Theft from Singletrack: We’ve found one…

December 23, 2010

You might remember that a while ago our ad man Matt suffered a break in at his house. Three bikes were stolen, including his Long Termer Lapierre Spicy that he’d ridden during the Trans Provence race featured in Issue 62. Also taken were a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Comp and a Lapierre X-Control along with Jon’s laptop and phone. Although the police were extremely helpful, there were no fingerprints or other evidence to go on. It seemed we’d just have to do what so many bike theft victims have to do and write it off to experience – and the insurance company.

We didn’t give up entirely though – Matt had put an automated eBay search for each of the bikes just in case the thieves or their associates were daft enough to try and pass off the bikes.

Guess what? One of them was just that stupid.

Matt’s search came up trumps this Monday when the X-Control popped up on eBay, being sold by someone just down the road. The bike was easily identifiable by some components Matt had changed and he was positive it was the right one. After informing the police, we used the eBay account of a good friend of the magazine to bid on and win the bike. A meet was arranged for yesterday and after a bit of waiting about and delaying tactics from Matt, we arranged to pick the bike up – only it was picked up by a pair of policemen instead. Instead of getting an early Christmas cash bonus, the seller was arrested and we gave a statement. A search of the house didn’t turn up any of our other stolen stuff, which is a bit disappointing but hardly surprising.

Although it’s small consolation to Matt or Emily for having their home intruded upon, a small measure of justice has been done.

Inquiries are ongoing but we don’t hold out much hope of seeing the rest of our stolen property. We have learnt some important and simple lessons about security and what to do if you get your bikes nicked, so here’s the fairly obvious things we’ve been reminded of…

Secure them properly.

Having loads of cables, padlocks and other security on your bikes can be a pain in the arse if you just want to nip out for a quick ride but it’s quite a lot easier and cheaper to secure them than it is to replace them. Don’t leave the keys anywhere obvious either. Yes, the shelf high up by the garage door is probably the first place we’d look too. Combination locks are quite useful for this very reason – you can’t lose the keys either.

Get insurance.

As above, insurance is cheaper than a new bike and it lessens the blow of having your stuff stolen. You can put them as a named item on your home insurance or you can arrange separate insurance with a number of providers. If you’ve got a lot of expensive upgrade on there then make sure you specify what they are and the replacement value for them too.

Get the frame details and use a security tagging system.

Even if your bike does turn up on one of the many outlets criminals use to get rid of stolen bikes, it can be hard to prove the property is your without solid evidence. Keep the receipt in a safe place, make a note of the serial number on the frame and once in a while take a picture of your bike in it’s current state. You can use a security tag (such as DataTag) inside the frame or use the less secure but less expensive alternative of stuffing a card with your details on it somewhere inside the frame. Just make sure you can get it out. On individual components consider using something like SmartWater to mark them. All of this will make getting your property back that much easier.

Avoid advertising your bikes.

Bikes are high value, easily stolen and easily saleable goods that can disappear very quickly, especially when they are stripped down – which is the fate of most of the higher end stolen bikes out there. The easiest way to avoid losing your bike is to not have it stolen in the first place. Even with all the locks out there, it someone wants it badly enough they’ll be able to get it, so try not to advertise the fact you have expensive toys in the first place. Don’t leave bikes propped outside your house or left in the car when you’ve finished riding and keep them out of view where possible. We think that having our van parked outside was a major reason for the break in.

Keep an eye out.

If the worst happens then it’s not over. Put some searches on eBay, inform people via forums and consider using a stolen bike registry such as Bike Register. There are plenty of success stories out there – just don’t pin your hopes on seeing your kit again.

Don’t buy stolen gear.

Yeah, that bike and those bits might be an absolute bargain but if you handle stolen property you’re just as guilty as the person that stole it in the first place. High end mountain bikes tend to sell to other mountain bikers, so if you’ve seen an advert that looks dodgy then don’t ignore the voice in the back of your head. Has the bike had the serial number removed? Are there other obvious signs of a shady bike? Does the person have very little idea as to what they’re selling and it’s true value? Inform the police and let them deal with it. Don’t be a vigilante, you risk yourself and you could also destroy any chance of successfully prosecuting the person responsible, nevermind the prospect of getting a conviction yourself if it gets carried away.

Bikes get stolen because there is a market for them and if you create that demand by buying dodgy stuff then you’re no better than the sort of scum that breaks into people’s houses.

Lastly, don’t let any of it ruin your life. Being burgled isn’t pleasant but the thing we’ve found it that if someone wants something badly enough, there’s not a lot you can do and living in fear and paranoia is no way to live your life. Bikes are just a fun hobby at the end of the day and however galling it is, it’s not life and death…

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