Three hours ago, I was twenty minutes from home, heading south across Tower Bridge on a very shiny BMW S1000RR HP4. It’s a strict 20mph limit, with cameras. I know the cameras are there because I got flashed doing 28mph there years ago when I thought it was a 30 limit. The commuter spec Vespa 300 scooter that’s heading towards me is doing about 50mph, weaving up the gap like the rider realised he left the front door open. Rider and pillion are wearing race rep Arai helmets and trainers, something isn’t right. Out of the corner of my eye I spot the pillion double take the HP4. I tell myself that if I see that bike in my mirrors in the next two minutes, they want my bike. I do. They do. It’s an all too common theme, two up on a scooter, thieves will follow you home and have a go at taking your bike. I’ve had bikes pinched before, it’s really not a nice feeling. This feels different though, the rush that I’m feeling is similar to when a fight is about to kick off, not everybody likes the feeling. Sticking to the limit, I roll towards the big roundabout at Elephant and Castle. It’s not like the movies, the scooter isn’t on my number plate, they’re twenty cars back, taking their time and playing it cool. When I stop at lights, they don’t draw level at the front like every other bike on the planet would, they sit back, all the way back, far enough back for me not to notice them. But I have. I have two plans, one that involves what I would do if they try and take the bike off me at a set of lights and another that involves riding round in circles in the hope of dropping them off. Violence can be a good thing. I’ve used it in the past to solve lots of problems (playground stuff, mostly, I’m not that good at it) and felt reasonably confident that with an open face helmet and a pair of titanium protected gloves on, I’d be able to hold my own against the two twits on the scooter. If you don’t fancy your chances, do your best not to stop moving, get to the front right hand side at every set of lights and be ready to burst through the traffic like Dani Pedrosa on a hot one. By now I’ve angled the mirrors on the bike, the right one shows me what’s going on way back up the line of traffic, the left hand one is now on the gap I’ve left on the left, normally the blind spot. My new friends are still at least ten cars back. At each set of lights, they switch sides but hold back. I shoot off from a set of lights, all that crap about a scooter being as quick as a sports bike across town is mostly true. Mostly. I’m far enough ahead to chuck a U turn in and head back the way I came, right at the scooter. This time there’s eye contact. They know and I know what’s going on. Spying a police van at a set of lights, I stop in front of it, the scooter shoots off left up a side road. I don’t feel like the problem has gone away, I feel like the problem is hiding round the corner watching me. Something else to think about if this happens to you, is stopping off somewhere that you can hide the bike. A garage forecourt, a drive thru car wash, anything that allows you to get the bike out of sight for a bit. I went for FWR tyres, good friends of mine, handily they have a load of bikes out the front. I duck in, stash the bike and my kit and stand lookout on the street. Five minutes later, the scooter appears from a side road, when they see me seeing them, they change direction and head off the way I came. Two smokes later, a police van stops at the lights outside the shop, I stop them and explain what’s going on. There’s little they can do, stating that they couldn’t keep up with a scooter in traffic if they tried. I hand over the details that I made a note of when I parked up. Make, model, registration, clothing and helmet style. If you’re being followed, take in as much detail as you can. In the Army, we used to use the acronym SCRIMM for remembering suspicious vehicles. Shape, Colour, Registration, Identifying marks, Make and Model. I ask the copper to remind me what the letter of the law is when it comes to defending myself against bike jackers. Reasonable force is the answer, he defines it by saying it would be bad if I chased the guys up the road kicking them in the head while they abandoned the theft.
Half an hour later, I jump back on the bike and make a five mile meal of a two mile ride, boxing around myself, doubling back on myself countless times and generally satisfying myself that nobody is following me. Again, this isn’t like the movies, it’s a pain in the arse doing it, but it’s worth it. Anyone that’s ever had a bike stolen will know how it feels to see an empty spot where your bike used to be, riding round the block a few times and hiding in the odd car parking spot is more than worth it. Once I’m home, the bike is secured, out of sight, out of mind, hopefully. I double-check my security measures, you should too. I had a lesson in paranoia today, one that you can benefit from. These are the keys things I’d recommend you do if you think you’re being followed.
- Don’t go nuts and smash straight into them, there’s every chance they couldn’t be eyeing up your bike.
- Confirm your suspicions, slow down and look a lot further back than you normally would if you were waiting for a mate to catch up.
- Keep an eye on the road, you still have to ride and the more time you spend looking behind you, the less chance you’ll have of stopping for that car in front of you.
- Use SCRIMM to remember details.
- Hide for a bit, hiding is your friend.
- Ride to the nearest police station if you can’t think of anywhere you know you’ll be able to hide your bike for a bit.
- Make your route home as difficult and complicated as you can.
- Check and double-check your home security when the bike is locked down.
- Confrontation is the last resort, but if you have no option, leave your helmet and gloves on and swing them arms until they drop off. If your victim is wearing a helmet, grab the chin bar, twist it like its a door handle while you park your boot in between their legs. When they’re on the floor, stop. Repeat as necessary.