Motorcycle alarm systems are one of the top-of-mind accessories motorcyclists may consider installing. After all, alarm systems not only help deter theft but also provide a certain peace of mind which can be very helpful for those who get a little bit anxious about their motorcycles—whether that’s because the motorcycle is often parked in a precarious area or because the motorcycle might not be equipped with modern safety equipment. Motorcycle alarm systems thus become a very palpable solution for riders seeking to upgrade the safety of a motorcycle. However, installing third-party motorcycle alarm systems do come with their own risks and, under certain circumstances, can do more harm than good for your motorcycle. If you’re thinking about installing this accessory, read this first.
How alarm systems work
Alarm systems come in many different styles and offer different features. Basic alarm systems simply sound off a horn when the motorcycle is started without a key in the ignition or without the alarm being unlocked first by a remote key. More advanced systems have the same basic function but may also come with a GPS tracker, motion sensors, remote engine disconnect, and a few other features. Without getting too technical, the alarm system is wired onto your motorcycle harness in a specific way and will be able to sense anomalies going on with your electrical system—an engine being hot-wired to start, a motorcycle being transported on foot or by vehicle, an electrical component being tampered with, and many more.
Because of this, alarm systems make a lot of sense for riders who are often anxious or paranoid about the safety of their motorcycle. It could be because the motorcycle is equipped with a very basic safety system that isn’t confidence-inspiring, or because the motorcycle is often parked in an area where safety is not guaranteed, or because of a multitude of other personal reasons. For that, having an alarm system can certainly bring about a level of confidence in the security and the much-needed peace of mind that comes with it.
That being said, installing alarm systems do come with their own risks. There’s a reason why many motorcyclists out there prefer to have barebone machines without fancy electronics—because added electronic systems also add to the list of things that can break or go wrong. The most crucial part of installing an alarm system is the wiring. High-end alarm systems will come with their own wiring diagrams to guide the user on installation, but not all electrical systems of motorcycles are designed the same. More affordable alarm systems are more simply wired, but may also not come with instructions to guide the user leaving you to guess how installation may best be done. As such, many motorcyclists out there have had poorly functioning electronic systems and fast-draining batteries due to poorly installed alarm systems. If the wires are not properly secured and protected, they may also serve as an additional fire hazard which none of us would be happy to have.
On top of the wiring problem, alarm systems are also not perfect devices and can possibly fail during a ride out. Water, dust, mud, and grime may find their way into the alarm system or the wiring and can cause an alarm system to malfunction—especially for the more poorly-designed or cheaply priced alarm systems. When this happens, riders run the risk of a motorcycle being turned off mid-ride or an alarm horn going haywire for no reason. None of these malfunctions are welcome to the motorcycling community, and can certainly pose a threat to riders who install these alarm systems on their motorcycles. Bear in mind however that these risks are most applicable to badly designed or cheaply priced systems. High-end systems when installed correctly will likely not have the same risks and will be much safer to install—if installed correctly.
If you’re second-guessing your decision to install an alarm system, worry not. There are still many ways that your motorcycle can be properly safeguarded without tampering with your electronics. Starting with items that have no electronics at all, riders can ensure that a motorcycle is not transported on its wheels by installing brake disc locks which aptly locks onto your brake discs in order to prevent your wheels from turning. You can also achieve the same result by using a heavy-duty chain locked through your wheels and frame. If you’re leaving your motorcycle in an unsecured area for a few days or weeks, you can also remove your battery altogether which can prevent thieves from hot-wiring your motorcycle.
If you do want to head towards the electronic route, there are a good few wireless systems available that run on their own internal batteries. These systems typically use motion sensors and GPS trackers to sense if a motorcycle is moving. Many of the higher-end systems in this category also come with apps for your phone in order for you to monitor your motorcycle’s location at a glance. Do note that these systems will have to be tucked away somewhere hard to find in order to prevent thieves from simply removing these systems before the theft. You can hide these items under the seat, or in any other secluded pocket of space that will not be a victim of the engine’s heat, the suspension’s travel, or the elements which may sneak into this space.
That being said, motorcycle alarm systems are not always a bad idea for certain kinds of applications. Modern motorcycles are often equipped with an immobilizer system and safety features to prevent hot wiring and motorcycle theft. However, if you do insist on installing a motorcycle alarm system, it would be best to purchase a reputable system that comes with a wiring diagram designed for your specific motorcycle. Once purchased, have the system installed by a trained mechanic or electrician in order to prevent electrical blunders. Make sure that the wires are properly fastened and protected against the elements, and you should be good to ride and park with that much-needed peace of mind. Do note however that the risks will always be present and that alternatives are also up for you to purchase if you change your mind.