How To: Get your stolen bike back

Follow these tips to be reunited with your two-wheeled treasure

How To
Bikes thieves are opportunists. When they saw the handlebars of my mountain bike through the window, they pulled a smash and grab.

Bikes thieves are opportunists. When they saw the handlebars of my mountain bike through the window, they pulled a smash and grab.

A few years ago, when I was a broke student, some bastards smashed my boyfriend’s car window and jacked my mountain bike. I was heart broken. I remember sitting on the curb in front of my house, staring at the shattered glass and feeling violated. I carried that feeling for days. I couldn’t sleep. I jumped at the sound of car alarms. It was a low point.

The one thing I knew was that I wanted my bike back. It wasn’t easy and it did take a few months, but I did eventually get my bike back. You could argue luck played a small role, but I believe we make our own luck. So here’s my comprehensive guide on how to get your stolen bike back.

Lock it Up

Obviously, the best way to avoid this whole ordeal is to take the appropriate steps to ensure your bike doesn’t get stolen. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume you keep your bike properly locked, didn’t advertise on Strava, etc.

Documentation

The first thing you should do when you purchase a new bike is document it. Go somewhere where the sun is shining and take good clear photos of the complete build. Make sure to photograph the entire bike, plus any upgrades. You should also photograph any receipts you have, which can help prove value later on.

Lock it or lose it.

Lock it or lose it.

Around this same time, consider registering the serial number with your local law agency. You can usually do this at your local bike shop or fire station. Not all municipalities offer this kind of program, but it’s worth trying. There are also commercial registries, but I can’t speak for their effectiveness.

In my scenario, I had a copy of the serial number at home but failed to register the frame with the police. The bike was recovered before my police report was filed. When the officer ran the serial number through the computer, it didn’t ping. Had I registered the frame when it was purchased, I would have saved myself considerable heartache and effort. Don’t be like me.

You should also register your frame with the manufacturer. Not only will this help speed up any warranty claims in the future, but many brands offer a discount on a new bike if you report yours stolen.

Unique Identifiers

Now that you’ve gotten the documentation out of the way, consider slipping a business card into a waterproof bag and stuffing it in your grip or seat tube. Even if the cops don’t find it, there’s a chance some good Samaritan may discover it in the future.

Use this diagram to help you locate your serial number.

Use this diagram to help you locate your serial number.

To be more specific, if someone who isn’t an enthusiast walks into a bike shop with your stolen bike, there’s a high probability that an employee might notice something is off about the interaction. If they’re really suspicious, a mechanic will probably do a quick search of the bike or call the police.

Get Renter’s Insurance

If you own expensive bikes, renter’s insurance is your best friend. For a small monthly premium, you can insure all of your possessions. Then if your bike is stolen or you’re in a collision, they’ll help cover a replacement.

Just make sure that your insurance policy covers replacement cost. This type of plan is a little more expensive but will cover the entire cost of a similar item (minus your deductible). If you have an actual cost value plan, the insurance company will pay out replacement cost minus depreciation and your deductible.

File a Police Report

Now that we’ve covered the steps you should take to protect yourself in the unlikely event it’s stolen, let’s talk about how you can get it back. The first step is to file a police report. Remember all that documentation you put together with pictures, receipts, and serial numbers? Now’s the time to use it.

If you’re lucky, the thief is an idiot and gets caught. Since your bike is probably worth a serious chunk of change, they’ll be slapped with a felony for grand theft. Now, I understand that our criminal system is broken, the odds are stacked against inner city youth, but it still feels damn good knowing the bastard who stole my bike had to serve real time.

Oh, and you need the police report to file an insurance claim.

Canvas the Neighborhood

Sometimes, you get lucky. A thief will steal a bike because an opportunity presents itself and try to stash it, thinking they can come recover it later. Over the years, my friends and I have found stolen bikes stashed in bushes or down an alley. If it’s only been a short while since your bike has been stolen, call some friends and get to searching. You might get really lucky and find the perpetrator riding around.

Continue to page 2 for more tips on how to get your stolen bike back »


Related Articles


NOTE: There are two ways to comment on our articles: Facebook or Wordpress. Facebook uses your real name and can be posted on your wall while Wordpress uses our login system. Feel free to use either one.

Facebook Comments:



Wordpress Comments:

  • bwh says:

    Etch your driver’s license number on the bike (two letter state identifier, DL for driver license and then the number). Very easy for the police to identify and locate you.

  • DHJohn says:

    Great advice! I personally never leave my bikes unattended…they are always in view where I can keep an eye on them! I refuse to leave my bike in public…locked or unlocked if I’m not going to be able to keep an eye on it! The downside of this is that I have been thrown out of many places for having my bike with me…lol!

  • bradoemba says:

    If you ever need to leave you bike unlocked you can do the following to make it harder to ride away on: Put it in the highest gear (hard to pedal away on), flip it upside down, loosen the quick releases (if you still have those) so the dirt bag loses the front wheel and wrecks, clip your helmet through the wheel. The guy at the UPS store mentioned above would still have his bike.

    But really, just don’t leave it…..

  • Tall Bob says:

    Get a TrackR, which is an electronic device about the size of a quarter. Hide it on your bike. Even drop it into the frame, like through the seat post. GPS on your phone will show you location of bike. Just call the police to have them retrieve it..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*
*