How Are Motorcycles Stolen? A Rider’s Experience

Many stories regarding stolen motorcycles daily, but how are motorcycles stolen? To steal a motorcycle is easy compared to stealing a car, and you will find out how in this article.

Before then, let me share a story! I was at a little biker bar in Orange County one Saturday evening.


The nachos were soggy, the live band needed more practice, and the beer was flat. It happened to be my best night of the year, though.

how are motorcycles stolen

Two dozen bikes were parked in front. Some Metrics, Harleys, and other mixes. While it sounded like the first band was wrapping up for the next act of the night, a blue panel van backed up to the entrance. Four large roadies lumbered out of the van, and like many others, I only watched.


Next, the bay doors of the van opened and started unloading what appeared to be galvanized fence posts. They approached a custom chopper parked next to the van and ran the fence posts through the front and rear rims.

The guys each grabbed an end with a quick heave and lifted the custom chopper into the van. They shut the bay doors and sped off.

For some seconds, I was dumbfounded like the others. The motorcycle theft operation lasted for 30 seconds.

When I became conscious of what just happened, I could hear murmurs; “what the f**k just happened?


Well, someone’s motorcycle has just been stolen in the presence of two dozen eyewitnesses, and not a soul moved a muscle.

The motorbike had a Kryptonite gorilla chain on it, a passive pager alarm, and the ignition was locked.

The cops arrived and took our statements. The owner explained to the cops that’s he hadn’t LoJack or TelTrac. A cop sighed and claimed it was the work of professionals.

The criminals smash and grab the motorcycle without playing around with Kryptonite chains or disc locks. Later that evening, the stolen motorcycle would have been shredded to pieces and legalized the following day.

How Are Motorcycles Stolen?

Motorcycles are stolen in many ways. Besides, it is easier to steal a motorcycle than a car.

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So, how are motorcycles Stolen?

  1. Trucking

Criminals do not have to ride a motorcycle to steal it. Most motorcycles have steering headlocks, and some have chipped keys that disable the starter circuit. Of course, to steal a motorbike, a thief hasn’t the time to break the lock or disconnect the circuit.

motorbikes getting stolen

They instead lift the motorcycle into a truck; it is even easier if the immobilizer lock on the front brake disk does not have an anti-tamper/motion detection alarm.

Wrap a chain around the motorcycle and hoist it into the back of the truck. Drive the truck to the lair, and cut the locks, and that is how motorcycles are stolen so easily.

  1. Bike Jacking

Criminals can bike-jack a motorcycle while it is in motion. While you are riding, a group of motorcycle thieves, typically 2, 3, or more, rams into your bike, and they steal it. It could be at gunpoint, but that’s not usual in most states.

Stealing a motorcycle with a screwdriver

When the criminals ram into your bike on motion or not, it appears like an accident. For some few seconds, passers-by think it’s an accident. An accomplice hits you off your motorcycle, and they ride off.

  1. Gunpoint

The most critical method of stealing a motorcycle is gunpoint. You either comply or get shot, and you can’t help the situation because your life is at stake.

What happens to stolen motorcycles

Typically, victims are trailed by the thieves until they ride to an enclosed area before they strike. When you sense being trailed, speed up to check whether the vehicle behind does the same. If they speed alongside, that’s a sign that you’re trailed.

Moreover, if you find yourself in this situation, avoid eye contact; look down all the while until the criminals zoom off.

  1. Hot-Wiring

To hotwire a motorcycle, it must be with no locks, and criminals hotwire motorcycles when the owners are unaware.

Typically, hot-wiring occurs at night, and the thief can ride home without the need to break the locks.

How does hotwire work?

Get tools such as short-length wire, flathead screwdriver, wiring diagram, and some electrical tape. Perform a quick internet search to determine the serviceable electrical layout. Note that modern motorcycles feature immobilizers that protects them against hot-wiring theft.

Locate the key switch connector. Trace the wires from the key switch; they should terminate in s plastic connector. Open the connector using the small screwdriver to disclose the terminals.

Complete the circuit. The key switch serves an essential function; disconnect the motorcycle’s ignition circuit when in an off state. Use the wire to complete the circuit, if not the key switch. Find the ignition terminals on the writing diagram and connect them with the wire.

Suppose you do it correctly, the lights will turn on, and you can start the motorcycle. Mercer, there should be no sparks. If the motorcycle isolates the ignition circuit from essential functions as lights or instrument cluster, get additional wire jumpers. Lastly, tape the connections. If the connections fall out, the motorcycle will die like you turned off the key.

Are motorcycles stolen often?

