By Erin Vogel
11:27 AM CDT, October 2, 2012
I found out about Shirley's story because I tried to buy her bike that same night. I got there an hour after she did and all the seller told me was that it was already gone. After that, I didn't want to risk buying a stolen bike again, so I asked some bikers from the online biking forum, the Chainlink, for a couple ways to avoid buying stolen bikes.
>> Before you go to see the bike in person, do a search on the Chicago Stolen Bikes Registry, an online forum where theft victims can post a picture of their bike along with information about when and where it was stolen. A lot of bikes have been recovered this way. Comrade Cycles at 1908 W. Chicago Ave. recently reunited a biker with a bike that had been stolen from him two years ago by searching for it on the registry after a customer brought it in and something seemed a little off.
>> Beware of too-good-to-be-true prices. Bike thieves will often sell bikes for a lot less than they're worth to make quick money and to get rid of the bike fast. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the bike doesn't seem to match the seller (too tall, too small, or the bike's style seems to contrast blatantly with the seller's style), it may not be theirs, unless they can prove to you they bought it legitimately.
>> Ask a lot of specific questions. If the seller can't answer basic questions about the bike's model, parts, upgrades or where they got it, be skeptical. The shadier they act, the more suspicious you should be. Ask for the bike's serial number--bike thieves will often scratch off a bike's serial number after they've stolen it. A seller who isn't a bike thief should have no problem giving you the serial number.
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.
Copyright © 2013 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC