Datatag vs Datatool DNA review | Best motorcycle security marking systems

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Date reviewed: October 2022 | Tested by: John Milbank | RRP: Datatag £89.99, Datatool £39.99 | /


We live in a world where social media will happily host videos showing people how to steal cars and motorcycles, so keeping your bike secure is a matter of making it as much hassle as possible for someone to pinch. While vehicle marking systems are likely to have limited success in stopping a bike being taken compared to a decent lock, they can help bring down the thieves and gangs that are committing the crimes.

For many years, Datatag has been the leader in motorcycle marking, and the ‘Master’ system is fitted as standard to many new bikes. But Datatool has introduced an alternative that it hopes will prove tempting to owners and manufacturers alike…


What are vehicle marking systems?

Vehicle marking systems indelibly mark parts of the bike (or car) in order to make them traceable back to the owner. This could put thieves off stealing a motorbike as there’s more chance of them being caught with provably stolen goods.

When motorcycles are stolen, it’s often to strip for parts, and the more popular the bike, the greater the demand for those parts so the more money there is to be made in stealing them; the BMW GS, for instances, is consistently one of the most popular new bike purchases in the UK, so it’s no coincidence that it’s also popular with thieves.

Marking systems are part of a layered security set-up that should ideally include a lock, cover, electronic immobiliser and perhaps even a tracker. They also contribute to the potential maximum of five stars from the MCIA Secured (Motorcycle Industry Association) ratings system, which aims to encourage manufacturers to build as much security as possible into their bikes.


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Datatag’s Master system has been fitted to a lot of new machines – particularly larger capacity ones – for several years, but Honda recently stopped on all its models. I asked them why, but the team was busy with the new Hornet launch. I’ll update this article when I hear back.

Suzuki is also a notable manufacturer that doesn’t install the Datatag Master system as standard, though it does offer a Datatag kit for a discounted £55. Maybe worth a haggle when buying? Jonathan Martin, Suzuki GB head of motorcycles told me that “Our aim is to offer value-packed products for our customers and while Datatag’s MASTER scheme has a successful record in our industry, feedback from Suzuki customers and our approved dealerships suggest that not all customers believe it provides value. We pride ourselves on listening to feedback and reacting, and so by offering it is an add-on instead of standard fit, we give customers the choice based on what is value for them, and we can focus more on enhancements that customers do enjoy such as low rate finance and test ride events throughout the year.”


Datatag vs Datatool DNA: The differences

Both Datatag and Datatool will of course claim that their system is best, but here’s what we know:



Datatool DNA

Cost to fit (if not OE)



Secure database of owner details



DIY or dealer fit



Cost to change owner details



Microdots painted onto bike



Chemically unique ‘DNA’ solution



UV serial number etching



RFID transponder



The self-fit Datatag system is NOT the same as the Datatag Master fitted by dealers. Most of the main components are the same, but the self-fit Datatag does not have a visual identifier of the serial number. It does have a second RFID transponder though.

‘Whole Vehicle Marking Systems’ will no longer be tested by Thatcham from the end of 2022, and all certificates will be removed.

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Both marking systems need to be re-registered when the bike’s sold, though with Datatool it’s free


Clearly, Datatag has a significant advantage when it comes to the number of ways a bike or its parts can be identified, though Datatool does use an NFC (Near-Field Communication) element in its marking system that allows a smartphone to scan it and get details of the owner from Datatool. Of course, anyone doing this will have to prove they’re a member of law-enforcement first, but this system does mean that an officer with a mobile phone that has NFC capability can get details of the bike, as long as they have access to the area where the NFC chip is hidden.


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The Datatag Master system use a tamper-proof sticker with a unique ID and QR code for quick identification. This isn’t part of the self-fit kit


The Datatag Master system fitted by dealers on many new bikes has a sticker with a unique serial number and QR code that positively identifies the owner through the company’s database. It’s typically on the frame and visible without removing any panels, so any police officer can quickly check a bike’s owner (assuming the sticker hasn’t been picked off).

Datatool DNA uses a plain white sticker with the serial number on, but it’s designed to be tucked under the seat, so an officer would need to spot the supplied ‘protected by Datatool DNA’ label and find it.

