Saturday, 21 July 2007

The reason for Captain Cropper's existence.

It occurred to me today that not everyone would understand why I spend all this time and money busting up motorcycle and bicycle security products, believe me, it's crossed my mind on several occasions, usually after vicious forum attacks from employees of the people whose stuff I am breaking. I guess the bottom line is that I dislike untruth, lies, misinformation, and deceit, call it what you will, bikers and cyclists have been on the thick end of institutionalised lies and incompetence for many years now and have paid the price.

It began after having my Piaggio Typhoon 125 stolen from outside my house, it had a "high security" cable lock. Fortunately for me, they left the cable behind for me to inspect. It appeared that after trying to cut the cable with croppers, they failed and went for the locking pin, which succeeded and I lost my scooter.
It was some time till I replaced the scooter with a Yamaha Fazer and ultimately a Harley. I crashed the Harley in 2001, I was lucky to have police in attendance that understood the theft problem in the Essex area and kindly locked my Harley up at the side of the road while my arm was screwed back together. Whilst under the chill pill at the hospital, my flatmate popped in to inform me that the Harley had been stolen from the roadside that same night, this was fortuitous as it was under 6 months old and pretty smashed up from the crash, I ended up with 95% of the value from the insurers so not too bad a turn out. 24 hours later, he returned to tell me that my Italjet Formula 125 had been stolen from outside the house, not the end of the world because it wasn't working anyway, but it wasn't insured so I lost out on that one.

What I did draw from the whole sorry experience was a realisation that vehicle theft in the UK was rife and pretty much un-checked by the powers that be, ok so that's one reason for the theft crime wave, another reason is that we have been betrayed by the very people who we place out trust in to test our security products for us, I'm talking about Sold Secure and Thatcham.

This is where my mission really kicks off. In 2005 I was asked by Almax Security Chains if I would like to help out with cropping chains at the NEC bike show in Birmingham, I pointed out that I had very little experience with cropping chains but accepted anyway just for the experience, and what an experience it was. Over the five days that I was there, I must have cropped most of the Sold Secure "Gold" status line-up and pretty much all of Thatchams', in addition to that, I witnessed the ugly face of corporate cover-ups first hand.

It was pretty much just another day as the show, about lunchtime, when the Oxford Products goons turned up in their fetching Oxford blue embroidered shirts and ties, we'd been cropping their chains for days now, usually in under 20 seconds, and we made sure they knew about it. Couple of hours later we were told by NEC management that "someone" had complained that we were cropping their chains and that we had to remove the branded sleeves from the "Wall of Shame" or we would be asked to leave. It was pure luck that there was a member of MCN staff on the stall who overheard the whole thing and made a mini story out of it in that week's MCN, result! Obviously we had peed off Oxford and that alone made my day. :o)
We complied with the request but carried on cropping Mickey Mouse security products with impunity to the horror of people who had these products securing their VERY expensive motorcycles, people's reaction to Sold Secure and Thatcham passing products that obviously couldn't fend off a 5 minute attack was predictable, "How can they pass this crap!", "I thought it was supposed to last 5 minutes" etc....

Back on track, Sold Secure and Thatcham. This baffles me, Sold Secure pass an Oxford Monster chain and lock claiming it stands up to a 5 minute attack using the same tools I do (I have a copy of the Sold Secure tool list) yet I have REPEATEDLY cropped this in front of witnesses in under 30 seconds. Obviously we have to ask the question "why"? How is it that a fat office worker can bust a chain in 30 seconds and that Sold Secure (now owned by the Master Locksmiths Association of all people) can't. It's not that they are unaware, of the problem, ex Sold Secure MD Martin White was made aware of the problem by Motorcycle News in 2006 and I quote, "There is an anomaly here and we are looking at it. I will get samples of the lock in doubt and re-test them, if they fail, then we'll work on the suspension procedure, and our approval will be removed pending a retest". In the same article Mr White stated "We don't attack locks as vigorously as thieves do", a spectacular faux pas by Mr White who resigned shortly after the MCN article went to press.

Sold Secure have done exactly bugger all since then, more products have been passed, standards are as dire as ever and YOU carry on trusting them to provide you with bona fide test approved products. Some people say that something is better than nothing, on this occasion I disagree. A skinny chain with a grand "5 Minute Attack Tested" sticker on it will appeal more than a slightly chunkier chain with no such accreditation; Sold Secure/Thatcham approval hinders common sense and our own judgement.

So what's next? Well I'm hoping the ITV programme on 24th July 7:30pm will put a rocket up the test "authorities" arses, in my opinion Sold Secure needs to be shut down and re started with the Home Office overseeing the testing and test criteria and Thatcham should just get out of motorcycle security testing altogether. There's only so much a few people can do to make a change, if you've seen the videos, watched the programme and maybe seen some demo's of chain cropping, then call Sold Secure/Thatcham and ask what they are doing to improve things or whether they are going to be visibly more thorough in their testing in future.

If you don't like the way things are and you're in a position to make them change, do it!

Captain Cropper.

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