By Keith Payne — A cautionary tale of loss and recovery (eventually) and loss. No one wants their bike stolen. No one!
Aside from the obvious inconvenience of NOT having your bike to ride, it’s also a heart wrenching experience. Bikes, for those of us who value them more than most other objects in our life, are integral to our existence. Yes, even more important than chocolate!
[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Cycling Utah Magazine. References to time & dates should be taken in that context.]
We spend countless hours with them, maintaining them, riding them, thinking about riding them, washing them, obsessing over them. Bikes are our ticket to whatever it is we value about riding – Fitness, Friendships, Adventure, Exhilaration, Solitude, Endorphins, Freedom.
When a bike is sold and another purchased we make a mental transition, but it’s one we’ve prepared for and rationalized as the proper or timely choice. However when our bike is taken from us without warning, well then, it’s another situation entirely.
The theft of a bike creates the typical emotions associated with a loss. We can experience the five stages of grief.
- Denial (“This can’t be happening to me!”)
- Anger (“What kind of person would do such a thing? And where’s my baseball bat!?”)
- Bargaining (We may appeal to a higher power, “Please help me find it and I’ll take better care of it from now on, I promise.”)
- Depression (“I'll never have a bike as good as that one, I had it dialed.”)
- and finally Acceptance.
Recently my beloved Salsa Beargrease (Fat Bike) was stolen from off my Yakima Rack while sitting outside my office. Upon discovery my heart sank and the flood of emotions started to hit me. I couldn’t believe it, was angry at the thief and myself, wondering how I would ever recover it. I cannot fully explain the process but it was quick and painful. Eventually, depending on your perspective on life and the truly important things, you come to a point of Acceptance and start working toward a resolution. Which of course involves a new bike.
Dealing with Insurance
So if you are fortunate and your insurance company is understanding and your policy is written in an accommodating manner you may get some funds to purchase a new bike. Typically you only get a portion of the funds to replace the bike with a comparable replacement and then after you prove you purchased said replacement you get the depreciated value check as the second portion of the payment. First you must get an invoice showing what a comparable replacement would cost and send that to the insurance company. Your total reimbursement is after whatever deductible you need to satisfy. So for example if your bike was worth $5K and you had a $1K deductible you might get $3K up front from the insurance and then, after you proved purchase of a comparable replacement, you’d get the other $1K for a total of $4,000 ($5,000 minus your responsibility which is the $1,000 deductible).
Back to the story
After I and my coworkers drove through the neighborhoods around our office hunting for the Fat Bike riding thief, we returned to the office to file a police report, we also found a witness from another office to give a description to the police of the perpetrator. After this I called the insurance broker to get his counsel and then called the insurance company and explained the situation to the adjustor and provided the police case number. The insurance company as I mentioned needs to know the cost of a replacement, see photos of the bike I had, and then verify that the replacement bike is comparable. So after some research they let me know what they will do for my claim. Of course nothing can offset the emotional attachment one has to a bike, but at some point Acceptance will kick in and you mentally move on, somehow…
Then the waiting commences. Until that special day when a new bike arrives and I am free again to ride and explore and suffer and smile.
But what of my former bike you ask? Out there in the hands of another, or perhaps dumped in a ditch somewhere or leaning (gasp) against a pile of other stolen bikes in some storage unit or garage. What will become of the lost companion? I call pawn shops and check KSL and Ebay incessantly hoping to find a glimmer of hope.
Then a few weeks later the local Police Department calls one morning and the detective says, “Hey, will you get on KSL Classifieds and take a look at this posting, we think it’s your bike.” Frantically my fingers type the words in the search bar and sure enough, there it is, my bike! No doubt about it. If you are true cyclist you know your bike intimately, every nuance, scuff mark, and blemish. So now I begin thinking redemption may be possible and recovery may actually occur, just…maybe.
