Bike rack with a cut cable lock. The bicycle was probably stolen.

A tale of stolen bike recovery

Having a bike stolen can be frustrating and heartbreaking. We don't always have success stories, but here's one about a stolen bike that was recovered:

The bike theft

One of our bike bus friends had their bike stolen. It was a custom build that they had spent a lot of time and money on, and they rode it with their child with our Bike Bus.

Their garage door was left open by mistake one day, and within a short amount of time, two of their bikes had been stolen.

Unfortunately, they didn't have a hidden AirTag Mount (I make them in here in Oakland) or some other type of holder or tracker for locating their bike.

They emailed our Bike Bus and Bike Parade groups, telling us what had happened and asking us to keep an eye out for their bikes. They included pictures, which were really helpful for identification purposes. I posted their pictures and a short description on Twitter and Instagram, hoping that someone might recognize their bike and have information that might lead to the recovery of their stolen bikes. They also had posted their bike information on Bike Index.

Searching for the stolen bikes

They tried searching nearby encampments and chop shops, as well as the local Laney flea market, which sometimes has a number of stolen bikes for sale. They were not successful in finding their bikes.

The stolen bike was located!

A few months passed, and one day I got an Instagram message from a local bike shop. An employee had noted that someone had come in offering to sell a bike at a suspiciously low price. The employee had recalled seeing something about a similar bike being stolen in the past. They found my Instagram account and sent me a message, letting me know what happened.

They said they could buy the bike back (at a price about 1/10 the original price of the bike) and hold it for the owner. I thanked them a ton and told the shop I'd put them in touch with the owner.

Stolen bike recovery

The bike shop didn't seem to want to profit from the situation, they just seemed interested in reuniting a stolen bike with its owner. I contacted the bike's owner and told them to call the bike shop. Eventually the  person selling the bike came back in, and owner of the shop agreed to buy the bike from them. The owner of the bike paid the shop back, and regained possession of their bike. It was a little scuffed up, but with not too much damage. It needed some work to ride well again though. It felt like a weird recovery, because on principle, it sort of felt like paying a "ransom" to get a bike back that was stolen. But in the end, it was a much lower-cost option for getting a bike back that the owner knew fit them and rode well.

Some lessons

Highly motivated bike thieves are hard to stop, but there are some things you can do to reduce the likelyhood:

  • Add a tracker to your bike, like an AirTag. I make and sell an AirTag holder that hides under your water bottle mount. Funds from sales help with bike education and advocacy.
  • Register your bike on BikeIndex (here's my article about registering your bike on BikeIndex) - it's free and very useful
  • Lock your bike properly when outside, and I'd suggest even locking it when it's in your garage at home

Here are more posts I've written more about bike theft.

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