Updated: Feb 16
A broken collar bone will heal, but having a bike stolen is the pinnacle of pain for a mountain biker. Honestly, I think we'd rather have a broken collar bone than go to our garage and find that our trusted steed isn't where we left it the night before. As of this writing, we're witnessing a marked increase in the number of reports, and posts about stolen mountain bikes and its a lot more than we've seen in many years, if not ever. So. I want to know why?
I happen to have a long time friend that has a very high level job in Colorado law enforcement that I thought would be the perfect person to ask about this situation. Lets just say, when I setup the scenario and asked him why, he knew exactly what I was going to ask and provided a lot of information that I think is worth sharing.
What’s driving the spike?
Its pretty simple. The economic impact of COVID-19, the value of our bikes and the sheer ease of stealing them have all lead to the creation of a theft ring for high-end bicycles. COVID19 has created- and I hate to use the word- unprecedented levels of demand for bicycles world wide. On the flip side, we have factories around the world, shut down, that supplied things like bike frames, brakes, shocks, seats, pedals, chains, ball bearings…I mean, the supply chain to make a bike is quite enormous when you really think about it. So. The supply of bikes has been hampered significantly, yet demand spiked to levels I don’t think the bike industry has ever experienced. Lastly. Couple all of that with bikes that can be purchased for 5,000.00- 10,000.00 dollars each and you have an combo of factors that makes stealing a bike more lucrative than its probably ever been.
Who's doing it?
For purposes of anonymity, I can't give more information about who he is and what he does, but I can tell you that he doesn't work for a local jurisdiction, but has visibility to all crime in our state. I'm going to name my source Kyle Broflovski. Here's the story.
Who's stealing our bikes? It is confirmed that there is a ;arge organized bike theft ring operating in the Denver and Colorado Springs metro areas. These are not run of the mill thieves who are going to post it for sale on Ebay, Craigslist or Offer-Up. What Kyle explained to me is these people are professional thieves. Not tweekers taking your bike to the local pawn shop to get 20.00 so they can buy meth. Your 3k-10k bike is also not going to end up in some homeless encampment in downtown Denver either. They are far more valuable.
Where are they going? I watch the buy-sell-trade boards, ebay and operate the Colorado MTB Exchange Facebook group. One would think you could see an increase in the number of bikes for sale, but that isn't the case. These bikes are being shipped out-of-state and likely are making their way to Mexico, Canada and other international destinations. Suffice it to say. If your modern, higher end bike gets stolen, its not coming back.
What are they stealing? Kyle explained that these guys know the value of bike brands and bike types. They're likely riders themselves. So if they see Kashima forks, big brand name, you're likely targeted. If they know you have a valuable bike, they will invest the time and effort to get it because that bike will net them several thousand dollars. Kyle went so far as to say he wouldn't put it past them to case bike groups or trail heads and follow people back to their homes. Pretty scary.
Why more brazen?
Easy. Bikes are worth more than jewelry. The risk: reward is much higher than rummage through someone's jewelry box or yanking a TV off the wall. A bike is lite, can easily fit in the back of a car or truck and its easy to 'offload' to the buyers. Thieves are all about time on premise, or lack thereof. Less hassle to get the goods is the best. Going into the home has variables like a security system, making too much noise and pets. But your garage? Other than maybe a security system, there's VERY little probability that a dog is in there. The chances of you walking in on them in the act while you get a midnight snack is virtually zero and your is probably unsecured and "safe".
The other factor is the smart thieves know that they will get FAR more cash for a stolen high-end bike- in the thousands of dollars- than they could get for a handful of 14k gold and a 1/2 carat diamond.
What's being done about it?
Sadly. Not a whole lot is going to change at our level. Local police departments don’t have the resources to solely focus on your one stolen bike. That's the reality of it. What he did explain is that while they can't find every bike, their efforts are focused on eliminating the means by which these people can offload the bikes. This is an organized crime ring so the proper people are working to take them out. The good news is, they know who they are.
What should we do now?
Don't leave your bike unattended- obviously. It can take them 30 seconds to clip the flimsy cable your bike rack has and they're gone.
Don’t leave your bike in your garage. This one has a lot of variables to it, but if you have windows in your garage, or doors from the outside leading into your garage, you're better off bringing your bike inside and locking the door from your garage to the house.
Be aware of your surroundings. Its like anything,if something feels off, it probably is.
Don’t advertise your favorite bike brand on your car. I'm guilty of this, but it makes sense that if you're leaving your car outside and it has Santa Cruz Bike stickers all over it, its likely you have one. You've become more interesting to the thief.
Know that your bike lock makes YOU and your bike thief feel better. They know you have a false sense of security and your bike lock is easy to take care of. Don't soley depend on it.