Date reviewed: November 2022 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £359 (inc fitting, plus subscription) | www.datatool.co.uk
The Datatool Stealth S5 is one of the smallest Thatcham-approved trackers currently available, and it’s also the one most commonly-fitted by some of the big-name brands when you buy a new bike. This ‘free’ installation (you still have to pay the subscription) makes it one of the most popular monitored devices, but is it any good?
We’ve been testing it over a variety of theft scenarios across the last 12 months to find out if it’s an effective and valuable security device…
All Thatcham-approved trackers have to be professionally fitted, so it’ll be done either by your dealer if it comes with a new bike, or by one of Datatool’s engineers.
It is vital that the tracker is well hidden, so that means you shouldn’t be able to see any trace of it under the seat as that’s the first thing most thieves rip off when stealing a bike.
Once installed, you’ll be handed the two fobs that let the unit know that it’s you starting the bike; you only need one for each rider, but don’t keep it with the ignition key. Ideally, keep it away from the keys altogether so in the very rare situation that your home is broken into and the keys taken, the thief won’t have a clear warning that there’s a tracker to look for.
All trackers will draw some power from a bike’s battery, but how much will depend how often the bike’s moved. TrakKing’s impact isn’t very big at all, so you shouldn’t need to worry if your bike has a decent battery and you’re riding it every few weeks.
If you have EWM (early warning message) alerts turned on, the Stealth will send a text message to your phone if it notices any movement while the fob isn’t nearby. This can let you know that someone is tampering with the bike, but the other advantage of the fobs is that they’ll stop it alerting you when you’re washing it. Just keep the fob in your pocket as it needs movement to ‘wake up’; if it goes to sleep, the alerts will start again.
If you’re transporting the bike in a van or on a trailer, you’ll still need to put it into ‘transport mode’, where the team will disregard movement without ignition. You can quickly and easily set the date and time for this to start and stop.
‘Garage mode’ is also available – to stop you getting a call if the battery’s disconnected – or you can choose ‘no alerts mode’, to turn EWM and monitoring centre calls off altogether for your choice of time.
The EWM text messages are useful, but be aware that you only get five free, each renewing after 30 days. You can get more of them by calling Datatool, or logging onto app.datatool.co.uk (sadly not on the smartphone app), though they do cost £15 for 100.
Other options to tinker with in the app are disabling speed logging and hiding your journeys. Some people worry that law enforcement could use a tracker to see what speed you’re doing, but they’d need a very good reason to do that, and they could just as easily resort to your phone.
While you can select the type of battery fitted to the device, and the website says you will receive a text if the voltage drops, I did suffer a flat battery on my 1999 ZX-6R after not using it for a few months, but got no alert. To be fair, it’s an old battery in there, and I’d always recommend keeping a bike on a maintenance charger if it’s not going to be used for a few weeks. However, if you log onto app.datatool.co.uk on a browser, it’s possible to access more functions, including setting up alerts such as a low battery warning, which should email you if there’s a problem.
The app shows where any active trackers on your account were when they last updated, and you can also browse previous journeys, though you can’t share these.
Once set up, a tracker is something you can typically forget about, and the fobs do make it less likely you’ll get accidental alerts.
If you transport the bike and forget to change the mode, or ride off without the fob, I can say from plenty of experience that the monitoring team – who are all based at Datatool’s Chorley HQ – don’t ever give the impression they’re getting tired of your memory lapses.
The rider ID fobs are what give this an S5 classification from Thatcham
All our tracker tests are conducted in the same way – we don’t tell the manufacturer when we intend to perform a mock theft, and while we won’t waste police time to raise a crime number (if necessary for monitored systems), we expect the device (if it’s self-monitored) or operations centre to demonstrate the full service.
Level one: Stolen and left in street: A common theft method – particularly in busy city centres like London – is for thieves to push a bike away and leave it somewhere for a few days to see if it has a tracker.
While criminals will usually rip the seat off to check for a poorly installed tracker, if there’s nothing obvious they’ll wait a few days then, if it’s not recovered, they know it’s safe to take to their lockup to strip down or to move it on.
The Datatool Stealth S5 gave good accuracy in our street testing, both with and without the optional external antenna; looking at the number of satellites locked onto, and the horizontal degree of precision (HDOP), there’s an excellent chance the bike would be quickly found.
However, due to the factory-set and unchangeable geofence, it’s possible (though less likely) that the bike could be moved and hidden within an area that didn’t trigger an alert at the monitoring centre. The bike should of course be found once the owner notifies Datatool, but we’d like to see an earlier triggering system. BikeTrac, for example, triggers a call to the owner on any movement, and while users might find this frustrating when they forget to disable it, as the Datatool Stealth has ID tags it seems a missed opportunity to have not triggered a call on movement without the fob being present.
