April 7 2009 by Jason Fogelson
Riding a motorcycle is all about managing risk. But what happens when you park your bike - especially overnight at a hotel? How can you manage the risk of motorcycle theft while you're asleep?
Back in the good old days, I used to stay at roadside motels where I could pull my bike up on the sidewalk directly outside my window, and keep one ear peeled for any bike rustlers. Some guys I knew even rode their beloved choppers into their rooms. I had a cousin who claimed that he once rebuilt his Harley's transmission in a motel bathtub during a cross-country trip. Now that I'm staying in nicer places, I've had to develop other, more socially acceptable strategies to protect my Sportster.
The best defense for your motorcycle is visibility. If the hotel you've chosen doesn't have indoor or secure parking, talk with the concierge or desk clerk when you check in, and discuss your concerns. Ask if you can park your motorcycle in clear view of the front entry. Make clear that you're not asking them to take responsibility for your bike - they won't, nor should they - but that a visible parking space in a high-traffic area will help you to sleep more soundly.
A motorcycle alarm can be a good investment, and may actually save you some money on your insurance. A good alarm will come with perimeter and motion sensors and paging system to alert you if your bike is approached or moved. Talon Alarms makes complete systems starting at around $129.
I always carry a couple of locks and cables with me when I travel, and I lock my bike to a large stationary object, like a light pole, every time I park overnight. Kryptonite makes some great armored cables and the New York FAHGETTABOUDIT Chain (starting at $126) that will deter opportunistic criminals looking for a quick "roll-off" theft. Add an alarmed disc lock, like the ones from Xena (starting at $86.99), for additional protection.
I also always carry a bike cover to make my bike a little less attractive to passers-by. I've discovered that the compact, stretchy covers from Geza Gear (starting at $74.95) do the job, and pack down into a tiny pouch to keep me traveling light.
When all else fails, LoJack now makes a motorcycle-specific theft recovery unit ($595 plus installation). They also make a combination alarm/theft recovery product called "LoJack Early Warning" ($695 plus installation) that will page, call and email you instantly if your bike is started or moved. Hopefully it won't come to that, but if it does, it's nice to know that you might have some chance of seeing your bike again.