Things get squirrelly
So the Detective lets me know they he will track down the seller and see about getting it back. However, when he finally gets ahold of the seller he learns the bike isn’t actually in the seller’s possession. Instead it’s at a pawn shop in Salt Lake City. The KSL poster was in the process of trying to buy the bike from the pawn shop and was making payments on it. So the Detective calls the pawn shop and the pawn shop says “No way, we’ve had this bike since 2014.” The Detective then relays this information to me and I’m in disbelief. I’m thinking there’s no way they could make such a statement! So the police tell me it can’t be my bike, but just looks like it, which of course I know is impossible. The bike set-up is too unique, too customized. It IS my bike. The officer indicates he will go check it out anyway and look at the serial number. Meanwhile I’m in utter disbelief that this can be happening. There’s no doubt it’s my bike, but somehow they are gaming the system? Have they removed the serial number? Will it even still be there when the Detective arrives? I’m at a loss.
Later than day I get a call from the officer. “It is your bike” he says. He had given the wrong information to the pawn shop during his call so they reported what they knew about the bike he did reference. But upon arriving at the shop he found that the serial number did match and the bike is indeed my bike.
Well, then the officer informs me about Utah law and the pawn shops. He can’t get the bike from the shop until the case is resolved, which means he has to find and prosecute the thief, not an easy task if the person who sold the bike to the Pawn shop used a fake ID or was not the actual thief. The pawn shop cannot sell the bike, so it’s being held by the shop (they too are considered a “victim”) which is absurd because they choose to overlook the possibility (a very likely one) that this was stolen merchandise and take possession of it. So it’s a waiting game. With a little paperwork I could be allowed to go purchase the bike from the shop for what they paid for it (this should soon change thanks to the new Utah law). However the officer recommended against this course of action. Probably because it causes no disincentive for the pawn shop and they will continue to take stolen merchandise without consequence. This behavior, while reprehensible, is completely legal and allows them to buy and then sell stolen merchandise with impunity. It’s amazing that our State has allowed this practice to continue.
But it’s really not my bike
So now the harsh reality. I loved that bike, it was a trusted and loyal companion for many Winters of snow riding. But it’s not mine anymore. The problem with losing a bike, and replacing it thanks to insurance, is that now the bike is not yours but property of the insurance company. So while I could claim that it IS my stolen property, because the insurance company has compensated me for the loss, the lost item (should it be recovered) is now theirs. So when/if I get the bike back it does not get to come home to me, it will then need to be dealt with by the insurance company and disposed of in what manner they see fit.
Tale of the tape
The pawn shop purchased the stolen bike for: $200 (which they could easily research and see the MSRP on this carbon fat bike was more than 25 times their offer.)
They offered to sell it to the KSL poster for: $1,200 (likely in an attempt to dispose of it quickly)
The KSL poster had it listed (without even owning it yet) for: $2,100
The real cost of the bike: over $5,000
So here are the things you should do in order to safeguard against theft and prepare for it if it does end up happening to you.
- Lock your bike, everywhere, in your garage, on your rack, no matter where you are, use a lock. A good one!
- Check with your insurance. Make sure your bike(s) is/are covered not only in your home but when you are on a trip. Ask what it would take to add it as a specific item. This is called “scheduling” which is important for high dollar possessions like cameras, jewelry or of course bikes.
- Consider using a “Tile” or other blue tooth tagging device and putting the chip inside your frame so that thieves don’t know it’s traceable.
- If your bike is stolen, contact report it to the police, and post to the cycling Utah stolen bike listing: https://www.cyclingutah.com/bike-theft/report-a-stolen-bike/
- Don’t give up hope, but don’t expect miracles either. My bike has still not been recovered and it’s been over 2 months since the theft and over month since it’s been located. It’s a slow process which benefits the pawn shops since anxious riders would rather pay the recovery cost of getting their bike back from the pawn shop rather than go through the insurance process which may be more costly depending on their insurance deductible. But this should change with the new law (see below).
- if your bike is stolen, See Cycling Utah’s guide to recovering it: https://www.cyclingutah.com/tech/uh-oh-whered-my-bike-go-guide-to-recovering-your-stolen-bike/
- • For information on the new Utah pawn shop law (in effect in 2016), see: http://le.utah.gov/~2016/bills/static/SB0157.html and https://www.cyclingutah.com/news/2016-utah-legislative-wrap-up-several-bike-wins-and-a-few-losses/
So although my bike has been found by the diligence and skill of the Orem P.D., it has not yet been recovered and a full resolution remains to be seen. I hope this never happens to you, but if it does hopefully you now know what to expect.