For anyone who owns a Harley, having it stolen by thieves can be devastating.
Harleys are expensive, and saving up to buy one only for someone to steal it is traumatizing. Knowing which brands or models are prone to theft can help you choose which motorcycle to buy.
Do Harleys get stolen more often than other motorcycles?
According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, Harleys are the fifth most-stolen motorcycle brand in the U.S.A. Brands such as Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki, are more likely to be stolen than a Harley. Nevertheless, Harleys are still being stolen in large numbers.
4,769 models were purloined in 2018 alone!
Therefore, securing your Harley is necessary and important.
How Easy Is It To Steal A Harley?
In 2018, motorcycle thieves stole 41,674 bikes-over 4,700 of those bikes were Harleys.
Before we dig further into stolen motorcycles, let’s explain why motorcycles are such attractive targets for criminals:
1. They Are Lightweight
Bikes are lighter than cars and can be hauled off quickly. Two or more people can lift even the heaviest bike.
The fact that bikes are light encourages van-style theft of motorcycles. In a van-style theft, thieves lift a bike, toss it into the back of a van, and leave the scene.
Depending on the bike, the whole process may take less than a minute.
2. They Are Harder to Track and Recover
Unlike cars, which often come with various anti-theft systems, motorcycles have only basic security features.
Although Harley-Davidson has introduced improved hi-tech safety items for newer motorcycles, older models are still at risk. Once your Harley is stolen, the chances you’ll get it back are slim. Of the 41,674 bikes stolen in 2018, only 16,679 bikes were recovered. That means about 25,000 bikes never returned to their owners after they were stolen.
Moreover, stolen bikes, including Harleys, are rarely sold whole. A thief will not attempt to sell a bike unless it is a vintage or high-end model—bikes like these command significant prices on the black market.
Instead, a thief will break down the stolen motorcycle and sell the parts to interested parties.
Motorcycle thieves typically have stolen motorbikes chopped up immediately after the theft, making them virtually impossible to track.
3. They Provide Quick Profit
Whether sold whole or chopped up for parts, stolen motorcycles are very profitable.
Thieves could steal your classic Road King in a van-style robbery and sell it on the black market for a few grand. They could also strip your bike down for parts and sell it on a site like E-bay or Craigslist. Either way, they will still make a profit.
We’ve told you why your Harley-Davidson motorcycle is a potential target for lone robbers and organized theft rings.
But we are sure the burning questions on your mind are:
- How can thieves steal my Harley?
- How easy is it to steal my Harley?
To answer the first question, there are many ways thieves could steal your Harley. They could break into your garage and steal it.
They could hot-wire the bike and ride off with it from the pavement where you parked it. However, all these methods are variations of two classic motorcycle theft techniques.
Lift and Go Method
The first method is the classic “lift-and-go,” which we earlier described as the “van-style theft.”
You can easily guess how a lift-and-go theft will play out from the name. First, a group of guys pulls up close to your parked Harley in a van or truck. Some or all of them jump down, lift the motorcycle, and dump it in the vehicle’s storage.
Once done with loading the bike on the getaway vehicle, the robbers drive off. The lifting and loading is the reason the method is described as the “lift-and-go” method.
Although risky and crude, the lift-and-go method remains a favorite for thieves. One reason for this is that it reduces the time spent stealing a motorcycle. No thief enjoys spending time on a theft.
Depending on how heavy the target bike is, a lift-and-go theft can be executed in less than a minute. Any more, and the odds of being caught in the activity increases dramatically.
The method makes stealing bikes stupidly easy. No need to disable alarms, pick disc locks, or override the ignition before hijacking a bike. You can just carry a bike and throw it in the back of a vehicle. Even a novice thief can steal almost any bike using this technique.
Besides, the lift-and-go procedure allows thieves to carry out thefts even in broad daylight. Immediately your bike is loaded onto the vehicle, and it becomes practically invisible.
Except your bike has a tracker or alarm, robbers could cross state lines before you discover the theft.
Ride Away Method
The other classic strategy used in filching bikes is the ride-away method.
This method is usually the preserve of highly skilled bike thieves. Like the lift-and-go, the ride-away technique is fairly straightforward. The thief [or thieves sometimes] hops on a bike and rides off.
The thief may have to disable anti-theft systems on the bike, pick disc locks, and cut chains before he can spring the bike. Sometimes, all the thief needs to do is hot-wire your bike before he hits the road with it – this can happen if you parked your motorbike insecurely.
The ride-away tactic is mostly suitable for expert robbers. We say “expert robbers” because it takes considerable skill to bypass all the anti-theft features on a bike and successfully steal it.
Robbers who use this strategy like working alone and plan the theft well in advance before the D-day. They may take time to scout targets in different areas before settling on which one to steal. In fact, some of these guys are contractors who purloin bikes at a client’s request.
Ex-thieves say they prefer this technique, as it makes more sense to ride off on a stolen bike than load it into a van. At a top speed of 75mph, using a van will most likely get you caught. But with a 120 mph bike, any thief can tear down roads and make a successful getaway. For bike thieves, to whom a few seconds can mean success or failure, this is the best method available.
Now to your second question. How is it easy to steal your Harley?
Your Harley is easier to steal than you think. You may have heard people say if a thief wants your bike, he’ll have it. Well, they are not lying, and no, they are not exaggerating the facts. There is little you can do to stop a thief from stealing your precious Harley.
Even the best locks, chains, and alarms cannot save your bike from being purloined. A skilled thief can easily disarm your Harley’s alarm system, pick the lock, cut your chains with a bolt-cutter, and run off with your bike.
However, you can protect your Harley from theft by adhering to the basic rules of motorcycle safety. What are these rules? Read on to find out the best way to safeguard your Harley from theft.
What Are The Most Stolen Harley Models?
There is no readily available data on the most stolen Harley models.
This is largely because Harleys are not the favorite of bike thieves. However, there are reports of people losing specific Harley models in some areas.
In most cases, Harley motorcycle thieves are not very picky; they usually take advantage of the owner’s lax security. So watch out for news about the type of Harley stolen in your area.
If you own that model, your bike might be the next target.
Six Ways To Prevent Your Harley From Being Stolen:
As we said earlier, if a thief desires your bike, he’ll have it.
The truth is every bike, well-secured or not, stands the risk of theft. Don’t give in to despair, though. There are ways you can deter people from stealing your Harley.
The first is by securing it properly. Putting locks, alarms, chains, trackers, etc., on your bikes makes it harder to steal. Multiple safety features on your bike will discourage most bike thieves [except the determined ones].
For instance, a thief would have to pick locks, cut chains, and disable alarms/trackers before he can move your bike. Consequently, the thief will be forced to spend more time trying to steal the motorcycle. The more time a thief spends on the crime scene, the higher his chance of being caught.
Outfitting your Harley with safety features like wheel locks, alarms, and trackers will force any would-be thief to reconsider stealing it.
Other ways to prevent the theft of your Harley are:
1. Lock Your Steering Wheel and Ignition
Locking your steering every time can prevent thieves from starting your bike and riding off with it.
Although thieves can breach steering locks easily, they serve as the first line of defense against theft. Lock the ignition, too, and take the key along.
Many thefts occur because the ignition is turned off but not locked—[or the key was left in the ignition].
2. Avoid Keeping Items That Could Compromise the Safety of Your Harley in the Trunk
Do not keep items such as spare keys in the trunk.
The average thief, even a novice, can pop your bike’s trunk open with something as simple as a butter knife. In fact, leaving keys anywhere on the bike is as good as handing them over to an intending thief.
Another thing you should not keep in your motorcycle trunk is your title. Possession of your bike’s title makes it easy for anyone to sell off the motorcycle to other people.
Instead, keep your title and any other important documents in a safe location.
3. Lock Your Motorcycle to an Immovable Object
Another way to protect your bike from theft is to use a chain to lock it to something that does not move, e.g., lamppost or tree.
Disc locks are great as they prevent anyone from riding your motorcycle in your absence. However, a lift-and-go robbery will render disc locks useless. All a thief needs to do is hoist the bike into a truck, and the bike disappears.
Ensure that the lock/chain is not near the ground. Or else a would-be robber can use a heavy-duty bolt cutter to cut through the lock/chain. Leaving the lock close to the ground also exposes it to “freeze attacks.”
In such scenarios, a robber sprays a lock with a compressed air canister. Canned air contains difluoroethane, which freezes metal. As soon as the lock or chain freezes, the thief smashes it into pieces.
4. Install a Killswitch
A hidden killswitch is a simple-yet-effective way of stopping the bad guys from making off with your Harley motorcycle. The way the killswitch works is that a rider has to press it before starting the bike. A thief who does not know there’s a killswitch on your bike will try starting it to no avail. Even if the thief somehow realizes the device is on the bike, he cannot locate it since it is hidden.
5. Keep Your Bike Concealed When Not in Use
Motorcycle thieves often “scout” for bikes in an area before choosing the one to steal. If thieves don’t see your bike, then they can’t make plans to steal it.
Using something to cover your bike can help deflect the attention of robbers away from your bike. After all, out of sight, they say, is out of mind.
You can take this strategy a notch higher by garaging your bike when you are not using it, especially at night. However, it’s not enough to park your motorcycle in the garage only at night. You should garage it during the day too. If you only park outside during the day, people will know you garage it at night.
As a result, they already know where to target when they want to steal your Harley.
6. Install a GPS Tracker on Your Motorcycle
Motorcycle thieves are increasingly using technology to aid their dastardly activities. With some fancy gizmo in hand, a bike thief can override your motorcycle’s anti-theft system and hijack your Harley bike. In such situations, a GPS tracker is the only thing that can save your motorcycle from disappearing permanently.
Most modern-day GPS trackers can connect directly to your phone and show you the status of your bike. It will tell you whether your bike is running and will display its present location. So, if your bike ever gets stolen, you can easily track it down and recover it.
Harley-Davidson has a similar system called “H-D Connect,” which gives you real-time information about your bike, including its location. It will also tell you if anyone has tampered with your bike or moved it. Moreover, if your motorcycle is stolen, you can share the bike’s present location with police authorities via the H-D Connect App.
What Motorcycles Are Stolen The Most?
Over the years, motorcycle theft has increased, especially as it has become better and more expensive. Also, as we explained earlier, thieves prefer stealing motorcycles. Cars are bigger and often require two or more individuals to steal.
The case is different for motorcycles. Except for grab-and-go thefts, a lone thief can easily plan and execute the theft of, say, a Harley Sportster.
Data from national agencies and police departments suggest that sportbikes are the most stolen motorcycles in the U.S.A. Sportbikes are light and easy to carry off, especially with a lift-and-go robbery.
Thieves can easily strip these bikes for components and sell them on sites like eBay or Craigslist. Given how expensive sportbike components are, a single motorbike can fetch a handsome amount for any thief/motorcycle theft ring. Even when sold whole, collared sport bikes can be lucrative. For example, a 2019 Honda Gold Wing Tour model costs around $27,000 at a dealership. On the black market, a stolen model would likely sell for less [say, $2,000 or $3,000 less] but would still turn in a tidy profit for a bike thief.
With all these, it is not surprising that the top three most-stolen bikes in the U.S.A belong to companies known for making sports bikes. Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki make up the trio of the most-stolen bikes in America. Kawasaki rounds up the top four.
Harley-Davidson ranks are fifth in the top 10 most stolen bikes, which is surprising given how many Harleys are sold yearly. Some attribute the trend to the design of Harleys. According to them, the large weight of Harleys makes them more difficult to steal.
The problem, however, with this reasoning is that motorcycle thieves steal all kinds of bikes. From light sports bikes to heavy cruisers and touring models, a skilled robber can hijack any ride with time, tools, and patience. Heavy or not, your Harley will be stolen faster than you can raise the alarm.
A more plausible reason is that the penchant of Harley owners to customize makes the bikes more recognizable. Hence, they will be harder to sell if stolen. Harley owners are also more discriminating when buying parts. Most of them prefer to buy spares from reputable outlets and not online [where stolen parts are mostly sold].
According to a 2018 study by the National Insurance Crime Bureau [NICB], these are the most stolen motorcycles [by brand]:
- Honda (8,260)
- Suzuki (4,882)
- Kawasaki (4,861)
- Harley-Davidson (4,769)
- Taotao (1,851)
- KTM (780)
- Genuine (515)
- Ducati (455)
- Kymco (413)
Can You Trace A Stolen Harley?
