By Cheri Rae
A few weeks ago, I wrote the sad story of a how a thief brazenly entered our property, broke into our garage and stole away the brand-new bicycle that my teen-age son had purchased for his neighborhood friend for Christmas—a present for a kid who had had his own bike ripped off and couldn’t afford a new one.
Today the good news is that the bike is back in the hands of its rightful owner.
Note #1 to bicycle thieves: Santa Barbara is a small town with lots of networks, and news travels fast. One of my neighbors from three blocks away excitedly reported a possible sighting of the bike downtown on Friday.
Note #2 to bicycle thieves: If you’re dumb enough to put your very distinctive ill-gotten gain in a public place, and not even invest in a proper lock, well, karma might just catch up with you.
The rest of the story: When my sharp-eyed son gave up on the Super Bowl and went downtown to see a movie, he spotted the black fixie with the purple rims and handlebars that he recently bought with money from his savings account. It was locked up in the alley near Dargan’s—chained to a light post.
He called home. Dad met him. Mom called the cops.
Just before all hell broke loose when the train hit the man on the tracks, three of Santa Barbara’s finest—described as “so totally chill” by my boy—arrived in the alley near Dargan’s and scoped out the situation.
They were sympathetic, but couldn’t break the lock without some sort of proof of purchase. The guys at Velo Pro, where the bike was purchased, could produce duplicates, but not until the next morning. My exasperated husband facetiously suggested he simply wait there with a tire iron in hand, until the thief returned. The police took him seriously, and in no uncertain terms, warned him off that line of thinking. (For the record, I think he meant bicycle tire irons…)
The officers gave him 15 minutes to locate the paperwork before they had to leave; he returned home and frantically, fruitlessly searched for the receipt. Momentarily—since no one was going to wait for the thief to return to the scene—it seemed that once again the thief would get to ride away in the dark on a stolen bike.
That stolen bike. The one with the heartwarming backstory, the one that was so freely given before it was so cruelly taken—uh, no, not gonna happen twice.
Blame it on my Sicilian heritage, but the idea of the guy taking that bike a second time made my blood boil. I got an idea about how to keep the bike in place for the 12 more hours we needed to keep it out of the hands of the guy who had snatched it away.
Karma in the form of Kryptonite.
For once, something was right where it belonged. I handed the Kryptonite bicycle cable lock to my husband and told him to head back downtown and put it on the bike. He laughed with delight, returned to the scene of the bike and locked it with a real bike lock—the kind of lock that kind of bike deserves—securing it until the paperwork could be produced.
We hoped and prayed the Kryptonite would live up to its name and reputation, that the guy wouldn’t strip the bike’s parts, and that morning would break our way.
The sun shone brightly Monday morning on the spot where the bike remained. But sometime during what seemed like a very long night, someone had cut through the flimsy chain, and a few links still lay and only the Kryptonite still held it in place. My husband unlocked the bike and triumphantly brought it home.
A close examination revealed the speedometer had been removed; the handlebar tape messed up and in need of replacement; the seat was lowered for a shorter rider, and the fixed gear back wheel had been turned around so that the thief could ride it as a one speed instead one fixed gear. He had to find another way home Sunday night.
Note #1 to bike owners: Beware: this guy probably on the lookout for another nice bike to snatch away from its rightful owner and claim for his very own.
Note to #2 bike owners: Keep records of your bike’s purchase in a secure place. Note the serial number and keep the paperwork in a safe place so you can produce it if you need to. And, as I’ve learned recently, short of buying a pricey GPS for your bike, hide a slip of paper in the seat post with your own contact information in it—something that can easily prove your ownership.
A Note to this bike thief: We have lost far too much to the likes of you. We hope you get caught the next time you steal one—and get charged and convicted not only for theft, but for breaking and entering, too. (A Specialized mountain bike was stolen at the same time; that one is still missing, and reported to the police.) Meanwhile, it’s very satisfying to think of what your reaction was when you saw “your” bicycle locked up and out of your grasp. We hope you had a very long walk home to contemplate changing direction from the dead-end path you’re on now.