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Bike Security: Part I

Sometimes even locking a prized classic bike in your own garage isn't enough to keep it safe. Steve The Toast looks at how you can foil the tea-leaves, starting with your shed...

Security. It's a dirty word in some people's eyes, conjuring up pictures of large, fat, bald men on nightclub doors who look like weebles. (I always wondered if that's why they got the nickname of 'bouncers'). In today's high crime situation, it means simply making sure that what is yours, stays yours. Classic bikes are certainly not immune from the unwelcome attention of the professional (or otherwise) thief - just ask Graham Ham who nearly lost his Speed Twin very recently.

Our car has an alarm, our home has an alarm, which also cover the garage as a separate zone, so we can have it armed even when we are mooching around the house. In the garage, we have three anchors sunk into the ground and multiple padlocks and chains between the bikes. We also have a Red Alert garage door guard as we live in an area which is noted as having a high rate of this sort of crime, a fact which our insurance premiums make all too clear.

Up and Over - Don't rely on the basic lock.

Be honest. How many of you could really hear someone breaking into your garage while you had the radio or TV on? How many of you would notice some stealthy individual chiseling their way into the back of your garage while you are surfing the Net in your front room?

In truth, no one can watch a garage all the time, which is why we all need to invest in some sort of garage security. Most garage doors are incredibly easy to break into, from the old-fashioned wood double doors to the metal up-and-over types. Most of these can be opened in ten seconds with nothing more complex than a large screwdriver. Wood side doors require two minutes of almost silent work with a chisel and - hey presto - it's open with no noisy splintering of wood or glass. Frightening, huh?

With your collection of classic bikes at the mercy of thoughtless, mindless yobs it is a good idea to bolt that stable door now, before the horses gallop off and you kick yourself. Don't panic, its easy and not particularly expensive. Just a measly twenty pounds gets you a key-fob remotely activated PIR (Passive Infra-Red) self-contained battery alarm from Maplin, (ITEM KK72P at www.Maplin.co.uk) which you stand in your garage and activate as you close the door. Anyone opening the door and walking in gets 110db of siren in the ear. You don't even need mains power to us one of these, so at that price you've no excuse! M&P do a similar one, the Meta Garage Alarm order code 500 672, at 98 from www.M&P.com which can be wired into the mains supply. There are lots around though, so browse before buying.

Alarms can also be made for under a tenner. Go to your local car breakers, buy two or three old car horns, wire them up to a car battery and get a couple of door switches from your local car factor - the sort that turn on car door courtesy lights, or make your own, and wire them up to a hidden on/off switch outside the garage. If anyone opens a door - lots of noise ensues.

A friend has a photoelectric cell across his drive at thigh height (to avoid the local felines setting it off). Anything going in or out sets off a door-bell chime inside, and switches on a video recorder which is hooked up to a video camera, but you can attach it to anything you like. There are plenty of 'easy to install' DIY kits around, so again, browse and find the system that suits your personal requirements.

A family of Bluetits are no substitute for a guard dog... Make sure doors like this are firmly screwed shut from the inside.

Windows can have bars fitted across them, either inside or out, to allow opening for summer use, but always be mindful of the need to escape in case of fire if your garage has only one exit. It is easy to have one or all of the bars hinged at one end and a padlock at the other, with a key hidden inside the garage close by. Any local metal fabricator will weld up a grid for very little money. You only buy it once. Hinge it one side (with thief-proof fixings!) and padlock the other. You can use an Arc Welder to 'tack' screw heads and bolts to whatever metal frame they go through - but mind any wood behind!

Try to make it so there is only one access to the garage from outside. This means locking the other door from inside. This cuts down the ways a thief can get access to your bikes. Make the externally-opening door the one which neighbours overlook, or one that can be seen from the road or your house.

Normal personnel doors are easy to secure. If it's the wood type, put extra hinges on (and hammer the screw heads flat, so they cannot be undone, if it's the gate hinge style). B&Q sell a security bolt that acts like a hinge in as much as it fits into the door and then slides into a recess in the doorframe. Two or three of these will make it hard for Johnny Vandal to pry the door off its hinges.

On the lock side, a mortice or Chubb lock can be chiseled away in two minutes, so a couple of hefty hasp and staple locks with the biggest padlocks that will fit mounted top and bottom with coach bolts will help a lot. Make sure the frame is securely mounted to the brickwork, as otherwise a couple of decent length tyre levers will soon work it off.

Wooden double doors at the front can be secured using the same sort of techniques. With all wooden doors I cannot recommend highly enough that you go to your local metal merchant and buy a sheet of metal. Have it cut to just under the size of your wooden door. Bolt this, using coach bolts, to the wooden door and increase its security by a hundred percent. Likewise, get a strip for the door frame on each side of the door and bolt that on too, finishing off with some good old Finnegan's Smoothrite paint for a tidy job. Check that your hinges will cope with the extra weight of the steel - and the door frame too!

