Bike theft story. Needs advice.

So I got this email from James who had a bike stolen, which brings up a fundamental issue, what to do if you find your stolen bike and someone is posting an ad for it on craigs list.

Here is the story:
“My name is James Chae and I recently got my bike stolen from right in front of my house in Williamsburg.

To put a long story short — I came back from a long ride — parked my bike right in front of my corner bodega unlocked (big mistake, I know) and after less than a minute the bike was gone as soon as I stepped outside. Mind you, my bike had ALSO been stripped of its parts (wheels, handle bar, stem, and brake) a week earlier. So, this is causing me a GREAT deal of strife.

But, to my surprise the dumbass who stole the bike has posted it on craigslist.

(It has now been taken down from craig’s list)

But I am 100% positive this bike is mine because 1) I JUST bought new components for it and 2) it’s my damn baby!
If you could please offer some advice on how best to wrangle this son-of-a-bitch into returning my bike I would really appreciate it. I can procure emails and receipts to prove the bike is mine to the police. I am going to file a police report today as well. But I am trying to get some more info in how to best handle this situation without it turning into a bigger mess than it already is.


– James
If anyone has advice on this situation, please post comments.
In the meantime, be on the look out for this stolen property:


Red Bianchi Fixed gear — decals rubbed off, but bianchi is still written on the rear stem.
Nitto B123 Track Drop bars / black Origin stem
Chrome fork
Black Suntour Swift 700c rims / machined sidewalls / laced to generic black hi-flange hubs
Blue lined Hutchinson tires
Black saddle.
Leftside bmx brake lever
Silver front brake

28 comments to Bike theft story. Needs advice.

  • Brent

    Repossessing a stolen bicycle (and any stolen property) is tricky and generally involves law enforcement, especially if the person who possesses the bike now isn’t cooperative. Short of getting the law involved, one approach involves contacting the person and making a deal. It isn’t always the case that the person knows the bike was stolen, and sometimes they’re out a bit of money themselves.

  • jakerock

    I agree with the previous comment… You should know that the cops dont give a ratsass about a bike, and that you could possibly get in a bad situation thinking you can Charles Bronson your bike back. Be careful and know that you basically are now in a position of buying your bike back.
    For all intents and purposes you gave the bike away when you decided not to lock it up. Be careful, and lock your bike up.

  • I agree with Brent. The seller may not be the one who stole it from you. The cost of buying it back without discussing how it used to be yours is much cheaper than risking some kind of conflict.

  • Guy

    Report to your local law enforcement. They can subpoena Craigslist for the IP address of the person who posted the ad, then subpoena the ISP of that person to get their identity. Long-winded, perhaps, but the only legal and safe path forward.

  • cr

    Sorry to be a huge dick, but since you didn’t lock your bike up I’m not sure you deserve to get it back…

  • matt

    if this bike is your ‘baby’ how can you not lock it up???!! well, good luck getting it back.

  • Ian Turner

    cr, jakerock: Way to blame the victim, guys.

  • […] What Should You Do If Your Stolen Bike Pops Up on Craigslist? (Bike Blog NYC) […]

  • Name

    1 – Don’t leave a bicycle unlocked and unattended. Never ever. Where do you think you are?

    2 – Put your SS# somewhere hidden on the bike so you can confirm it belongs to you. On a piece of plastic inside handlebars. Carve it into frame somewhere then fill it in with grease or toothpaste so it is hidden but can be uncovered as needed.

    3 – If you can, buy the bike from the CL seller whoever it is. Probably cheaper than building a new ride and chalk it up to experience.

    4 – Don’t kid yourself. You are a victim here due to your own stupidity.

  • cr

    Ian Turner: The victim here deserves the blame. Guy regularly rides here in NYC, and already had his bike ripped apart the week before… He knew the score. The lowest priced/lightest weight lock on the market could have prevented this theft.

  • AlexB

    you people suck. things that aren’t locked up aren’t free or there for the taking. the bike was stolen. it’s not as though it was given away and then asked back. the thief broke the law and illegally took something very valuable and useful from another person. is it foolish to not lock up something? yes. does that make it this guy’s fault? no. he was robbed!

