The Chainlink

Almost two years ago today I had my bike stolen. It was my second bike stolen in Chicago, but the first one was about a week old and I never had time to bond with it. This one was different. I had three years of bonding. I grew with the bike. 

I lived in a loft with five other people on Milwaukee. Below that loft was another loft that had some new residents. There was a common area where we could lock our bikes up, rather than carry them all the way to the third floor of the building. There wasn't a ton of people in and out of the building, and we had just become friends with our only neighbors. I had come back to the loft one night with my girlfriend and we left our bicycles unlocked in the common area downstairs. There were three or four other bicycles down there at the time from my other roommates. 

The next morning I went to leave for work and my bicycle wasn't there. It was gone. The first thing in my head was that I had taken it upstairs. That wasn't uncommon. I went upstairs and looked. Then I asked my roommates. One of my roommates went down to check on his bike, but it wasn't there either. We looked at the door, but it wasn't damaged. Someone had either propped the door open, or invited someone in that left with them. Since it wasn't us, it had to be the only other people in the building...on the second floor. I asked them about it while my roommate filed a police report. As it turns out, they weren't home, but one of them had left their son and his friend there with some booze, they got trashed and then decided to take our bikes to go home. He called his son and told him to come over. After talking with him, his son said my bike was too difficult to ride and he had left it somewhere. He didn't know where. My roommate had his bike returned that day. We worked out an arrangement for my loss, although I never quit looking for my bicycle. 

Today as I was cooking lunch I received a phone call that I almost didn't answer. It went a little like this:

Me: Hello?

Guy: Jaik?

Me: Yes?

Guy: Hi, this is Jesse from Comrade Cycles. I am calling to let you know that we recovered your stolen bike. The KHS Flite 100.

Me: Wait. What? Which one...The black or purple?(my roommate just had a purple one stolen)

Guy: The black one, with the tire stitched on it and the short handlebars.

Me: No shit. It's been two years since I've seen that bike. That's crazy.

Guy: Yeah, someone came in and it seemed a little shady, so we looked it up. It showed up on Stolen bike registry. 

Me: This is great! I really don't know what to say...Thanks! Where are you?

Guy: 1908 West Chicago, Comrade Cycles. We're open until 5 today, but closed tomorrow.

Me: No, it's no problem, I'll be in there today. I'll see you in a little while.

Guy: Okay, See you then.

Jesse from Comrade Cycles, My recovered bike, Me!

My roommate and I went into the shop, both so excited to see my bike. My heart was pounding. I was patient and let the other customers go ahead. Finally it was my turn, I told them they had called, and that I was there to recover my recovered bike. He went to the back to get it and rolled out my bike. It hadn't changed. After two years I could only see two things that had been removed. The chain that was locking on the seat, and my U-Lock. Other than that, visibly it was the same bike. It was a flush of memories.

The story was that this kid had brought the bike in for something, but something didn't seem right about it. I had stitched a few inches of tire to the frame of the bike to create a bumper when I lock it up. I don't think this kid knew why it was there, and couldn't explain it either. I guess the bike had been sitting in a warehouse for almost two years. Jesse(the mechanic from Comrade Cycles) had searched my bike SN after it didn't feel right with this kid. He found my ad on Chicago Stolen Bike Registry and called me. When he told the kid that the bike was stolen and he couldn't have it, the kid said his dad was a police officer and he wanted it. So his dad was involved. His dad asked for the Police report number, which I'm happy to say I had on my C.S.B.R. ad.  Officer Dad said that it was two years ago, and that it had basically been forgotten or something. Jesse was kind enough to remind Officer Dad about the laws of trafficking stolen goods. I think Officer Dad was just upset about his son getting ripped off on a stolen bike.

The whole period of my bike leaving my loft and ending up in Comrade Cycles is a mystery to me. I'll never know exactly where it was and what happened. Who had had it, etc. I do know that Comrade Cycles is about 1.5 miles from where the bike was stolen. The bike didn't go very far.

There's some work that needs to be done to it. I need to get my rims trued, I'm going to take better care of it. Starting with a nice cleaning. It's great to have my bicycle back and I thought I would share it with you.

Here's my original Chicago Stolen Bike Registry ad.

