The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) recently came out with their latest stats on motorcycle theft (in 2012) and recovery (from 2012-June 2013).

The good news: countrywide, theft in 2012 was down slightly — one percent — from 2011.

The bad news: only 39 percent of stolen bikes were actually recovered. (One of those recoveries was a 1953 Triumph that had been missing for over 46 years!) Recoveries tend to be low because stolen bikes are often dismantled and sold for their parts, which can earn big bucks on the black market — and those aftermarket custom parts and accessories make thefts even more lucrative. The bikes that aren’t scrapped are often sold intact after their identification’s been altered. In either case, there’s a good chance a stolen bike won’t be found.

Here’s what else was in the report.

The most stolen makes in 2012

Thieves are most tempted by powerful bikes with street-racing capabilities. In 2012, Hondas were once again the most stolen motorcycles, accounting for 20 percent of all thefts. Here’s the full list of the top 5:

  1. Honda
  2. Yamaha
  3. Suzuki
  4. Kawasaki
  5. Harley-Davidson

When both make and year were factored in, 2007 Suzukis were stolen most frequently, followed by 2006 Suzukis. Ultimately, all of the top 10 stolen makes and years on the list were Suzukis, Hondas, and Yamahas built between 2005 and 2009.

Warm weather equals hot bikes

In many parts of the country, motorcycle riding is seasonal, so it makes sense that more bikes are stolen in months when they’re out on the streets rather than tucked away in garages.

Last year, over 50 percent of stolen bikes were lifted between May and September.

Keep an eye out, California

For the third straight year, California topped the charts as the state with the most motorcycle thefts. Next on the list were Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and Indiana. These results aren’t especially surprising since California, Florida, and Texas have the highest registered number of motorcycles, as well as year-round riding seasons.

Of the top 5 cities for theft, only one (San Diego, which came in at number three) is in California. The others were New York, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, and Miami.

Ways to prevent motorcycle theft

Motorbikes are comparatively more stealable than cars because they generally lack anti-theft technology. The remote-starting devices on some models can make things even easier for thieves. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help keep criminals from targeting your ride.

  • Lock your ignition (most thefts happen when the ignition is off but unlocked).
  • Install a hidden “kill” switch that disables the engine.
  • Use a thick chain to lock your bike to an immovable object. If your bike is in a garage, hide it behind a car or large pillar.
  • Lock the forks and disc brakes.
  • Make sure your lock is wrapped tightly (less room for thieves to work) and isn’t lying on the ground where thieves can hammer at it.
  • Install a motorcycle alarm.
  • Put an inconspicuous cover over your bike that doesn’t advertise the make (thieves usually won’t want to attract attention by lifting the cover).

And always make sure you’re protected with a good motorcycle insurance policy.

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about Ellen

Ellen has spent many years as a professional wordsmith, helping to shed light on such topics as world travel, cargo pants, and the porosity of bath tiles. As a freelance copywriter for Esurance, she brings her boundless curiosity to the world of insurance. Outside work, she can be found cheering on the San Francisco Giants, hiking in the Oakland hills, and (barely) resisting smuggling penguins home from Antarctica.