Martha Gill Stolen Marin NSMB.jpg
EDITORIAL

Provenance: Was that Bike Part Stolen?

Words Andrew Major
Photos As Noted
Date Mar 24, 2021
Reading time

*Cover photo: Martha Gill's unique Marin Alpine Trail stolen in a smash-and-grab in Sheffield.

My Dog Ate My Battery

I'll say one good thing about e-bikes, every generation makes bike theft (specifically, theft of e-bikes) that much more of a pain in the ass. Whether it's manufacturers being able to log in and disable the motor today, or the potential to track your bike's location live with integrated Strava tomorrow, the risk-to-reward ratio, even in a Covid-era of crazy used bike values, gets a bit questionable.

Oh, no, I don't mean it's increasingly questionable for the thief. If anything the getaway factor on an e-bike both in terms of speed and route options is much better than a standard bike. Bonus points for the fact that no vehicle - clearly identifiable by its license plates - is required to get a partially charged pedelec plenty far away from the crime scene.

But for the buyer, I have some bad news. Proprietary chargers are only available through bike manufacturers or their agents, and any local bike shop or bike brand worth buying from would love to earn some easy karma by getting that priced-too-low-to-be-legitimate used rig back into the hands of its original owner. You're going to have to provide a serial number, or show up with the bike, to confirm charger compatibility and if they figure out that rig belongs to someone else you're not getting it back. Sure, call the cops.

DSC00276_denizmerdanoRMEinstinct.jpg

If your e-bike gets stolen contact the manufacturer ASAP with the serial number. Any good dealer purchasing a replacement charger for a bike acquired elsewhere will cross-reference the serial number when they order one. I know personally that Rocky Mountain has been instrumental in recovering bikes this way. Photo: Deniz Merdano

DSC00265_denizmerdanoRMEinstinct.jpg

In the future, you'll be able to disable your stolen e-bike from your phone, if not track it, and getting it re-activated will require effort on behalf of the new 'owner' in addition to a f*** up by the manufacturer, an unscrupulous dealer, or some hacking. Photo: DM

I'm certain there has been the odd time when someone legitimately needed to buy a new charger for their e-bike but I have a hard time imagining the original owner of an e-bike with any charger issue who isn't expecting a free one from the manufacturer. Oh, your dog ate it? Then bring the shop your slobber-coated, half-chewed charger and your best version of the story and I'm sure you'll get a crash replacement deal.

I bring it up out of jealousy. The only batteries I pack into the woods are my cell phone for emergencies and lights when I need them - or could need them. But I would gladly take a small weight hit and drop some cash on a GPS system* that I could use to track down my bike in the event that someone cuts it off my rack while I'm grabbing a coffee. At least it would give me a chance.

*Hopefully this is coming sooner than later: snik.app

CINCH power Meter.jpg

RaceFace, with their easily replaceable 30mm spindles, would be a prime candidate to sell me a tracking system of some kind for my bike. I'm guessing the product would have a lot more general appeal than a power meter?

But, then I stop to think. In the place with the most reported bike thefts per capita in Canada (and who knows how many go unreported), I've read plenty of stories about the be-your-own-Poirot persons overcoming institutional apathy to recover their own ride. I've seen a profusion of polemics about persecuting subsistence-level pedal poachers. But, what about the mountain bike enthusiasts who are buying this stolen sh*t?

Chances are all that stolen Kashima-coating is ending up back on the trail in the form of fresh upgrades on someone's rig. Maybe it's someone you ride with. Who but a mountain biker is buying a fresh suspension fork, wheels, brakes, etc. to upgrade their bike? And make no mistake, these bikes are being chopped, sometimes literally. It's way faster to saw through a carbon frame than any decent lock.

