Okay, story time!! I've been waiting to tell this one, since it has the best ending possible!
A few days, I noticed a bike on Craigslist, that looked very similar to the bike that my co-worker had stolen from UBC. It was stolen from his house TWO YEARS ago. I txted him, and told him to look at the very vague ad and the two blurry photos posted. What was strange was, that it had the same aftermarket red saddle and white shimano pedals that my co-worker installed after buying the bike. See, my co-worker had given up all hope of ever finding his bike again, and has bought a new bike since then.
So, I emailed the ad, pretending to be an interested buyer and asked what size it was, and when I could come see the bike, even though the ad had a name (Curt) and phone number in the reply box.
Amazingly, I did get a reply, and set up a time and place to meet. It was today at 12:15 at a townhouse complex in North Vancouver. So, at this point, I discussed this with my co-worker and we went over our options. Yes, we can go confront the seller and dish some vigilante justice and take the bike back, or go the proper route and call the cops. He did call the cops at the time the bike was stolen, but like most people, he didn't record the serial number! Nor did he have any photos. So, I urged him to go to the bike store he bought it from and have them look it up and print out another copy of the receipt for him. And they did! I gathered all the evidence, screen grabs of the craigslist ad, receipts for the aftermarket saddle and pedals, and talked to a friend who's in the VPD. He said, yes, you can try to steal it back, or bring a few friends with you..hahaha, or call the North Van RCMP.
We opted to 'do the right thing' and called the RCMP, and told them the entire story. We asked them if they could send an undercover cop to accompany or meet us when we met up with the seller. You know what they said? They said, 'potentially'. Um, ok. Well, I guess at this point, we can't prove the bike is ours 100% if we can't verify the serial number on the bike itself. AND if the serial number is filed off the bike, we are SOL as well! So we had to hope the serial number was still there.
Fast forward to this morning, the RCMP officer said he cannot come, and even suggested to us to steal the bike back! I was somewhat surprised about that. Made us promise, over the phone, to not be confrontational or cause conflict! LOL. Well, if it was some big thug, we'd pee our pants.
Anyways, my co-worker and I came up with one plan of attack. We agreed to just look at the bike and NOT steal it back. Of course, leading up to the meeting, we were both pretty nervous about the whole thing. And this whole time, I was using a fake name on my email, so the seller has no idea who I am or what my phone number is.
So, I drove us up to North Vancouver, scoped out the townhouse and parked a block away, in case things changed and we did steal the bike back if our minds changed. Txted the seller to come out front, and a surprise to both of us, it was a middle aged woman! But sure enough, there was the bike, with the same red SMP saddle and white pedals. She introduced herself to my co-worker and my co-worker says his real name, when we had discussed to use a different name! D'oh! Buhahaha, oh well, whatever. I told her that he brought me along to check out the bike, since I knew what to look for. So I fiddle with it a bit, checking out the brakes, the gears, and then I flip it over, you know, to check for the serial number on the bottom bracket. I had pre-written the serial number on my palm because I knew I wouldn't be able to remember all those digits in that situation! Well, of course, the bottom bracket cable guide was covering some of the numbers, but we could see that the first 2 digits and last digit matched. OK, we are 99.9% sure this is THE bike now. We couldn't test ride the bike, because both tires were flat, so that gave us no opportunity to just ride away.
I tell the seller, yes, we'd like to buy the bike, but we need to go to the bank machine to grab some cash and come back. She even suggested taking the bike with us, to put some air in the tires. At this point, I look at my co-worker and am thinking, hey..we can just take the bike right now with this opportunity! Gave her this old defunct bank card for collateral, but she was smart enough to ask for something with a name on it. Thinking quickly, I was like, nah...we'll just go get cash and come back for the bike.
We walked back to my car and jumped inside. Called the RCMP again, and explained the entire story yet again, and finally they said they'll send a cruiser out right away. After 10 minutes, a ghost car finally comes down the road and we meet with the two officers, and go over the story yet again! Officer is like, wait, you're only 'sorta' sure it's your bike? Well yeah because the cable guide is covering a couple of digits, but I explain to him about the red saddle and white pedals and that we got MOST of the digits of the serial number. They said to txt her back to have her come out front, and they'll pull up when we're talking to her.
So, met up with the woman again, and we had to break it to her. Co-worker says to her, this is actually my bike, it was stolen from me 2 years ago. She was like, HUH WHAT? Then the cops come pulling up with their siren and lights a-blazing, jump out and yell, 'you're under arrest!'. Yep, just like on tv! hahaha. It was pretty exciting, but I was like, uh...that's going overboard no? After explaining the story to the woman, and taking off the cable guide, we verified the entire serial number. The woman explained how she got it as a mother's day gift from her ex-husband and kids a couple years ago. That very well may be a true story, and we felt bad for her, but we were happy to get the bike back! To be fair, my co-worker even offered to pay her the money for the new chain that she said she put on there, but she refused, and she said she was happy to return the bike to the rightful owner! So, I guess the RCMP will follow up with her ex-husband now.
Well, sure made for an exciting Friday! Justice has prevailed, hahaha! (Well, not really, since we don't know who the thief is.) And hopefully this will shed some light on what preventative measures you should take to protect your bike! Photos! Photos of you WITH the bike! Serial numbers! Receipts! If you bought the bike 2nd hand & don't have receipts, then run serial number checks to see if the bike is stolen BEFORE you buy it. Engrave your driver's licence number on it, maybe also on some parts if they're pricey, like the saddle, pedals, etc. Hide some personal information down the seat tube, under the inner tubes, in the stem, under the bar tape/grips, etc!
And if you do have your bike stolen, I know the chances are slim to none of ever finding it, but keep looking out for it! Because the cops won't be looking for it, it is the lowest on the priority list for them.
*Willing to be hired as your bike detective.