How to Recover Your Stolen Bike
Six am marathon starts. There’s nothing quite so horrible as the smell of early morning air and peppy people passing around wishes for a happy day. OK, there is something worse. Hurriedly locking up my beloved road bike (named Blue Moon) to the bike rack before jogging to the starting line.
Thirteen miles of pavement worn into the tread of my shoes, and I was free to pick up Blue Moon back where I left him. A hatchet-like tool lay chipped and muddied in the barren space–soiled leaves clinging to its sharpened edges. My frayed lock discarded and wrapped around the emptiness of the curving metal rack. The runner’s high turned into a strange mix of hallucination and memory. Perhaps I hadn’t locked Blue Moon to this rack?
But no. He was gone.
About a week later, my best friend was pretty positive she saw it being ridden down the main thoroughfare in the afternoon. She asked if I wanted her to chase the rider and tackle him. I turned the thought over in my mind, but, she being 8 months pregnant, I told her, “No.” At least it gave me hope that Blue Moon is now in the hands of a caring if not oblivious cyclist, but that doesn’t totally fill the empty space in my heart that he once occupied.
During my ordeal, I’ve learned a few things about bike thievery and recovery that will hopefully give you a stronger leg up in case your bike ever gets accosted. Try these things, but remember that prevention is really most of the game. And, if you see my Raleigh Cadent, please drop me a line!
Report Your Bike Everywhere
These tips will work best if you have plenty of info about your bike handy. You’ll definitely find it helpful if you have the bike’s serial number (generally found under the bottom bracket), make, model, and accessory specs written somewhere. The more detail you can share, the higher the chance that someone will spot your bike.
Make Some Posters: This is where all those Instagram photos of your bike will come in handy. Use a clear image, offer up as many details as possible, and maybe consider a reward (maybe).
Plaster these posters all over the place. While it sometimes happens that bikes can be sold in another town, they’re often, surprisingly, kept in the local market. Head over to your LBS and ask if they’ll keep an eye out or help you by posting a flyer. They won’t always have space to tape up your flyer, but they most likely will keep an eye on the bikes people bring in.
Otherwise, staple them to high traffic areas, the place where your bike was taken, and anywhere else you can think of.
Register Your Bike: Bike Index is one of the largest registration sites, which also allows for posts about stolen rides. Of course, there are plenty of other sites that also provide a similar service, but we don’t have much experience with them.
Tell the Cops: Most local departments have a specific procedure for reporting your bike stolen. They’ll definitely want your serial number or other identifying proof, but freely offer up any details you have about the bike. But remember, this isn’t an emergency–they really don’t want you calling 911 over your bicycle–no matter how much you feel like it’s a part of the family.
Post Stolen Ads: Make the rounds on Craig’s List, OfferUp, local newspapers, Buy Sell & Trade groups in your area, and any other site you can think of. Spread the word in neighboring cities as well.
Set Up a Google Alert: Possibly one of the best courses of action you can take, set up a Google Alert for your bike’s make and model, and your city. Any time a listing goes up offering a bike like yours, you’ll be notified via email.
Spread the Social Media Word: Post pictures and info on all your social media channels. Your friends in the area might spot your bike, and they’ll likely help repost to their friends as well. Heck, shout us out on social media, and we’ll try to help you too.
Check Yard Sales: Flea markets, yard sales, swap meets–they’re all potential landing spots.
Lastly, try not to lose heart. Often, stolen bikes show up complete and unchanged, and you never know when you might happen across it.
Flanders Bikes is Cool
I’ve got one serious shout-out to give here. Thanks to Flanders Bikes for their extra-mile kindness. They posted flyers, asked others in the community, and were generally all-around super awesome when I visited their shop. If you’re in the SLO area, stop by and check them out–the cycling community needs more people like these.
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