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I’ll do my best to keep this short and brief enough that even us attention-deficit kids can read along. Realistically though, security is a topic that could fill a novel.

In this write-up I’ll make asset-security the focal point of discussion. Essentially, protecting the items that belong to us (namely: luggage and the motorcycle itself).

The funny thing about security is that it’s ever-evolving, while the physical elements for maintaining security aren’t changing. A disc lock is still a disc lock and a steel core strap is still… you get the point.

What I mean is that our notion… our concept of “security,” is based on self-perception and thatis always changing with experience. I do things and go places in Africa right now, with confidence that my stuff will stay secure, that I wouldn’t DARE do in London (a city whose motorcycle theft-epidemic defies explanation… but I’m not going to allow myself to go off on a tangent about the issue that is making RTW motorcyclers avoid one of the most touristic cities in the world like the plague).

That’s the travel experience that I’m talking about though. Prior to my travels, inexperienced-me was foolish enough to think that cities in western countries, like in Europe and the US for example, were safer from property crime than in “dangerous” Africa. I thought for sure that Honduras, El Salvador or Brazil would require more hyper-vigilance than in Europe, but actually it’s quite the opposite.

The point is that experience has taught me to read situations and my surrounding environments to determine what precautions are required. Funny as it may be, I’m always more comfortable with my motorcycle and its luggage being safer in the third-world than in our comfort-zone utopia(s).

Soft vs Hard I spent my first 2 years with hard panniers, traveling around with the naive belief that I was keeping my stuff safer. Now, as I work my way from “Cape to Cairo” (bottom of Africa to the top) I roll through villages with my Backcountry panniers, 60L duffle, and Nomad tank bag… All of which could be sliced open with a knife.

Here’s the thing, I’ve come to reality with the fact that a bad guy, willing to take a knife to soft bags in public, is justas willing to take a flat head screwdriver to hard-cases. Ask me how I know. No, don’t… I promised not to talk about London.

Simply put, the reason for the shift to soft luggage comes with experience-based knowledge that there is no correlation in loss (due to theft) in the whole soft vs hard luggage conversation – None. Prove me wrong.

See, in London, hard cases or not, five gang-sponsored teenagers will just pick the whole motorcycle up and throw it in the back of a van in front of 2,000 tourists and police officers in front of Big Ben… Ok, I’m done… No more London.

Where am I going with this? Protecting your motorcycle luggage whole motorcycle, as if it were your cell phone, is going to be a far more effective approach to security than worrying about whether somebody will cut your bags open to steal your dirty underwear. Be smart about where you leave your belongings unattended. Be cognizant of where it’s parked and if you do plan on leaving it unattended, there are a few precautions that can be taken.

1.) Publicity, publicity, publicity – Just about everywhere in the world, outside of London, a highly-visible public location is in itself, a security layer. Most would-be-thieves prefer some privacy while being scum bags.

2. Cover it! A motorcycle cover is, in my opinion, the single simplest, least expensive, and most effective deterrent against “prying eyes.” Removing visual temptation is a huge step towards keeping your belongings safe.  It’s the same concept as throwing your valuables in the trunk versus leaving it in plain view.

Not only that, but as silly as a paper-thin piece of vinyl may seem towards vigilance, it is an extra layer of security.  The cover alone requires, from a bad guy, an extra suspicious-looking step to be taken in order to gain access to your belongings.
“I don’t want to cover the whole bike every time I take a leak at a gas station,” I’ve think to myself every single day.

Relying on the same mentality, it’s why I use my blue Nomad tank bag cover to hide just the bag. It takes literally 3 seconds to snap on. Again, it’s one of those “out of sight, out of mind” security measures that make a bad guy think, “Ugh… pain in the ass, I’ll just go to the next unsecured-looking tank bag”

3.) Disc Locks – My problem with disc locks is that when I wake up in the morning, hungover in a small village in Ireland …still smelling like the Guinness Brewery… I forget to take it off. I release the clutch, roll forward,  and promptly drop the bike on a cobblestone street in front of pretty Irish girls... Jokes aside (that wasn’t really a joke) the disc lock is a simple, affordable, and effective measure at making a bike really difficult to move for the average opportunistic thief whose looking for an easy “roll it in neutral” getaway.

4.) Locking of the handlebars – Umm… hmm… This conversation is as incendiary as a motorcycle oil thread. Some will say to lock every time, some to lock sometimes, some… never at all. I’m on the never-at-all team. The power of one human can easily break the steering-mechanism lock and believe it or not, there are stories of bikes being written off as a total loss due to frame and ignition damage. To me, it’s kind of like rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking-Titanic. It’s like leaving your wallet on your dashboard in Seattle but locking your doors… You’re going to lose your wallet and have to replace glass. Anyways, you do you.

5. Park it inside – Perhaps my favorite part about the “rest of the world” is the lack of regulatory code as it relates to motor vehicles being parking inside commercial habitable space. I’ve parked overnight in bars, coffee shops, mosques, the lobby of hotels, and even an airplane hanger. If you can get it off the public street, do so. It’s super easy to find secure parking by using the “iOverlander” app.

The name of the game is “Be a pain in the ass to would-be-thieves.” Humans will inherently take the path of least resistance and the concept directly applies to motorcycle-security.

I hope these pointers and observations help, even if just a little. More importantly, I hope this outlook puts to ease some of the apprehension many of us hold when it comes to traveling abroad.

Life (and security) outside the comfort zone isn’t that scary! I promise!



Tim Burke

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