What To Do When Your Bike Gets Stolen

How To -


What To Do When Your Bike Gets Stolen

Photo by John Payne

It happens with depressing frequency. You walk outside one morning and, where once your pride and joy rested in all its shiny glory lies only a broken chain. Here’s what to do when your bike gets stolen.

Your bike could still be in the neighborhood. Mount up and go look for it.
Your bike could still be in the neighborhood. Mount up and go look for it.

Photo by Joshua Bloom

Step One: Survey The Area
I once woke up to the exact circumstances described above, spent half a day at the police station reporting the crime, only to walk home and find my bike resting on its side stand just around the corner. It turned out that neighbors I didn’t know had recognized my bike as it was being pushed into a van and ran the thieves off. A variety of similar circumstances could mean your bike is still nearby. Interrupted thieves? They give up after spending too long trying to defeat some security device? Just dumb kids who couldn’t get it started? Your bike could still be in the neighborhood. Mount up and go look for it.

Did your neighbors see anything? Does the store across the street have security footage?
Did your neighbors see anything? Does the store across the street have security footage?

Photo by Benson Kua

Step Two: Collect Evidence
Did your neighbors see anything? Does the store across the street have security footage? Now’s also the time to collect things like photos of your bike (always good to have a clear one around of the bike in its current state), registration and insurance documents.

Set up Craigslist and eBay alerts for your bike’s make and model in the local area and monitor them like a hawk.
Set up Craigslist and eBay alerts for your bike’s make and model in the local area and monitor them like a hawk.

Step Three: Notify The Internet
Set up Craigslist and eBay alerts for your bike’s make and model in the local area and monitor them like a hawk. Post identifying details on the forums for that make and model and with local riding clubs. It may sound unlikely that these methods could result in your bike being found, but motorcycling is such a tight-knit community that it does happen with surprising frequency.

Call the police.
Call the police.

Photo by yoppy

Step Four: Call The Police
Use the non-emergency number and inform them you need to report a stolen motorcycle. Sadly, we live in a time when the police aren’t going to take action to secure the return of a single motorcycle, but you need the Police Report in order to file an insurance claim. They may visit your house (or location of the theft) to make the report, or simply request that you visit the station. Have all your bike documents ready to go.

Notify your insurance company.
Notify your insurance company.

Photo by Megan

Step Five: Notify Your Insurance Company
Don’t bother doing it before you have the Police Report and it’s worthwhile taking the time to re-read your policy before you call so you know where you stand. Expect the company to investigate the claim and be prepared to wait sometime before a payout is made, if any occurs.

Have you ever had a bike stolen? What did you do immediately afterwards that helped or hindered it’s return?

  • Brian

    rule #1-DON’T PANIC, as you will lose and miss details and lose some rationalization. It is just an item that can be replaced if not found. Upsetting as I know it will be, losing your head will work against you, especially with the very people that will be potential help to you. Also to add to Step #2- take pictures of the surrounding areas and the scene itself as well as all of the other possible evidence.

  • Jack Meoph

    Form a posse and RIDE!!!!

    Actually, just have full coverage on your bike.

    • Aaron Baumann

      That scares me a little. I’ve got a CBR250 so it’s not exactly a high profile target, but I’ve also only got liability. I figure the $400/yr extra Progressive wanted for comprehensive wasn’t worth it on a $4000 bike, but I have to admit, it does make me worry.

      • Piglet2010

        How old are you? I pay Progressive barely more than that for full coverage on 5 bikes (lower insurance rates are one of the few advantages of getting older).

        • Aaron Baumann

          I’m 32 and Im currently paying $86/year for liability. I was quoted almost $500 for comprehensive.

          • Clint Keener

            I’m 32, my streetfighter 848 is $240 every 6 mo for full coverage.

            • subaruzi

              Your age matters a bit but the biggest thing is your zip code. I lived in Vermont and bikes were nothing to insure there. Now I’m in New Orleans and the price has tripled. This is true with all insurance.
              Comprehensive is worth carrying for the theft or tip over caused by some cager whipping into your spot.

        • Rameses the 2nd

          I am 33 with a clean driving record and Progressive wants $600 additional for Speed Triple or FZ-09. They want almost $1000 more for R1. Full coverage on my 2013 Scrambler is just a little north of $300 (and that’s with trip interruption and all the other goodies). I think the type of bike makes a huge difference. Sports and hooligan bikes just cost more money to insure.

