On Saturday August 19, while my spouse and I were paying a visit to the renewed AKG Art Gallery in Buffalo, a thief broke into our building and made off with my bicycle. The well-equipped thief broke into our building’s front entrance using a pry bar, and then used a heavy-duty bolt cutter to cut the rack my bicycle was attached to, taking care to watch for any activity in the garage by hiding in an adjacent stairwell. He spent nearly an hour in the building in total.
This was the second time my bicycle was stolen. This time, I thought I had a better lock. The old spot I had was hidden from the cameras and out of view of most people in the garage — the new spot was in a more prominent location.
My Brodie touring bicycle was quite distinguishable, with dual-sided pedals (flat on one side, clipless on the other), additional handlebar-mounted brake pedals, fenders and a rear rack, Marathon tires, reflective tape on the forks and seat stays, and the dealer’s original decal on the frame. When I bought it from Bateman’s Bicycle Company in March 2015, I had the extra brake pedals installed as I was unused to having a bike with drop bars, and I wanted a more upright position when riding on city streets.
It took over a week before I discovered the bike missing as I had been really busy in August. When I discovered the theft, I informed the building management, and was able to get still photos and video of the thief. He was dressed in a black hoodie, with a black baseball cap and a surgical mask covering part of his face. His backpack had several tools, so he came in with a specific purpose. He did not cut the Kryptonite lock; instead he cut the rack and left with the lock still attached to the frame.
I reported the theft to Toronto Police, firstly by going on their website, as I had registered my bicycle. (The last time I had a bicycle stolen, the police actually recovered the frame, which I later donated to Bike Sauce.) I saved a service receipt with the bicycle’s make, model, and serial number, and had photos to provide. However, since it involved a break-and-enter, I learned that I actually had to call the police and make a verbal report. After calling, I learned that I had to wait for an officer to arrive so I could give him a narrative. Our building maintenance manager expected it to take a few days; the officer arrived within a few hours, which impressed me. I posted the still photos to social media, including the Cycling in Toronto Facebook group, with the hope that someone might know something.
I was able to provide a detailed timeline to the police based on the security videos, and provided still photos. A week later, a different police officer called me as he wasn’t able to meet the manager to review the videos; I was able to make a copy and dropped off a USB stick to 51 Division the next day. That was the extent of communications from Toronto Police.
On Monday, September 18, I got a Facebook message from a friend of a friend telling me they found a Facebook Marketplace listing with a bike that matched my bike’s description. It looked like a match, with the extra brake pedals, the red and white tape, the dual pedals, and the Bateman’s dealer sticker. Missing were the fenders and water bottle cage, and cheap new lights were added, replacing the bare mounts.
I had not thought of looking at Facebook Marketplace, but it appears to be a popular place to sell stolen goods. After my spouse searched Kijiji, there was a similar listing. But seeing one’s prized procession taken, and then put up for sale elsewhere felt like it added insult to injury. We had checked these sites before, with no matches.
I brought this to the police’s attention, hoping for at least advice. I emailed the officer assigned to the case, and heard nothing. I went down to 51 Division again with printed screenshots. I heard nothing.
Back on the Cycling in Toronto Facebook Group, members suggested posting to another FB group, called Stolen Bikes – Toronto. After my membership was approved, I posted about the theft, and a member there quickly messaged me saying that they had just acquired the bike. I could meet him the next day, and I could get it from him. The person who purchased the bike said he followed the listing, feeling especially suspicious. Originally, it was listed for $400, but the person I met was able to get it for $150.
I was so happy to get the bike back, after three weeks of anxiety, especially when I learned of the sale listing. I was worried I wouldn’t see it again, and that an unsuspecting or predatorial buyer would pick it up.
Though I am not out a bike anymore, I will still need new locks and a safe place to store it. I will probably get new fenders when I take it in for an inspection. Until then, my bicycle is safe in our apartment. Luckily, our building allows bikes in the elevators and hallways.
Having distinguishable characteristics helped to identify the bike when I shared the theft on social media; keeping a record of the make, model and serial number also helped. I also choose to secure the wheels with custom locks, which kept the bike intact. Finally, the cycling groups on Facebook proved to be an invaluable resourse for getting people to watch out, and eventually, getting the bike back. I am grateful for the people who kept an eye out and especially to the person who got it back in my possession.