Motorcycle Theft - What's Stolen, Where and When

The latest, and in some ways, greatest news for riders, not only are motorcycle thefts continuing to fall when taking a long-term look, stolen bikes are increasingly being recovered.

If the numbers are to be believed, anyone riding a Honda motorcycle stands a high chance of having their bike stolen in August. However, if the rider lives in the states of Washington or Colorado, they shouldn’t worry as there’s nearly a 50% chance the motorcycle will be returned.

This and other conclusions are drawn from reports released by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) on motorcycle thefts in the United States for 2016 which delivered good and bad news. While the longer trend does show fewer motorcycles being stolen, the number was actually up when compared to the year before. A total of 46,467 motorcycles were reported stolen in 2016 compared with 45,555 reported stolen in 2015, an increase of two percent.

Although 2016 delivered another slight increase in motorcycle thefts, motorcycle thefts are down considerably since 2006, dropping from 66,774 in 2006 to 46,467 in 2016, a decline of 30 percent.

The report paints a picture of motorcycle thefts as a thing of opportunity and thieves going where the motorcycles are. States with milder weather and higher populations dominate the top of the report's theft charts. The top 10 states with the most reported motorcycles thefts in 2016 were California (7,506), Florida (4,482), Texas (3,692), South Carolina (2,057), North Carolina (1,847), New York (1,731), Indiana (1,397), Georgia (1,296), Missouri (1,195), and Nevada (1,177).

California, Florida and Texas are ranked 1st, 2nd and 4th accordingly for population size. As if to prove the point of population concentration, the top 10 cities for motorcycle thefts in 2016 were New York (1,209), San Diego (849), Las Vegas (818), Los Angeles (760) San Francisco (616), Miami (610), Houston (607), San Antonio (411), Phoenix (347), and Austin, Texas, (343).

Statistically speaking, bikers who ride Japanese-built motorcycles stand a higher chance of having their pride and joy stolen. The top 10 most stolen motorcycles in 2016 by manufacturer were American Honda Motor Co., Inc. (9,052 thefts), Yamaha Motor Corporation (7,723), American Suzuki Motor Corporation (6,229), Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A. (5,221), Harley Davidson, Inc. (4,953), Taotao Group Co. Ltd (2,673), KTM Sportmotorcycle AG (762), Ducati Motor Holding (521), Genuine Cycle (463), and Kymco U.S.A., Inc. (453).

The last two manufacturers gives hints the study may not be totally about motorcycles, with Genuine Cycle and Kymco building scooters, as does the Taotao Group.

In general, motorcycle thefts are seen as a seasonal crime related to warmer months with 10% or more thefts from the yearly total occurring in June, July, August, and September. Months with 6% or less of the year’s total thefts occurred in the winter months of December, January, and February. Theft count ranks highest (1st) in the month of August, with July ranking 2nd, and September in 3rd.

There were 2,075 U.S. counties identified in 2016 with a motorcycle theft. With the top 25 counties accounting for 30% of motorcycle thefts in 2016, Los Angeles County ranks 1st.

Analysis found Honda to be the manufacturer with the most thefts in 2016, totaling 9,052. Just as BMW is continuing to become popular with the riding world, it’s attracted the interest of thieves as well. Manufacturer BMW Motorrad had the highest percent change for 2015 – 2016 in motorcycle thefts, increasing by 33%. The fact there are more BMW’s on the streets to steal could also go a long way to explain away the number as it would with the high number of Japanese brands.

Aside from the long-term decrease, recoveries of stolen motorcycles are improving. Helped by the growing number of companies who install and track motorcycles with GPS devices, of the 46,467 motorcycle thefts in 2016, 18,761 or 40% of the motorcycles were recovered. At 3,359 motorcycles, California had the most recoveries statewide, but the highest rate of recovery went to Washington and Colorado, with 49% of the stolen bikes returned.

An interesting note about recovered motorcycles, although Triumph isn’t even ranked among the top stolen brands, it had the highest recovery rate, at a whopping 63%.

Riders can help the numbers look better by following some simple tips given by the authority on motorcycle safety, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).

  • Lock your ignition and remove the key.  Most bike thefts occur when the ignition is shut off, but not locked. 
  • Lock the forks or disk brakes with locks that have large, brightly colored tags.
  • If traveling with other riders, lock motorcycles together when not in use.
  • If riding alone, lock your bike to a secure, stationary object that can’t be easily dismantled, such as a light pole.
  • Add an audible alarm to your motorcycle.
  • When traveling and spending the night at a hotel, locate an outdoor security camera and park your bike in the camera’s view.  If this is not possible, park your bike close to your room.
  • Keep an eye on your bike. When parking at a public event, check your motorcycle periodically, especially immediately after leaving your bike, to make sure there are no suspicious individuals lurking about.
  • If parking in a garage, block your bike with automobiles, close the garage door and make sure it is locked.
  • Don’t store your title in your bike’s storage compartment, tank bag or saddlebag.  The safest place for your title is at home.
  • Uniquely mark and then photograph your bike.  If thieves take your bike, note its unique markings to law enforcement using the photos you have taken.
  • Keep your bike registration and insurance identification card on you when you ride.
  • Be careful about giving out private information on where you live, work or play.


Share this article

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.

About us

Clutch and Chrome covers every aspect of the motorcycle lifestyle. Daily news, in-depth articles, reviews and anything that would interest a rider.


We not only produce our own motorcycle related videos but scour the internet to bring our readers the latest, greatest two-wheeled hits online.

Last posts


Want to really stay in touch? Here's our newsletter!