Thursday, July 23, 2009

How to Get Your Stolen Bike Back

Dude! Where's My Bike?!? That was my reaction as I pondered my bike's whereabouts in front of the downtown Omaha public library where I had locked it earlier that morning. Apparently my bike, Old Yeller, had been stolen.

Like Pee-Wee, I was without my favorite bicycle. Over the next week, I inquired about my bike in many local businesses around Omaha and Council Bluffs. Fortunately, my efforts paid off. A tip called in from the flier posted at the downtown Jimmy Johns hit pay dirt. The caller said that he saw Old Yeller being walked into Sol's Pawn shop on 16th and Cass on the day it was stolen. I immediately called Sol's and began the process of recovering Old Yeller.

If you're reading this because you've been the victim of theft, I wish you the best at recovering your property. Hopefully, after using some of the following tips, you too will hear the wonderful news that your bike has been found.

How to Get Your Stolen Bike Back

1) Don't panic. You've got a reasonable chance at getting it back even if you only have a basic description of the bike. Most often, a bike is not chopped and sold for parts on eBay, but remains in your area as is. More often, it will end up in a local pawn shop within 90 days. As I researched this story, I found cases where people recovered their bikes years later from garage sales in the exact condition it was in before it was stolen.

2) Act Quickly: file a Police report ASAP. The Police will a basic description including make, model, type and color. Even better, provide the bike's serial number and a picture.

3) File an on-line Bike theft report at Bikewise.

4) Use Social Networking: Twitter, Facebook, blogs, e-bulletin boards, craigslist. Tell everyone you know. Get the word out fast!

5) Create & post fliers on bulletin boards of local businesses in the vicinity of the theft, in local bike shops, pawn and second hand shops.

A cash reward does a lot toward helping motivation. I offered & paid $50 to the person who called in the tip.

6) Hit the Bricks: get out and talk to people over your lunch hour. I handed out dozens of fliers around the library and talked with lots of locals. You may get some good info by word of mouth.

How to Prevent Bike Theft

1) Get a good lock to lock your bike well. A braided steel cable offer reasonable protection, but the ULock is your best bet. A rubber-coated kevlar cable is next to worthless: a serrated kitchen knife can easily defeat it in seconds.

2) Record your bike's serial number. DO IT NOW. The serial number is stamped on the frame beneath your crank (on the bottom bracket housing). When my neighbor's bike was stolen two years ago, I followed their advice to write down the serial number. Why do this? Because pawn shops are required by law to file the serial numbers with the Police Pawn Unit before they can sell any merchandise. When you file a police report with your bike's serial number, it's a guaranteed match to recover your property.

3) Have a good picture of your bike for the police report.

Regarding the Police Pawn Unit

  • Police Pawn unit shares a database of serial numbers between Nebraska and Iowa.
  • Pawn shops typically take two weeks to process new inventory serial numbers with police
  • Pawn shops thumb print and ID all sellers of merchandise. Thefts over $500 are felonies.

Again good luck and thanks for reading.



  1. Well played, Brady. That's awesome to hear a sweet ending to the whole ordeal.

    It sucks you have to pay to get it back, but at least there's a system in place to handle these situations. Also, you didn't have to go all the way to the Alamo to look for it. :)

    Thanks for posting what you've learned. I think it helps for us all to know how it works.

    I hope they nail this guy to the wall. For punishment, they should make him ride Easy Friday with you. he'd be begging for mercy.

    I'll update the Bikewise case to reflect the recovery.

  2. Way cool that you found. Great tips too.

    I'm impressed with the amount of effort and organization you managed to facilitate recovery.

  3. That might be some of the best photoshop work I've ever seen.

  4. Got a special going on case-hardened security chains (Austrian made) w/ Monobloc padlock (ABUS, German lock co. Thirty five bucks, delivered via US Postal Priority Mail. Includes Decal Kit.

  5. To Fred's comment, I totally missed that. I didn't even notice that Brady had, rather crudely, pasted his face onto the body of Marc Almond.

    And to A's comment. Hmm, relevant comment spam? Not sure what I think about that. It does look like a good deal, though. The videos are a nice demo.

  6. Scott: Your encouragement helped me get going on this. Thanks for the head start on bikewatch and tweets on OmahaCyclist.

    Bob: Once I got going, it wasn't that much. A blog post doubled as the flier that I posted downtown. Once I hit the street, I was motivated to find it. In fact, I told Katherine that I had a feeling I'd recover the bike as I walked out of Sols Pawn on L Street on Monday.

    Fred: Bill Gates gave up improving MSPaint.exe when he saw the quality of stained glass windows pictures I can create with this fine tool.

    A: Wow! Case-hardened Austrian chains at only $35? I've got 100 people wanting to buy! Even better, I've up-sold to $50/ea. But since I'm not from Australia, I cannot buy directly. Hence, A checque for $5K is in the mail. When you receive it, please cash and immediately wire me 1O% ($500.00) for our partnership. It's been a pleasure doing business with you!

  7. OK Dude, after you pick it up and Sol's makes you repay them for the amount they paid the slug for it let me know how you feel about them. Oh by the way they only take cash.

  8. Although I'd rather it not happen at all, paying $20 to get the bike out of hoc is a pittance compared to its replacement.

    'sides, my boy 'A' from Botany Bay is gonna earn it all back and then some... so pay up your fitty and shuddup a your face.

  9. In your honor and celebration, I ate 5 donuts. Congrats on getting that hunk of love metal back!
    You had a kevlar chain on your bike? That shit barely stops bullets let alone someone with a hankering from booze, meth and shopping carts. Yeller got lucky. Good job mango.

  10. still want me to find the cat(s) that done stole the bike and get all medievel on them and quote some Ezikiel before a pop a few caps in their a$$es?

  11. murphini,

    Thats the kind of action we need. If all the cyclists stick together to help find stolen bikes, and or the followup murphini suggested. The dirtbags would think twice about stealing them.

  12. Awesome!
    I'm so happy!
    When Scott (Dad) told me Old Yeller was stolen, I was like "They cut the cable?"

  13. Lucas: donuts are your kryptonite. Keep celebrating, especially when we race each other.

    Murphini and Tonado: As LA says, it's not about the bike (but your enthusiasm is noted).

    Welcome to Steel-cut and thanks for the sentiments, Emily. Well, Ok, I admit, Old Yeller is more than just a bike...

  14. May I ask specifically what kind of cable you used? Do you have any pictures of it cut? (Aside from cycling I pick locks as a hobby and as such am interested) Assuming you are using something different now, what did you get?

    By the way, saw the article in the paper today and decided to stop in. Excellent photo!

  15. I heard you found yer bike, man. Cool. I hate when I lose my bike. Then I hafta steel another one. LOL!! ROTFLMBO!