Matt Steele

Now this is a story all about how my bike got flipped, turned upside down

18 Oct 2009

As previously noted, my bike was stolen a couple weeks ago. Fortunately, some stories have happy endings, and it is now residing back at my house. What follows is the harrowing tale of how I got it back (note: it's not all that harrowing).

Union Pacific has two sets of bike racks around its HQ building:

Bike Racks

Rack 1 is positioned next to the front door of the building, and is underneath an overhang that helps protect bikes from the elements. Rack 2, newly added this year, is out next to 13th Street and affords none of the amenities of the original set.  Needless to say, Rack 1 is as popular as a Homecoming queen, while Rack 2 gets rejected like a guy who just upgraded his D&D Avenger character up to level 6.

On this particular day, I was late biking into work, and all the spots in Rack 1 were taken, including several people who had double-used the rack spaces. Rather than trying to force my way in, I decided to park my bike on Rack 2, which happened to be empty when I locked it up.

Actually, "locked" is probably an inappropriate phrase. The previous week, I lost my old lock of several years on a ride home. So I went out to the Bike Rack and looked over their offerings, deciding on this particular model. Kryptonite rates its security as a "1", which they state is appropriate "if you live in the 'burbs and have a Rottweiler next to your bike". A couple pieces of twine tied together probably would have offered only slightly more protection than what I was using.

If there was ever a valid time for a lock to be guilty of EPIC FAIL, this was it. On the first day of its operation, it was broken and my bike was taken sometime while I was working. The thief didn't leave the broken lock, so I don't know whether they cut the cable, or found some way to crack the combination, though I'm guessing they used a pair of bolt cutters to snap it.

When I realized my bike was gone, I told a few people in the building about the theft, and got a ride home from a coworker. That evening, I called the police's theft report line and gave them a my phone number and a brief description. And of course I tweeted about it.

The next day, I got a call back from the police, and gave them more details about the theft. When the officer asked me if I had the bike's serial number and I replied "no", she responded with a disappointed-sounding "Oh."

I also got some great advice from my coworkers Scott and Brady, the latter having had his own bike stolen earlier this year. Brady told me what he did to recover his bike, including handing out flyers to local businesses and pedestrians, checking in pawn shops in the area, and blogging about it. He also mentioned the best way of recovering a bike was if I had the serial number available, which made me doubly skeptical that I would ever see it again.

Then for a long time, nothing happened.

On a Sunday afternoon, about two weeks after the theft, I got a call from an officer working in the Pawn unit, saying he got a description of a bike similar to mine in an area pawn shop. Following up, I gave him some additional details about the bike (going off memory and the one photo I had available), and a few days later he sent me some photos of a bike that was 100%, definitely mine. I sent him a reply and asked him to contact me when I could pick it up.

Then for a long time, nothing happened.

A week and several voicemails later, I finally got a response from the police, who sent a letter to both me and the pawn shop, declaring that I was the rightful owner and could pick up the bike. So yesterday, I ventured downtown to the Mid City pawn shop, and paid the $35 fee needed to get my bike out of hock.

I've learned a lot of things through this whole ordeal, most of which are outlined in Brady's own post about recovering his bike; so I won't repeat them here.

But the most important part is to record your bike's serial number. If you have a bike, do it now. I was a lucky bastard to have mine recovered without it, but everything I've experienced tells me that it would have made the process much easier. Pawn shops are required to file a bike's serial number with the police before they can sell it. Without the serial number, I had to trust that the pawn shop and the police operated on the same wavelength, and would be able to identify the merchandise by my vague description: "It's light blue. Or is it teal? Man, I wish I had more than just one picture of this thing."

So I'm back in business! I picked up a new Kryptonite-built U-Lock from the Trek store and plan on riding into work tomorrow. No mere larceny can hold me down:

Bike

I only ask that Omaha's thief population let me keep my bike for at least one week before attempting another swindling.