Create a Flyer
If you’re an enthusiast, there’s a good chance your bike is special. Take note of any of these details and create a flyer with relevant photos. In my case, not only was the entire bike custom, but I also hand built the wheels with spoke washers.
Once you’ve got the facts down, take a copy to your local shop. A lot of people just email the flyers and pictures, but I suggest doing it in person. There’s something about talking to someone and making a connection that is so much more meaningful. In the end, this is how I got my bike back.
Visit Flea Markets
Flea Markets are a great place to find incredible deals, but they can be havens for stolen goods. In the San Francisco area, the Laney College and Ashby Flea Markets are a notorious hotbed for stolen bikes. The weekend after your bike is stolen, visit your sketchy local flea market. There’s usually police or security on the grounds, so ask for their help before taking things into your own hands. And don’t forget to bring that folder you created with pictures, receipts, and your serial number. You will have to prove ownership.
Another place stolen bikes frequently end up is pawn shops. Call around, email flyers, and ask employees to be on the lookout.
Post in Forums
Since you’ve already got photos and descriptions handy, you might well as post them in the various on-line MTB forums. There’s a small chance someone might spot your bike down the road. They can also offer advice regarding what sketchy locations to check out in your neighborhood. And if nothing else, it’s nice to have a community that sympathizes.
While it’s fashionable to hate on social media, there’s no better way for getting the word out that your precious has been jacked.
Ask at your local homeless shelter
Ok, this one sounds weird, I know, but it comes straight from the Santa Cruz Police Department. When my bike was jacked, they recommended I head down to the local Bike Coop with a flyer, ask around, and offer a reward.
Setup Craigslist and Ebay Notifications
After my bike was stolen, I searched Craigslist and Ebay relentlessly for weeks. These days, both sites have notification tools. There are also a number of third-party apps. When setting up these notifications for Craigslist, make sure your search covers neighboring areas.
If you do find your bike online or being ridden around town, it’s tempting to setup your own sting, but your best bet is to call the cops. You don’t know if the thief is armed or mentally unstable. A bike isn’t worth risking your life over.
If you’ve already been paid out by your insurance company, the bike is legally theirs. If the cops recover it, you will have the chance to buy it back. Usually, the insurance company charges a very reasonable buyback fee.
Did I miss any tips? What advice would you give someone who had their bike stolen? If you recovered a stolen bike, what worked for you? Tell us in the comments section below.