Motorbike security

Bike trackers – The truth

Having a bike tracker installed is just about the best way to ensure that if your motorcycle is stolen, you have a decent chance of getting it back.

But not if it hasn’t been installed properly. And definitely not if the tracker’s features can be overcome by professional thieves quite quickly.

The truth is a badly installed and featured tracker can be disabled in under a minute.

In this case, the tracker will do absolutely nothing to help you, yet it will have cost you a fortune to install. The only benefit will have been lower premiums.

There’s also the danger that if the insurance company discovers the bike’s tracker hasn’t been installed correctly, it could affect any payout they make. And trust us, insurance assessors are not employed by you to help assess your claim – they are paid for by your insurer to help reduce their liability.

Choosing a motorcycle tracker

There are literally hundreds of different tracker systems out there.

Thankfully, you can see a list of Thatcham approved trackers here, which is a reasonable place to start in the meantime.

Later in the year, we hope to do a comprehensive review of the leading bike tracking security products, including how they have been installed. If you sign up to the B&B email you’ll know when that happens. If you are a bike manufacturer and want to help us out with the review by supplying donor bikes, please get in touch with us here.

We are NOT security experts – although it feels otherwise when someone asks us a question down the pub… Biker and Bike’s mission is simply to make sure we can help you not get ripped off or make an unwise decision, so all we can do is look at all of the reviews, expert opinions and reports out there and point you in the right direction.

When it comes to trackers we feel there are three features that you must ensure your tracker has.

– Immune to GPS jamming. Professional thieves will store vehicles in ’safe’ indoor locations with jamming equipment protecting their haul before the bike is stripped down.
– Alternative power source. If the trackers only source of power is the bike battery, this can quickly be disabled. Any back-up power must have a decent battery life claim too.
– Full weather protection. Many trackers are built for use inside cars and trucks where the environment is nice and dry. Motorbikes are a different story, with exposure to extreme weather, power washers and even fluids like split anti-freeze or worse, leaking fuel, being possible causes of unit failure. You wouldn’t want to loose your tracker-enabled bike to a thief with just enough brains to know where to spray some WD-40…

Beyond that, features to look out for are:

– Messaging alerts when your bike is stolen. Handy if you are away from the bike for long periods of time.
– Remote disable. Speaks for itself.
– Movement and tamper alarm. As long as it doesn’t drain the bike’s battery (even if there is a backup power source). And that it doesn’t go off every time the cat wants to sleep on your nice and warm post-ride seat.

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What to look for in a bike tracker installation

If you can get to see a motorbike tracker installation in progress, that’s ideal. You’re looking to see that the tracking device isn’t visible when the seat or rear cover is open. Ideally, the device is installed under the air box, which normally takes more time to remove.

You need to see how the wiring is installed. It should be buried into the loom in such as way that its wires aren’t immediately obvious. If they have simply run a wire to the device from a relay or even you battery terminals, walk away. A thief could disable the unit in seconds.

If you can’t see an installation in progress, ask the questions, but don’t lead with, “Do you install the tracker under the air box?” Instead, ask where do they install the unit. Likewise with the wiring.

You should also make sure, as per point 2 above, there is an independent power source in case the battery feed is cut. This may only be available on more expensive motorbike tracks, but it’s worth it. After all, are you trying to protect a highly moveable £6000 asset with a £100 tracker?

What about installation-free motorbike trackers?

In theory, portable, handheld GPS devices that can be hidden on the bike are a great idea. Especially if you have multiple bikes and want to swap between them.

Oxford GPS tracker

The Oxford GPS Tracker. Comes with a 10-year battery expectancy

Some words of caution, though… The same place you think to hide the tracker are the same places a professional thief will think to look.

And if the unit is dependent on GPS alone for location detection, the unit will fail the first recommendation of our minimum standards. GPS jamming equipment can be easily bought on the internet and professional thieves will almost certainly have made the investment.

So the same rules apply as an installed tracker – under the air box etc. By which time the portability of the unit may have lost some of its appeal.

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Do trackers drain the bike’s battery?

In a word, yes. So if you have long periods between rides, anything above two weeks, it’s likely you’ll need to keep the bike on charge. Especially if you are also running an alarm.

How much should it cost?

We don’t think you are going to get the features you need for anything less than £250 installed, plus there will be an annual subscription to the data service of at least £100.

The portable trackers are a bit cheaper at £199 and £60 per annum.

Do you really need a tracker?

Online commentators, including this beauty, question whether you want the bike back at all?: “If someone steals your bike, ruins the ignition, breaks the ignition lock, fucks up a bunch of wiring, beats the fucking piss out of it and farts on your seat do you really want it back?”

Fair point. But they failed to mention the increase in your premiums. And we’ve heard of cases where insurers will refuse to insure you if you’ve had 2-3 bikes stolen.

Trackers buy extra peace-of-mind. On a limited budget, we’d be tempted to invest in some better security that ensures the bike can’t be taken in the first place. However, if you have to park in multiple locations, we’d probably prefer a tracker and at least a decent disc lock with built-in alarm.

Get yourself sorted:

If you can afford it and you can find a reputable installer, trackers are worth it. Ask the installation questions, but make sure you don’t prompt them. Make sure you have the features we consider are a minimum requirement.

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B&B Staff

B&B Staff