what if… your bike is stolen?

First of all, let me give you  an update on our preparations. I have agreed with the shipping company to deliver the bikes to them on the 9th of April. A bit of preparation to do first on them but we should be fine by then.

The CRF250 (Alistair’s bike) is currently in Somerset in the trusted hand of Gabriel (Zen Overland) getting a luggage frame built for the soft panniers.

I have ordered the Carnets (kind of passport for the bikes, required in south Africa). The carnets’ price are based on the value of the bikes and allow for a temporary import of the bikes into SA.

I had my vaccinations checked, this is extremely important, and had  a jab for Typhoid. I am up to date with everything else, and, apparently, I will never need another rabies booster again ever. Covered for life! Although, rabies might be the least of my worries if I were bitten or scratched by a lion!

I also bought a large supply of Doxycycline as anti-malaria.

So, let me start the “What if” series with the bike being stolen. People who start preparing an overland motorcycle trip can worry about pretty much anything. I know that prior to my first overland trip, one year around South America with my ghastly BMW, I certainly did.


Well, as it happens, I have a bit of experience there. Five month into our trip around south America, we stopped in the sleepy little town of Imbituba, Brazil. The place was empty of tourists as it was out of season, sometime in October, and middle of the winter (southern hemisphere). The weather was cold, it was raining and we wanted a nice place to rest. I had been having quite  a lot of problems already with my bike, further north, with the battery dying repeatedly, and various other issues. We found that little Pousada, the price was correct. We rode the bikes into the compound, parked them in a shed, away from the rain and from prying eyes in the street. We put the steering locks but they were not chained. The shed had no doors.

 The town is famous for surfing, during  the high season, and for whale watching. This is a big nursery area for Southern Right Whales so you can see many females with their babies.

So we took a boat and went to see them, the next day. It was well worth it.


 The next morning, Alistair went for a wander and woke me up. He asked me “Did you move your bike?”. AS it was 7am and nothing would ever get me out of bed before at least 8am, unless work (!), fat chance of that happening. We walked to the shed. My bike was gone. For few minutes my brain went into “can’t compute” mode. The bike was there last night. Should be there. Why is it no there? Is the bike defying the laws of physics and vanished? I had to eventually admit that the bike was gone. Stolen.

 We found the owner of the Pousada and with a mix of English, Spanish and Portuguese managed to communicate. He took us to the police station. The following few days were the worse of our trip. I won’t go onto all the details. After the police station we went to a bakery for food and coffee and to decide what to do next. I am in charge of the communications.

So I contacted the motorcycle communities through a motorcycle  travel website. The response the following few days was insane and amazing. I had motorcycle clubs as far as Ciudad del Este (at the border with Paraguay – notorious place for smuggling) watching the border in the lookout for my bike. People emailing me from all over Brazil, apologizing for the theft happening in their country,  and offering help, accommodation, advise ….

We also contacted the local newspapers. The thinking behind that was to put pressure on the police to do something. The next day our photo was on the front page of the local paper.

 Meanwhile we started looking into what to do to continue our trip. I had set on this adventure to motorcycle around South America for a year, and I had no intention to let a little toe rag destroy the trip of a lifetime! To cut a long story short, the police eventually found my bike, 300km south, and arrested the thief that had stolen it (he was well known to them) and he went to jail. According to the local police, the thief had probably targeted and followed us,  and waited for the right time to steal the bike.

 Now I make a confession: at the back of my bike was a very sturdy chain. We did not use it on the day when the bike was stolen. We could have fallen into the blame game with Alistair. Kind of “Why didn’t you chain the bikes together?” – “Well why didn’t YOU?” etc… Except that we don’t function like that. What was done was done. We had to come with a  solution and work as a team. This is important. Stuff will happen in a trip like this. If  you are traveling with someone, unless you work as a team when faced with big problems,  your partnership will not last.

And we learnt our lesson. We always chain the bikes together. If you carry a chain, use it!

 Motorcycle travellers getting their bike stolen during their trip is still a very rare event, you have more chance of getting your bike stolen from your house if you live in Greater London. But if you are concerned, make it that bit harder for the opportunists: use a sturdy good quality chain, and try, when possible to get the bike in a secured parking. Our bikes have often been guarded by very scary looking dogs, up some stairs in front of the hotel receptionist, in many hotels’ lobbies, police officer’s bedroom, military compound etc… Ask around and you will be surprised.

But should this happen, don’t despair. Put things into perspective. It could be worse. Really, it could!

Imagine if a loved one or yourself was diagnosed with terminal cancer or some terminal illness? Now, how does your bike being stolen fare vs that fact? Pretty low, right?

 The simple fact is, unless big health problem or death, all problems on the road are down to time and money. If you are on the road, you should have plenty of time… and make sure you have contingency money!