Scooter rider safety and security tips | FEATURE
Scooters and mopeds are a popular choice for many people looking to get on the road, thanks to their light-weight frames, easy-to-handle nature and their ability to leave long queues of four-wheeled traffic behind.
However, some of the features that make scooters so popular are also the reason they are often targeted by thieves.
15,000 London thefts
In 2017, more than 15,000 mopeds, scooters and motorcycles were stolen in London alone. The shocking statistics have prompted the police and Motorcycle Industry Association to open a dialogue with moped and motorcycle riders to learn about their riding habits and views on security.
It’s easy to think that once you put the steering lock on and remove the key from the ignition, your scooter becomes difficult to steal – but it couldn’t be further from the truth.
As well as being lightweight, and therefore easier to simply pick up and put in the back of a van than heavier motorcycles, scooters also suffer from the detrimental fact that their steering locks are easy to break. If this is the only security you’re using, it isn’t difficult for a criminal to simply snap the built-in lock mechanism and wheel your vehicle away.
Simple scooter security
To make your moped or scooter less appealing to thieves, there are a number of security measures you can employ. These include disc locks, grip locks, heavyweight chains or D-locks and even a simple cover.
Putting a cover on your vehicle might not seem like it has any security benefit, because you aren’t preventing parts from moving or attaching the scooter to anything solid. But bear in mind that thieves will often be looking for particular types of bike – whether it’s because they’re looking for one with a higher value, or one that’s easier to get started without its key.
They’ll also be looking for security measures that might slow down a theft, and if your scooter is hidden under a cover they can’t immediately tell whether it’s lock-free or laden down with hardware.
Using scooter covers really does deter thieves, who don’t want to waste time removing them to see what’s underneath. And of course, the added benefit is that your scooter stays dry if it rains and doesn’t get faded by the sun.
Disc locks & Grip locks
Disc locks are a handy security tool because they’re small enough to fit in your pocket or under-seat storage, but sturdy enough to stop your vehicle from simply being pushed away if the steering lock is broken. The downside for scooter riders is that many of them don’t fit the smaller discs/wheels of some scooters.
These are best used on your rear wheel, as scooter front wheels are usually designed to be easy to remove, and it’s important to remember to take the lock off before you try to ride away so that you don’t damage your brakes.
The downside of a disc lock is that it doesn’t stop your scooter being picked up and taken elsewhere by someone with the tools to remove the lock later on. For this reason, it’s best to use one in conjunction with a chain or D-lock that will secure your vehicle to an immovable object.
Grip locks are also pocket-sized and serve the purpose of preventing a bike from being wheeled away, by clamping a brake lever to a handlebar so that it can’t be let off. These are sometimes easy to defeat with only simple tools, but can act as a deterrent if your scooter is parked next to other vehicles that don’t have any security. At a glance, thieves are likely to pass over a bike with a grip lock in favour of something they don’t have to struggle with.
Chains & D-locks
As well as using a disc lock or grip lock to immobilise your vehicle, it’s best to secure it with a chain or D-lock where possible. Designated motorbike parking areas will usually have ground anchors you can connect to, but failing this you may be able to lock your scooter to metal railings or a lamppost.
Always be aware of the weakest point in your security measure – attaching a vehicle to a wooden fence means it’s easy to break the thing you’ve ‘secured’ it to, and wrapping a chain around a bollard won’t be any help if thieves simply lift the vehicle away.
If locking your vehicle to an object isn’t feasible then a chain lock can be threaded through your bike frame and back wheel as another form of immobiliser. Loop it tightly so that it doesn’t trail on the ground, as this will make it harder to break off. With the help of a hammer or angle grinder, a chain that is trailing on the ground could quickly be removed.
Fitted alarms & Bike DNA
Using an add-on alarm system is considerably cheaper than having to buy a new scooter, and depending on your insurance policy the chances are it’s cheaper than paying the excess on any claim you might have to make if your bike is stolen, or left damaged by thieves.
Using motion sensors and integrated sirens, alarms are likely to scare off any would-be thieves and at the very least will alert passers-by to the fact your vehicle is being stolen – which may not be obvious if someone has simply snapped the steering lock and started walking away with it. Some insurers offer discounts on scooter insurance if you have an alarm system fitted, so it’s worth checking this too.
Another worthwhile investment above and beyond basic locks and chains is motorbike DNA or data dots, which are equally useful on scooters and mopeds. While these add-on, near invisible identifiers, won’t stop your vehicle getting stolen, they do make it a lot easier to trace stolen vehicles and parts, and return them to their rightful owners in the event that a theft does occur.
Safe parking spots
As well as covering your scooter and using at least one, but ideally two forms of security protection, parking your bike in the safest spots is an undeniable way to minimise the risk of theft. At home, garages and sheds enhance security and make theft much more difficult. If you don’t have either option, try to park somewhere well-lit and in clear view of CCTV cameras.
While it can be tempting to leave spare keys and even paperwork relating to your scooter in storage compartments when you’re parked, don’t do it. Most seat locks and side panel locks can be opened with a butter knife and these storage spaces should only be used for things you can afford to lose.
Out and about, designated motorbike parking areas with security loops or stands are a number one choice. If these are unavailable, areas with lots of people, good lighting and CCTV remain the next best thing.
The small size and manoeuvrability of a moped/scooter makes parking in all kinds of tight spots very convenient, but well-hidden parking spots are as convenient for thieves as they are for you – allowing them to remove locks and other security measures uninterrupted and out of sight.
Whether you’re riding a vintage scooter that stands out in the crowd or a modern moped designed to blend in, securing your bike is cheap, easy and effective. With a few basic measures – such as a lock, chain and cover – you can minimise the risk of returning one day to an empty parking space.
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