One motorcycle immobiliser, made by Meta Systems, model M53T, fitted to the mini-Beemer at three months old, in September 2004.
I don't like alarms and immobilisers for bikes. Give me a big, tough chain and a disc lock any day. Let's dismiss alarms first. They don't work. Any vehicle with an alarm sounding is merely an irritant for everyone in earshot. No-one pays them the slightest attention any more. They assume it's faulty, or the result of a gust of wind, and they walk on by. Experiments have shown that it is possible for two men to physically lift a parked motorcycle into the back of a white van, on a crowded street, with the alarm shrieking away, and no-one will do anything at all about it. Especially if the van has 'Mick's Motorcycle Repairs' Dulux-brushed on the side. So there is no point whatsoever in having an alarm on your bike, except perhaps if you have to park it on the street outside your house. You will know the bike is being nicked, but you are then faced with the choice of staying indoors like a wimp, or going outside and getting killed. I'd rather remain ignorant, thanks.
Immobilisers should be better, and insurers do like them. You stop the bike, take out the key, and walk away. 45 seconds later, the immobiliser self-arms, and no-one can start the bike. Not ever. These things are so fiendishly complicated that it takes a PhD in Applied Electronics to even touch the wires. Er, no. I have just removed the immobiliser from the GS. It took me three hours, and most of that time was spent in taking off the bodywork and air filter housing to get at the wiring, something I had not done before, and which was accomplished with a Haynes manual in one hand and a can of Blackthorn in the other. To someone who has done it before and is both familiar with the bike and quick with a soldering iron, and I would reckon 15 minutes, tops.
And they go wrong. Oh yes they do. Bike forums are filled with horror stories of bikes with a myriad of mysterious complaints (mainly, It Doesn't Go) which are cured by ripping the damned immobiliser out. And what if the immobiliser goes faulty while you are riding? This one cuts (or, rather, cut) the 12V supply to the fuel pump and coil. Imagine being in the middle of a fast corner, on the edge of the tyres, and suddenly no power. On any bike, you are in a heap of trouble. On a big single, that's you upside-down in the hedge, that is.
But, worse than that, this one at least was a complete pain in the arse to use on a daily basis. It came with a little fob which attached to the key ring, about the size of a USB thumb drive. Here was the procedure if you wanted to actually go anywhere:
- Press the brake pedal.
- Wipe the fob across the bodywork over the hidden sensor.
- Put the key in.
- Start the bike.
Sounds not-too-bad, although I wonder who, in the concept meeting at Meta Systems, thought that putting the rider through that rigmarole every journey was a good idea. In reality, it was more 'entertaining':
- Put key in ignition out of habit.
- Remember and remove key.
- Bike on side-stand, so ready to mount from the left.
- Remember the brake-pedal gimmick and go round to the other side.
- Press brake pedal.
- Ask self, was that hard enough?
- Press brake pedal again.
- Hold key-ring so that little fob thing is sticking out.
- Drop key-ring, take gloves off, retrieve, try again.
- Wipe fob against dash plastics.
- Wipe fob again much more widely and vigorously, as uncertain of exact location of sensor.
- Return to left side of bike, ready to get on.
- Put key in ignition and switch on.
- All dash lights come on.
- Press starter button. Nothing.
- GOTO 4.
After three days of this, the death warrant for the immobiliser had been signed and passed to the Praetorian Guard. Today was my first free day in two weeks, and out it came. Here's the corpse:
I'm not going to go into detail here about how I did it, for obvious reasons. But let's just say that with some basic tools and a bit of common sense it was a pretty easy job.
I'll make an admission here (and see if anyone shouts "me too!"). I've been messing about with bikes and cars for over 40 years, and I'm reasonably confident that I know what I am doing and don't make major blunders. But every time I do something that involves crippling the vehicle (by which I mean, if I get it wrong it won't go until I swallow my pride and take it to a proper bloke) I still have a moment of apprehension when everything is back together and I press the starter for the first time.
And when it does fire up, I'm back to being the 14-year-old who was given a Triumph Tina scooter (total wreck, no bodywork, hadn't run in living memory) and made it go.