extremely poor village on a motorcycle that’s worth more than the entire village when its dripping in trinkets, posh stuff and glistening isn’t a good idea. It’s going to scream ‘I’ve got money’ and you don’t want that. It will attract unwanted attention and also make you unrelatable.
Of course, ride whatever bike you want to, but in poor or high crime rate areas let your bike look a little worse for wear. Don’t wash all the muck off and slap a bit of gaffer tape on it. Plenty of adventure riders ‘down value’ their bikes by changing shiny and logo plastered fairings for plain ones. You don’t need to look like you belong to a Dakar factory team to travel.
If you are travelling with a very expensive machine, then consider a bike tracker. There are a number of companies out there producing quality products, but they are expensive and often come with subscription plans.
READ MORE: The Best Motorcycle GPS Trackers
Securing your motorcycle luggage
Some people leave their kit on their bike and some don’t, it’s really down to personal preference. We take our main bag in to a hotel with us at night but leave all the unnecessary kit (like the camping bag) on the bike overnight. We use a PacSafe mesh net (read our PacSafe net review here) to keep it secure. It’s a stainless-steel net, which is big enough to hold our bag. You put the bag inside it, pull the steel cable drawcord and then padlock the net into place by weaving the drawcord around your pannier rack. It stops people from slashing your bag or unclipping it.
If someone really wants your stuff then they can get through the cable with croppers, but it helps prevent opportunists and deters thieves from pinching your stuff while you’re in the shops. It’s best to use this option on bags that you don’t need access to on a daily basis. It’s a bit too fiddly to put on daily bags.
Sweaty bike gear
Sweating buckets as you walk around in bike gear because you don’t want to risk leaving it on your bike is no fun at all. Here’s where the PacSafe mesh net comes in handy again. We use an 80-litre net for a 40 litre duffel bag (it can be tightened so you don’t notice the extra space). But that extra space comes in very handy, the bike jacket, trousers and even boots can all be stuffed inside the net along with the camping bag and locked up.
Panniers are not impenetrable
Panniers aren’t as safe as you might think. They can be opened pretty fast with a small crowbar and a hammer. But, the fact that a crowbar and hammer have to be used is a deterrent. Sure, it’ll put most opportune thieves off, and that’s a good thing. But if someone really wants the contents, they can usually open a box in under 10 seconds. We have a bunch of great guides on choosing adventure riding luggage to help you pick the right gear.
What about my helmet?
You can also opt for a single steel cable with two loop ends and a padlock from PacSafe for your helmet. Abus also sell lightweight steel cable helmet locks. Open the visor and run the cable through the opening and through the frame.
READ MORE: The Best Adventure Bike Helmets
Tank bags are massively popular and very handy. A lot of travellers use them to store their important documents like passports and vehicle paperwork. And they’re very useful for storing your camera in case you need to quickly take a picture of something while on the road. Same goes for GoPros. And thieves know it… that’s why you’ll hear so many stories of them being sliced off with a knife or yanked off a bike. Thieves will often immediately go for the tank bag and nothing else. And with all your eggs in one basket, it’s a lot to lose. Your call if you want one and what you put in it. If you are going to use a tank bag make sure it is well strapped down and don’t put all your valuables in there. For more info on luggage options and how to pick the best tank bag, check out this guide:
READ MORE: The Best Motorcycle Tank Bags
Make it more hassle than it’s worth
It sucks, but if a thief really wants your bike and kit, then it’s going to be hard stopping them. Put these top 10 tips into practice and it’ll make the would-be thief’s life harder. Put them off by making your bike look old, dirty and cheap, hiding it under rags, protecting it with a quality lock and you’ll make it look like it’s more hassle than it’s worth. We hope this article on motorcycle security helps keep you and your bike safe. Please leave any feedback and extra tips you may have in the comments. Stay safe!
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Like this article on Motorcycle Security while Travelling? If you have any tips, tricks or advice for keeping your bike safe on the road then let us know in the comments below.
6 thoughts on “10 Tips for Motorcycle Security When Travelling”
These are great, having my bike pinched while on a trip is definitely my biggest concern (other than visas and carnets and crashes haha).
Haha yeah, visas, carnets and crashes can be a worry lol. Glad you found the article helpful. Cheers 😀
Your life will be simpler if your motorcycle already has a built-in motorcycle lock because you can use it right away. Simply insert the buckle on your helmet into the lock on your motorcycle. After passing, simply snap it to finish.
Hi John, yes you’re right, some bikes do come with a helmet lock, which does make life easier when leaving your lid on the bike. The only problem with these is that they’re not accessible once you’ve got all your panniers and luggage strapped to the bike.
But if you’re not loaded up and your bike has one, then happy days!
Wouldn’t leave my full face Shoei helmet with Cardo comm on the bike even with a lock. If the lock is only meant to go through the d-rings, it’s just too easy for some vandal to cut the strap. Sure, maybe they can’t use the helmet with a cut strap but it could be repaired. And maybe their intent is just to steal something regardless of usability. Wouldn’t want to chance losing over $700 worth of equipment to find out. Never mind not being able to ride without your helmet and having to find a replacement wherever you are. I also put disc locks on both wheels just for the deterrent. Easy to carry.
Hi Jerman, thanks for your comment.
You’re right, I wouldn’t leave my full face lid on a bike with a lock through the D-rings either! I don’t think many people would. In this article, I mention that if you want to secure your helmet to your bike, i’d run a cable through the visor opening and then attach that to your bike. But certainly not through the D-rings as otherwise, like you say, people will just cut the straps off. And yeah, if you have a $700 helmet with an intercom, it’s perhaps not worth leaving it on the bike full stop, putting it in a locked top box would be a better option or carrying it with.
A disc lock on each wheel is a good idea too and you’re right, they are easy to carry. Initially when we left back in 2018 we had a heavy chain and a disc lock, now we only have a thin cable lock. It all depends on where you are etc, for example if my bike was back in London, i’d have four chains per wheel!