          • Piglet2010

            True, but when I had a 2006 F4i with a $250/$500 comprehensive/collision deductible, insurance was still reasonable (less than $100/year extra).

            Craziest thing was Progressive dropped my overall payment by $4/year when I added full coverage ($100/$250 comprehensive/collision deductible) for a new TW200 – seems they projected I would spend less time riding the more valuable/higher performance bikes.

          • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

            Have you taken the MSF course? I have an 06 speed triple, I bought my policy (full cov) when I was 24 (25 now) and it’s under $400 for a year. I took the MSF course when I was 13 (the youngest they allow) so I lucked out on my insurance. You can’t retroactively go back and take the course, but if you’re riding with just a DMV endorsement and haven’t taken the course, it will work wonders on your insurance premiums.

            • Rameses the 2nd

              I took the MSF course last year. I will call progressive again tomorrow and make sure it is listed on my policy; I think I mentioned it to them when I got my coverage. I have 0 traffic violation on my license in last 7 years. I have full coverage on my 2013 Scrambler (Total Value Coverage) with trip interruption, roadside assistance, $500 deductible, $3,000 in accessories, and I pay $317 per year for it.

              Here is the exact quote I got from Progressive on three bikes on my list. I don’t exactly remember the amount for R1, but it was way too much for me to even consider it seriously:

              Yamaha FZ-09: $466
              Speed Triple with ABS: $462
              Street Triple with ABS $379

  • Ayabe

    Don’t buy a Gixxer.

    There I just decreased motorcycle theft by 85%.

    • Rameses the 2nd

      Why is GSXR such a favorite bikes among theives? Aren’t all Japanese bikes more or less the same in performance, value, etc…?

      • Hooligan

        Probably as Gixxers are easy to steal. Popular also as so many have been crashed. They do not have any specific antitheft stuff built in like immobilisers linked to the key & ecu, unlike modern Hondas. The R1′s were even easier to steal. Evidently all you needed to do remove a panel in the fairing, unplug a connecter in the loom there – which linked the clocks/ignition switch with the rest of the bike and plug in a bridged connector. Snap the steering lock and away you go. The minimum a bike should have is a immobiliser built in by the manufacturer, it does not stop them lifting the bike away. But stops the low level toerags knicking a bike for a smash and grab on a jewelry or handbag store.

  • Frick

    Keep running your licence plate for parking tickets. Have known people that found thier bike because it was parked and ticketed!

    • Beju

      I know a guy whose car was recovered that way after it had been stolen a few weeks earlier.

      However, stolen or not, old plates will still come back with info in LEADS for at least a of couple years, and probably longer if reported stolen.

  • Stuki

    Also, try to get people into positions of power, that realizes using the police department as a personal security detail for bike thieves and others of that ilk, is pretty counterproductive. If the cops are too busy collecting revenue from pot smokers to bother with theft; at the very least they could remain too busy when bike owners take care of the problem on their own.

    • Piglet2010

      Prosecutors can get higher conviction rates if they just charge the people who do the grunt work in stealing motorcycles, while leaving those running the theft rings alone. The latter can always find someone who went to prison on a drug possession charge or similar as a replacement, since they practically unemployable.

      Remember, the primary function of police is to protect the power of the state, secondary is to protect the wealth of the rich, and serving the common public is tertiary at best.


    Source: Autoblog.com 46,061 motorcycle thefts in the US in 2012. Top five most-stolen brands are 9,082 Honda, 7,517 Yamaha, 7,017 Suzuki, 4,839 Kawasaki, 3,755 Harley, and it drops off from there. So the Big 5 are exactly 70% of all the thefts. To dramatically improve your odds, choose one of the other dozen or so (mostly Euro) brands on the market.
    But seriously, folks, most thefts are either joyriders or people who want to turn your popular model into parts. With either group, making it as difficult and time-consuming as possible greatly improves your chances. 1) ALWAYS lock the steering, even in the garage. 2) Use a disc lock. Preferably two, or even three! 3) Position all chains with as little slack as possible, and all locks so that they are difficult to reach with anything other than their key. 3) People argue this one, but I think parking on the street in plain sight is better than in a hidden open area like an alley.

    • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

      A european bike is not going to prevent thefts. There’s just fewer around to steal.

      • STRTRRR

        As in “…improve your odds.”

      • Stuki

        BMWs used to be almost theft proof. Primarily because there was no market for stolen parts for them. They had a reputation for being completely “uncool” when judged by the standards of the kind of dirtbags that create a stolen parts market. “Slow” bikes that mainly appealed to old, staid, conservatively riding engineers with a boring job that actually provided an income. Who risked being frozen out of their riding circle simply for wishing to save a few bucks by buying a part from an out of state dealer; much less a possibly stolen part on Ebay.

        Quite unlike a significant minority of sportbike riders and intenders; who have no qualms about covering up evidence of their inability to stay upright while riding, on the cheap; safe in the knowledge the “law” paid for by the taxes of those they steal from, is much more concerned about preventing said taxpayers from doing much about it, than about discouraging theft in the first place.

        And ditto for the again not insignificant minority of Harley riders and hangers on; who may even fancy themselves cooler than their by now standard issue dentist brethren, by living like “real outlaws.” While similarly cowering under the skirt of momma gommiment, of course….

        With BMWs increasingly successful attempt at “coolification”; queue S1000RR, stunt riders on the payroll; and Ewan and Charley; those days may now be drawing to a close, however……. With their bikes appealing increasingly to the same sociographic as their cars; which are about as hot on the stolen market as it gets in the four wheel world.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    Step 0: Cry (don’t do this for more than 5 – 10 minutes). Let it all out before you start using your head to deal with the theft issue.

  • Nate Terrill

    I am pretty sure my bike just got scoped out. I happened around the corner to find a HD edition F150 stopped in front of my house with a guy pointing into my car port, presumably for the benefit of the SUV behind him. They left as soon as they saw me coming. I’m not sure that it means anything, but I will be keeping the 870 by the door this evening.

  • ThinkingInImages

    I’ve never had a motorcycle stolen – but I tend to buy slightly odd, low key, models/colors you don’t see often. All have had an alarm of some sort and disk locks. Nobody messed with my Honda Ascots or low key Suzuki GS’s. In the last three years I’ve had a pearl white Honda Shadow RS (I’ve never seen another Shadow RS anywhere in any color) and now an all black CBR250R. I’ve never seen another all black model anywhere. In fact, I had to order it. I doubt there’s much of a demand for a 250cc single.

  • ThinkingInImages

    I just checked adding comp/theft to my 2013 CBR250R policy in New York City. It increases the premium something wicked. That is after one year with this policy, a squeaky clean driving, riding, and insurance record spanning decades, with dozens of vehicles. When I asked “why” the answer is they have no loss statistics for this model – it’s still too new (at three years?). They see “CBR” and rate it like a CBR600. Considering it’s low cost, if it ever gets crunched/stolen I could just buy another. When the CBR250R first came out the one year insurance coverage for comp/theft almost equaled the cost of the motorcycle.

    Insurance rates in NYC have a huge influence on what motorcycles I buy. If you don’t have secure, off street, parking – don’t buy a “steal me” motorcycle around here. Buy a “sleeper”. When I’m out, I park where there are security cameras or in high traffic areas with people who will hear the alarm go off.

    What tweaks me no end is that security is not built into/onto motorcycles these days. They’re all electronic these days. How hard is it to add an alarm module and secure/chipped keys? Honda has an alarm option for the CBR250R – but not in the U.S. catalog. Honda has a channel under the seat for their U-lock – but that’s not available here, either.

    • http://statesofmotion.blogspot.com/ FastPatrick

      If you live in a big city, insurance companies will feel justified in doing something close to a shakedown on your wallet. Compare rates in NYC (where I also am) with, like, Hornell (zip code 14843).

      Honda had chip keys one of their home-market two-stroke sportbikes back in the early Nineties. Not only a useful way to avoid hotwiring, but also unlocked different engine maps for track days vs. street riding and the like. Not much use when it’s being hoisted into a van, tho.

  • subaruzi

    2002 DRZ400 stolen last night. Full coverage but insurance company already talking super low ball numbers. I’m in New Orleans and got caught on wrong side of parade route so parked and figured I’d grab our this morning. Looked around neighborhood, reported to cops and then insurance company. Frustrating.