Keeping your bike and kit safe while travelling is harder than at home. You’re constantly on the move and all your gear is on show. Check out these top tips to keep them safe.
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 tips for keeping you, your gear and your bike safe while on the road.
Lock, Stock and two smoking barrels
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.
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.
Tuck it away
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 bike safety 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 dust cover for £12 from eBay (the ones sold from China are about £6, I’ve had mine for years). 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, but it is out of sight and 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.
Look at me and all my money
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.
Securing your 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 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.
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.
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.
It sucks, but if a thief really wants your bike and kit, then it’s going to be very hard stopping them. The best you can do is to put them off by making your bike look old, dirty and cheap, hiding it under rags, protecting it with a quality lock and generally making it look like more hassle than it’s worth.
If you have any questions, comments or anything to add to this page (or even if you just want to say hey) then please get in touch, we’d love to hear from you! Drop us an email at [email protected]