Kona Honzo Toxik Harald NSMB AndrewM.JPG

After my friend J.L. recovered my Toxik Harald-painted Honzo it went on to do a number of additional NSMB reviews. These days it has a new life under my friend Bone-Spurs-Brent. Say hello if you see it! Photo: AM

Your Friend Rides My Wheels

My own bike theft story is at best bittersweet. Of my two bikes that were stolen, I never again saw my beloved Jake The Snake single speed but my friend and multi-time bike-recovery superhero, J.L. Russel, chased down my custom-painted Honzo (a case of a custom paint job paying for itself) across downtown Vancouver, and recovered it for me. Well, most of it. Among the parts that were missing that held personal value were my original grey North Shore Billet bash guard that came on their FreeLight Cranks, and a set of wheels with Chris King hubs.

If the hubs haven't been cut out and sold separately, and if the wheels are still in BC somewhere, there's a chance I'm going to run into them someday. And if I see those pewter Chris King hubs - my pewter Chris King hubs - laced to my raw aluminum Velocity Blunt rims, I'm going to know they're mine. And if I see my black Chris King single speed rear hub, and my Paul Components bolt-on front hub, with the spokes wire-tied together, off my Jake, I'm going to know they're mine.

And, I'm going to know the punk riding them isn't the same person who was willing to accept the high risk and low reward of pulling a B&E to steal an assembly of well-used bike parts, an old Topeak floor pump that needed the head-clocked just so to work at all, an abused FSA 777 bar that was fully deserving of its retirement, and my favourite shovel. I really don't feel that I can harbour ill will to the person who pilfered my badly protected bicycles because I'd guess that I wouldn't want to spend a minute in their shoes.

travi-the-tailor-jono-lo.jpg

I wish every stolen bike story ended like Jono's with the rightful owner ripping back their rig. Sadly, I'm sure plenty of hot images on the 'gram feature hot bike parts. Photo: TTT

I find it much harder to contemplate taking a live-and-let-live attitude with the assfalcon that's riding my wheels, since they scream 'unique.' And that's what gets my loins all girded. I simply cannot fathom that the person who bought those parts didn't know they were stolen.

We've all watched friends painfully part with completely roached recycling bin-worthy mountain bikes because of the memories contained in the metal. Many of us have had the experience of selling something so-damn-cheap to a friend so we can get a little bit more intrinsic value out of it through their enjoyment. I've bought parts, frames, and bikes used a few times and I never had a moment's doubt they were coming from the original owner just based on how they talked about their specific experiences with them. And, I've also not bought used mountain bike stuff where my spidey-senses tingled enough that I asked after proof of ownership.

There is no market for stolen bikes, and more specifically stolen bike parts, without mountain bikers buying them. When you're buying something used to fix up your bike this season, please have a think about how far you go to establish provenance.

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Comments

Jotegir
+2 Andrew Major Pete Roggeman
Lu Kz  - March 24, 2021, midnight

This is a really good article Andrew, and admittedly something that I'd not thought of re: people rolling up to stores to buy chargers. One issue I foresee is with the prevalence of online ordering these days, the discerning stolen bike buying jerk can just buy one online after a bit of research? Maybe not, many of the e-bike buyers I've met would be hopeless in selecting the correct charger for their bike on their own. They'll research to the far ends of the earth on weird little numbers that aren't actually comparable between brands/makes, but something as simple as the correct charger may be lost on them.

I've managed to steer clear of buying stuff on the used market (courtesy shop life), but like many of your articles on the blog suggest, I too know the shop life isn't forever. I'll have to be ultra-diligent in the quest to avoid buying stolen goods but also being bittersweet over shop worker goodness.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+2 Greg Bly Mammal
Andrew Major  - March 24, 2021, 7:01 a.m.

Cheers!!

My experiences are with e~bikes using more proprietary motors but I think even with the multi-platforms Bosch/Shimano motors it’s well worth it to get your serial number out there if you have a theft. 

A pedal-bike can be ridden (or chopped more likely) as it sits. The pedelec’s value is in the frame/motor/battery so I imagine it’s more likely to be sold complete and of course acquiring a charger is another step / another chance to get the bike back.

Bike theft sucks all around but I think the folks financing the end product are the proper villains. This is just food for thought but it would be cool if folks who read it up their vigilance if buying used.

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Shoreloamer
+1 Andrew Major
Greg Bly  - March 24, 2021, 7:24 a.m.

Yes we love our gadget s on our bikes. What if an " affordable" GPS tracker was sold with every investment of a good mountain bike. 

Buying used parts? First thing I always ask. It's it stolen? Then I ask how / why it's being sold. 

Stealing mountain bikes is common because there is a market for stolen goods.

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AndrewMajor
+1 Greg Bly
Andrew Major  - March 24, 2021, 8:25 a.m.

I think the market for something hard mounted, like a Race Face GPS spindle, would be strong. Still only a limited time to find the bike before it gets chopped but it’s a chance. 

With enough of an adoption rate it would also act somewhat as a blanket deterrent maybe as it would be hard to quickly determine if a bike was wired or not.

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Timer
0
Timer  - March 28, 2021, 4:56 a.m.

Not a great fan of equipping each bike with an expensive, fragile, commercial  surveillance device that needs constant charging. 

I suppose a strong deterrent would be for the major buy & sell platforms, as well as every suspension service shop, to ask for the receipt before doing business. That’s what the official sram & fox service stations do around here, and what most shops who work on e-bikes require.

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craw
+2 Andrew Major Greg Bly
Cr4w  - March 24, 2021, 7:41 a.m.

One of these stuck inside a tube or under a saddle or something might work for a while, at least long enough to track it?

https://www.thetileapp.com/en-us/store/tiles/sticker

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 24, 2021, 8:26 a.m.

Wonder what the range is? Still, three year battery life. Cool product!

Reply

craw
+4 Andrew Major Mammal Todd Hellinga jdt
Cr4w  - March 24, 2021, 8:35 a.m.

Looks like the range is only a few hundred feet. That's too bad. I guess you could always go for a walk around the DTES and see if it pings. One ping only Vasily.

Reply

shoreboy
+6 Andrew Major Mammal Todd Hellinga Cr4w Pete Roggeman Michael Klein
Shoreboy  - March 24, 2021, 8:46 a.m.

What is The Hunt for Red October?

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 mrbrett
Andrew Major  - March 24, 2021, 8:54 a.m.

I couldn’t have guessed it. Have to add that to my list of movies to re-watch.

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Hollytron
+1 Andrew Major
Hollytron  - March 24, 2021, 2:09 p.m.

Careful Andrew, some things in here don't react well to bulletsh.

Poz
+1 Andrew Major
Poz  - March 24, 2021, 4:36 p.m.

I use those for my keys and wallet  

I’ve got one attached to my sons saddle. It’s not going to be great for distance but my hope is that if he leaves it somewhere at a campground we can likely find it by walking around. 

I may put one on my bike soon. The intent being the crowd sourcing ability of it may give a sliver of hope.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 25, 2021, 8:15 a.m.

Interesting. I hope you never have to test it out! But I’m super curious how accurate you could get in a densely populated area.

Reply

shoreboy
+1 Andrew Major
Shoreboy  - March 24, 2021, 8:35 a.m.

From the Tile page:

"Our new Sticker has a 150 ft or 46m range. Slim and Mate each have a range of 200 ft or 61m. Pro features our longest range, coming in at twice the range of Mate and Slim, measuring 400 ft or 122 m. However, as with all wireless technologies, different environments impact the effective range of Bluetooth signals. If your Tile is out of Bluetooth range, you can check its last known location on the app. This information is automatically updated whenever anyone in the Tile community comes within Bluetooth range of your Tile. All location and user information is secure and used exclusively for finding accuracy. Tile does not sell any user data."

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AndrewMajor
+3 Greg Bly AJ Barlas Poz
Andrew Major  - March 24, 2021, 8:39 a.m.

So fairly useless on its own but if enough folks adopt it it’s like a modern day trail of breadcrumbs

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mammal
0
Mammal  - March 24, 2021, 8:58 a.m.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 25, 2021, 8:25 a.m.

We have Garage 529 here. The big issues with the program I see are that the system requires the owner and recoverer to accurately record the serial number (is that a O or a 0? An I an l or a 1?) and it’s also a passive program waiting for something to be recovered.

