Would you leave a gun lying on the street?
The Metropolitan police force has declared the current scooter-enabled crime epidemic as a ‘public safety issue’, with crooks stealing relatively low value scooters and using them in violent robberies, assaults and even murders. Officers’ time and resource is being taken up dealing with attack after attack, and bystanders are being put at serious risk as the crooks flee the scene.
Scooters are being used as weapons, and we need to secure them.
BikeSocial has destruction tested some of the leading security kit that’s ideal for scooters (and motorcycles), from disc locks to U-locks, cable locks to chains and padlocks. You can read the full reviews here.
The Metropolitan police believes those in the London area committing scooter-enabled crime are not necessarily organised gangs; they’re groups of youths – often as young as 15 – cashing in on the easy theft of scooters that make robberies quick, simple, and fast to escape from. These moped-assisted ride-by thefts have leapt almost 2240% in London’s Oxford street alone, from 13 in 2014/2015, to 291 in 2016/2017.
In 2017, more than 23,000 crimes were committed in London using scooters and mopeds. That’s 63 each day.
The victims are often distracted mobile phone users, with the devices snatched away and stripped for parts or shipped overseas.
Carrying tools to steal a moped or scooter is deemed as ‘going equipped’, but most of these crooks have no need to do this – they simply force the steering lock off a scooter (at least 50% of which have no other form of security) then push it away with a mate on another machine.
Securing scooters is, perhaps surprisingly, even more of a challenge than securing a motorcycle – the relatively small components, like brake discs and wheels, make it harder to get beefy locks on.
But there’s still a wheel that will allow a chain to be passed through, and most of these machines have a large boot under the seat, not to mention the option of a top-box.
The problem, sadly, lies in the fact that these are often relatively low-value machines that aren’t ‘loved’ by their owners in the same way that the majority of motorcycles are. These are simply a form of transport that costs significantly less than a rail fare and/or parking. To some, they’re seen as almost disposable items.
Many of these stolen machines aren’t claimed for on insurance, but policy prices can still rise due to the increased crime rates. By not locking scooters, owners are making it easier for thieves to carry out their often violent crimes, they’re pushing up insurance prices, and they’re adding to the misery that’s seeing far too many people put off the convenience, economy and sheer pleasure of riding a scooter or motorcycle.
It’s time we ALL took responsibility for locking our scooters and motorcycles, and it needn’t cost a fortune.
The portable grinder is the bane of lock manufacturers’ lives, but it is not as commonly used as social media would have you believe, particularly in the realm of scooter crime. For more information on securing higher-value motorcycles or scooters that are left at home outside overnight, click here.
Take the attitude that it’s not worth locking your machine because thieves will have it anyway, and you’re asking for trouble.
Any lock is better than no lock, but which you choose will depend on your moped, scooter or motorcycle, as well as where you leave it and of course, your budget.
We’re focussing here on portable security, intended for when you’re away from home. If your machine is left in the same place overnight, you’d be wise to invest in something heavier duty – you can read our reviews of the best chains and locks here, as well as garage and home security here.
Remember that while powered two wheelers can be picked up and put in a van all too easily if not secured to something immovable, it’ can be tricky to get a van into place to do this, and the majority of scooters in London are taken by being pushed away…
These locks secure around your handlebar, and keep the brake lever pulled on.
Advantages: Quick to fit, relatively inexpensive, helps prevent bike or scooter being pushed away.
Disadvantages: Easy to defeat with simple tools. Can’t stop the machine being picked up and put in a van.
Cable locks are popular with cyclists, and can roll up reasonably small to store on your motorcycle or scooter.
Advantages: Easy to keep clean, can secure your machine to a solid object, often can’t be cut with bolt-croppers, usually lighter than a chain.
Disadvantages: Basic cable locks can generally be cut quickly with hand tools. Armoured cable locks can be tough, but an angle-grinder gets through them quickly, due to the lack of material in their construction.
These secure onto your scooter or motorcycle’s brake disc, preventing the machine from being pushed away. They’re best used on the rear wheel if possible, as the front is easier to remove and swap, but either is worth doing.
Just don’t forget to remove it before you ride off; a good tip is to fit the lock close to the fork leg, in the direction you’ll ride off. So if you’ll ride forwards, and have the lock on your front disk, fit it so that it’s directly behind the fork leg – that way you won’t build up speed while the wheel turns before it hits the leg.
Advantages: Stops the bike being pushed away, generally small and easy to carry, some are alarmed so add extra security (and a reminder to take it off before riding away!).
Mini-U-Lock type disc locks can be used in combination with a chain, adding versatility and security. Pass the lock through the disc if you can, then add the chain to the shackle – if a crook cuts the chain, they still can’t push the bike away.
Disadvantages: Doesn’t stop the machine being picked up and put in a van when used on its own, and can be forgotten, causing damage if you ride off without removing it. Cheaper versions can be beaten quickly and quietly.
Motorcycle disc locks won’t always fit on a scooter’s brake disc, as there isn’t the space in the disc carrier for the heavy-duty bolt; smaller locking mechanisms are fitted to scooter-specific disc locks, but these can be easier to defeat.
