Shop owner blames market for hot bikes, components for burglaries

JOEL MILLMAN Updated: April 16, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: April 16, 2010

Recent smash-and-grab burglaries at Colorado Springs bicycle shops may be feeding a market for expensive components that can be stripped off the frame and sold with little risk of getting caught, according to one shop owner.

Since Feb. 10, there have been 10 burglaries of bike shops in the city. In the most recent, a front-door window was smashed around 5 a.m. Friday at Bicycle Village, 2450 Montebello Square, and two bicycles stolen.

Police have not said if they believe the thefts are related, but they all follow a similar pattern: entry is made by smashing a glass window or door and the thieves have bypassed the most expensive bikes.

John Crandall, owner of Old Town Bike Shop, said that might be intentional because the more unique a bicycle is the harder it is to unload.

That’s not the case, however, with components, such as wheels, shock absorbers, crank sets, which retail for several hundred dollars apiece, and mostly can’t be traced once they’re removed from the bicycle.

Crandall doesn’t blame the burglars for trying to profit from their crimes — they’re thieves. He saves his wrath for the buyers who know they’re getting a bargain and why.

“There’s a certain percentage of the public who, when they see a $4,000 bicycle being sold for $2,000, say, ‘This is my lucky day,’” he said. “It’s not ethical, but we’ve created this entitlement attitude, the idea that I deserve the lowest price.”

Bicycle frames and other parts such as forks and some shocks have serial numbers, but most components don’t. That means wheels that can retail for as much as $1,500 can be bought and sold without much risk they’ll be traced back to a burglary.

Bicycles that aren’t stripped often are moved out of state to be sold.

The National Bike Registry based in Emeryville, Calif., tries to  fight that by encouraging owners to record serial numbers. So far, it’s been an uphill battle even as bike thefts continue to increase.

About half the bicycles that are stolen from owners are recovered, but less than 5 percent are returned because the serial numbers were never recorded, according to a spokeswoman for the group, Mariya Funcheon.

Funcheon said the one of the services the registry can provide is checking to see if a used bike being advertised has been reported stolen. It can only do that, though, if the owner has registered a serial number.

“The want an affordable bike,” she said of potential buyers that contact the registry. “They don’t want one that’s been stolen.”

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