Our Story – How it all began – Part 1 / 4

by Christian Kulas

Our story consists of four parts. Today starts with part one: Memories of my bike

It was 2020. COVID-19, home office, spending a lot of time at home. Fortunately, I had already planned another tour. I just equipped my bikepacking bike with a new GRX rear derailleur and it was ready to ride. The tour was planned to go along river Rhine all the way to Lake Constance. First stop: Worms, to visit my mother. Then Kehl, Waldshut-Tiengen, Reichenau, Wildberg. It was a long tour, but after so many trips, everything on my bike was carefully customized and fine-tuned. From the crank length to the smaller chainring. This setup with 36 teeth is not supported by Shimano, but it has already proven to be highly effective during some climbs. My bike even had a perfect place for the tent poles below the top tube. But unfortunately this tour was the last one with my beloved bike.

Where’s my bike?

A typical Sunday. I went jogging and noticed there was an empty space in the building hallway, where my locked bike used to stand. I often had the bike in my apartment to tinker with it, so I didn’t reflect too much over it and assumed it was at home. But back in the apartment I realized: My bike is gone! I called the police, hoping of course that fingerprints will be taken and a full investigation would start. However, apart from a formal complaint, absolutely nothing happened.

It wasn’t until my bike was gone that I realized how much I actually was attached to it. Before, I saw it as a tool, but in reality I had put so much time and love into it. So many tours, mountain passes and yeah, some falls too. It wasn’t a particularly nice bike, but every single screw was tightened by me. It was mine and now there is someone {insert any insult here} who probably first sprays oil on my waxed chain. D*mn!

Can I get it back?

I posted about it in stolen bike groups and looked at Facebook marketplaces. I immediately set up push notifications on eBay classifieds – even for parts of the bike. I spoke to the neighbors about possible video recordings. There was even some surveillance material from the pizzeria next door, but they didn’t know how to access the data and by the time their electrician downloaded it, the relevant sections were overwritten.

Throughout this time, I took a closer look at bicycle thefts and also spoke to police officers about it. Here a couple of interesting facts:

  • Over 700 bicycles are stolen every day in Germany alone, a total of more than 260,000 bicycles in 2020. And the number of unreported cases is far higher because the theft is often not reported. 
  • The average amount of damage from bike theft is increasing every year and was 730€ in 2020 
  • The bike theft clearance rate in Germany is around 10%, in cities like Frankfurt am Main it is even lower with about 5%.
  • The cases that are solved are by chance – at least in Frankfurt. E.g. Someone is stopped by the police, because they were crossing the street at a red light and the bike is checked.
  • Reported cases immediately end up in the archive and are not followed up. Bicycle thefts are still widely regarded as bagatelle and neither politicians nor the authorities make big efforts to change this. While eBay classifieds and Facebook groups are known to be used for stolen goods on a large scale, no one is doing anything about it.
  • 90% of thefts are spontaneous. Most of them are acquisitive crimes.
  • Even the heaviest padlocks can be cracked within seconds. If a thief does not manage to open it quickly, he will leave the bike behind.

So, the chances of getting your bike back are pretty bad. Despite all my efforts, there is still no trace of mine to this day. A thought was stuck in my head: How can I avoid this in the future?

Read next part two: DIY GPS trackers

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