A San Rafael sophomore who had his racing mountain bike stolen recently is lucky he had the community help him get a replacement he couldn’t have otherwise afforded.
Unfortunately, bike theft is a common crime in Marin — a Bay Area mecca for both mountain and road cyclists — and many people never get their bikes back.
“People’s bikes get stolen every day in the Bay Area,” said Gestault Haus co-owner Murphy Mack, who started an online campaign to help San Rafael High School Sophomore Ulysses Lopez replace his racing mountain bike. “It’s a huge problem. This one story seemed to jump out because it’s a high schooler. We just wanted to get him back out there on the track as soon as we could.”
San Rafael High School mountain bike team Bike Dawgs assistant coach Rich Prahm said the incident serves as a reminder of the importance of theft prevention.
Lopez’s bike was stolen outside San Rafael’s Pelo Cycling and Fitness, a local gym that donates studio space for the Bike Dawgs team to train in. The gym also offers indoor bike parking for its patrons. Even though employees at Pelo Cycling and Fitness saw someone cut the lock of Lopez's bike, chased after the thief and had a suspect description, the San Rafael Police couldn’t pursue the chase because they didn’t know the bike’s serial number, Prahm said.
“It's really important that folks document their bike purchases, especially the bike’s serial number,” Prahm said. “A photo of the bike is a good idea, as well as descriptions of any upgrades, etc. And keep receipts. The police can take no action unless the owner can provide a serial number for the bike.”
San Rafael Police spokeswoman Margo Rohrbacher confirmed the police need a bike’s serial number and any other information about the bike available to try to get it returned to the owner.
Tom Boss, Marin County Bicycle Coalition membership director, said officials with the nonprofit tell cyclists to always lock their bikes, preferably in a well-lit place. “An unlocked bike is the #1 cause of bike theft,” he wrote in an e-mail.
Rohrbacher said owners should always secure their bikes and to not be afraid to invest in higher-quality locks because “in the long run it’s probably worth it.”
Prahm said they recommend cyclists use both a cable lock and a U-lock to keep a bike secure. “Thieves can cut a cable lock, even a thick one, pretty quickly,” he said. “So if you really need to keep a bike secure, use two types of locks.”
Rohrbacher said many people have bikes stolen from carports or open garages. “A few people I know bring their bikes into the house,” she said.
Boss said cyclists should also check their bike for detachable accessories, such as expensive lights or a GPS device, before it’s left locked.
While stolen bikes regularly appear in several police blotters in Marin, they rarely make bigger headlines on our sites. Once in a while, though, we like to try to help to alert community members of a brazen bike theft or ask them to keep an eye out for a certain stolen bike. Remember, you can always post your stolen bike in our “lost and found” section.
Also, the Stolen Bike Finder is a search engine that allows users to enter a description of a stolen bike and where it was stolen to see if there are matches with those being sold on sites like Craigslist and eBay. Users can also create an alert to receive notifications when bikes that fit the description go up for sale.
Have you had a bike stolen? Are you worried about bike theft? What steps to you take to keep your bike from getting stolen? Tell us in the comments!