Of course, as long as you have enough remaining SMS messages in the system, you would get a text notification that your bike was moving and you could call Datatool if you’re unable to get to it to check it. Of course, if that happens when you’re asleep, an SMS is less likely to alert you than a phone call.
Level two: Stolen and hidden in a building: In a garage without the optional antenna on my installation, the Datatool Stealth is a little slow to find satellites, but it does still get them, and once locked it gave similar results to having the optional external antenna fitted, which was faster to find them.
My installation in the ZX-6R gives the main unit a fairly clear line of sight upwards without much metal in its way, so it’s no surprise that the antenna wasn’t really necessary. However, some fitments might see the main unit more buried, in which case the installer can fit the small remote antenna, which would usually be at no extra cost.
Accuracy depends on the building’s structure, but the results were still good, and the route the bike takes into any lockup etc will be clear to Datatool’s monitoring team as when in full alert mode it can update its location as frequently as every five seconds.
Without a form of RF detection to allow exact position location, it could be down to police knowing where the bike is likely to be, and then finding grounds to gain a warrant for access. RF is rarely needed, but if a bike was hidden in a block of flats, for instance (yes, they have taken them up in the lift), GPS alone can’t do any more than point to the building, not the floor.
Level three: Stolen and hidden in a shipping container: Our worst-case scenario test sees the bike being taken in a standard van with a steel bulkhead (typically a Mercedes Sprinter). One of the big advantages that Datatool TrakKing trackers had was that their remote antenna gave outstanding accuracy that saw our ‘stolen’ test bike accurately tracked even while within the van. This meant that, under a real theft scenario, there’s a good chance that police could track and stop a standard van carrying a bike equipped with a Datatool device. While police forces are undeniably stretched, every officer I’ve spoken to has said that, as long as a major incident isn’t taking resource, the police will try to respond quickly to an active tracker, especially one backed by a professional call monitoring team.
The performance of a tracker will always depend on its fitted location, and as the new Datatool Stealth S5 doesn’t come with an external antenna as standard, I wasn’t surprised to find that accuracy suffered and the bike couldn’t be tracked at all while in the van.
14 minutes after I started driving, I got a call from Datatool asking if I was with it (a subsequent test saw the call come through in ten minutes). The device had alerted that it was seeing ‘minor movement without GPS’, which meant that it knew it was being shaken about, but not where it was. From this point it was possible for the team to put it into full alert, though it still wasn’t seen until I opened the van doors, and only then was the device pinpointed exactly.
I carried out a second test with the optional external antenna fitted, which I hoped would give better accuracy, but it was still unable to get a location until the doors were opened.
As with every tracker we’ve tested, our container did block the signal, but the location before it entered was shown.
Most tracker monitoring teams will be able to track your bike if you call for assistance, regardless of whether the thief has the key, so if yours is taken from you while you’re on it, it will still be traceable
Having ID tags means that, if the bike’s stolen with just the keys, the monitoring centre will automatically be notified and will call you to check what’s happening, as I confirmed when I was riding the bike around Cadwell Park and forgot to carry the fob with me.
You should always keep the fob separate to the keys, so the thief doesn’t know that a tracker is fitted, and so that tracking can be initiated quickly. The Datatool Stealth offers good protection against the frightening but unlikely scenario of a bike jacking.
The Datatool Stealth is designed, made and monitored at the Company’s HQ in Chorley – as such, if you have any problems or questions at all, it’s easy to speak to someone who can help you very quickly.
The app works well and there has been a fair bit of development over the past few years, though the web portal feels a little left behind, and isn’t obviously accessible from the Datatool homepage (in fact, the old TrakKing links are shown).
This review took much longer than usual due to COVID restrictions and difficulties hiring vans, but also as we had problems with the first unit we tested. This was early in the development cycle, and all our concerns were addressed by the time this device – which is a standard production unit – underwent final testing.
While the Datatool Stealth will undoubtedly significantly improve the chances of your bike being recovered if it were to be stolen, our testing has shown than it’s not as powerful as some of the previous models.
The early warning text messages can help speed up theft alerts, but I wouldn’t want to rely on them as it’s easy to miss a text message; a call from the company is far more valuable.
Faster alerting through a call on movement where no tag is present would be a significant step forward, though I guess false alarms would still occur and no doubt have an impact on the in-house monitoring centre, though it could be argued that the subscription cost should justify it.
With several bike brands having their dealers fitting these trackers for ‘free’ to new bikes, it’s vital that they’re properly hidden (and that there’s some variety in the location chosen). Fortunately the Stealth is the smallest tracker we’ve ever seen, so there’s a good chance that if the dealer’s willing to put the time in, thieves won’t find it and it could see your bike returned in just a few hours, were the worst to happen.
For more information on tracking systems, click here.