Everyone knows that we live in dangerous, lawless times; so anybody who rides an expensive or highly desirable motorcycle has to deal with the reality that there are hordes of thieving low-lives out there just waiting for an opportunity to steal their pride and joy.
Love him or hate him, Michael Moore’s film “Bowling for Columbine” is intensely thought provoking as it attempts to discover what it is about the American psyche that produces tragedies like the 1999 Colorado massacre. Among the many fascinating insights (including the fact that Canadians own more guns per capita than their neighbours below the 49th parallel, but they are far more likely to use them to shoot animals rather than each other) is a conversation between MM and a local politician from South Central LA who explains that while in fact violent crime was falling in his constituency, the general impression was that it was increasing and consequently the population felt more fearful.
So how does that happen? How can it be that things are actually getting better, but the public perception is that they are deteriorating rapidly and their world is disappearing down the slippery slope to hell on roller skates? The answer is surprisingly simple really; it’s all down to the fourth estate – the Media! Every time the Daily Mail or MCN run a headline like the one opposite (accompanied by a host of extra pages carrying adverts for ‘security’ products) the lives of their readers become a little bit scarier. And with government departments nowadays leaking bad news and worrying information the way Norton Commandoes used to drip oil, it’s hardly surprising that people are becoming increasingly nervous and neurotic. Within the last week we’ve had the Chancellor warning that the nation faces the worst economic crisis in 60 years, followed two days later by a ‘leaked’ draft Home Office letter to Downing Street saying that property crime and violent crime were likely to rise as a consequence of the economic downturn (which in turn allows brigands like Westminster Council to introduce a £1.50 levy to park motorcycles within their thiefdom and claim that it’s a legitimate a charge due to the expense of providing anchorage points – surely as disingenuous a justification for yet another ‘stealth tax’ as any of Dame Shirley Porter’s mendacious manipulations).
Media hype aside, there’s no question that motorcycle theft is a cause for concern; as regular readers will be aware two of our contributors have had their motorcycles stolen this year. Wildcat – with a tenacity that does justice to her pen name – managed to locate and reclaim her XT600 from the joy-rider who stole it (issue 125); while R6 Girl’s eponymous motorcycle was lifted (literally) from outside her work, never to be seen again (aside from a gut-wrenching CCTV action replay).
It was R6 Girl’s traumatic experience that prompted this article. Keen to hang onto her replacement, she decided to fit it with a super-duper tracking device, which gave us a great idea for a Digest feature: we’d ‘steal’ her new bike and the tracking people would demonstrate just how hot they are by locating it. Proper journalism, great stuff – I even commissioned the cover on the strength of it. We lifted her black Yamaha into the back of a van, which triggered the tamper device informing the tracking control that the chase was on (I should point out here that CYC drivers don’t usually steal motorcycles, but given our serious journalistic intentions his company were good enough to make Raf and his van available for the experiment). Arriving at a secret location in Charlton (SE London) at noon, we loaded our booty into a container (as we’d agreed we would) and as we’d been informed that the trackers wouldn’t set off until the bike was stationary, we went down the road for a fry up. Returning 45 minutes later with our arteries suitably hardened, we got comfortable and waited for the cavalry to arrive.
And we waited… and waited… and then we waited some more. Fortunately we’d chosen one of the few truly glorious days this ‘summer’, so Rod and I were able to catch a few rays as the sun arced languidly across the sky. At about 3pm I got a call to say that the trackers had picked up a strong signal and they’d started closing in on it, but it had faded again. “Yeah,” I said “that’ll be when I opened the doors of the container to take a picture.” I reminded them that we had a 4pm cut off point due to parental responsibilities, then popped another Coke and went back to basking. They called again at 15.55 begging us to hang on because they had a strong signal and they were so warm that they were burning up (hide & seek wise). I pointed out that that was because we’d just rolled the Yammy out of its steel cage to return it to its rightful owner.
By the time I arrived home I’d realised the story I’d been planning for issue 131 about a device that would provide motorcyclists with real peace of mind was dead in the water. Of course there were all sorts of perfectly logical reasons to mitigate the trackers’ failure to ‘save’ R6 Girl’s bike and I don’t doubt for a moment that if we’d have given them another chance they would have redeemed themselves; however, that doesn’t detract from the fact that if it hadn’t been myself, Rod and the delightful Raf having it off with the lass’s new favourite legover, she’d probably have been too devastated and emotionally scarred to ever write for the Digest again.
I had no time to rethink the happy ending I’d expected, so we binned the story and ran a replacement. To be honest it would probably have stayed that way if it hadn’t been for the fantastic cover Simon came up with when I thought I was going to be writing about the new scourge of the bad guys; but the cover was much too good to waste so I spent weeks trying to work out what to write. Then it suddenly dawned on me that the result of our test wasn’t really any surprise at all, I’d known all along that the awful truth is, if a valuable machine is left out in the open and a serious professional bike thief spots it, he will find a way of stealing it, irrespective of any security measures you’ve taken (if that sounds a bit depressing and defeatist, it’s worth considering something my old friend Vern said: considering that a single collision in distant space could send a meteor hurtling this way that’s big enough to obliterate any trace of life on Earth, we’re living in a fire trap with absolutely nothing by way of household insurance).
