Bike Room Blog

"We Can Be Heroes Just For One Day" ~ David Bowie

Posted on July 22, 2014 by Ben Fietz | 13 Comments

Yesterday I was forwarded an email from a customer. Unfortunately, the content of the email was all too familiar to a bike shop worker in Chicago. It read in part: “Hope you're well and enjoying this glorious summer.  I went to the basement laundry room to put in a load and noticed or rather horrified to see that my "Chief" has been stolen…Loved, loved my bike. Sadly yours,” signed "T" (customer). They had written the email in hope that we would keep our eyes open for the bike.

My first reaction was anger, frustration, and disappointment. I always hate to hear about customer bikes being stolen, and even knowing that occasionally stolen bikes are recovered, I was pessimistic that we would ever see this Chief again. I closed my email and went about my business building up new bikes to fulfill customer orders.

A few hours passed by, and then I was alerted to another email a good samaritan had passed along to our Facebook fan page account. It was a screen grab from a Facebook group (Chicago Bike Selling) notorious as a front for people trying to sell stolen bicycles.

Sure enough, it was our customers bike, stolen out of his basement the night before. The bike was a little worse for the wear. The thieves had torn off his brass bell, and thrown away his basket. They had also flipped the handlebars over in a foolish attempt to mimic the look of bullhorn handlebars popular on fixed gear bicycles. The bike was looking pretty sad and lost, but the really important parts were still there.

At this point, we knew we needed to get the bike back. We just needed to figure out exactly how we were going to do it.

It was a little tricky getting in contact with the sellers. I don’t want to give away the entire method we used to track down the bike in case it can be used again in the future, but I did reach out to a former co-worker for help, and a few different online accounts were used to make contact and arrange a meeting to buy the bike.

At this point we contacted the Chicago Police Department and asked them for help recovering the bike. Luckily, we are friends with an officer (MY) in the bicycle unit who was very helpful putting us in touch with the tactical unit in the area where the bike ended up. A time and meeting place was set for the evening, and the police agreed to come to the meeting. We had a few hours to go before the meeting, and could only wait.

We noticed a second post go up on the bike selling page, this time looking more anxious to move the stolen bike. It appeared the sellers were getting suspicious of our original offer to buy it, and being such a hot bike, they were in a hurry to unload it as soon as possible. Some people had started to comment questioning why they were trying to sell an expensive bike for only a fraction of it’s value. The bike was getting a lot of interest on the page, and other people were commenting offering to buy the bike.   

We could see the bike slipping away, and frantically worked to get back on top of the situation. A second account was used to once again contact the sellers and arrange to buy it at a much earlier time. Luckily, they bit and the police and decoy buyer moved into position for the meetup. The deal went down better than expected. Four people showed up, and not only did they have our stolen Chief, but they also brought another valuable bike which had been stolen from a customer of another shop. Five CPD officers rushed the sellers when they showed up with the bikes, and were able to apprehend them. It was truly a great sight being forwarded the pictures of the bike thieves in handcuffs being lined up in front of a police cruiser.

 

So, here is the bottom line. At Heritage, we make our bikes ourselves by hand. This means that we care very much about every bike we sell. Every single one of our bikes represents sweat and hard work by our fabricators, painters, and mechanics to get them ready for our customers. We work way too hard building our bikes and our customers work way too hard earning the money they spend on our bikes for us to stand idly by while some idiot steals one of our bikes and tries to sell it for a pittance. We have absolutely no sympathy for bike thieves, and will do everything in our power to make sure the worst thing possible happens to anyone stealing a bicycle in Chicago.

Our customer has been reunited with his beloved Chief after being separated for less than 24 hours, and he couldn’t be happier. We can’t wait to get the bike back into the shop to clean it up, check it over, and replace the missing pieces.

 

Now ask yourself, would your bicycle company do this for you?

 

#bikethievessuck

 

Thanks to:

"B" - Facebook fan who alerted us of the posting
Officer MY - Bike cop friend of the shop
Chicago Police 24th District
"S" - Our friends who set up the meeting with bike thieves
Heritage Staff

Posted in bike thief, chicago police, cpd, recovered, stolen


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13 Responses

stellarichard
stellarichard

September 24, 2014

wow..it’s fantastic blog. i like this post. it’s contains really nice information that enhance my knowledge…Contact Us

Monica Pillai
Monica Pillai

July 26, 2014

Awesome! Happy endings and stolen cycles rarely go together. Congrats – you are inspirational! I’m writing in from Bangalore, India. Here, bike thefts are not by people who understand these cycles or their value but to hopefully resell to someone or just out of spite. The store I work with had a similar story a year back (with a lot of coincidence and luck thrown in). In the spirit of sharing our story… http://cyclistsforlife.com/the-adventure-of-the-solitary-cyclist/

JF
JF

July 24, 2014

if garage alley door tends to be closed, but while garage doors on alley are open, police might be able to stop in and look around just on “operating a retail business without zoning or a city license”. See what your local detectives recommend, then quietly talk to neighbor on opposite side of alley.

Eilene Heckman
Eilene Heckman

July 24, 2014

Y’all totally rock! I bought Velosurance for my Heritage bike… and when the photos in for the policy… I think the owner was drooling a little.

Mark Masseur
Mark Masseur

July 24, 2014

They say you are not a Chicagoan unless you’ve had a bike stolen. I’ve lost two. Nice job Heritage. And the Chicago Police. They really try to help recover stolen bikes.

ReverendSqueeze
ReverendSqueeze

July 23, 2014

These fine young men live in my neighborhood. I see them with bikes all the time. There was someone test-riding just the other night. I’ll be watching out a little more closely now.

james d
james d

July 23, 2014

There’s a garage a couple houses down from ours. Older guys working on bikes, but recently it’s filled up pretty quickly with bikes, and there are some interesting characters bringing the bikes by all the time. I’m pretty sure stolen bikes are getting taken there, fixed up and probably being resold. I have no positive proof of this. I didn’t think the police would take me too seriously if it was just calling with a hunch. Any ideas on how it could be checked out?

JF
JF

July 23, 2014

…so 2 bikes and 4 accused felons, plus maybe an accomplice who lives in the bike owner’s building (and who spotted the bike in the laundry room and tipped off the accused), so might be enough for a rico case also charging the website, if the victim can talk the prosecutors into it.

Please consider making time to appear in court, or give a deposition. Ben, please also consider posting a blog update with the court location / date(s). As a replier already commented, it would be great to see those full “people vs ??” names, since maybe one charged lives in the bike owner’s building.

Howard Gold
Howard Gold

July 23, 2014

Please publish the names of the thieves.

Mike
Mike

July 23, 2014

Hopefully these thieves will be prosecuted for Felony Theft considering the value of the bike.

Fernando
Fernando

July 23, 2014

Awesome job guys. Way to go above and beyond for your customers. Also making these bad guys think twice before selling stolen bikes.

Erich Beasley
Erich Beasley

July 23, 2014

What were the thieves names?

Stephen Wilkinson
Stephen Wilkinson

July 22, 2014

You might think about a register your bike with the “529 Garage Project” It’s free and could help get a “lost” bike home.

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