City Motorcycle Security 101: Advice from a NY Cop

I recently spent a little time in New York City.  The motorcycles all looked so naked and vulnerable in the city that I had to wonder about their security.  On a whim, I stopped on the street to talk to a couple of NYPD officers about the ins and outs of keeping a city bike relatively safe.  After they realized that I was not another tourist looking for directions to Central Park, they were actually very helpful.  As luck would have it, one was a motorcyclist.  Here are the highlights of what I gleaned from our conversation.

The officer’s first advice was, “Don’t advertise the merchandise.”  After a little explanation, it became clear what he meant.  It’s fine to show off our motorcycles while we are riding them, or when we are in the close vicinity.  However, when they are parked for any length of time in a crime zone (which, unfortunately is just about everywhere where there are people), they need to be covered.  “Out of sight, out of mind” is truly the best adage here.  He also said that a nondescript cover is best.  If you are covering a Hypermotard, having “Ducati” emblazoned on the cover in full Italian colors is defeating the purpose of anonymity.  The officer also said that a small lock on the cover prevents it from becoming a causality of the streets.


The cover advice was great, but that security only goes so far.  Our discussion moved to locks.  His first advice seemed a bit obvious; “Use the steering lock.”  However, we all need to be reminded of this built in security measure.  He went on to say that it’s best to lock the front wheel in such a way that, when rolled in the locked position, it hits the curb.  What he meant was, when possible, the arc of the locked motorcycle should make it hard to roll to an easier theft position.   Good advice.

Our conversation thread shifted to disc locks.  His advice was that they should be used every time a bike is parked in the city.  Interestingly, he said that the alarm-style disc locks are typically not loud enough to make a difference in the noise of the streets.  He added that the brightly-colored “tethers” that warn the rider that the lock is in place, have an added bonus.  They let thieves know that the bike is a tougher mark.

Finally, he said that for extended parking, chaining the bike to a pole is a good idea.  He warned that chaining to some city structures is illegal.  However, he went on to say that if the locked motorcycle does not interfere with, block, or damage the sign or meter, chaining is usually fine.


Before I parted company with one of New York’s finest, I asked for any other tidbits on city bike security.  After a moment of thought, he added, “Don’t park in the same spot consistently.  It just makes it too easy for a thief to make a plan of attack.”  He went on to say that areas of consistent light are helpful in keeping a bike safe.  While that may seem obvious, when you are parking the bike in the day, you need to predict what light the spot will offer after dark.  As I started to walk away, the officer added, “Oh, and don’t lock your helmet by the strap in the city.  It’ll be gone in no time.”

While on the surface much of what the officer said seems like common sense, his words serve as a good reminder.  While any one of the suggestions he offered may not insure motorcycle safety, used in combination they may just keep your motorcycle “yours”.


Written by Tim Kessel, Courtesy of