Following the recent NICB motorcycle theft report, almost 41,000 motorcycles were stolen in 2019. Most thefts occurred in warm-weather states and in the warm-weather months of July, August, and September.

However, motorcycle theft has decreased 12% since 2016. Reported thefts totaling 46,667 in 2016 dropped to 44,268 in 2017, 41,674 in 2018, and 40,380 in 2019.

California was the state with the most reported motorcycle thefts with 6,913, Florida followed with 4,085, and Texas with 3,165 reported thefts.

Can someone steal my motorcycle?

Of course, someone can steal your motorcycle. However, maintaining the basic security measures ensure that nobody steals your motorcycle easily.

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How to Keep Your Motorcycle from Being Stolen

A motorcycle can’t be 100% secured. However, the tips below keep your motorcycle from being stolen:

  1. Keep the Lock Off the Ground

Regardless of the lock you use, do not rest it on the ground; otherwise, a thief can get the leverage to break it. When the lock stays off the ground, a thief doesn’t have extra leverage to pry the lock open. Attach the chain or lock through the frame, fork, or wheel.

  1. Use Heavy Lock or Chain

A lightweight lock gets broken easily. Use heavy locks to chain your motorcycle; it should deter thieves from prying.

  1. Get Multiple Locks

One lock is enough, but multiple locks do the job better. Lock the motorcycle in a manner the thieves can’t think of trucking it away easily.

  1. Lock Your Steering Lock

Locking your steering wheel keeps thieves from riding your motorcycle away, but it does not stop them from dumping it in their truck or van.

  1. Install an Alarm

Alarms are good to attract attention when someone attempts to steal your motorcycle. Unfortunately, it does not help much, especially if you’re far from your motorcycle.

For a good setup, hide the alarm under the airbox, and all the wiring within the factory looms.

  1. Install the Kill Switch

Wire up a spring-loaded or kill switch to foil motorcycle thieves. It must be held down when the start button is depressed.

Some riders simply remove the main fuse when they park their motorbikes to foil the attempts to steal their motorbikes.

  1. Mind the Parking Location

Do not park your bike outside an apartment complex, especially if it’s a gated parking garage. A gated parking garage is a preferred spot for bike thieves to come shopping for your bike.

What happens if someone steals your motorcycle?

When your motorcycle is stolen, file a police report and inform your insurance. If the motorcycle has a lien, inform the lienholder immediately. Although the chance of recovering a stolen motorcycle is slim, you must act faster before the criminals make the stolen motorcycle legit.

Does a thief plan before stealing a motorcycle?

Yes. Most stolen motorcycles are targeted and trailed. Like every activity, motorcycle theft involves identifying the target and striking. Depending on the vehicle owner, the motorbike theft may require jacking, trucking, or riding off. If you park in a garage, the thief devises a means to break in and steal your motorcycle.

Read Now: Get rid of a motorcycle without a title.

Can a motorcycle be stolen?

Yes. A motorcycle can be stolen at any time and anywhere. Before you steal a motorcycle, you must target specific parts, including the engine and tires or the entire motorcycle.

Meanwhile, whether a motorcycle is locked/chained or not, you can jack it easily, but don’t get caught. My custom bike was hijacked some time ago, and it forced me to research motorcycle theft. I discovered the steps criminals employ to steal motorcycles and get away with it.

Although stealing a motorcycle looks easy, your heart beats faster when you get closer to the bike. You fear the owner could be watching and then fires a gun at you. The surveillance camera could also capture your identity, and you might run into the cops.

Note that cops do not give bikers hot pursuits, especially when they have no helmet on, except they’ve been informed about theft.

How Do You Steal a Motorcycle

how do you steal a motorcycle

You don’t just approach a motorbike to steal it. The best practice is to plan the operation and know when to call it off.

Meanwhile, how do you steal a motorcycle?

Research Your Target

First, get to know the target. As a vehicle theft prankster, you must understand what you’re doing before the hit.

Be familiar with the location of the bike, the escape routes, and the shortest distance to your stolen motorcycle lair.

Know the motorcycle type. Research the security features of the motorcycle, and figure out the techniques to bypass them.

If you plan the hit at night, the parking spot must be without light.

Establish What Theft Method to Use

Depending on the type of motorcycle and how the owner secures it, figure out a suitable method to steal it.

If the owner locks their motorcycle always, trucking might be the best option. Bike jacking is also perfect for stealing a secured motorcycle, but it exposes you to getting shut.

Approach the Motorcycle

To steal the motorcycle, get closer to it, relax on the seat while searching around to ensure the owner is not approaching.

If you’re trucking the motorcycle, do not take more than 30 seconds to put it in the truck, and zoom off. You can spy the motorcycle from afar, pull the truck in, and steal it.

