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Where do all the stolen bikes go?

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11/1/2011 10:49 AM

so this weekend a friend and i were talking about where stolen bikes end up. he had some very unique bikes stolen a few years back and they never turned up anywhere. to this day, i keep an eye out for a random photo of the frames in question. there are plenty of unique and prototype bikes that go missing, but they never seem to surface either.

any thoughts? do they just go to the scrap yard for the price of melted aluminum?

any successes in stolen bikes recovered?


11/1/2011 11:03 AM

No idea my friend. I wonder this too after having a bike stolen and never to surface again. It makes me think the people who steal them somewhat have some knowlage regarding the uniqueness of some bikes or there's some sort of bike thief smuggling ring that dissassembles them and ship them elsewhere.


11/1/2011 11:07 AM

I'm always thinking about this whenever I see prototype bikes stolen. Even more I wonder who the dirtbags are that are stealing bikes at Interbike or off race rigs. My best guess is that they go out of the country, maybe South America?


11/1/2011 11:12 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/1/2011 11:14 AM

Its normal organized crime. Back in a day, the Slovakia in Europe was extremely "covered" by stolen bikes from germany, austria, france... And not normal ones. A lot of prototypes, dorados when they were not on the market, etc....

It was well know that there are some bands from slovakia and probably poland that go on world cups in europe just for bikes...

A remember when Balfa was popular mark, a guy who raced for the german distributor lost his bike because of theft. And i have found it in one czech shop. I knew its stolen because no one had it in czech (the DH scene was not that big and the bikes were really expensive). And i knew who brought that bike into the shop. So i went on some german mtb forums and tried to ask guys if there is some stolen Balfa in germany. I was given a contact to a guy who owned that bike and he came back to czech for his stolen bike.

Trust me, he was really happy and i was too wink And if i remember well, that thief was arrested by police as he was a member of some organized crime and they found more things at his home. Too bad, i met him many times again on all over czech races again.

But for now, its a history. Of course there are still stolen bikes but i think its no more that much organized as it was. I hope.

P.S.: I have nothing againts guys from slovakia or poland. I have many friends there.


11/1/2011 11:19 AM

I used to live at a small town and one of my friends had his bike stolen... for our luck, we had some suspects in mind and some contacts that could know who did it. few hours after the theft we found the house of the guy and he was already tearing apart the poor bike... he demanded a small ransom, my friend paid and got is stuff back.
the thief was planning to sell or exchange the parts with his thief friends... and the frame would probably ended up in the trash or sold to be melted.


11/1/2011 11:36 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/13/2011 12:08 PM

Years ago in the days of the Schwinn Homegrown, I had the red one with sweet red ano Sun rims and a single crown DHO that got stolen from the back of my work through two u-locks. I put the word out through the local shop. About a week later, I got a call from a friend of a friend that a "Customer" of his had offered the fork to him to pay off a $500 heroin debt. (I didn't know that about him before this.) He told the guy no-go and that he better bring back all of the parts. I'd already replaced the frame with the first of five? Santa Cruz Chamelion frames, so I gave him the Schwinn frame as a finders' fee. On a side note. Those red Rhyno Lite wheels were the first wheels I ever built, and they lasted for five years through learning to jump, racing dual slalom, two seasons of downhill racing and finally died on a trail ride when I landed a wall ride onto a root.


11/1/2011 11:43 AM

Oh, man. Got a couple of good stories about friends recovering stolen rides... Both took place in Ann Arbor, MI, a college town where bike theft is all too common.

The first was a friend who had just finished building a bright blue Kona Cowan DS... not too many of those around at that point as they had just come out that season. Long story short, it was picked out of the basement of his house during a break-in, and he thought he would never see it again. Luckily just a few days later, a friend spotted the same bike chillin in the bed of a pick-up truck outside of Little Ceasars. He knew the bike and parts spec well enough that without thinking twice he grabbed the bike and called the cops.

