4-12 December 2021
NEC Birmingham

It’s a thorny subject and not one many really want to consider, but it’s important. One that every rider, new or old should consider and for many, an absolute must if they want to stay on two-wheels. It’s as important as the kit you choose to ride in.

One man who knows this better than almost anyone, is Bill Taylor. Bill is part of BikeTrac, a company that has specialised specifically in motorcycle tracking security for well over a decade. So Bill knows a thing or two about two-wheel security and due to the nature of his product, has a great insight into how bike thieves target and what they do once they’ve got away with a bike.

Put the kettle on and have a read, we hope you’ll find this useful.

Bill – tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do on a day-to-day basis?

We first started specialising in motorcycle security over 10 years ago, mainly because we were motorcyclists who all worked for a tech company, but could see that bike security was still stuck in the dark ages somewhat.

We’d all got alarms on our bikes back then, but we were conscious that we probably weren’t taking security that seriously. Chains and locks were large and heavy, disclocks back then weren’t terribly effective and other than alarms, that most people ignore when they hear it go off, not much else was available. So we started looking at new technology, tracking specifically. 

We quickly learned that it wasn’t as straightforward as we thought. Not only was the security landscape actually quite confusing, but there was also a general view of ‘it won’t happen to me’, which certainly changed when theft increased more and more.

Can you elaborate further?

Sure. Obviously the basics are simple, and to this day, we still recommend you layer your security, so locks, chains, ground anchors etc are all simple and generally effective deterrents. But what we realised then and to some degree now, is that the general understanding of how effective some of these are, and the ratings of general security was confusing.

Thatcham ratings have been generally acknowledged in the UK as the benchmark for years, but it was often misunderstood about what these meant. And this changed a few years back too for hard security products as well as. Sold Secure is now one of the testing houses for hard security products such as locks and chains, and these are rated as shown below in the text as an example:

Motor Scooter Silver5 minute attack – tools used such as hacksaws, large bolt croppers and crowbars.

Motorcycle and Motor Scooter Gold5 minute attack, higher tool list used including large bolt croppers, machine-based crop test to ensure at least 7 tonnes of force is achieved, Drill with HSS bits etc. Does not include an angle grinder attack.

Motorcycle Diamond5 minute attack, tool list includes hard drill bits /  90 sec angle grinder attack.

As you can see from the descriptions above, hard security levels of protection vary, and not least because the challenge has got greater due to battery power tools that the thieves now use. Battery powered angle grinders for example, have made the job of hard security even tougher. Having said that, it’s still important to select a practical lock or chain that you can realistically use – make their life as hard as possible. And don’t forget to try to lock your bike to a hard or immovable object too.

So, you’d always recommended a lock and chain, which makes sense, but tell us about the other options?

Of course. Obviously the alarm is the other product that motorcyclists have used for years, and there’s still a place for that. Attracting attention is no bad thing at all, and of course if you’ve locked your bike up and the alarm triggers while they are trying to cut a chain for example, there’s a chance it may scare the thieves off. But of course, as we all know, it’s easy to ignore an alarm in a busy environment with other sounds and things happening.

The area we work in, motorcycle tracking, is in our view the final layer of security, giving an owner a very real chance of either avoiding a theft or getting their pride and joy back if it is stolen. This is where we’ve seen the biggest change in the last 11 years, changing from a piece of security seen as a luxury, to one considered by many now as a necessity. 

Can you explain the options here?

Yes, of course. So effectively all tracking products at least rely on the same basic technology – GPS,  global positioning, which is satellite based. From the cheapest to the most expensive, most products offer this technology. Ultimately, this is what gives you the most basic location information, but of course that’s only any use if you are notified that your bike has been moved. 

That’s where the GSM and GPRS elements comes in, just in the same way that a mobile phone has a signal, a tracker needs to communicate and so the GPS and GSM / GPRS combined allows the tracker to notify the owner that it has detected some movement. This is usually done via text, email or phone call.

Where the more expensive versions differ, is the back-up that is provided. For example, our product and the other main products have a Secure Operating Centre working to monitor every customer’s bike. So if unlawful movement is detected, the team will be monitoring and in contact with the owner to confirm the situation and escalate if required. 

Of course there are additional functions from some companies too, for example, we also have a Radio Frequency (RF) function in our unit, so we can remotely activate this on a stolen bike to pinpoint an exact location – especially useful when trying to get a search warrant or when a bike has been hidden. This with a team at the location, can track a stolen bike down to an area as small as one-metre. 

Great, so is this also rated too?

Yes, that’s right. The first thing to understand is that the Thatcham number ratings do not signify if a product is better or worse. The numbered rating simply denotes the type of security product that has been rated, so for example Category 1 denotes ‘alarm’, whereas Category 2 denotes an ‘alarm with an immobiliser’.

For tracking, the rating has changed to S5 and S7 over the previous Cat 5, Cat 6 and Cat 7. BikeTrac was historically one of the few that offered 6 and 7 ratings, but with the changes to categories, BikeTrac is now ‘S7’, whereas some of our competitors are ‘S5’.

Here’s a concise breakdown of the new Thatcham ratings:

CAT 1 – Alarm 

CAT 2 – Electronic Immobiliser

CAT 2-1 – Alarm combined with Immobiliser

CAT 4 – Locking wheel nut for cars

S5 – Tracking – a combination of GPS or RF and driver fob mainly derived for cars/vans etc

S7 – Tracking – a combination of GPS or RF – No Fob small plant machinery/motorcycles

That’s really useful, thanks. So is there anything else we should know?

The best advice I can offer is to take security seriously. It’s often the small things that make a difference. Most importantly, be aware. Stay alert to where you park your bike, the area, even when you ride home or before you leave your bike parked up. The most important thing is to make it difficult for thieves. If you lock your bike to something, even doing something as simple as putting a cover over it makes a difference. Most importantly as I’ve explained already, layer your security. Don’t just rely on one item, and make sure you buy the best you can afford, from locks, to trackers, do your research and spend your money wisely. And as a bonus, don’t forget that decent security can lower your insurance premium too.

Find out more about BikeTrac and the range of products available here.

If you’ve still got some of that coffee left, then here’s James Whitham and Chris Moss having a chat about bike theft and security…