Thieves and buyers are wise to the only serial number being tracked being that on the frame. I’ve heard anecdotes, that I have no reason to doubt, of police recovering piles of stripped frames (or frames being dumpstered) and have actually seen a recovered carbon bike where a chunk was sawed out of the frame (rather than cutting the lock). 

It’s bleak if you don’t grab that bike before they pull your nice wheels off!

...

One LoFi recovery idea a friend sent me was to put laminated ransom appeals in various places in hopes that the person stripping it would rather sell it back to you.

It got me thinking that maybe I should etch my phone number and name into my fork/frame axles?

Reply

rigidjunkie
+7 AJ Barlas Andrew Major IslandLife Caleb Del Begio Pete Roggeman Mbcracken Cam McRae
Allen Lloyd  - March 24, 2021, 7:44 a.m.

A couple years ago I spotted a really nice bike rack on craigslist for an unbelievable price.  So I went and bought it right away, then I reached out to my biking friends.  Within an hour I figured out who actually owned it.  At the end of the day it was returned, I got my money back and the people that stole it were arrested.  

The best part was I told the thieves "nope, I will not call the cops as long as I get my money back."  My friend who owned the rack called the cops, so technically I didn't do it, but I knew the whole time the cops were going to get these people.

Reply

IslandLife
+1 Andrew Major
IslandLife  - March 24, 2021, 8:49 a.m.

Sweet sweet justice!!  nice work!!

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cerealkilla_
+3 Caleb Del Begio Andrew Major Mammal
jdt  - March 24, 2021, 9:02 a.m.

Unfortunately, thieves also walk among us, and this can make identifying stolen goods very difficult. I bought some parts from a guy I (thought I) knew who worked in a local shop, some high-end wheels and a nice bar-stem combo. A few weeks later, another rider stopped me and told me the parts were stolen. The parts were distinct, and it was clear from the details they provided that the parts had been ripped off.  I gave the parts right back, and then went and had a "conversation" behind the shop with the guy that sold me the goods. His boss was also informed.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 25, 2021, 8:32 a.m.

Yeah, I have a friend who tracked his stolen bike down after a shop guy HE KNEW was seen handling it. I truly believe (and hope) that’s a tiny minority. Most folks I’ve worked with in shops have witnessed enough bike theft heartbreaks (for a lot of folks I don’t know if there’s a more personal theft possible) that even if they’ve never had a bike stolen themselves they have a lot of genuine empathy and a deep desire to help recover your stolen rig. 

As an aside, I know this is a bit of a pat on the back for being a decent human being, but kudos for doing the right thing. Twice I’ve been on hand for the recovery of very unique bike parts, that rolled into the shop I worked at, and both times the cops had to be involved to separate the items from their ‘used’ purchaser.

Reply

Boomshakalaka
0
Boomshakalaka  - March 24, 2021, 10:12 a.m.

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Boomshakalaka
+4 Mammal Pete Roggeman Martin Andrew Major
Boomshakalaka  - March 24, 2021, 10:44 a.m.

+1 for Snik coming sooner than later, I will be buying one for sure! 

Local shredder behind the company as well! 

https://www.instagram.com/snik.bike/?hl=en

Reply

mammal
+2 Andrew Major Boomshakalaka
Mammal  - March 24, 2021, 11:01 a.m.

Hadn't heard of that. Great idea and awesome that they're local too.

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pete@nsmb.com
+5 AJ Barlas Andrew Major Boomshakalaka Martin meloroast
Pete Roggeman  - March 24, 2021, 11:19 a.m.

Yep snik looks very interesting indeed and I've spoken with Fraser about it. As it gets closer to market or we get our hands on a testable prototype, we'll be sure to write something about it.

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denomerdano
+4 Pete Roggeman Boomshakalaka mudhoney AJ Barlas
Deniz Merdano  - March 24, 2021, 1:13 p.m.

Can't wait for this.

Have been following Fraser's project for about a year now.

With all the trail maintenance tools dissapearing these days, it would be so cool to attach one to the spade and shovel too!!!

Reply

cheapondirt
+1 Andrew Major
cheapondirt  - March 24, 2021, 11:50 a.m.

