Stolen bicycle saga

Earlier this month, as my bike hunt dragged on, I followed up on a Craigslist post for a Salsa Vaya 2.  The Vaya 2 offers a bit of a component upgrade compared to the Salsa Vaya 3 that is on my bicycle short list, but that comes at a price that is more than I want to spend.  (It also comes with a color scheme that I prefer, which would be the main attraction for me.)

Anyhow, the opportunity to get a lightly used, 2014 Vaya 2 (with the beautiful baby blue frame) at a Vaya 3 price sounded pretty good.  The CL ad was a bit odd, referring to the bike as a “professional racing bike,” and making no mention of frame size, which is pretty important.

I called the number in the ad to ask about the frame size.  Talking to the seller, who had no earthly idea about the frame size (he kept repeating the wheel size), or really about bikes in general, it quickly became clear that something was fishy.  I told him that there should be a sticker on the frame with a number on it, something from 50cm to 60cm (not the 26-inch number he was giving).

At that point, it came out that the CL seller didn’t actually have the bike in his possession.  Instead, it was on layaway at a pawn shop, and he was going to buy it if he had a serious offer.  (At that point, he also offered to drop his CL asking price by $300, meaning I could have had a $2k bike for $1200.)

Um, yeah.  The odds that this wasn’t a stolen bike were slim to none, you know, the 0.000001% range.  I immediately shared a link to the ad on Bikelife STL, a local Facebook group, asking if anyone there belonged to the bike in question.  (On the off chance that this was, somehow, a legitimate sale and not a hot bike, this was a bit of a risk, since it meant that someone else could buy the bike out from under me, but I knew how upset I would be if my bike were stolen, so my primary concern was tracking down the rightful owner.)

One of the photos in the CL post clearly showed a “Big Shark” sticker on the frame, so I also contacted Big Shark, asking if anyone had bought this bike and reported it as stolen.  I didn’t have a serial number (or a correct frame size), but one of the store managers did some work, looking back at their 2014 sales records and contacting everyone who had purchased a Salsa Vaya 2.  He narrowed the list based on the accessories that were still on the bike.  Within a day, he received a return call from the rightful owner of the CL bike.

Unfortunately, I’m not really sure how it played out after that.  Theoretically, the owner, with the help of the police, got the name of the pawn shop and recovered his bike, but I never received any follow-up communication.  I going to hope (and assume) that the story had a happy ending.

On a related note, I saw this post today on better (and worse) ways to lock a bike to prevent theft.  With the right tools and enough time, almost any bike can be stolen, so your goal is to make it so that your bike isn’t an easy target (and then hope for the best).  If you’re using a standard U-lock, you may want to swap for a mini U-lock which is harder to force open.  Also, always record the serial number of your bike, to help with tracking in case of theft.


  1. Wow, so it was stolen! I missed the end of that story, but remember your BL post. My locking theory is simple: make it enough of a PITA that someone else’s bike is more appealing. Usually a U-Lock is going to be harder than a cable, and I try to limit the leftover space, though that can be hard. I use a fairly-large U Lock because I sometimes have to lock around posts and things and need the extra space. I am TERRIBLE about bringing my cable, so I always favor the rear-triangle-rear-wheel approach to up the odds that it would be a seat or front wheel that goes for a walk, rather than the frame or rear wheel… though if my rear wheel were stolen, I could buy an 8-speed rear wheel for the Linus… (or I could just buy a dang 8-speed wheel).

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      I hear you on large U-locks being more versatile, though I always carry a cable. I don’t want to be paranoid, but I’m thinking a large AND a small U-lock might not be too much for Big Blue!

  2. Tom says:

    I am ambivalent about Karma–I never see anything support the notion that gets over “confirmation bias.” However, it’s still a good thing ™ to try to reunite a probably-stolen bike with its rightful owner. Even if you don’t get the end story, you get to feel like you did the right thing.

    A pox on bicycle thieves and all their assorted (and sordid) houses!

  3. Tracy says:

    Thanks for sharing the website. We are in the market for a bike lock so I can get rolling with two kids in our trailer. 😄

  4. Tracy says:

    As the victim of a stolen bike (my first I-really-love-it bike), I am glad you did the right thing😀

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      There was never really any doubt for me about what to do in this situation. I could too easily imagine being the person who’d had that beautiful bike stolen. If it rightfully belongs to someone else, I want no part in it!

  5. EcoCatLady says:

    KUDOS for doing the right thing. I have to admit that I only use a flimsy old cable lock when I take Gertrude out for errands. But considering the fact that I bought her used for $100 over 20 years ago – and probably only have about another $100 worth of stuff on her, I’m not sure it’s worth worrying about. It would still suck big time to lose her, but I don’t think she’s a big “catch” for a bike thief.

    That being said, I would never, EVER leave my road bike unattended… EVER! If CatMan’s not right there watching her, I even take her into the bathroom with me! It does limit how I can use her, but since that bike is worth more than my car (which probably says more about my car than my bike) I just don’t want to risk it. She lives inside too… not worth risking someone breaking into the garage to steal her.

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