The second is definitely a better story from a comic standpoint. Basically a guy's bike gets stolen... high-end ride with custom build spec, very recognizable. About a week later a friend of his sees a homeless man riding the bike down the street. Without raising his voice or getting angry and scaring the guy, he stops him and compliments him on the nice bike. He then offers him $50 to buy it off of him. What do you know? The bum sells it for $50, probably completely blind to the fact that the frame alone retails for over $1000. Awesome.

Unfortunately, bike theft does hedge on organized crime in some cases. Only a few years ago, a bike theft ring was uncovered and found to be in possession of over 2000 stolen bikes. It was discovered that they had a wide-spread distribution and collection network covering every major city in the US and Canada. They had 3 warehouses in the Toronto area (I believe) containing bikes from as far away as Los Angeles. Pretty messed up. Still wondering what happened to my first Santa Cruz Chameleon that was lifted from outside my linear algebra classroom in Ann Arbor a few years ago.


I'm just here to ride...

Santa Cruz Chameleon SS
Transition Dirtbag

11/1/2011 11:58 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/1/2011 12:52 PM

Good video regarding this topic:


11/1/2011 12:11 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/1/2011 12:11 PM

King Cam and Pro Pops. Way to go! Classic. Have you seen the one where a group of Canadians ambush a bike thief with paint ball guns?


11/1/2011 12:14 PM

vics26 wrote:

Good video regarding this topic:

hahah, i shot that video. it was rad. cam's dad was ready to beat the shit out of that guy LOL


11/1/2011 12:45 PM

vics26 wrote:

Good video regarding this topic:

sspomer wrote:

hahah, i shot that video. it was rad. cam's dad was ready to beat the shit out of that guy LOL

When that video went live online, it made a lot of people's days better, and it was also entertaining/awesome to see some good old fashioned street justice.


11/1/2011 2:22 PM

fucking sucks, this year when i was still 14, i had my 1 week 6 day old giant glory1 stolen at the us open and it never showed back up.


11/1/2011 3:42 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/1/2011 3:43 PM

dont steal bikes bro!

ive caught people trying to steal bikes before, boy were they sorry after...


two wheels, one love.

11/1/2011 4:30 PM

I had a bike stolen in college that turned up about two months later. I had some fliers out stating a reward and some dude called and told me he found it in the woods in a creek.

So there you go. They're in creeks.

And in slovakia. Maybe in creeks in slovakia.


11/1/2011 6:40 PM

mine got stolen a 3 years ago and he was going around trying to sell it and he tried to sell it to my friend and my friend told me and i was stoked when the school got it back for me


11/2/2011 8:42 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/2/2011 8:45 AM

It became a pretty big problem around here. A lot of downhillers play up on Leckhampton Hill, some with very nice bikes. I even saw Brendog up there on the Honda RN01 once, but I digress.

Alas the local scum cottoned on.

A group of them would wait either in the car-park at the bottom of the trails, or in a side-road down the hill a bit. Someone would ride past (or drive by with a really nice bike on the rack) and they'd follow them home. If the bike was kept in a shed/garage/outhouse, they'd come back later and break in. They'd never break into the house (I'm told it becomes aggravated burglary if they do, so it carries a jail sentence). The bikes were shipped off to the cities and sold on.

It got to the point where it became a little cottage industry. They were going to the Forest of Dean (~40 miles away) and other popular DH spots and following people home from there. What's more, they'd wait a couple of months for the bike to be replaced and try again!

Thankfully the police finally caught up with some of them, and it seems to have lessened recently (or maybe we're all a bit smarter about being followed, and where we keep the bikes), but the price is that we don't seem to ride up Lecky so much anymore. Don't want to be followed home.