So am I suggesting that there’s no point in doing anything to deter potential thieves? No, not at all; a large percentage of bike thefts are opportunist crimes committed by young ill equipped joy-riders, who’d be deterred by a cheap disc lock; and many of the more acquisitive thefts are being committed by third rate duckers and divers with a Transit and a decent set of bolt-cutters, rather than the experienced professional gangs you hear about that steal exotic bikes to order. All I’m saying is that in this thoroughly mixed up modern world, it’s perfectly normal to feel insecure – if you weren’t the media wouldn’t be doing its job properly; and that job is to scare you into believing that you need the expensive products they’re advertising, products that are ultimately designed to allow you to sleep at night once they’ve finished scaring you.
So what would happen if advertising and the media were completely obliterated from the equation? Presumably a lot more people would adopt simple low cost options like Lock 2 Lock parking – and if it did become the norm, you’d soon find out if you were using a sub-standard pushover of a chain because your bike would find itself shunned, left to stand alone in parking bays by other more security conscious owners who understand that any chain is only as strong as the weakest link and therefore choose to attach their machine to something a bit more solid (until that time comes the following excerpt from Digest This in issue 113 might offer some pointers).
Another cheap but priceless option is to join your local Neighbourhood Watch (or speak to your local police station about starting one if one doesn’t already exist where you live – providing of course that there is still a police station somewhere near where you live?). The best thing about the scheme, as any crime prevention officer will tell you, is that to make it really work it needs to be attached to a healthy functioning local association. It doesn’t matter if you call yourselves a community, residents’ or tenants’ association, the important thing is that you are part of an identifiable community and that you get to know your neighbours. Because let’s face it, you can have the loudest alarm in the known universe and the thickest chain, but if your neighbours neither know you nor care about you, they’re likely to regard the noise generated by the thief’s angle grinder and your bike’s distress signal, as a source of annoyance, rather than cause for concern, empathy and action (even if that only involves calling the police).
It’s reassuring to feel that you are part of a community and although others within these very pages have cocked a snook at the use of the word with reference to motorcyclingkind, as I’ve said elsewhere in this issue, I believe we share more than enough common ground to engender a degree of empathy. So the next time you see someone behaving suspiciously around a motorcycle – you know attacking it with bolt croppers or loading it into the back of a van with the alarm screaming – if you feel safe to do so, why not ask them what they’re doing? If it’s their bike, they’ll be glad to know somebody cares and if it isn’t they’re just as likely to give up and make a quick getaway. And even if you – understandably – don’t feel comfortable about confronting a potentially dangerous criminal, you can always make a note of the van’s number plate and dial 999 (you never know, if you’re in the right postcode a policeman might even turn up in time).
Aside from the obvious benefit to the rightful owner of not having his or her bike nicked (or at least having a better chance of seeing it recovered), you’re also likely to discover that the realisation that your simple actions have made the world a slightly better place, will do wonders to alleviate your own apprehensions about the dangers that the tabloids keep reminding you are lurking all around.
From TRD 113 – February ‘07
We were there to watch Almax Security Chains demonstrate the competitions’ susceptibility to attack by bolt croppers (the favoured tool of those evil men in Transits).
Some of you may remember Almax from our NEC ‘05 report in issue 99. We said: “…(Almax) had been planning to name and shame all of the leading brands as pushovers, by… snipping through (them) in as little as 10 seconds. Unfortunately the men in suits… descended… with officials from the NEC, who informed Almax that they had to cover the names on the other chains or they were out”.
Almax did extend their invitation to the rest of motorcycling media, but surprisingly, particularly given the seriousness of motorcycle theft, we were the only press who bothered to turn up.
Fortunately Almax videoed the event, with the Digest cast in role of independent witness. It was put on YouTube in mid November, and has been viewed over 20,000 times to date*. And what did all those viewers see? Exactly what we saw: Alex and his mate Zanx chopping through chains priced between £75 and £159.95 in as little as 14 seconds!
So how should one go about buying a security chain? Is price any guide? Not on the evidence we witnessed. The Datatool Python, at a gnats under a hundred and sixty quid, lasted a mere 33sec, while the Squire MC4 which was among the cheapest at £79.95 lasted longest at 63sec. Perhaps the sensible thing would be to buy the biggest selling chain in the country – the Oxford Monster – at £98.95. But alas, it would appear that popularity has more to do advertising budgets than effectiveness, because the peoples’ choice actually popped in the shortest time.
No problem, potential bike donors just have to look out for chains that carry the right seals of approval. Wrong again. The best selling chain (the 14sec job) carries both Thatcham and Sold Secure Gold approval, and all the rest have one or other…
*Now over 425,000 times