We all know someone who’s had their bikes and/or gear stolen, if we haven’t been the victim of theft ourselves. Lately it seems that thieves are simply hitching up to the trailer and towing the whole thing off. I guess that’s the price we pay for increased popularity of our sport, and the rising value of vintage bikes in particular. So I thought I’d share the steps I’ve taken to try and keep my own stuff secure.
First we need to acknowledge that if a real thief wants your stuff, there’s little you can do about it. But most thefts are crimes of opportunity — someone sees your stuff, sees an opportunity, and takes it. That’s the kind of thing I want to prevent. So here are five things I’ve done to reduce my chances of losing my stuff.
We’ll start with the most obvious. I use an enclosed trailer to tow my bikes and gear. That’s a pricey step that many people don’t want to take, but I use the trailer for hauling street bikes, as well as occasionally hauling other stuff that needs to be kept out of the weather. So the $3k I spent for my 6×12 v-nose enclosed trailer was worth it to me.
Anonymity is good, so I left the exterior of my trailer blank, unadorned with stickers of any kind. There’s no indication of what’s inside. Crimes of opportunity are risk/reward evaluations by the thief. If there’s doubt about what’s inside, the reward part of the equation becomes difficult to assess and maybe they’ll go somewhere else. But if they decide to tackle my trailer I’ve put a few other obstacles in their way.
I use good-quality hitch locks and locking pins. When the trailer is hitched to the truck there are hardened locking pins to keep the hitch closed and keep the hitch in the receiver. Oh, and the ball itself is welded to the hitch (actually, it’s galled so bad you can’t break it loose with a vise and 2-foot length of pipe) so you can’t unbolt anything and get it off the truck.
When the trailer is unhitched I use a good blocking lock that prevents putting the trailer on a ball. None of these things will stop a dedicated thief, but they will slow him down. Total cost for these items was under $50.
Next I purchased a good wheel lock from Trailer Keeper. I really like this unit, as it not only locks the wheel, but covers the lug nut to make it much harder to remove. You can’t just quickly pull the wheel to disable the lock. I use this whenever the trailer is parked. Cost was about $75. So even if the thief disables the hitch locks, towing the trailer away is still a problem.
The final item I added was a security system. Again, this is a pricey item that many people may feel is too expensive. I spent about $650 to have an auto-style theft alarm installed, with it’s own battery and a pager with a 1/2-mile range. Considering I often have $10k+ of stuff in my trailer, $650 seemed a fair investment. The trailer alarm works in conjunction with my existing anti-theft system in the truck, which disables the ignition so driving the whole combination away becomes problematic.
The alarm has magnetic triggers in both the rear and side doors, as well as a motion detector. If the wires are cut, the door(s) opened, or the trailer shaken significantly the alarm goes off, and so does my pager. This is particularly helpful in hotel parking lots.
The alarm was installed by a local stereo shop that does car alarms, and they did a nice job. Again, anonymity is good, so there are no visible signs that a theft-alarm is installed. The idea here is that if a thief does get into the trailer, they won’t be expecting an alarm and will be spooked before they get too far along. And with the pager, I should be able to get there in many cases.
In total, I spent about $800 on security measures, to protect $10k+ of merchandise and give me piece of mind both at home and on the road. None of this guarantees I will never have my bikes, gear, or trailer stolen, but it does raise the odds in my favor and I sleep a lot better at night knowing I’ve done what I can to protect what’s mine.
With luck, anyone looking to hijack my stuff will see the obstacles and simply move on to something that presents an easier opportunity — maybe like your trailer???