Lessons from a Bike Thief

Having our bikes stolen has taught me a few things about bikes. This is not the first time I’ve had a bike stolen, but it is the first time I’ve tried to address it through police reports and insurance claims.

Identification number: While I knew that all bikes had an identification number, across multiple decades of riding a bike (casually riding – not seriously or competitively) I have never been asked for the ID number or told it must be recorded and kept on my person. Vehicle identification and registration? Absolutely! Bicycle? Never. Things that no one told me, and I wish I’d thought of them myself before leaving on this USA-to-Canada vacation:

a) There are apps designed to register bikes in case they are stolen, such as: Bike Index and The National Cycle Database | BikeRegister and Bicycle registration for the life of your bike | 529 Garage (project529.com). If a bike is purchased new, the company may provide a registration service such as Bike Registration – Trek Bikes (CA). I can’t speak to the quality of each option; I just know they exist (NOW I know they exist!).
b) Do not expect the store that sold you the bike to maintain records or be particularly interested in helping, even if they do maintain records.
c) Allways include a hard copy of the bike identification number and registration details with the important documents that are required when traveling across national or international borders. If you are driving, then keeping a copy in the same location as your vehicle registration may be a good idea.
d) Even if a bike is recovered, if you can’t provide the identification number and/or proof that it’s yours, you won’t get it back. I don’t know what happens to these bikes but returning them to the original owner is wholly dependent on bike registration and identification numbers – even if you have video proof of the theft. This appears to be true for both the USA and Canada, possibly worldwide.

Insurance: My travel insurance claim remains under review, but all other avenues have come back with ‘sorry, we don’t cover bikes.’ Check your insurance before you leave. Consider purchasing insurance before leaving and/or keeping enough cash in reserve to cover the cost of replacing the bikes, new, if stolen.

Pictures: Take pictures for your paperwork and take more pictures before leaving. Photos of the bikes waiting to be loaded onto the bike rack and photos of the bikes on the rack, would have been helpful in this case.

Next time, I will have bike documentation ready. I will also change the bike rack to something more secure and/or ask about security and storage every-single-time I reserve a hotel room.

For now, the bikes are gone, a key aspect of my vacation plans are gutted, and I’m trying to find ways to modify (salvage) the biking portion of those plans. All I can do is learn from the experience and adjust in the future.

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