Tested: Datatool TrakKing motorcycle tracker review

John Milbank, BikeSocial Consumer Editor
By John Milbank
BikingMilbank BikeSocial Consumer Editor, John owns a KTM 1050 Adventure. He's as happy tinkering in the workshop as he is on twisty, bumpy backroads, and loves every bike ever built (except one). He's bought three CBR600s, two Ducati Monsters, several winter hacks, three off-roaders, a supermoto pit bike, a Honda Vision 50 and built his own custom XSR700. 

 

Date reviewed: August 2017 | Tested by: John Milbank | Price: £179 + installation & subscription | https://trakking.net

 

Some will argue that they wouldn’t want their bike back if it had been stolen – I used to, but the more I do with and to my motorcycle, and the more it becomes my perfect machine, the more I realise I’d absolutely want to be reunited.

Consider this: the vast majority of motorcycles currently stolen are moved then left – often under a cover – to see if they have a tracker. The last thing a crook wants is to take a machine back to base, only to have it discovered along with other bikes they’re working on. This is your window of opportunity to get it back, so a fast response tracking system could be key to getting your pride and joy back.

In 2015, of the 130 motorcycles stolen with Datatool’s TrakKing fitted, only 14 weren’t recovered. Of the 116 that were delivered back to their rightful owners, the vast majority were back within just two hours. You can follow Datatool’s updates on its Facebook page.

Of course, your insurance company will need to be notified after the police, but the implications of a claim for perhaps a replacement steering lock could have far less impact than a total loss.

I’ve used this unit for almost two years now. While I fortunately haven’t had to use it in anger, I have lived with it day-to-day, and carried out our stringent testing to decide if it’s worth the investment…

 

Features

• Datatool’s TrakKing is monitored 24 hours a day, every day, by an in-house team.

• Designed and built in the UK, it’s approved to Thatcham Category 6, which only applies to devices that have a back-up battery, communication to and from the server, street-level mapping, a police or licensed security agreement, storage for positional data and an ignition off theft alert.

• No speed data is recorded by the unit until the device enters alarm mode.

• TrakKing’s main USP is a powerful external GPS antenna that gives class-leading satellite location accuracy.

• The device is protected to IPX56 – the five means dust can’t damage it, while the six refers to waterproofing from high pressure water jets from any direction.

• European coverage is included in your subscription, which costs £99 per year – that’s 27p per day. Other options include monthly payments of £8.95 (29.5p/day) or £279 for three years (25.5p/day).

• The owner can check the location of their bike easily using an online portal, or with the iOS and Android smartphone app.

• Five free text notifications are given each month – beyond that, you can buy 100 more for £15.

 

Fitting

TrakKing needs to be installed professionally – in the event of a claim, your insurance company could ask to see the certificate. An expert will know the best place to hide the device in order to make it as hard as possible for crooks to find or remove. I had mine installed by ex-RAF electrician Peter Mouncer – the Bike Alarm man, who will sell a fully-fitted TrakKing for £225 if you go to his Warwickshire workshop, or £250 if he comes to you.

I’m unable to show you the device, as like other leading tracking companies, Datatool prefers not to show it. While serious criminals will of course know what to look for, when properly installed it’s still very difficult to spot.

The GPS antenna does add an extra clue, though fitted correctly, its small box and wire is easily hidden. Location is important to ensure the best possible communication with satellites, but one of TrakKing’s advantages is that the main box can be tucked well out of the way, with the antenna cable hidden in the loom and the small box at the end out of sight.

Needless to say, the ability to hide the equipment will vary from bike to bike, but your installer – your nearest can be found here – will be able to choose the best solution.

 

Datatool Trakking review test

The smartphone app makes it very easy to manage the device

 

Day-to-day use

Thanks to the smartphone app, it’s extremely easy to manage TrakKing – after logging in with a passcode or your fingerprint (if you phone supports it), you can disable all alerts, enter garage mode (to disregard battery disconnect alerts), and use transport mode to ignore movement without ignition alerts. You can also easily message the secure operations centre if you need to let them know of anything your bike is about to do, and disable text alerts.

While the alert modes can be quickly scheduled to turn back on so you don’t forget to reactivate them, for instance after a service or trip on a ferry, the text alerts aren’t linked, as they come direct from the unit on your bike. If you forget, it’s easy to use up your free texts when washing the bike, but you do get used to it.

In the two years I’ve had it, I’ve only needed to buy additional text messages twice – I tend to forget more than a typical user as I’m jumping between different machines a lot. Datatool also tells me that the team is going to look at the way text alerts are managed in a future update.

If the bike is moved with the ignition off, you’ll get a text message directly from the device. There’s a delay after turning the bike off before this is activated – handy to avoid false alerts when filling up or putting the bike away after a ride – but once running, the notifications tend to be fairly fast, depending on the mobile phone signal strength (for your phone and the SIM in the unit). Usually, this will not be followed by a call from Datatool, as the automatic geofence will trigger a full alert if the bike starts moving. However, once when working on the bike in my garage, and once at a workshop, I received calls as there were several movement alerts, and a good GPS fix couldn’t be gained; as the operator couldn’t be sure the bike wasn’t moving (maybe inside a refrigerated van), I got a call to see if I was with the bike.

