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One million stolen motorcycles never found

Around one million motorcycles stolen in the UK since 1973 have never been recovered. That’s according to Dr Ken German, who served in the Metropolitan Police Stolen Car Squad unit and now holds a PhD in international vehicle crime. Dr German has calculated that over 900,000 bikes nicked in the last 50 years have never been recovered – add in those not reported, off-road and race machines, he writes, and the total amounts to a cool million.

Between 1973 and 1987, 675,000 bikes were stolen in the UK, of which 405,000 were never recovered. These would have been cloned, stripped to their component parts, were exported or the subject of insurance fraud. In the following five years to 1992, 190,000 were stolen with over 123,000 not recovered, and the following decade saw another 195,000 machines join the missing list, with a further 200,000 missing up to 2022.

Ken German points out that since the bad old days, the theft rate has fallen to around 25,000 bikes a year while the recovery rate has improved to about 40%, thanks largely to advances in security technology. He adds that classic bike buyers should beware of fake V5 registration documents – 200,000 blank V5s were stolen from the DVLA in 2010. Although some 70,000 of these were recovered, it’s still a case of buyer beware. “These ‘blanks’ are clearly still out there,” said Ken German, “only now being offered as ex-museum items, collectors’ pieces or barn finds.”

The latest theft figures show that 9492 powered two-wheelers were stolen in January-May 2023 – 2.6% down on 2022 – of which 58% were motorcycles, the remainder being scooters and quads.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, said: “Crickey, that’s a lot of bikes. I can remember the days of Yamaha Elsie’s being raced , and the number that were pranged one day and the rider have a pristine ‘repaired’ bike the next. As an acquaintance, an ex-cop, said to me, ‘it’s amazing how many complete sets of plastics some people are selling, generally every crashed bike I’ve ever seen has one side that’s OK, and the other’s trashed, funny that.’ Theft has been an issue, especially in London and the South East, for many years, especially high-end bikes, hopefully its being tackled more thoroughly than in the past. The BMF have always supported the Motorcycle crime Reduction Group’s activities.”

Written By Peter Henshaw

Top image by Peter Henshaw