  • That doesn’t make the thief any less of an asshole, or any less guilty.

  • jakerock

    Careless is as careless does.

    Do you feel sympathy for a gambler when he loses?
    I dont.

  • @jakerock, you’re joking, comparing someone who hasn’t locked up their bike to a gambler, is simply moronic.

  • jakerock

    Are you saying that leaving your bike on the streets of NYC unlocked IS NOT a gamble? I think it is. Thank you.

  • Brian43ny

    That bike with a lock mostly likely would not last long.

  • cr

    Brian: True for the long haul, but for 5 minutes in a bodega it would have.

  • Johnson

    Looks like they stole your handle bar tape.

  • […] The AP asks if le Tour is really le clean. A New York writer asks what to do when you find your stolen bike for sale on Craigslist. A Columbia, MO councilman says not so fast about their recent cycling […]

  • marco



    Last updated: 11:42 am
    July 23, 2009
    Posted: 2:52 am
    July 23, 2009

    If you’re going to steal a bike, it’s probably a good idea to leave the area — especially if there’s a giant good Samaritan nearby.

    Marco Huijgen — a 300-pound, 6-foot-8 landscaper — spotted a man last Sunday walking down a street in TriBeCa with a bike with no front wheel. Then he saw a bike rack with only a wheel locked up.

    An hour later, Huijgen saw the thief walking the stolen bike, which had a new front wheel.

    Huijgen confronted him and the perpetrator jumped on the bike and started to pedal away. So Huijgen “pushed him with all my strength,” sending him flying into the street.

    The thief ran off but left the $850 bike behind.

    Hi James,
    My name is Heavyweight Bike Hero and i hope you will find your Bike back soon.

    Lock your new bike or take it with you in the house ok?

  • He sounds like a complete SWINE! I hope you talked to the local police about it. Isn’t that a racer? You should avoid locking that thing outside unattended, especially since its sex red. NYC should definitely invest in Cyclepods:

  • The Best way to get your f#*^@ bike back is to be a little proactive BEFORE anything happens!   Use a public bike registry and TAG IT UP!  ->

  • Kate Flynn

    The bike I had used touring Europe, and on a four-month trip from Canada to L.A., and many local trips, was stolen out of a Chicago basement. Six years later I moved back to Chicago and saw a picture of it posted at the YMCA a half mile from where it was stolen. It was my Univega, down to the sheepskin seat and unique front rack. The pickup was in the housing project Cabrini Green and I knew the police wouldn’t get involved and I didn’t want to go to there alone; people thought I was crazy for even cycling past twice a day. Anyway, never did call. Just stewed over it forever.

  • I’ve heard it said the happiest days in a bicycle owner’s life are the day when
    he buys his dream bicycle. Then the saddest day in a bicycle owner’s life is when the dream bicycle gets stolen. I stumbled upon a website that has cheap options on lock alarms. What’s nice is that ITS SIREN SCREAMS VERY, VERY LOUD. I saw them at I hope this can help.

  • A bike is a precious possession and the scumbags that take them should be #$%^&*ed up. The old saying that possession is 9/10th of the law applies. Get it back. Send some friends over and get it. BE POSITIVE that it is yours.

    Biking should be encouraged for a better planet. It helps reduce >aour air pollution

  • sam

    In a situation like that, I’d take some friends and kryptonite chains and ulocks, schedule a pick up (transaction) with the seller and then beat the crap out of him and get the bike back.

  • Catherine Reid

    So I have the same problem…other than my bike was locked up with two locks and steel cable and a X4 u-lock…both of which the sons of bitches cut through..I would just like to post my bike info incase anybody sees it. It is very sentimental to me…was given to by my father who is no longer alive. I want my bike back! Green (army military green..flat paint) smaller sized male gary fisher marlin with all new components and pin head locks on both front and back tires, Selle (?) seat the cool XS series. black bike rack. stolen from the upper east side 349 E38th from inside the gate.