U-Locks (or D-locks)
With a large U-shaped shackle, these can be passed through the wheel around the fork legs, or sometimes the swingarm. They’re popular with cyclists, who use them to secure the frame to street furniture, but this won’t always be possible on a scooter or motorcycle.
Advantages: Can be used to solidly lock either wheel to prevent pushing away, and offers the versatility of being used with a chain to lock to something solid. Generally very strong and resistant to bolt cropper and sledge hammer attacks.
Disadvantages: You should choose a U-lock that’s as small as possible to suit your needs, as they can potentially be defeated with a small hydraulic jack – if you can get your fist into a gap inside the shackle when it’s fitted to your bike, there’s a chance it could be burst open.
Chain and lock
A chain and padlock (or U-lock, or suitable disc-lock) can be wrapped around the wheel, used to tie the wheel to the forks or swingarm, or – ideally – to secure the scooter or motorcycle to something solid.
Advantages: Versatile, easy to lock your bike to something solid, can often be rolled up quite small. A chain and lock can of course be defeated with an angle grinder, but the best offer more resistance than any other product.
Disadvantages: Fabric chain sleeves can get wet and dirty, while chains can be heavy and awkward to carry. Some smaller chains can be beaten with bolt-croppers (almost silent) or a sledge-hammer, though this is difficult, unlikely, and very noisy so usually not an issue, especially during the day.
DO Use a lock – anything is better than nothing
DO Use a cover – they really do deter thieves
DO Use more than one form of security if you can
DO Attach your U-lock or disc-lock to the bike if possible, then attach a chain as well – it makes it a lot harder for a thief to beat
DO Carry your lock at all times. BikeTrac’s Grab Bag is one good option if you don’t have storage space.
DO Use your steering lock
DON’T Rely solely on your steering lock – it can be snapped off too easily.
DON’T Leave your lock lying on the ground if you can help it – it makes a sledge hammer attack much more easy (though this is an unlikely form of attack).
DON’T Think that it’s not worth locking up as the crooks have angle grinders; this is not as common as Facebook would have you believe.
DON’T Lock your bike to something that it could be lifted clear of, like a bollard – two or three people will quickly raise it.
DON’T Lock to a wooden fence – be aware of the weakest link in any security setup.
DON’T Worry! Riding a motorcycle or scooter is one of the most convenient and enjoyable forms of transport. The odds are in your favour that you won’t be a victim of crime, and you can drastically improve them further by spending a small amount of money on some quality security kit, and using it.
A cover for any moped, scooter or motorcycle offers a surprising amount of security. The Metropolitan police force’s campaign – Lock, Chain, Cover – encourages riders to secure the front and back wheels of their machine, then put a cover over the top. Because it really works – while crooks can of course look under a cover, it adds an extra layer of hassle that can make the difference between it being stolen, and not.
Besides taking attention away from your bike, a cover also has to be removed before a crook can wheel it away – time is important to a criminal, and the hassle of stripping a cover off, before they know what the machine is, and how much security it has, really can make a big difference. Oxford’s Aquatex covers will easily fit in a scooter’s boot or in a rucksack, and cost from just £24.99.
Further security comes in the form of alarms and trackers. Crooks will sometimes ignore sirens, because too many passers-by will too, but they can be a useful deterrent, and start from as little as £89 for the Datatool Evo.
Should the worst happen, and your motorcycle or scooter does get stolen, a tracking system can give you a very high chance of getting it back (and potentially catching the thieves) – you can read our reviews here.
We don’t agree that the information we’ve given you is instructing criminals how to steal more bikes; we are simply using the methods that are most common. We won’t publish every technique, but firmly believe that if you understand the limitations of your security kit, you’ll know how best to use it.
We first tested the locks with basic hand-tools; 8” cable cutters, hacksaw, pry bar and lump hammer. We also used the largest bolt-croppers to attack the locks; at 42” these are not easily carried or concealed, but can provide a near-silent method of theft.
Where appropriate, we attacked the locks with a sledge-hammer, which is an unlikely attack as it’s so noisy and needs a good amount of space to be effective. An anvil is part of this method – in this case an old section of railway track – but a crook could easily use the edge of a kerb or a second sledge-hammer head. If a lock is brittle, this test will expose it.
Finally, while we tested with one, an angle grinder is the most aggressive form of attack, and while it will – given time – defeat anything currently available, it’s far less common than you’d think. It also attracts a lot of attention, and while some crooks will threaten bystanders, they prefer to avoid this as it comes with a far stiffer sentence if caught.
A lock is a mechanical device that needs to be kept lubricated – particularly the keyway. We asked Hal Rose from Cathedral Lock & Safe Services, and a member of the Master Locksmiths Association, how best to keep your security device working freely and easily. His advice is simply to use it regularly, and put a small amount of graphite powder into the keyway every three months or so, which you can easily pick up online.
If the lock is binding, use a little graphited penetrating spray, like Silkolene Silkopen.
Buy the best lock you can afford, and use it – don’t give these crooks the weapons to commit more crimes.
Big thanks to Piaggio and repair/claims specialist 4th Dimension for supplying parts that allowed us to carry out real-world testing. Both are companies which, among others in the moped, scooter and motorcycle industry, are passionate about reducing crime.