Sometimes, even the best safety measures may not prevent thieves from stealing your Harley. A stolen bike is not the end of the world, although it may feel like it. With newer technology, you can easily recover your stolen motorcycle.
If your Harley is stolen, you can track its movement and present location via GPS. However, this is possible only if you’d attached a GPS tracker to your Harley before the theft.
A GPS tracking device can provide you with up-to-date information on your bike’s present location. If your bike moved beyond a preset radius, the tracker would send an alert to your phone, i.e., if both devices are connected. The GPS tracker will also give you updates on the current location of the bike. Thus, you may track the motorcycle’s movement or share its location with the police authorities.
These GPS devices usually require you to pay for a monthly/yearly subscription to keep the tracking service running at all times. Rates, however, vary across different service providers. So, do your research to see which is best for you.
Here are some of the best GPS tracking devices you may want to consider:
- SpyTec STI_GL300 Mini GPS Tracker
- Trackmate Mini H GPS Tracker for Vehicles
- AMERICALOC GL300W Mini Portable Real-Time GPS Tracker
- Optimus 2.0 GPS Tracker
- Amcrest GPS Tracker
- MOTOsafety GPS Vehicle Tracker
- AES RGT90 GPS Tracker
- Goome GPS tracker
- Coper GPS Tracker
- Eshion Real-Time Mini Tracking Device
If you are not predisposed to installing aftermarket gizmos on your bike, you can use H-D Connect instead.
H-D Connect is a new service that connects owners to their motorcycles. It can do everything a GPS tracker can do and more. H-D Connect provides owners with real-time information on their bikes, such as fuel level, tire pressure, and odometer.
You can check the location of your bike using the H-D Connect Service. If someone bumps into your bike or tampers with it, the H-D Connect will alert you via the H-D app. If the bike is stolen, H-D Connect has a GPS-enabled motorcycle tracking feature that allows you to share its location with police authorities.
The H-D Connect service costs around $150 per year but is free for the first year on a newly purchased H-D Connect equipped Harley. It is mostly available on select models in the 2019/2020 line and can run on almost any phone on the Android or iOS platform.
What Happens To Stolen Harleys?
There are majorly two reasons a thief would steal your Harley. One is to re-sell it whole on the black market. The other is to strip it down and sell all the parts individually to buyers.
Therefore, whatever happens to your Harley after it is stolen depends on the robber’s motive for the theft.
If the thieves are after parts, they will take your bike to a “chop shop.” Chop shops build “chopper bikes” using parts from different motorcycles. Thus, they are extremely skilled at breaking down a motorcycle to the smallest part.
They may sell the parts to sleazy dealers who eventually sell them on eBay or Craigslist, advertising them as original to unsuspecting owners.
However, if the bike in question were likely to command a high price, thieves may sell the entire motorcycle. Such bikes include vintage classics, newer high-end models, and heavily customized motorbikes. These Harleys command high value, and there’s always someone willing to pay a premium for them.
The journey of a bike to be sold in as a whole is similar to the one sold in parts. Thieves will take the bike to a chop shop or a customization shop where mechanics modify the motorbike to avoid easy recognition. Color, suspension, etc., may be changed to create a new look for the bike.
Afterward, the bike is advertised online and sold to the highest bidder.
Every Harley owner lives with the fear of his/her Harley-Davidson motorcycle getting stolen by criminals.
Although every bike has an equal chance of being stolen, you can make it harder to steal your hog. Simple things like keeping your Harley out of sight and parking in well-lit environments go a long way in preventing theft.
Remember, it’s about making your bike harder to steal. Thieves are rational beings who weigh up the risks against the benefits of an act. If a thief sees a high chance of being caught stealing a motorcycle, he may be forced to pass on such a bike.
Always remember to take your key with you. Park your bike securely, too. Locking it to a sturdy object like a tree is a good strategy. A ground anchor to secure your bike firmly to the ground is good too.
The crucial thing is to ensure that your safety tactic has no weaknesses a thief can exploit to steal your motorcycle.
Stay safe and ride well!