Overland to Japan

 London to Japan Overland


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How to Keep your Motorcycle Safe on the Road
See also Extreme Safety and Personal Safety
and How to Keep Your Motorcycle Safe at Home


Disk lock with tubular pin lockSafety on the road is an issue that concerns every motorcyclist in the world. Motorcycles are pricy assets and when we travel around the world they represent everything: our home, our soul, our personality and obviously our only means of transportation. Basically losing your bike during an overland journey is an unimaginable  catastrophe. How do you prevent this from happening?

Some brave people, who do not worry about safety of their bike, do not carry any lock or chain, in an attempt to avoid the bike getting heavier and simply saying "I'm always with my bike, even at night time". People are known to have been “gassed” at night time in their tents, only to wake up a couple of days later with a pounding headache and finding themselves robbed of pretty much everything they owned.

To avoid this you really have to think “out of the box” in safety matters. Start from the fact that any lock can be opened; regardless of how secure they look or how expensive they were. ANYTHING can be opened, even the most secure and expensive lock you can buy. Watch this video to see how it's done in only 5 minutes. The lock you see in the video is one of the most expensive and secure on the market. So if anything can be opened, why bother locking the bike? Safety is a science and you have to think as if you were a thief: If you wanted to steal a motorcycle out of 10 parked in front of you, which one would you choose? The one with one lock? The one with three locks? The one that is covered?

If you were a thief, what tools would you be carrying with you? Would you be able to carry a lot of them for different type of chains/locks?

Or would you be able to carry only one tool? How much noise could you be making? Would anyone be watching you? These are all things to consider.

Ever since my very first scooter was stolen back in Italy when I was young, I am paranoid about safety of my vehicle. The tubular pin tumbler lock used to be the safest lock in the world... till they found out how to pick it.

It is now the very easiest lock to open without a key. There is a tool legally for sale out there which is designed to open tubular locks in a flash. Watch the video on the left to see how simple it is.

Having said this, not everyone knows about this tool and not everyone has it, but this should clearly tell you that you will need more than a disk lock to secure your pricy investment.

I am not saying not to use a disk lock, I will tell you to use two of them of different make/brand and possibly with a different mechanism. They are light enough to be carried around. A traditional strong chain is a good piece of safety equipment, provided you will use a decent lock with it. By decent I mean a big/strong one which can’t be open with a hummer. Also it must not have a very exposed shackle that can be easily cut. Remember that it is a waste of money and effort to have a large, heavy and expensive chain if you will not use a matching lock.

Mul-T-Lock C13 Single Pin PadlockKeep in mind that the most expensive popular brand locks are probably the easiest to open. This is because they are popular and thieves specialize in opening what is mostly out there.

On the left is what I believe to be among the world's safest padlocks, to be used in combination with a high security chain. It's the Mul-T-Lock C13 Single Pin Padlock. Also among the world's safest is the Abloy PL362. It has a very particular key that is extremely difficult to pick, which will require specialized knowledge and unusual tools not readily available. The thing is that even a professional lock picker will require a considerable amount of time and patience to open this lock, not to mention practicing on a lock and such an expensive padlock will not fall in the wrong hands very easily. Basically chances that the casual thief will open this lock are zero. It costs 225.00 GBP.

I once had a trailer with four wheels and I purchase a very expensive and popular wheel clamp that cost me about 100 GBP and three smaller unknown and cheap wheel clamps that only cost me 5 GBP each. Armoured combination padlockSomeone interested in my trailer managed to unlock the expensive one without doing any damage, but they could not open the other three cheap clamps.

This didn’t stop them from trying and here I can give you the perfect example of thinking “out of the box”. My trailer would have been stolen if I didn’t think of the unthinkable. Since they could not open the wheel clamps, they had thought of swapping the wheels altogether! One night I found four wheels next to my trailer, ready to be swapped! The thing is they could not swap them, because I had installed non standard bolts and of different sizes, therefore they didn’t have the tools to undo them.

Furthermore, if they did manage to undo the bolts they would have found that their wheels would have not fit, as I had installed wheels with 5 bolts, instead of the standard 4 and with a bigger hole at the centre. These silly but very effective safety tricks saved my trailer.

Also as you travel around in different countries, look what they are using there. Sometimes you will see a kind of lock that will be very popular in that country, but that you will not see anywhere else. I remember once I had seen a particular steel wire lock (I think either in Spain or Thailand) that connected the handlebar with the side of the bike, making it impossible to turn. I have never seen that type of lock anywhere else and no doubt it would not be tackled with in the UK.


High security padlock

The thing is that a professional thief will not tackle something he has never seen before and most likely he will not be interested in a motorcycle that has three different locks: a tubular disk lock, a traditional heavy chain and a steel cable with a combination lock. Even if he was proficient in all these three areas, it would just take too much time. Chances are he would go for something else.

Motorcycle coverCovering the bike is another simple but very effective safety trick. If they can’t see it, they can’t evaluate what’s there to take. Taking a cover off will attract some attention and if you lock the cover under the bike with a simple padlock, chances are they won’t even bother.

If you go around on an expensive bike like a BMW, take the logo off; the blue and white round emblem  is an international sign of wealth and it tells everyone that you are riding serious money.

I know it sounds very silly, but once you have locked your motorcycle remember to take the keys with you.

You will be surprised at how many people put the keys in the ignition while doing their things and then forget them there. Twice in my life I have seen a parked and locked motorcycle with the keys left in the ignition!


So to summarize it all, here is a list of things to consider:


  1. Lock the bike and take the keys with you.

  2. Use more than one lock.

  3. Use more than one system (tubular lock, combination lock, traditional lock, etc.) 

  4. Armoured padlock and chainCover your motorcycle.

  5. Use bright locks, so that they can be easily seen from far away.

  6. Attach your chain to something secure. Not a road sign... they can be easily pulled out or cut. Trees are the most secure things to attach a motorcycle, if they are not too small. 

  7. Never leave your chain resting on the ground. This makes it much easier to tamper with.

  8. Never attach the chain at one of the wheels only. It is a devastating scene to find that only your wheel was not stolen.

  9. Have a noisy alarm on your motorcycle. Nobody will keep tackling a bike with a sounding alarm. Furthermore, your insurance company might offer you a discount for installing an alarm.  In choosing an alarm, keep in mind that a talking one is a lot more effective than a siren; people tend to react to a voice much more than to a noise.

  10. The installation of a GPS tracker could help you retrieve your bike. 

  11. Park your motorcycle in a lit up place, never in a dark corner. Leave it where is can be seen, like at the front of a motel's reception or in a busy place. 

  12. Never leave anything of value on your bike. 

  13. Don't keep your bike clean and shiny when you travel. A filthy bike is not as attractive as a brand new looking one. 

  14. Detach the panniers at night time; nobody really knows they are empty until they break into them. 

  15. When you sleep in your tent hide the keys, so that if you do get gassed, at least your bike will be safe. Hyde them somewhere unthinkable, like on the bike itself, but make sure they can’t be found! 

  16. Always remember to think “out of the box” and never lower your guard. Things have been known to go missing during the night even in the emptiness of the Mongolian steppe!