However, the Datatag marking system that can be bought for home fitting doesn’t have any form of serial number label, so an officer couldn’t identify the bike without either a UV torch to find the etched ID, or an RFID scanner to read the chips hidden in the seat or wiring loom, and – in the self-fit kit – the tank or frame (Master system comes with just one chip).

Of course these scanners aren’t carried around at all times or likely to be immediately available in a roadside stop, but ex-Merseyside sergeant Dave Yorke told me that his team had one that was shared by stolen vehicle examiners, and they were about to get a second as he left, so getting hold of them shouldn’t be a problem.

I asked Datatag how many scanners are currently in operation, and was told that there’s a network distributed across 45 UK territorial forces, as well as six major ports and harbour authorities, MoD Police, British Transport Police, Police Service of Northern Ireland and Garda Síochána (Ireland). The company says that every force should have access to at least two scanners, though it confirmed that Derbyshire has six, Warwickshire has five, Lancashire has eight, Leicestershire as six, and Thames Valley, as well as Police Scotland have 12 each.


Datatool DNA includes a re-registration reminder label that must be fixed to the bike under the seat, and a serial number sticker that also needs to be tucked out of the way either under the seat or in another ‘non-prominent area’.


The number of specialist stolen vehicle examiners in police forces has significantly dropped over the years, so the idea that any officer could get the ID of a bike almost as soon as they find it could be an advantage to Datatool’s system over Datatag’s self-fit option, if not necessarily the Master system. With no need to get hold of the force’s RFID scanner, it could mean a clued-up officer is able to positively identify a bike that’s been pulled over as being stolen.

Find the ID sticker or scan the Datatool NFC chip using a mobile phone (officers will have to have been informed by Datatool as to how to find it), and Police can see if the details match the person riding it.

The self-fit Datatag option does use UV etched IDs, which could be checked on the roadside as long as a UV torch is available (officers are often issued with them).

In the same way that we won’t show you what professionally-fitted trackers look like so as to not alert the less clued-up thieves, we won’t say where the Datatool NFC chip is hidden, but it likely won’t be that long before the more serious crooks find out. And that’s where I stumbled across a flaw with Datatool’s DNA; the NFC chip can be erased or reprogrammed with a simple, freely-available smartphone app. The RFID chips that Datatag uses cannot be reprogrammed or erased.

Datatool has informed me that I had a review sample that hadn’t been locked off so I’ve asked for a production version in order to update this review. Looking at the type of NFC tag that it is, this should be entirely possible.


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Datatag uses RFID chips as part of its vehicle marking solution


As soon as the bike’s stripped for parts, these chips become less useful (and could potentially be found with a scanner), but the microdots painted on the bike that both brands utilise could be anywhere; it’ll take a determined thief to find them all using a UV light, and an even more dedicated one to ensure all the dots are removed.

When a bike gets to this point, Datatag still has the advantage in that the microdot carrier solution is itself unique, making it even harder to remove entirely, but it has to be said that the microdots Datatool supplies are significantly smaller than the Datatag ones; about half the size. There also appear to be a lot more of them in the pot.

Using a 40x microscope, despite their small size I was able to easily read the Datatool microdots, but all the Datatag ones I’d painted on a piece of paper were illegibly small, and seemed hidden by the carrier fluid.


The Datatool dots are clearly smaller than the Datatag ones, but they’re also far more legible. In these images, taken through a 40x microscope, I had to hide part of the Datatool ID in the picture as it’s so clear.


How Police forces use vehicle marking systems

With the Datatag Master system, Police first go by the sticker on a suspected bike to identify the owner, which is usually fairly easy to find without having to remove the seat or any panels.

Officers can also use the RFID scanner to find the chip(s) that give a unique ID that Datatag has linked to the owner.

If these methods don’t work, the bike would likely end up in the hands of the Stolen Vehicle Unit (SVU), who’ll liaise with Datatag to identify it.

Different forces will have different policies, but even if a cloned bike was found at the roadside and the officer believed they could positively identify it there, it might still have to go in for a full examination to be taken off the Police National Computer.

