Stolen Bike Found! (For Sale on Craigslist)

ScreenHunter_51 May. 07 16.23

Jen got in touch a little bit ago to share the following harrowing story. Her boyfriend had this bike that they both loved more than anything in the world, and it got stolen outside Safeway in March. Today, it popped up for sale on Craigslist.

Photos in Jen’s photostream prove the bike is their bike. Also:

Things to note: we added the SPD pedals. I don’t have photos of them, but we added them after the fact. (P.S. It’s my boyfriend’s bike, but I bought it and found it and I have a wicked attachment to it, so I obnoxiously call it “our bike”.) You can see the SPD pedals in the photo of all four bikes, but they’re small.

The CL ad mentions that the tires and seat are new. You’ll note those are different from our photo. Pay attention to the photos of the Campy rims, the way the handlebars are wrapped (cables underneath tape), shape of crank, Campy logos on derailleurs and crank arms and whatnot. It is absolutely ours, with no question.

We bought it from Danny – if you frequent the CL bikes section at all, he’s a dude that posts a lot of bikes from San Jose. Cash, no receipt. It’s an old Bianchi. Bought it in December, added pedals in January, kept everything else the same, stolen in March outside of the 16th Street Safeway. The only thing we have is a receipt for the pedals that’s coming from Ohio via mail as we speak. :(

I really don’t want the dude to yank it. I also don’t want to pay $600 for the bike I’ve already paid $600 for. I also don’t want to get shot riding off with the bike. I am so angry I’m just losing my shit – we’re tiny and nonthreatening and I’m not sure what to do.

We talked it over and decided to do this post, if for no other reason than to get the story out there. Advice welcome.

42 thoughts on “Stolen Bike Found! (For Sale on Craigslist)”

  1. I’ve had two bikes stolen (at the same time) outside of El Castilito there and got both back. They were both sold at Laney College Flea Market ( One was recovered without paying a dime by proving that the bike was mine there and threatening a phone call to the police and the other was recovered from a reseller off craigslist without paying a dime.

    If you get your bike lifted, go to Laney College Flea Market the very next Sunday right in the morning. Both bikes would have been at the flea market if we had gotten out of bed quicker.

  2. – Pretend to be interested to buy the bike
    – grab your favorite Louisville Slugger
    – cave some heads in.
    – ride away happy.

  3. Theft is a very disturbing event, in my opinion. There is a reason its called a crime, like with most crimes. Craigslist makes me ambivalent like no other web site. I love it, but I truly hate what its done to: gay bars, cruising in general, pawn shops, fencing stolen goods in general… and of course newspapers.

  4. You bought it from “Danny”, who sells a lot of bikes from San Jose, cash only? Maybe this isn’t the first time your bike has been stolen and resold on craigslist.

  5. A couple of notes – P.S., I’m the Jen with the stolen bike. :)

    After work, I stopped next door at Sports Basement to chat with the friendly cyclists there and see if anyone had any advice. Their suggestion was to just go to the police. Whether it’s for my own safety or just to say I had done it, go to the cops. So, go to the cops I did.

    I went to the police station at 17th & Valencia. They couldn’t have cared any less. They didn’t think it was my bike and thought I was crazy. Kept reminding me that they didn’t have any way to prove that it was mine, couldn’t care less about the components, couldn’t care less about anything I had to say. Fair enough. I’m sure they see their share of lying crazy, and I can’t expect them to trust me. A little compassion might have been nice, but I realize that’s sort of outside their job. What they did is file a police report. They weren’t entertained that I hadn’t yet filed one – they weren’t interested that we had waited around for hours and been ignored. So we filed a report, showed them our printout of the CL ad, and were sent on our way. We were told to call the fencing department tomorrow after the report would be filed and give them further information and show them our pictures and whatnot.

    So I come home, and I had received an email back from the seller. I’m a little leery to post it, because I don’t want to compromise anyone’s privacy, but since I’ve gotten people so involved, here it is.

    Hi Jen,
    I’m sorry to here your bike was stolen. I love bikes and it’s the worst feeling to get one stolen.

    I bought this bike at the Cupertino bike swap 2 weekends ago on 4/26/09 for $400 from a respected bike builder who shows up at many of the bike swaps in the bay area every year. He is a really nice older bike guy and been working with bikes for many years. I think he used to coach the Cal Berkeley cycling team. He is a regular at the bike swaps and many people know him in the Bay area Bike community. I believe wholeheartidy that he has a respected reputation and is a honest guy.