Methods for Stealing a Motorcycle

I have discussed how motorcycles are stolen. Let’s see some of the methods you can use to steal a motorcycle as mentioned already:

Motorcycle Hot-Wiring

Hot-wiring a motorcycle is a smart way to steal it. Some modern motorbikes have been designed to prevent hot-wiring, though.

Do the following:

Get the Tools

The tools may vary, but you need a small flathead screwdriver, electrical tape, wiring diagram, and short-length wire.

Run a quick internet search for a serviceable electric layout. Modern motorcycles may feature immobilizers that deter you from hot-wiring.

Find the Key Switch Connector

Follow the wires from the key switch. The wires should terminate in a plastic connector. Use a small screwdriver to open the connector to uncover the terminals.

Complete the Circuit

The key switch served a simple function; disconnect the motorcycle’s ignition circuit when in the off position. You may perform a quick internet search if you do not know what an ignition circuit looks like.

The wire can complete the circuit like the key switch. Find the ignition terminals on your diagram, and connect them with the wire.

Move the Bike

When you hotwire the motorcycle correctly, the lights should come on, and you can start it. There should be no sparks. Meanwhile, some motorcycles may isolate the ignition circuit from other functions, including the instrument cluster or lights.

Get additional wire jumpers necessary to make it function properly. Tape the connections, and if they fall out, the bike will die like you turned the key off.

Dumping It in a Van

Another method regarding how you steal a motorcycle is to dump it in a van or truck. It will be best to have teammates for a successful hit.

After tracking the motorcycle, back up your van for the roadies to lumber out of it.

Open the bay doors of the van, unload the galvanized fence posts, and move the targeted motorcycle inside the van. The hit duration must not exceed 30 seconds if you must succeed.

Remember to use fake plates because of surveillance cameras.


Jacking a bike involves stealing a motorbike while it’s in motion.

Trail the target to a less busy road, and crash into them when they slow down.

A team of two is perfect for the hit, and it should last just 30 seconds.

Do not threaten with a gun since it is just a prank.

Read Next: Can you register a motorcycle without a license?

Make the Stolen Motorcycle Legal

The final step is to make the stolen motorcycle legit. It also allows you to get away with the stolen bike. Note that you need a helmet or face mask for the operation. Be mindful of the items you hold with your hands to avoid leaving your bio print behind. Make sure to use hand gloves and keep your body from contacting any item during the hit.

Return the motorcycle after a successful operation before the owner reports to the police, lienholder, and their insurance. You can always flip a stolen motorcycle for profit, but it is illegal and preferable to report to the police.

Meanwhile, what are the tips to avoid buying a stolen motorcycle?

Things Happen to Stolen Bikes!

When a motorcycle is stolen, what happens, especially when the police are yet to find it? This article reveals what happens to stolen motorcycles and the fate of thieves if they get caught in specific regions.

Yes, it is easy to steal motorcycles, contributing to the surge in motorcycles stolen throughout cities and outskirts.

Everyone, including cops, are curious about where stolen motorcycles end up, and many persons wonder what thieves do with stolen motorcycles.

Meanwhile, there is always the tendency that the motorcycle you buy from a private seller or out of state was stolen. So, make sure to know the things to check for to avoid purchasing a stolen motorcycle.

What Happens to Stolen Motorcycles?

what happens to stolen motorcycles

A lot happens to stolen motorcycles. Typically, when a motorcycle is stolen, the police update the database to report it as stolen, and it would have ended up at the chop shop where it is parted and shipped out of the country. Stolen motorcycles are stored in garages and never taken out unless the thief wants a joyride. Professional thieves rip the VIN plates on every motorcycle part, part it out, and make the stolen motorbike legal.

Below are what happens to stolen motorcycles:

  1. Removing the Number Plates

If a thief steals a motorcycle for joyriding, they put a fake license plate on it to keep it from being identified. You can’t get a plate for a stolen motorcycle, although the database is yet to be updated to show the motorcycle as stolen.

  1. Changing VIN

When a motorcycle is stolen, a pro thief changes the VIN. On one occasion, the Suzuki factory motocross team’s motorcycle was robbed by two thieves. The thieves went to a dealership asking how to change the VIN on the engine and frame. Unknowingly to the thieves, the dealer knew the motorcycles were stolen and contacted the motocross team immediately, and the bike was retrieved.

  1. VIN Switching

This method is a common way to legalize a stolen motorcycle.

Thieves can switch the VIN of a stolen motorcycle with an existing VIN of a similar motorcycle. It is easy to get a VIN; thieves search for similar bikes, copy out the VIN and use it on the stolen bike. When a VIN check is done, the stolen motorcycle appears authentic.