11/2/2011 9:34 AM

My girlfriend and I got our 3 week old specialized pitch stolen from my car's bike rack 3 years ago. The next day, I called the bike shop to asked them to order new bikes for us when the owner stopped me mid-sentence to tell me the guy with my bike just rolled past the bike shop. He tried to follow him but the guy lost him. A week later one of the mecanics followed the same guy on my bike back to where he lives. He even got the name and adress of the guy. The cops where at the store for another matter and he told them who it was and everything. The cops knew the guy but because they had too much on their hands already and because I already contacted my insurrance company they said they wouldn't bother to investigate. I should have confronted the guy to get my bike back but I was to chicken to do it.


11/2/2011 12:24 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/3/2011 11:23 AM

I HATE BIKE THIEVES. This year in Whistler my friend an I had five bikes stolen from the basement of our condo during Crankworx. According to the Whistler RCMP there were about 90 bikes reported stolen in Whistler During Crankworx. The police thought that many of the thefts were related and actually were able to bust a house in Vancouver that had possession of about 20 high end bikes. They found three of ours bikes and we just got them back a few days ago. I was surprised that all three bikes were exactly as we had left them as I thought they would be stripped right away. This was the first time I had ever had a bike stolen and even though it turned out alright in the end It was awful to deal with insurance, shipping, and not having any bikes for three months.


11/2/2011 2:53 PM

Tell you where they go in Milwaukee WI, the crooks try and fence them at Ben's Bike. Ben's has two stores across street from each other, whatever store the crook walks in the Ben's staff says they will buy it at the store across street. Ben's then calls other store to let them know they have a stolen bike coming in and stall them, then they call cops who have a Bicycle patrols in area 24/7 and they go to the store with the crooks and bust them. Have seen it personally, its a thing of beauty !


11/13/2011 10:25 AM

Mandatory viewing if you value your bike, especially the bit where they test a bunch of locks.


9/3/2015 1:12 PM

Back yards collecting weeds and grass growing over them . Stripped down and only a frame left. Likely be chucked out on organic day spray painted and kept


9/3/2015 1:45 PM

I've had a stolen bike come back. In highschool my BMX was stolen from a taco shop we would all hang out at after school. I didn't realize it was gone for about an hour. Luckily my buds saw a dude riding it later that day only a few miles from the shop and recognized it (they didn't know it had been stolen, yet). They approached the dude, asked him where he got it and whatever his answer was, they didn't buy it. The dude gave it up without a fight... it would have been 3 against 1 and they were also on bikes so he couldn't just take off. Lucky!

I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

10/30/2015 6:41 PM

The-Hoff wrote:

I'm always thinking about this whenever I see prototype bikes stolen. Even more I wonder who the dirtbags are that are ...more

Haven't seen them around..... Biggest market still is North America


11/2/2015 9:40 AM

I recently read a story about how bike thieves are now using Strava to find houses that likely have high-end bikes. Better set your house location to "Private" on the app if you ever start your rides from home.


I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

11/3/2015 1:07 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/3/2015 1:09 AM

I had an old Rocky Mountain Slayer SS stolen from a bike rack at my university a few years back. biggest mistake was that I had just gotten it from a trade and hadn't written down the serial number. Anyway after a few weeks I gave up and my insurance covered it. I replaced it and forgot about it. About 9 or so months later I was warming up and some dirt jumps about an hour away from my school, and some dude rides up on my bike. Same shock, same nasty ass brown fox 36, same bars and all. I had some purple bits on there that had been spray painted, but it was obvious. I didn't know what to do and just walked to the road and called the police. They showed up and questioned the guy. He was super legit, bought it from a pawnshop (who with the info I provided should have known the bike was stolen). Either way the guy riding it was 100% in the right, but he was a total bro and gave my bike back and went after the pawnshop. I'm not sure how it played out, but he was riding an NS soda slope the next time I saw him. I'm so grateful that guy riding it was so chill. The bike was super clapped out when I got it back (the thieves thrashed it) but man it was good to ride that bike again, and get some closure before I sold it a few months later.