    I thought this green Bianchi looked nice and was a good deal coming from a good person, so i bought it to fix up and resell for a little bit more. The cupertino bike swap is a place to get good deals on bikes and parts and I thought it was legitimate deal.

    There were many people at the bike swap and saw this one one of the bikes he brought to sell.

    I would be happy to return the bike to you. I did pay $400 for it and I would ask to get that back. I have some time Friday and this weekend to meet up.

    Please leave your number and your schedule and we can coordinate tommorow. I took the ad off CL.

    Again, I’m sorry about your bike.


    I think the dude sounds legit, but I’m more than open to opinions. I’m willing to give him the $400 back that he paid for it. I just really, honestly want this bike back in my life. Just wanted to fill everyone in on what had happened in the last few hours.

    Also, San Francisco has the greatest community of anyone, ever. We’ve gotten so much support and so many emails and I just can’t be grateful enough for everyone’s concern. Thanks, Mission Mission. :)

    1. I know this is an old post, but for anyone else who might find themselves in this situation: this is a common tactic used by bike thieves to prevent you from reporting them. “I bought it from Joe who got it from Sue who once had dinner with the president.” Like the slimy sacks of shit they are, they’ll come up with an impressive, fabricated story to take the blame off of themselves, and then ask you to buy it off of them to “recoup their initial costs.

      Let me reiterate: this guy claiming

      1. [stupid enter key]

        to have bought it off of somebody is probably the bike thief himself, or is working with the bike thief. This happens all the time.

  6. Hi Ciaran,

    There are a couple of people who make their living selling bikes on Craigslist. If you do a search for anything in the San Jose downtown area, you’ll see a number of photos in the exact same style as the ones I’ve got posted on my flickr page. He’s a bike mechanic that buys old, sad frames and redoes them mostly according to people’s specifications. I’ve met with the guy, and I’m sure my word doesn’t mean much, but I believe he’s a reputable seller. He’s been around for years. I could debate endlessly how he gets ahold of as many frames as he does, but the truth is that I don’t really know and would be making a lot of assumptions.

    He doesn’t have many listings up right now, but here they are:

    When the bike was originally stolen, I posted to CL with the photos that we had from him, and got a lot of “Oh, you bought a bike from Danny” emails. So he’s a pretty well known guy and certainly is selling things that are solid. Again, there’s only so much I can personally defend the guy, but I’m certainly on board with him and really don’t believe he’s stealing bikes. He may be in the same boat as the person I posted about above that has my bike – goes to swap meets and buys from people that are reputable, but somewhere along the line something got lost. Can’t say. All I guess I can say is that he’s never seemed skeevy to me, and is certainly easy to track down if his credibility was concerned.

    1. i, too, have bought a bike from danny. i can vouch for his awesomeness. the man builds spectacular bikes, is super patient, and an all-around nice guy. i would recommend him to anyone.

      –jenny k.

  7. – Always file a police report immediately in the event of ANY crime, it gives you a leg to stand on.

    – Always have your bike or any other valuable carefully documented with detail (description, serial numbers, photos, etc) and kept in a file.

    And the simple solution here (can’t believe I’m typing this):

    Go back to that Rich guy who said he wants $400 and tell him to put you in touch w/ the guy he bought it from… if he can’t, he’s full of shit.

  8. Oh and what kind of lock you have on the bike at the time out front of Safeway?

    Curious to know what kind of lock folks should be leery of…

  9. Hi Charels,

    Tried to file a police report. Cops never showed after a few hours. It appears now that you can just go to the police station rather than calling and waiting on them to show – I did not know this, because I am an idiot. From a car wreck in high school, I somehow got the idea that a report had to be filed on-site. Waited, called – no response, gave up and came home angry. We did file a report with the on-site security at the complex, but it’s not like that’s actually going to do anything.

    The lock was a 5/8″ cable lock. It has now been replaced with a u-lock, which is much less convenient when locking to rogue things in the city, but is certainly much harder to cut through and nab a bicycle.