Metal, up-and-over garage doors are not a problem. The type of door with a single, spring-loaded pin at the top are as secure as a wheelie bin. There are several ways to protect them; one of the best ways is to have them only opening from the inside. To do this, disconnect the cable from the handle to the locking pin, and fit two traditional shed door bolts along the top of the door each side, about a foot in from the corners, pointing down. When you extend the pins they drop down to cover the top of the door, thus not allowing it to come in and open. The longer the better, but ideally they want to extend down past the top of the door by three inches, as this stops the door being 'popped' with a screwdriver wedged between the top of the door and frame. These can usually be fitted between the spring and the frame along the top. The spring may seem to be in the way, but I always find that they will easily move out enough to allow the bolts to be fitted behind them.

Show 'em you mean business

The bottom corners of these doors are easy to fold up, so a hasp and staple with padlock in each corner should make them all but impregnable. The main idea is to make it as hard as possible for the criminal, and to force him to be very noisy. If you still want your door to unlock from the outside, then a 'garage defender' by Red Alert (M&P catalogue 49), which stops the bottom of the door being pulled forwards and thereby not allowing it to open, works well. In conjunction with a couple of hasp and staples, it makes your door just about impossible to open without starting World War Three. Make sure all fasteners everywhere are not able to be undone from outside.

The roof. If you are very lucky then your garage will be part of your house, and this won't affect you. For the rest of us, some sort of roof security is essential. My roof is the old corrugated asbestos type sheet, which, with today's battery-powered tools, is fairly easy to get past. Inside, barbed wire, strung backwards and forwards between the rafters, and interlocked with wire clips, makes a netting that will cause most burglars quite a bit of a nuisance. It's not much, but it's a start. Bars, screwed between the rafters, might help but the best bet is thick waterproof ply screwed up to the rafters, which also makes it a bit warmer to work in during the winter.

Speaking of battery power tools brings up some further points. Firstly, the criminals will use them; drills, grinders and saws, to gain access which is why fitting metal over wood is such a good idea, as is using the heaviest size hasp, staples and padlocks in all applications. Don't forget, that once they get into your garage, if you've as good a range of power tools as I have, then the crooks can use them to grind through your padlocks and ground anchors too. Bugger.

Ah, you might say, 'I'd hear a battery powered 4-inch angle-grinder whipping through my door's hinges, or a drill cutting into my lock'. No, you won't - have you never heard of distraction techniques? While Bandit Number One works on the garage, Bandit Number Two makes a lot of noise out the front - pretending his car horn is stuck on or setting off his car alarm. They are not daft, believe me. You may be in bed - you look out the front bedroom window - is some poor unfortunate having trouble with his car? Better check the back window too!

This is why alarms are such a good idea - wired to the house or on independent battery, mains with battery back-up; the more the merrier. Don't forget to give all your neighbours your mobile phone and works numbers, as they are more likely to take note of the noise if they have a way of shutting it up (by phoning you!). Do tell them not to go look, but to ring the police if they hear suspicious goings-on. The same goes for you, of course. If you do become aware of someone chiselling away at your shed, then call for reinforcements before doing anything else. Never try to sneak up on a thief. Make a lot of noise and they'll usually scamper off into the gloom.

Even a motorcyclist could wire this up

Floodlights are useful too. It's hard for Mr Light-Fingered Fred to tamper with lights without them first illuminating his presence. Sure, the local cat population will help run up your electricity bill, and have you up and down all night when the light overlooking the back of the garage keeps coming on, but it's still better to be safe than sorry. It's one more weapon in the fight to keep what's yours, yours.

Another good weapon, when used in conjunction with the floodlight, is video surveillance. This won't stop anything, but it may help to catch the buggers after the act has been committed. How you set them up is all-important. There's no point having the camera pointed at the garage door - unless you intend to watch the screen all the time. All you'll get is a nice picture of the thief's back as he works his magic on your door. You may get to see him wheeling away his ill-gotten gains, but what would be of more use would be either his face, or the van he uses to take the bikes away.

Point the camera towards the road or driveway at the front of the house, and play with the focus so you'll get a good clear picture of his face. Get the Other Half to walk up and down for practice. See if you can have two cameras, one covering the road. Please remember it is illegal to have floodlights pointing into the road.

Another thing to remember with cameras is the quality of the recording. You can buy a tape machine which will make a four-hour tape last for 24 hours, but the quality is so appalling that identifying anyone won't be possible. You only buy the system once, so get two normal, high quality (four or five head) tape machines and have them run consecutively, fours hours each. How often are you away from the house for more than eight hours? The most likely time Victor Villain will call will be just after you've left for work - to give him maximum getaway time - or at about 2am.

Lastly, get a dog. A barking dog will put burglars off, and you can actually buy a barking dog device that works off a PIR system. As the baddie approaches the garage, a bloody great dog inside starts barking. Add a few 'BEWARE OF THE DOG' and 'ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK' notices and you'll sleep soundly.

And, of course, you'll want to make sure that your insurance policy is always paid up. Just in case...

Simple but effective

Any more shed Security Tips?


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