Bike thieves suck. That’s an undisputed fact. Fortunately, registration services like Bike Index are combating bike theft by providing new and effective tools to help riders, bike shops, and police departments catch thieves and recover stolen bikes.
Bike Index is a global bicycle registry combined with a stolen bike recovery platform. It is the most widely used and successful bike registration service in the world. Its database currently has over 286,000 cataloged bikes, 850 community partners, and tens of thousands of daily searches. So far, Bike Index has helped recover over $9 million worth of stolen bikes.
The Pro’s Closet is serious about catching bike thieves and preventing the sale of stolen bikes. That's why we have partnered with Bike Index to use its tools for identifying and recovering stolen bicycles. This way if we ever discover a bike that is flagged as stolen, we can alert the proper authorities and reunite owners with their bikes. We also serve our customers by registering every bike we sell so new owners will immediately have access to all of the tools that Bike Index provides.
Some customers may be unfamiliar with Bike Index or the additional benefits that come with having their bike registered. To learn more, we spoke with the Executive Director of Bike Index, Craig Dalton. He told us the Bike Index story, explained how it works, and how it helps the bike community and The Pro's Closet customers.
So how did Bike Index get started?
"Bike Index was founded in 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. We were founded by Seth Herr, who is our current CEO. Seth was working in a bike shop and customers were coming in asking for serial numbers for their stolen bikes. His personal bike shop didn’t have a great system for recording or providing that info, and he was a little shocked that a better system wasn’t available. So he set out to build that better system and to provide it for free to bike shops around North America.
"Seth started a Kickstarter to go on this journey around the western United States, getting bike shops on board to this new program, and during that journey, he met one of his backers, Bryan Hance. Separately, Bryan had been running his own registry called Stolen Bike Registry. Bryan was just a guy who wanted to use his registry to help people who had their bikes stolen get them back. Once the two of them met, it was just natural that they would merge their efforts. That's how Bike Index as we know it today came to be."
Does Bike Index cost anything to use?
"We’re free to use. Anyone can use Bike Index. We’re also a 501(c)(3) nonprofit here in the United States."
How does Bike Index work?
"So the registry side of Bike Index is pretty self-explanatory. We really urge all bike owners, whether you’re buying a bike, or you have a quiver of bikes in your garage to register their bikes. It’s pretty simple and painless. The biggest challenge is just flipping the bike over to get the serial number.
"You enter the make, model, and serial number. Users will have an account and within that account, they can have any number of bikes. If you sell a bike it’s very easy to transfer ownership to the new owner, and that bike listing will then be associated with that new user account."
How does Bike Index help with stolen bike recovery?
"Stolen bike recovery is where a lot of our efforts are focused. At a law enforcement level, we’re integrated with a database called LeadsOnline, which is something that police departments use, and the pawn industry uses. If your bike ends up at a pawn shop, they are required by law to check LeadsOnline to see if it’s listed as stolen. When you list a bike as stolen on Bike Index, because they're integrated, the pawnshop will be able to see that and take the bike in and contact you. The police departments use this service in a similar way. If they recover a bike listed as stolen on LeadsOnline, they can connect it to the owner via Bike Index and contact them.
"This is only the tip of the iceberg though. We’ve got a large ambassador community around the country looking at sites like Craigslist, OfferUp, Letgo — sites where stolen bikes are often trafficked, and they’ll flag listings that look suspicious. A common example is a listing where an expensive high-end bike is listed way too low. If there’s some disconnect like this, cyclists or fans of the sport will know that something is wrong. They can flag those listings and also check them against Bike Index. If it matches a bike that's listed as stolen, they can alert the owner.
"If your bike is stolen, always file a police report. Even before doing that, come to Bike Index and indicate your bike is stolen. We provide users a suite of tools to broadcast their stolen bike over social media platforms across various states and cities.
"When your bike is indicated as stolen on our platform we’ll also send out tweets about it. Believe it or not, a lot of law enforcement who are passionate about the problem follow these local Twitter accounts to kind of get a “hot sheet” of bikes that are stolen so they can keep an eye out. The goal is to get as many eyes on the problem as possible so people can be on the lookout for your bike in their communities.
"We’ve even developed a system call Promoted Alerts. We, on your behalf, can buy Facebook ads targeting the locals in your community. We’ll target enthusiasts, bike commuters, and racers in your neck of the woods on Facebook with ads saying to look out for your specific stolen bike."
What is a Bike Index ambassador and can anyone become one?
"Yes! There’s a link on our website to join. As a nonprofit, we really are volunteer-driven. Our volunteers and ambassadors bring a variety of skillsets together. Some of them are very personable and want to go out and get involved in their community, connecting with riding groups and running registration drives. Some are networked in the local bike shop scene and can help shops with point-of-sale integration. And others are cyber sleuths. They want to go out there and check online listings to find stolen bikes and reconnect them with owners. The community also runs several stolen bike Facebook groups. They’re always on the lookout and helping support people who’ve had their bike stolen."
Can you share a couple of recent success stories?
"Sure! There are a couple of good ones that come to mind — a University of Chicago student had his bike stolen. He flagged it on Bike Index but otherwise he’d pretty much written it off. He completed four years of undergrad and another four years of medical school. Amazingly, eight years after it was stolen, his bicycle was found. The person who found it got in touch with him through Bike Index. After all that time he still got his bike back."
"Recently we also had one recovery that was cross-border. A bike was stolen in San Diego and it eventually turned up in a flea market in Tiajuana, Mexico. The Mexican police used Bike Index to connect with the owner who liaised with the San Diego Police Department. The Mexican police took it up to the border to hand it over to San Diego police who got it back to the owner."
How is Bike Index improving the bike marketplace?
"Our vision for peer-to-peer transactions and any transaction in the pre-owned bike market is that Bike Index becomes the go-to place to check if a bike has been stolen or not. It’s quick, it’s easy, and anyone can use our search tool. Organizations like The Pro’s Closet are already doing this in an automated fashion so they get a triple-check on a bike before it goes to its new home.
"We’ve recovered over $9,208,193 worth of bikes so far. This has been a pretty big year of growth for us because we’ve started to venture into partnerships like The Pro’s Closet where we’re just getting an incredibly large amount of bikes registered. We have over 850 organizational accounts, and about 750 of those are bike shops around the world, predominantly in North America. Our bike shop partners are registering bikes at the point-of-sale and they’re also running registration drives. We also work directly with the bike industry to get more bikes registered before the point-of-sale, because that’s the easiest time to capture the serial number and get it into the database."
What benefits does Bike Index bring to The Pro’s Closet customers?
"Our view is that Bike Index is an important addition to The Pro’s Closet’s 141-point inspection plan. It’s just another way that you can buy with confidence. They’re taking the extra step to make sure a bike is clean, not just mechanically, but they will check a bike and ensure that nothing nefarious is going on with it.
"For new bike owners, they also establish a Bike Index account for them. All the buyer needs to do is choose a new username and password and they’re good to go. What’s nice is even if they don’t confirm it or set it up, that information is still there. If in the future their bike is stolen, they can still go to Bike Index and enter their email address and find the information for their bike with the serial number.
"It’s like insurance for the bike. No one wants to think about it, but once it’s there it’s totally free. It’s the best way police are going to be able to get back in contact with you and it serves as proof of ownership for most police departments so you can go and claim your bike. There’s no reason not to do it!"
Join us in the fight against bike theft. Sign up today and register your bike on Bike Index.