It’s still fresh in my mind that sinking feeling when we came out of the restaurant in La Crosse and saw an empty bike rack. (Here’s a link to the La Crosse, Wisconsin article.) How could this happen so quickly? The bikes were locked together. I immediately called 911. The responding officer took our statement and pictures of the car/rack. Then he sent an email out to the La Crosse police department with a descriptions and pictures of our bikes. He also notified all local pawn shops in case the thief tried to unload them quickly.
Checking our surroundings, we noticed there were surveillance cameras facing the parking lot. The officer worked to secure the video which revealed the vehicle, but the license plate wasn’t clear. At the time of writing this article, the police are trying to secure footage from surrounding local businesses as the thief drove in and out of the lot three times before taking the bikes.
Besides filing a police report, what should you do? This was new territory for me, but I knew I had to hit social media to get the word out. My goal was to make our bikes so hot the thief wouldn’t be able to easily unload them. Also, more eyes looking for our bikes would help our odds of getting them back.
Having a good description and pictures of both bikes was critical. I posted everywhere and asked people to share. Within 2 hours my post had gone viral with over 300 shares! The power of social media is amazing.
I hope you’re never in the position to need this information, but here are suggestions on where to post if your bike is stolen.
- Facebook groups and pages:
- Local bicycle shops
- Cycling clubs
- Triathlon clubs
- Velo swaps and bike relevant for sale groups
- Fat bike groups (our bikes happen to be fatties)
- Stolen Bike La Crosse County (every city has a Stolen Bike FB page)
- Your personal page
- Relevant clubs (I posted to Fat Bike clubs)
- Post to your Strava followers
Be sure to check Craigslist and eBay on a daily basis or set up an alert. Also, check local flea markets and swap meets.
Many cities require cyclists to register their bicycles, La Crosse being one of them. Having your bike’s serial # in their database can help to reunite owner and bike.
There are also online registries that you can use now or after your bike is stolen. Two of them include:
- Project529.com and nationalbikeregistry.com have joined together
- Bikeindex.org – They have a Twitter feed that sends out a Tweet when your bike is stolen
If the lock or cable you were using has a guarantee, report it to the manufacturer. Most likely you’ll need a police report to file the claim.
Your home owner’s policy should cover your bike, less the deductible. The problem is when you file a home owner’s claim, you’re at risk of the insurance company increasing your premiums or dropping you completely. You’ll have to determine if a claim makes sense for your situation. There are companies that sell bike specific insurance, or you can buy a special rider for your home owners’ insurance, but both options are very costly.
After my experience, other bike theft victims have shared their experiences. Some had multiple cables and locks, but thieves still stole the bikes. Others reported that their bikes were stolen off their car rack at a stop light! Going forward, if I can’t secure my bikes inside the car, I’ll always have them locked on the rack, even when transporting.
Finally, if you are stopping at a coffee shop or taking a quick bathroom break and don’t have a lock, here are a few tips I use. First, take your helmet and put the strap through the rear wheel. If a thief grabs the bike and tries to take off, the strap will jam in the wheel and they won’t get far. Another option is to put a rubber band around the brake lever. There’s no way to ride off with the brake on. Just remember to remove it before you hop back on.
Did I miss anything? If you have a suggestion on what to do when your bike is stolen or how to prevent theft in the first place, share below in the comments.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio.