How to Recover a stolen bike

If you do a search of the internet, there are countless stories of people who hunt down and recover their stolen bike.

Thieves don’t tend to hold onto stolen bikes for too long. They either offload them to a fence or other middle-man, or sell them quickly themselves – often for a fraction of the bike’s true value. And so be warned, if you’re ever offered a bike at a too-good-to-be-true price, you can almost guarantee that it’s stolen!

In some cities bikes will be sold on at street markets or dodgy second-hand dealers. Do a quick internet search for your city, and you’ll probably come up with the names of places where you can get a cheap second-hand bike. Thieves also use online sales websites like eBay and Craigslist to sell their bikes, as they are anonymous and can reach a large audience of potential buyers.

If you’ve recently lost your bike, and there’s no news from the police about getting it back, you might want to consider searching the markets and online sites for your bike. And if you happen to spot it, you have several options about what to do:

  • Call the police, and tell them where your stolen bike is for sale. Unfortunately many police services are stretched and do not have the resources to follow up on your information. They may react so slowly that the bike has been sold by the time they respond to a call-out. And so if you are in a street market, try to find a patrolling police officer, as they will be more inclined to come with you and help confront the stall holder.
  • Confront the seller yourself. This can be slightly dangerous, but sometimes works. If you march up to the seller and tell them that it’s your bike and start making a fuss, then they may just give it to you in order to make you go away – and avoid getting the police involved, or losing other sales. Conversely they may also get aggressive, so be prepared to walk away if you feel in danger.
  • Steal the bike back. We’re on very dodgy ground here legally. I’m no lawyer, but it’s almost certainly illegal to just take a bike, even if its yours. However, having said that, what thief is going to report you for taking stolen goods?

Of course, there are some people who advocate a more ‘zen’ approach to bike theft, and say its better to just accept the bike theft and move on. Spending days or weeks hunting down your stolen bike may be more stressful than its worth. And as long as you have insurance (you do have insurance, don’t you?) you would be much better places in diverting your energies into picking out your new bike.

Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog

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