I have bought a few used parts in my time, thanks for the reminder to be smart about it.

Reply

andrewbikeguide
+2 Martin Andrew Major
AndrewR  - March 24, 2021, 5:16 p.m.

I provide a letter of sale and provenance with any bike or wheel set I sell (anything $1000 above), both to prove the chain of ownership and for their insurance, plus there is always the Buy-Sell Message trail (unless deleted) and most often the PayPal trail. But I am also not selling stolen goods so I have no issue putting my name to something I am selling either.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 25, 2021, 8:35 a.m.

Great point. Most stuff I’ve bought/sold used has involved a bunch of standing around talking about bikes and riding in general and certainly people putting their name to what they’re selling.

Reply

martin
+1 Andrew Major
Martin  - March 25, 2021, 7:09 a.m.

I bought a few used bikes over the years and used this website to check if they were stolen : http://app.cpic-cipc.ca/English/searchformbikes.cfm 

If the bike was declared stolen and the serial number given to the police, it will pop up there. Like Andrew said, sometimes the seller was clearly the owner and it was not a worry (I still checked the website afterwards), but it's easy to prepare the webpage on your phone and check the serial # on the spot. 

Another thing I've done is ask for a receipt with the serial number written on the receipt. It can be a simple piece of paper with a few details, but if it's stolen, the seller will probably refuse to do this paper right away. I'm always giving one when I'm selling expensive things and it feels better for both parties involved.

The receipt can also prove helpful if you cross the borders, as it happened to me that the customs officer asked me if I had the receipt of a used bike I used to travel with in my car. That's also true for new bikes or any object of value, but since they can keep the goods unless they see the proof of purchase, having this paper somewhere at home (or scanned on your phone) can be really helpful if that happens.

I've had a bike stolen from my garage in the past and now I am much more cautious when carrying, locking and storing my bikes.

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Vikb
+2 Martin Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - March 25, 2021, 7:18 a.m.

My first thought when it comes to bike theft is getting good insurance. There are a lot of shitty policies out there with low bike loss limits, but there are still options with high limits/unlimited coverage that are not particularly expensive. I do what I reasonably can to avoid bike theft, but you could open my garage's man door with a good kick so I am realistic about that side of things. If my bike[s] was stolen my next thought would be an insurance claim. Not the hope of recovering the bike. The few recovery stories I am personally aware of involved thrashed bikes that were not worth getting back other than for some vague feeling of beating the odds.

I don't buy many used bikes or parts. As you've noted in other articles once you factor in the lack of warranty and the cost of stuff like suspension service it's frequently not much of a deal to buy used. The possibility of buying stolen parts is another risk.

Reply

martin
+1 Andrew Major
Martin  - March 25, 2021, 7:58 a.m.

Yep, for many reasons nowadays I buy almost all of my parts new unless it's a new take-off part from someone who seems legit. And it's worth checking homeowners' insurance policies indeed as some of them have a 1500$cdn bike limit unless you buy a separate policy for the bike.

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AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 25, 2021, 8:38 a.m.

A note about insurance v. geography. I have a bunch of friends in the GVRD who used to carry additional insurance for their bikes but don’t now. It simply became way too expensive even v. the current replacement costs.

My understanding that it’s still less prohibitive in other parts of the province so that be the case where you are Vic?

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AndrewMajor
+1 Cr4w
Andrew Major  - March 25, 2021, 8:42 a.m.

I’ve had the ‘true cost of a used bike’ talk so many times this year it’s like I have a pull-cord and a sound box. 

Suspension service, brake bleeds, frame bearings, etc it adds up fast. I usually say add $1000 to the cost of any used bike as a semi-safe estimate. (I of course also note that if the frame is cracked, or the CSU creaks, or etc that $1000 goes up in smoke quick).

There are some awful and some okay values on the used market right now.

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craw
0
Cr4w  - March 25, 2021, 10:30 a.m.

Not to mention tires and brake pads.

Reply

BrambleLee
0
C. Dyer  - March 30, 2021, 4:38 p.m.

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