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Even though we should all keep a spare key, that’s not always possible. So, what do you do when you’ve lost your one and only motorcycle key? Don’t panic; there’s a solution to every lost key problem. Here’s what you should do, and how to avoid the crisis in the first place.

You’ve lost your motorcycle key; don’t panic

If you’ve lost your motorcycle key, there are many things you can do. However, getting a new key isn’t always easy, especially depending on the kind of bike you have and the type of key it uses. While hot-wiring your motorcycle is always an option, it’s not a permanent solution.

According to Motorcycle Habit, though certain types of keys must be replaced in a specific way or require extra work, there are a few options for getting a new key:

  • Have a new one made using your motorcycle’s ignition cylinder code
  • Have a new one made by a locksmith using the entire ignition cylinder (if the code is unreadable)
  • Order a new one from a dealership or automaker by providing your vehicle identification number (VIN)
  • Replace the ignition cylinder altogether

Different solutions for motorcycle types

A gloved hand holds up a motorcycle key with an out-of-focus bike in the background
Motorcycle key | Cunaplus_M.Faba via iStock

When you’ve lost your motorcycle key, you’ll need either a spare or an entirely new set of keys. Still, according to Ride Apart, it may not be as easy as it seems. The steps to replace your lost motorcycle key depend heavily on the type of key. Here are your options:

Traditional metal keys

If you have a motorcycle with a traditional metal key, you can simply have a new one cut from your old one. While it’s advisable to have a spare cut before you lose your original, there are ways to get a new key. A locksmith can use your bike’s ignition cylinder code or the entire ignition cylinder to make a new key. You also have the option of reordering a key from a local dealer by using your bike’s VIN. A traditional motorcycle key is the easiest key to replace.

“Master key” smart keys

There aren’t too many motorcycles with this type of key. Regardless, you definitely don’t want to lose it. High-end bikes from brands like Ducati will sometimes come new with a “master key.” This is the only key that can reprogram your bike’s ECU, so if you lose it, you’ll have to pay a hefty price for a replacement ECU and matching key. This means no other key will work, and you’ll need a tow while you wait for your new key.

Motorcycle fobs

Just like most modern vehicles, many newer motorcycles come with a fob. However, the problem with a fob is once you lose it, your bike believes you are trying to steal it if you attempt to access it. Without a spare, you’ll need to tow your motorcycle and reorder a fob to be reprogrammed.

How to avoid a lost motorcycle key in the first place

Nobody is perfect, and everyone loses a key eventually. Losing a motorcycle key could mean being stranded, needing a flatbed tow, and spending a lot of money on a new set of keys. Here are a few tips from Forbes to help you avoid losing your key in the first place:

  1. Have a second one made (or ordered) before you lose the first one! Programming a trusted locksmith/tow company into your phone is never a bad idea.
  2. Always keep important information, like your bike’s VIN, written down and in a secure location. You never know when you may need it for a new key.
  3. Give a trusted friend or family member a spare, just in case. You can also keep an extra in a safe compartment while on the road.
  4. Use a large (not heavy) keychain to make misplacing your keys harder to do. You could also invest in a Bluetooth tracker that attaches to your keychain and lets you track the key using your smartphone.
  5. If you’re buying a new motorcycle, consider opting for keyless options, which are available from several brands.
  6. Sign up for a roadside assistance program. Services from companies like AAA can help you in case of a breakdown or lost key.