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With all the bike thefts it is important to have a good lock and cable. Most modern bikes have quick releases so you want to make sure that the wheels are locked as well as the frame. Take your saddle with you if necessary, as well as lights, water bottles, etc. If it isn't bolted down someone will walk away with it. A good solid U lock such as the Kryptonite New Yorker will provide more deterent to thieves. That said, no lock is completely secure.  I had my Fuji Cross Comp stolen in April 2010.  I bugged the building crew for security camera footage. They sent me what they had.  My Kryptonite U-lock was stolen by a professional bike thief carrying a bag of tools and wearing gloves. I could not see how he defeated the lock, but he got through in under 2 minutes in broad daylight. There were people walking right by him while he was picking the lock and about a dozen bikes on the bike rack.  

I registered my bike with http://chicago.stolenbike.org/ and filed a police report.  After a few weeks I gave up looking for it but 7 months later I received a phone call.  I ignored the call at first but it rang again. I answered the phone.

Me: Hello?

Guy: Is this Brian?

Me: Yes.

Guy: I'm looking at your bike.

Me: What?

Guy: I'm looking at your bike. The Fuji Cross Comp...

...

Well, I can't recall the whole conversation, but this guy was in the market for a used cross bike and found one on eBay. He checked the stolen bike registry before buying and saw that it was stolen.  The man who was trying to sell it was not a thief.  The seller actually purchased the bike at Swap-O-Rama and was trying to make a little extra money on the side. The thieves removed my saddle, bar tape, bottle holder, rack, fenders and peddles, replacing them with other components in an attempt to make it look like a different bike. The serial number does not lie!

Lessons?

- Get a good U lock and cable to lock up all components. Make sure it is securely locked. 

- Locks are deterents only. If a thief wants your bike and has the tools, then he will get it. The best solution is to  bring it in the office/home with you.

- The nicer the bike, the greater the chance of theft. Use common sense.  A carbon roadie with Zipp Wheels does not belong on a bike rack at anytime of day.

- Out of sight = out of mind. Remove the temptation whenever possible.

- Filthy, trashy, "undesirable" bikes with heavy duty U locks and cables will provide the best protection when you must lock up your bike in public.

- Also, if you bought the bike, register it with the manufacturer and police. This way you have record should the thief argue his case against you.

I've never heard of registering a bike with the manufacturer. Can you elaborate?

Did you end up getting that bike back?

Both my Trek & Dahon are registered with the respective manufacturers.  You have to do that to invoke the warranty and also give them contact info for any possible safety recalls.  That gives you one possible place to retrieve the serial number and prove ownership if you neglected to do that yourself on a Post-It Note or something at home.  Wouldn't work for bikes not purchased new.

 
h' said:

I've never heard of registering a bike with the manufacturer. Can you elaborate?

Jesse and Steve and everyone at Comrade Cycles are great.

I did get the bike back.  Let's say you just purchased a Trek. You can register it at http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/support/product_registration. Also, register it with the CPD at https://portal.chicagopolice.org/portal/page/portal/ClearPath/Onlin.... In the event it is stolen you, the manufacturer and the police should have record.  But I would still register the stolen bike at http://chicago.stolenbike.org/.  

This is great. Next time I need a bike shop for something, I'm going to Comrade.

Ah yes, I remember now:

http://chicago.stolenbike.org/node/184455

Thanks for the additional clarification.

Brian Joly said:

I did get the bike back.  Let's say you just purchased a Trek. You can register it at http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/support/product_registration. Also, register it with the CPD at https://portal.chicagopolice.org/portal/page/portal/ClearPath/Onlin.... In the event it is stolen you, the manufacturer and the police should have record.  But I would still register the stolen bike at http://chicago.stolenbike.org/.  

Great to see. It's great to see another fine example of how the Chicago bike community is truly knitted together. A hearty rAMEN & thank you for the fine staff at Comrade Cycles!

This is awesome! It's great to see how truly knitted together the Chicago bicycle community is. A hearty rAmen to the fine folx at Comrade Cycles for this & setting the policeman straight. 

I was just telling one of my co-workers this story today. Thought I would bring it back up to the top of the forum. Cheers again to Comrade. That's where I bought my new bike and I'll keep going back.

A classic story that was brought back into my head when I read about Comrade today. These guys are still my favorite shop, now voted best in the city by the Reader.

Apparently nice guys finish first, sometimes.

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