    When we get the bike back, I will obviously be combing it for a serial. I have no idea where it would be located and swear I looked over and over it before but couldn’t find one. Sounds like a shitty excuse, but it’s true. This whole debacle has taught me that just photos may not be enough, so I’ve got to step it up and do something more if I want to stand any chance of getting my shit back.

  10. Never ever ever use a cable lock on a bike you care about. Not even for 5 minutes. I know you know this know Jen (and sorry for the loss) but for everyone else out reading this.

  11. Johnny, Kryptonite recalled and replaced all of their Bic vulnerable locks years ago. A Kryptonite bought since December 2004 or so is fine. Not invulnerable, but it takes more than a plastic pen to open it.

    1. That’s not true. Kryptonite had a VOLUNTARY exchange program for its locks back when the Bic pen story came out, but not all locks were exchanged. The exchange program has long since ended, and Kryptonite will no longer replace the older locks.

      That said, it is actually very unlikely that any of the older locks were actually subject to the Bic pen trick. It was a sensational story at the time, but in reality, not as easy as some of the stories and videos made it out to be.

      Sure, it can be done, but it takes quite a bit of time and skill, especially when it’s attached to a bike:

      not exactly what a stealthy bike thief would want to do in front of a safeway!

  12. U-locks can still be opened with a carjack if I recall. You just want to make sure that you leave as little space as possible in the U so nothing can be slipped in.

    While we are on the topic, I use a regular sized U lock and not a mini. It gives you more room to work with when locking your bike up but can be a bit of a pita to carry around sans bag/backpack. There is a neat trick to using a mini U lock that most people aren’t aware of either.

    ^^^ You don’t need to lock through your frame (I always do though) in order to provide a secure lock. Technically someone could saw through your tire, tub and rim, but I think it proves to be too much to a bike thief looking for a quick score. You always want to make it annoying enough to break your lock (no cables) so they just move on.

  13. You can file a police report on line.
    Rich has a good story….I bet he tells that to everyone. Fix it up? Really? didn’t he just buy if from a “respected bike builder” who “been working with bikes for many years” yeah likely story. When you pick up the bike bring 3 large male friends and tell the slimy thief you are taking your bike back. In the future you should mark you bike in a way so that you can prove it is your bike to the police. This looks promising

  14. The best way to get a bike back is to take a photo of yourself, roll it up and stuff it into the seat post tube. Then you can go to meet whomever is ‘selling’ or ‘riding’ the bike, take the seat post out and retrive a photo of yourself from the bike. There is little reason to have a photo of a stranger inside the tubing of your bike. I have done this with every bike I’ve owned.

  15. The seat tube idea is so smart. Someone mentioned it to me yesterday too. It’s the first thing we’re doing when we get it back – including making a file of every piece of information we can identify about every bike in the house in case something like this happens again. I feel really lucky to have seen it pop up on CL – I don’t think I get to be this lucky twice.

    The big identifier that we came up with is that he used to ride with the cable lock draped around the seat tube and the top tube, so the cable lock bouncing up and down scratched the seat tube up quite a bit. It would be pretty noticeable – it nearly scratched through the frame on an older bike after a few years. Not a smart thing to do to a bike, as far as I’m concerned, but hey. It’s an identifying characteristic, in this case.

  16. Jen,
    so sorry to hear about this whole situation! I would be devastated if my bike were ever stolen, and you’re very lucky that you found yours again. I agree with the above poster asking Rich to put you in contact with his seller. I almost bought a bike from Rich once, and he seemed like a pretty stand up guy, so maybe it’s his seller who is shady. Anyways, maybe you can negotiate the price down a little bit, too. As for the serial number, on a Bianchi it’s under the bottom bracket. You’ll have to turn the bike upside down to see it.

  17. Let me say – honestly, it is absurd and stupid that we didn’t write the serial number down. I like to pretend that we’re smart people, but in this case, we are idiots.

    Tammy, it’s really nice to hear that you’ve dealt with Rich before. That means a lot. I spoke with him this morning, and I agree that he sounded like a standup guy. I really don’t think he’s the one that stole my bike. I also really have no interest in paying $400 to get it back.

