Nov 15 2011
In many respects, the bicycle is a thief’s dream come true: easy to steal and easy to sell, but hard to trace. And the indifference shown by most American communities to the problem of bike theft only makes things worse. For the bike owner, that is. The thieves have every reason to rejoice. You say it’s not your problem? You always lock your bike? Good. But not good enough. No lock can stop a determined thief, and once your bike is gone, it’s likely gone for good. Yes, now and again a cyclist beats the odds, like the Colorado woman who recently succeeded in stealing her stolen bike back from the thief who took it. But such happy endings are rare. Few stolen bikes are ever recovered, and fewer still are returned to their owners.
I was one of the lucky ones. Many years ago, I lost my first good bike to a thief. But one of the cops in my tiny rural village found it lying in a swamp, then waded out into the muck and retrieved it. He even cleaned it off before wheeling it round to my parents’ house. Of course, this was in a small town, back in the day when everybody in town knew everything about everybody. So I didn’t have to prove ownership of my bike. The cop had seen me riding it many times. So as soon as he spotted it he knew to whom it belonged.
Like I said, I was lucky. Cops like the guy who brought my bike back to me are rare. Almost as rare as small towns where everybody knows everything about everybody else. Today, even when the police recover a stolen bike, they’ll require that any claimant prove ownership before they’ll release his property. The upshot? It pays to hang on to your sales receipt. But that’s not enough in itself. You’ll need a record of your bike’s serial number, too. And it doesn’t hurt to have a few photos showing you with your bike.
All of which I’ve done. I’ve also photographed my bikes from every conceivable angle. I even have digital photos of the bottom brackets, showing the serial numbers. And every one of these photos is backed up on multiple drives. So—if I’m ever unlucky enough to lose another bike to a thief—I’ll have what I need to prove ownership, should the stolen bike subsequently be recovered. Do my photos guarantee that I’ll get my bike back? Of course not. Then again, what do I have to lose? Except my bike, that is.