Datatool DNA has the potential to simplify the process of identifying a motorcycle’s true owner, but like anything it relies on officers knowing what to look for.

If the bike ends up in the hands of the SVU, the microdots of both systems should be found using a UV light, so the lack of RFID in Datatool’s offering might not be as much of a concern, especially given how easy the dots are to read with even a basic pocket microscope.


The location of the microdots only becomes evident under a UV light


Datatag vs Datatool DNA ease of fitting

The effectiveness of any vehicle marking system is only as good as its installation. The Datatag Master system is installed by the motorcycle dealer when a bike’s sold new, but while it’s no reflection on BMW as I’ve seen good and bad from all manufacturers, my second-hand R1250GS came with the pot of Datatag microdots bagged with the paperwork. Given how full it was, I don’t think they’d been applied.

The Master System sticker is on the bike, but not the warning label, and I’ve been all over it with a UV light yet can’t find the UV etch markings. I just have to assume that the RFID chip has been installed I the seat or loom…


This came with my bike when I bought it, and given how full the pot of microdots are, they didn’t appear to have been installed. I’ve put them on now.


I’ve fitted a full Datatag system myself in the past, and it took about 45 minutes (keep in mind that I’m pretty fastidious though). Installing the chips, UV etch and microdots properly takes time, so it’s no surprise perhaps that it might not be done as fully by some technicians if there’s a workshop manager breathing down their necks. It’s why I prefer to do it myself…

With just the microdots to paint on, it took me only 15 minutes to install the Datatool DNA. The company claims five minutes, and maybe on a brand new bike that didn’t need wiping down with isopropyl alcohol to get rid of the rust-proofing XCP I’d applied just a week before, perhaps that’d be possible. And a very tempting proposition to manufacturers looking to keep costs down.


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Besides the stickers, it’s only the microdots that need applying in Datatool’s DNA


While we mention the importance of surfaces being clean before the microdots (and stickers) are applied, it’s worth pointing out that Datatool doesn’t supply any cleaning wipes; a couple of isopropyl-soaked pads certainly wouldn’t go amiss here.

Registering with Datatool just requires an account being created and details of your bike entered, but if you already have a Datatool tracker it’s even easier – log into your account, add the serial number and a unique PIN that’s supplied in the fitting instruction and you’re done.


Two alternatives to Datatag and Datatool DNA

There are other marking systems available, for instance:

  • SelectaDNA costs £49.50 and uses microdots in a UV carrier fluid. It comes with four uniquely-coded tamper-proof labels and two warning stickers.
  • Alphadot is another option, costing £24.99. It includes a pot of microdots and two warning labels.


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A 40x handheld microscope was enough to read the Datatool microdots


Datatag vs Datatool DNA review: Choosing the best vehicle marking system

Contrary to what social media ‘experts’ would have you believe, the police, in general, DO want to stop bike thieves. There’s little value in wasting resource sending officers to the space where a bike was stolen from as even if they did spend the money on fingerprinting, it proves little; ‘yeah, m’lud, I was checking out that bike cos it was sweet, but I never did nuffink’. However, positively identifying a bike – or parts of it – can prove beyond reasonable doubt that someone is in possession of stolen goods.

In a situation where the thief hasn’t tampered with the obvious visual identifiers, Datatag’s Master system typically has the details in plain view, but the self-fit option has no visual ID that doesn’t require a UV light (though officers are often issued with these).

Datatool DNA has the serial number sticker tucked out of the way (typically under the seat), so it’s important that the ‘Protected by Datatool DNA’ label is clearly applied. Whether thieves might see ‘Datatool’ and think ‘tracker’ could be a good or a bad thing.

If a stolen bike has been stripped and the parts are being sold, Datatool’s relatively easy-to-read microdots might help Joe Public to alert Datatool and therefore the police of a chop-shop, and while Datatag’s dots are also carried in a unique chemical formula, the chances are good that either brand’s microdots will remain (as long as they’ve been installed with a bit of thought).

Datatool DNA’s lack of a permanent chip in the wiring loom or seat (and another RFID tag on the frame with the Datatag self-fit system) means Datatag remains the most comprehensive vehicle marking solution, but Datatool’s DNA offers an interesting alternative.