And to answer the original question, where I live in Utah, there was two bike theft gangs caught recently. One was moving bikes to Colorado and other nearby states (mostly focusing on cheap commuters and stuff that would be harder to recognize). The other group, that got my bike, was focusing on higher end targets and using a pawnshop about 4 hours away to move the bikes to new owners quickly.


11/3/2015 2:02 AM

I've heard this about strava as well, already using this private house location.

Not so long ago there was a post about a guy from Slovenia who had his bike stolen, he announced that his bike was stolen on many webpages and eventually got contacted by few persons that his bike is being sold in Bosnia. Local police suggested him to contact the police there and explain the story. So he did and they told him he would have to come sort thing in person. Next day he took all of the documents of the bike and drove like 600km one way there, met the police, arranged meeting with seller and went to confront him. It turned out one of the LBS bought the bike from some individual because it was cheap. ~1500€ worth bike was sold for like 300€, store was then selling it for 700€ which is a LOT of money there, not asking for origin or any documents, but pretty much sure they knew it was stolen. That store bought the bike on the same day as it was stolen (stolen in the morning, in the afternoon it was already for sale in Bosnia!!!! Guy said he saw like 20 more used bikes for sale in a room where his bike was stored but police could not do anything about it. In the end he got his bike back, but final advice by local police was get the hell out of here asap, for your own safety. This is the bosnian buy/sale webpage, should be known better in central Europe as many stolen bikes might be for sale there... Conversion to € is about 1/2 (1 BM = 0.5€). There probably exist many similar east/south Europe sites worth checking...


11/3/2015 7:47 AM

I've had 2 bikes stolen... both GTs. One was a Ruckus UF which I'd really put a lot into (monitarily and from an effort standpoint- that was my first pair of MTB wheels I'd ever built on there- old saint hubs, damn they were nice), and another was a late 90s Aggressor which I'd turned into an "old school" commuter. The former was by far the nicer one stolen, that was from outside a bar in Buffalo, NY; while the latter was taken in Austin, TX.

I figure the Ruckus is being ridden by some unknowing rider in Toronto, who thought they got a smokin' deal for a used bike at a small bike shop or pawn shop. The scene there is pretty big, it's a huge city, it's less than a 2 hour drive from here, and in another country... It'd be easy to put the frame in the back of an SUV and cross the border undetected. What are the odds that most people are able to effectively look for their lost bike in that case? Even if I found it, I'd have to get either a passport or an enhanced driver's license to go get it, which would take a few weeks. Not to mention dealing with foreign police.

That was 2 years ago, I still miss that bike to this day. I've tried a few frames & set ups to replace it... but to no avail. sad


8/6/2016 10:22 AM

They go into a container and get shipped off to the other side of the world.


8/6/2016 10:38 AM
Edited Date/Time: 8/6/2016 10:57 AM

Remember driving to MSA years ago and watching the Fox trailer go the other way as we passed through Montreal. Once we got to the pits they were talking about how someone stole the trailer the night before. If it happens in Quebec it is more than likely organized crime. Would be interesting to know where that inverted 40 that they made ended up.


8/7/2016 12:00 PM

The worst I've heard in my country, the Philippines, are mostly bikers being mugged at gunpoint.

A couple of years ago, a group of bikers were overtaken by a van on a lonely road from a trailhead just south of Manila. Several men with assault rifles sprang out and asked the bikers to dismount and load their bikes into the van.

The bikes were the carbon-framed-top-shelf-parts kind. There are theories that the bikes were sold in another province, but truth be told, none of the bikes have been seen since.

Sometimes, though, you get lucky.

A friend of mine had his custom-painted Uzzi stolen at the hospital where he worked. He found it over a year later, intact and in near mint condition, less than 20 km (about 12.5 miles) from his house.

Someone had posted an Uzzi ad online, and since everyone who rides DH in our area knew the bike (it was a purple and neon green FR bike, you couldn't miss it), social media took over and the bike was recovered within hours of the posting. Apparently, the bike had changed hands twice before my friend was able to get it back.