Europe's motorcycle crime hotspots

Dr Ken German
By Dr Ken German

Previously an officer in the Metropolitan Police Stolen Car Squad – part of the Flying Squad – Dr Ken German has a BA and PhD in international vehicle crime; he’s been key to many anti-theft policies and vital governmental and insurance decisions. He also developed the potential for transponders and parts marking, helping to create Datatag. Dr Ken is a world authority on motorcycle crime, and a key advisor to the industry...



Britain’s Foreign Office warns that France, Italy and Spain – along with those countries bordering Eastern Europe – are still volatile for motorcycle tourists, particularly those riding British-registered machine, which seem to be the favourite targets, particularly with motorway thieves.

Typical methods used by the criminals are theft and muggings by distraction, where an offer of help is made by the thieves – for instance when you park up and later return to find either your tyre is flat, or oil is pooled under your bike. While offering to assist, other members of these gangs will at some point attempt to steal your bike or luggage.

Some riders have heard a 'loud noise' while traveling along the road – when they stop they’re immediately offered help by other riders; the noise is often caused by a rock thrown at your rear wheel. Again, while you’re 'being helped', the thieves are helping themselves.

Anything is game to be taken, but the favourite is still money and British passports, 30,000 of which were stolen worldwide last year and can sell for £400 or more on the black market. Many riders have already reported that their possessions, passports and money have been taken in quick and rapid distraction techniques before they even set off on the road to their holiday destination.

The large increase in theft is generally agreed to be caused either by high youth unemployment in the area – triggering an upsurge in petty crime – or confidence tricksters and simple muggings. An increase in homelessness has also been blamed, with people desperate for money to buy food and accommodation.

British consulates in many European destinations are reporting rising numbers of street crimes, and an increase in burglaries at holiday rentals has forced the Foreign Office to advise holiday makers to lock both their motorcycles and the doors and windows to their accommodation at night, and when they are out.

Even when relaxing on the beach, riders have become targets as beach bags – often carrying house and bike keys, money, passports, credit cards, cameras, mobile phones and iPads –  are seen by thieves to be highly desirable and worth thousands of Euros when sold on.

Car parks at railway stations, underground and bus terminals throughout Europe also now appear to be populated by large groups that gather there and at road intersections – while they mostly appear to be begging, some are expert pickpockets.


What can I do?

Make a note of your passport number and details of issue etc, plus any credit card or traveller’s cheque numbers, as well as the contact details for your bank and card providers. Leave these with a friend at home so that they can give you them if anything gets taken. You can also keep a copy with you, but make sure it’s hidden.

Be aware of being followed closely on the road – it could be the good or the bad guys!


BikeSocial’s consumer editor, John Milbank says: “While it’s important that we’re all aware of crime both at home and away, don’t let it spoil your enjoyment of a holiday, or of biking in general. Having ridden across much of Europe, as well as regularly through London, crime is something we all need to keep in the backs of our minds, but it’s not as rife as social media would have you believe.

Use your own common sense, and make sure you check out our reviews of security kit here. Here at BikeSocial we want to make you aware of the tactics employed by thieves, to better arm you with the knowledge that’ll keep you from becoming a crime statistic.


Latest News from Bike Social

Latest News

  • Langen Motorcycles shows two-strokes are still kicking with 114kg, 75hp 250, we talk to Founder, Chris Ratcliffe
    Bringing back the 2-stroke: Langen Motorcycles
  • New patents show Harley-Davidson’s Chinese-made 338R in full
    Harley-Davidson 338R designs revealed
  • BMW uses cameras to monitor grip levels in real time for traction control
    BMW developing road-surface-sensing traction control
  • As the government introduces new restrictions and lockdown rules for Covid-19, we at how they affect riders in England, Scotland, Wales & Ireland
    How new Coronavirus lockdown restrictions affect motorcycling