    We’ve spoken with police, but they’re telling us that without a serial number, we can’t prove it’s ours. And, fair enough. Step one is that we’re going to call Danny – the kid we bought it from – and see if there’s any imaginable way that he might still have that serial number written down. Long shot, but he’s the only other person we know that’s owned this bike, and he might be smarter than us. The inspector said that it’s up to police discretion whether or not they’ll believe it’s ours, so we could basically lose the bike forever if we try to involve the cops and they decide it isn’t ours. I believe the photos we have are more than proof – and we’ve got the report filed with security at Safeway from the day it was stolen. We’ve got a receipt for the SPD pedals, but they’re pretty standard and I’m not sure that’s enough to link us to owning the whole thing.

    Ugh. Nightmare.

  18. I just found one decent and one really awful photo of the bike on my phone. One from the day I brought it home on Caltrain, and one with him actually standing in front of it. Unfortunately the one of them together is the really awful one. Dark, low res (which is apparently my fault), and you can barely see it… but it’s the only photo I’ve got of one of us with the bike. Frustrating, but maybe combined with the others, it’ll help?

  19. Why hasn’t anyone mentioned getting your bike registered? It’s free! And then the police have a record of you owning that bike.

  20. Helloooo, cnewmark’s blog mentions ALL THE TIME that if you commit a crime on craigslist you are leaving a huge, glaring, digital, paper trail back to yourself. Just contact craigslist about the offense and they should be able to track down the culprit and with the help of authorities get your bike back. Contact them and I’m sure they’d be glad to help you through the process. They’re certainly willing to cooperate with police about other crimes, I don’t see why they wouldn’t talk to the victim of theft either.

  21. Details tomorrow – the whole harrowing tale – but the short story?


    And he is going to ride her down to Shotwell’s, where we are about to celebrate and keep her safely indoors. Thanks so much to everyone here, as well as the amazing people at SFPD. Come down tonight and I’ll tell you a story, or I’ll write the whole thing out tomorrow. :)

  22. =v= I had a bike stolen from that same Safeway in December, 2005 (click on my name for a pic). The security guard was busy having a long personal cellphone conversation and wandered off into the parking lot to plug in her recharger. There is a security camera there, but neither Safeway nor the mall management would cooperate with me in any way to review or even preserve any footage (if indeed there is any). The police had an online form to fill out and it took a lot of work to get a human person to add information later (the all-important serial number).

    I used a U-lock, one of the ones Kryptonite sent to replace the ones vulnerable to Bic Pens, and locked with Sheldon Brown’s method. I still have no idea how or if they broke the lock without damaging the rear wheel. There was wear on the rack where my lock was.

    Maybe it’s time for a poster campaign against the racks at Safeway. I use a New York Chain exclusively now.

  23. I’m so happy it ended happily, and I’m so pleased that we got all this good advice to prevent future bike theft.

    When I read that Jen hadn’t gone to the police, I was surprised and actually lost sympathy. When I read about how useless the police had been when she tried to file a report I remembered my own experiences working with the police at Valencia station (nothing interesting). There are some genuinely good and helpful people working there, but they are the heros who make things happen. The rest are badly organized (they loose paperwork) or rude and unhelpful beyond belief or provocation. It makes me wonder if SFPD decided to be helpful because of the poor publicity.

  24. Take the seat off next time and drop a business card down the tube. Wrap one under the tape on the handle bars. Thief will have a hard time explaining how they got there and most will not look for them to remove them. You just call the police and have them look.
    Try, next time, to register it Bike Registry dot com.
    Very cheap as I remember. May be other places to do this too.

  25. This is how you get your bike back in San Francisco:

    My Kona Mountain Bike was stolen from my garage in March of 2006. The police told me to keep an eye out for it on Market St. between Castro and Civic Center and to call them if or when I spotted it. Sure enough I spotted it being sold/fenced at the Thai restaurant at Sanchez and Market and I called the SFPD. They never made it…

    After that, I started carrying a stun baton with me in hopes I would spot my bike. Two nights later while driving home from work after midnight, I spotted my bike on Market with the same guy I saw “buy” it from the fence. He and my Kona bike were in front of Citiapartments on Market. I got out of my car, pulled out my baton and shocked him three times in the neck before he wet himself. Then I removed the front wheel of my bike and stowed my bike on the bike rack on the roof of my car. I drove away as he started to get back to his feet. I still have the bike.

    1. You are now not only a thief but have now committed an assault with a deadly weapon (aggravated assault). You are no better than the thief that stole your bike to begin with…

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