For cruisers and street bikes, thieves go to a junkyard, search for a wrecked motorcycle of a similar model and buy it. They switch the VIN, and the stolen motorcycle is marked as a salvage restore. After inspection, the motorcycle is insured and sold legally.

For motocross and race bikes, people hardly look at the VIN, except a dealership for service.

  1. Shipping Out of Country

A stolen motorcycle can be shipped out of the country. Typically, crooks disassemble it and ship it as parts to avoid getting caught.

A stolen motorcycle can also be disguised with the VIN from a different motorbike and shipped out of the country.

  1. Parting the Bike

At the chop shop, stolen motorcycles are typically dismantled and sold as parts. First, they chop out the engine, followed by other parts with VIN plates. Next, they put up the stolen parts for sale on eBay, Craigslist, etc. Some criminals prefer to flip the dismantled parts at disreputable mechanic shops.

  1. Robbery

When my scooter was stolen, the thieves used it for robbery a few months later. If I did not report the stolen scooter to the police, I would be the number one suspect since the bike would have been traced to me.

Thieves have nothing to lose, after all, when they use a stolen motorcycle for robbery. Most of the time, stolen bikes are sold to kingpins for theft at a bargain.

Of course, no sane robber uses a personal motor vehicle during a robbery to avoid being traced. The number plate is also taken off or replaced with a replica number plate.

  1. Stunting

Several insane rider groups steal motorbikes for stunting. When the motorcycle crashes, they lose nothing, except publishing the stunt videos on YouTube and various platforms for likes and followers. Some wild riders engage the police on a hot pursuit while recording it for social media.

  1. Frame Switching

When a motorcycle is stolen, a criminal can switch the frame with a titled frame. If the new frame is not already titled, the thief can’t title it because the motor vehicle department typically requests the title certificate title.

The victim here is an unsuspecting buyer that purchases the bike with a switched frame without knowing it was switched. Such motorcycles are sold with no title on CL, eBay, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, etc.

  1. Selling the Stolen Motorcycle

Craigslist, eBay, motorcycle trade groups, etc., can be havens for stolen motorcycles and unscrupulous sellers and buyers. When an unsuspecting person purchases the stolen motorcycle, they get pulled over, and the owner or insurance company recovers it. The rider gets to answer questions too.

When you come across bike postings labeled “barn finds” with no title and key, it could be a stolen motorbike. Nonetheless, typical vintage barn find motorcycles have no title initially. The reason is that titles were not issued at the time, and they can still be registered legally.

Also, stolen motorcycles can be posted as a great stunt or track bikes. For example, “2012 GSXR Track Bike for Sale, No Title, No Key, Low Mileage.”

  1. Joyride

A motorcycle can be stolen for a joyride. Typically, when a joyrider is caught with a stolen motorcycle, the penalty is lenient. But if the thief attempts to register the stolen motorcycle, they are converting stolen property, and the penalty is more significant.

Where do stolen motorcycles end up?

Stolen motorcycles end up with “new illegal owners” and sometimes as parts at the bike market. Typically, amateur thieves sell the bike for a few bucks to finance their next meal or buy something valuable for themselves.

What are the chances of recovering a stolen motorcycle?

Concerning the chances of recovering a stolen motorcycle, the recovery rate is not high compared to vehicles. Motorcycles get shredded easily and can be sold almost immediately without their forms of identity, which are the VIN and number plate.

What Happens When a Motorcycle Thief is Caught?

The legal system is different across various countries and continents. Typically, when a motorcycle thief is caught, they are treated following the legal system of the jurisdiction.

In the UK and Europe, a motorcycle thief is charged with grand theft or felony.

Meanwhile, in some third-world countries, when a motorcycle thief is caught, they are beaten mercilessly as punishment. In Iran, for instance, a motorcycle thief’s finger may be amputated.

In Africa, including countries such as Nigeria, and Togo, suspected motorcycle thieves suffer jungle justice or are handed over to the police, depending on the region of the country.

Final Thoughts

Stealing motorcycles is easy, but if a thief is caught in the act, most riders waste no time laying them out with whatever weapons they find.

With social networks today, riding a stolen motorcycle or attempting to sell it can incite riders to accost you. They do not always call the cop; most of the time, they call for an ambulance.

Most of the time, stolen motorcycles are sole to buyers that know they were stolen. They buy them because they are cheaper and then legalize them out of state or country.

Like unscrupulous buyers, scrupulous people purchase stolen bikes ignorantly without checking the VIN, knowing why it has no title and why there are no registration plates.

Meanwhile, read how I got a dirt bike out of impound after riding on the highway.

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