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Pandemic caused increased bike demand, increase in thefts

Bike sales, thefts are up
Posted at 11:47 AM, Apr 09, 2021

The pandemic caused bike sales to go up as people looked for ways to exercise outside. But bike thefts went up, too.

“Bike sales, through the roof. If we had more bikes, we could have sold so many more bikes in the past year,” said Christine Ford, General Manager at Elevation Cycles. “50% of the bikes, if not 70% of bikes, today I’m selling off a backorder list and people are waiting for their bikes.”

She’s having trouble keeping products on the shelves, and getting customers the bikes they want.

“The decline in bikes is because the demand is so, so high that if we had more bikes, we could probably sell 100% more bikes year over year right now. So, it’s not necessarily that there aren't any bikes, the supply chain yes has been broken, raw materials yes are more expensive and harder to source, but more people are buying more bikes, so that is the issue,” Ford said.

This increase in demand also created more opportunity in the secondhand market.

“There’s a lot of value in bikes, and the secondhand market is very real right now,” she said.

With that, came a lot more bike thefts.

“It’s not a sexy conversation to have, but if I'm selling a bike, I’m definitely talking about where they’re storing their bike at their house, how they’re storing their bike, and who has access and how you get access to that,” Ford explained.

Stata compiled by 529 Garage, a bike security software startup, shows a bike is stolen every 30 seconds in the U.S. Less than 5% of those bikes are returned to owners.

It’s a problem Bryan Hance with Bike Index is working to fix.

“You can whip out your phone, take a couple pictures of your bike, record your serial number, put it in the bike index, and you can forget about it. If that bike ever gets lost or goes missing or gets stolen, you log in, and click a button,” said Bryan Hance, Co-founder of Bike Index.

Bike Index is an open source bike registration and bike recovery nonprofit.

“It was sort of these four or five factors that all sort of came together last year and we saw bike theft go whoop,” he said.

The numbers from the platform show just that, a 20% increase in stolen bikes in Portland from 2019 to 2020, 62% in San Francisco, and 38% in Seattle.

“Every city that was reporting stats says we saw thefts go up,” Hance said.

And he’s heard it all.

“Dudes will climb up three and four stories of scaffolding and free climb and steal a bike that was on a balcony,” he said.

A lot of these bikes end up on second hand selling sites. Maybe not in the same place they were stolen. If you do happen to come across your stolen bike for sale online, Hance said there’s not much you can do besides try to set up an appointment with the person selling, and notify police. But even then, police might not have the time.

“Just tell us when and where and we’ll try to get somebody there but it's honestly 50/50 whether or not police are going to be able to respond,” he said.

Back at Elevation Cycles, Ford is focused more on prevention, keeping your bike somewhere safe and using the best locks available.

“It’s so very hard to find a bike. Prevention is the only way to protect yourself against it,” she said.