The answer to a security question is always requested by the operator, then the process is very speedy. And of all the false alarms I’ve had, including forgetting to turn it off when in vans, the operators are never annoyed that I’ve forgotten.

While I haven’t felt the need for it, a ‘Key Guard Alarm’ is also available for £30 per year – this will alert you via a text message if the ignition is switched on and the bike moves, protecting it against theft with keys, for instance if you’re away on holiday.

I’ve never had a problem with TrakKing affecting my bike’s battery – in standby it draws little more than 0.5mA, with the most being 250mA when the engine’s running and it charges the internal backup battery.

 

Datatool Trakking review test

Even when in a van with a steel bulkhead, Datatool was able to get a positive fix on my bike

 

Theft test

All our trackers 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, we expect the call centre to demonstrate its full service.

The motorcycle is ‘taken’ in a panel van with metal bulkhead, then we wait to see what happens…

 

Level one: Stolen and left in street: Movement alerts were received on the phone within a minute of starting to shift the bike (simulating the breaking of the steering lock). After approximately four minutes an operator called – if this had been a real theft, I’d then have called the police for a crime number, before passing it back to Datatool so they could talk direct to the force involved.

The bike was successfully tracked to the exact location in the street with pinpoint accuracy. Were this a real theft, the bike would have been recovered extremely easily.

It’s worth bearing in mind that any officer can respond, including PCSOs; with the accurate location information, Datatool can guide them in ready to protect it until it’s recovered.

 

Level two: Stolen and hidden in a building: Again, movement alerts were received as the bike was shifted, and once moving in the van, the Secure Operating Centre called. A solid GPS fix placed the bike in the correct building.

TrakKing doesn’t have an RF beacon that can be activated to allow an investigator with the correct equipment to very precisely locate a bike within around a one mile radius of their location. This can be essential in a block of flats or similar, when it’s not clear to the police which property the bike is in, as they’ll need a warrant for entry.

In our test, the GPS’s location accuracy meant that it was clear which building was involved, so access wouldn’t have been a major issue for the police, who can of course also look at previous activity to make a judgement call on whether they believe stolen property is in a premises.

Occasionally, when checking my bike’s location inside a garage, accuracy of the GPS signal has dropped to around 15 metres – this could make it harder for police to justify entry to a property, but it’s very dependent on the location and circumstances.

 

Level three: Stolen and hidden in a shipping container: As with the previous tests, my phone alerted me to tampering of the bike immediately, and in less than four minutes of the bike being moved in the steel-bulkhead van, I received the call.

The bike was again tracked with excellent accuracy all the way to a shipping container – when in the van, accuracy was supported by seven satellite fixes, and up to eight at times.

When stopped to unload, the bike was very accurately placed until it entered the shipping container, at which point the signal was lost. With no RF beacon, it wouldn’t be possible to locate it further, though if this were the only shipping container, or the police had other grounds to suspect the bike was inside, they’d still be able to get a warrant. Again, recovery statistics indicate this is by far a worst-case scenario.

 

Bike-jacking

If your bike is taken by force, with the keys in it, you can still call Datatool at any time to initiate tracking – while the device doesn’t track by default when running, the team can follow it at any point if necessary.

 

Support

The Secure Operating Centre is always available and very quick to respond. There’s no team of investigators on hand should the police need assistance in locating your bike, though the good recovery rate indicates that this is still not a major issue in motorcycle theft.

Without an RF beacon, there’s no need for the extra expense of investigators – Datatool is confident of the performance of its GPS location system, combined with its rapid response.

 

Conclusion

In some circumstances, the lack of an RF beacon can put TrakKing at a disadvantage compared to some of its rivals like BikeTrac, but the current trend for motorcycle theft still means that the majority are moved then left, giving a window of opportunity that a fast response can take advantage of. It’s a balance between the speed of recovery that effective off-site tracking can deliver, and the chance that your bike might get buried away and need an RF beacon.

At the time of writing, TrakKing’s latest recovery rates are 84.3% (bikes without trackers are recovered at a rate of only around 30%), but this is being affected by scooter crime in London – many of the machines are taken, used for an hour, then burnt out. While Datatool will occasionally send the police to the charred remains, the company won’t count this as a recovery.

There’s also a problem with repeat thefts – some customers are suffering two, three or even four recoveries before finally their powered two wheeler’s not returned, usually as the thieves realise there’s a tracker and start looking for it. One scooter owner has had his 350cc machine stolen (and successfully recovered) six times. Let’s hope he can find somewhere more secure to keep it.

If you’re unlucky enough to have your bike stolen by a crew that strips it in the back of a lorry as soon as it’s pinched, no tracker is going to help much, unless the police are near enough to find the truck and follow it – Datatool has reported the recovery of a bike in Enfield by the Metropolitan police while still moving in a van, thanks to tracking it and directing the officers.

Datatool’s TrakKing is very easy to use, has little impact on your day-to-day use of the bike, and gives a proven, reliable method of tracking and recovering your motorcycle. Despite what social media would have you believe, in London – where motorcycle crime is at its worst – the Met police are quick to respond to thefts in progress. A tracker that can give an immediate response can make a huge difference; not just to getting your bike back, but in nailing the criminal gangs.

For more information on tracking systems, click here.
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