Monday, September 9, 2013


Well, I had one of the crappiest things happen to me as a cyclist two weeks ago – my bike was stolen. It wasn’t my race bike, and there was no trauma or injury involved, so I’m trying my damnedest to keep things in perspective. But as any cyclist or triathlete knows, we get pretty attached to these gentle steeds. And when something is taken from you against your will, you feel like the memories and miles logged on that bike or the future bike commuter days need to be mourned for at least a little while.
Walter Jr. (aka - Flynn) knows exactly how I feel
I bought my Trek 1500 SLR WSD in the summer of 2005 just a few short months before my first triathlon. I did a fair amount of research and invested in a good bike fit before finding and test riding this bike. At the time (other than my college education and Roth IRA), it was the biggest investment of my life and I knew it would bring me many happy miles and memories. I had no idea it’d be the gateway to the triathlon world that I am now so heavily vested in.

In comparison to the fancy TT bikes or road bikes that I see from many of my current training partners, my old Trek was nothing special. In fact, I often got a lot of flak for riding it: “when are you going to get a new road bike?” “You still ride that thing?” It was 8 years old this year, needed a tune, new bar tape, and I probably could have replaced the chain ring (it was a – gasp – triple, but I haven’t used that ring for years!). But it was the perfect rain bike or commuter bike. I brought it along on dozens of park tours and Tuesday Night Hill rides. It was there for my first crash, first concussion, first time I rode from Seattle to Portland, first World Championships, and most poignantly first triathlon.

And it pisses me off even more that it was stolen right out front of my office, about 20 meters from where our security guards sit. Why, oh why didn’t I lock it in the garage lockers that day? Maybe because there are dozens of other bikes in the broad daylight and I’ve locked it there several other mornings. I haven’t completely given up hope finding my bike. The day after it was stolen I found it on Craigslist and was setting up a sting operation with assistance of the UW Police (I work for the University of Washington).

This is the cracked out Craigslist ad:


And here’s the very vague text conversation I had trying to set something up:

notice the period question mark punctuation and
 very vague "we will meet somewhere"


I have a hard time believing someone else could have gotten in touch with the seller (he stopped returning my texts and the PD tried separately without luck). I also don’t think anyone could understand what he was trying to articulate with “i need to sell my bike ASAP cause i really have to pay for some verry important bills that they cant wait…” “in perfeckt condition, the bike is amazing i love it…” Funny, because Sydnie did some Internet sleuthing and found the guy’s phone number on Facebook. The phone number linked was most definitely a man’s name and likely not the “perfeckt” bike for a Women’s Specific Design. It’s also hard to believe that shimano ultegra and shimano 105 is the best combination. I do like Shimano, but everyone knows this isn’t their best line of components.

I was creeped out and started to cringe when I saw the photos online. The guy removed the handy coffee cup bottle cage and changed out my seat (someone else’s seat – gross!). And people keep telling me that the bright side is that I can start looking for a new bike. But I was hoping to invest in a new bike for training AND keep my old Trek for riding to work. Yes, it’s fun looking for a new bike, but when you’re trying to replace something that was perfectly acceptable to get you from point A (home) to point B (work) and back, the replacement process is just not that fun. It’s probably the same feeling of replacing an old pet, but in this case more practical and less cuddly. At this point, all I can do is keep an eye out on the Seattle PD Twitter feed @getyourbikeback and hope that my poor, beloved WSD Trek is found and eventually returned to me. For now, I’m just so bloody mad that I can’t ride my bike to work (there’s no way I’m taking my race bike). So good job thieves, you’ve ruined my day and added a car to the commute.
This is what it looked like, except I switched the pedals to some older blue Look pedals that were perfectly worn in for commuting

A few more things I learned:

Several people sent me this article about a girl who stole her bike back in Vancouver and was on the Today’s show. (This article kind of annoys me because she’s not wearing a helmet.) My friend Jenn, the same friend who also writes her goals on the back of a Starbucks wrapper, stole her bike back from a Craigslist ad a couple years ago (but was not on the Today’s show). She promptly sold it a few days later and still gets mad thinking about how the guy was never arrested. I realize that I could have tried this approach, but a) I didn’t want to get robbed and b) I was willing to wait in hopes that the police could make an arrest. It didn’t work, but my safety was also not threatened.
A friend of mine is a detective told me that only the cops who work in the jurisdiction can help you with the sting. For example, if I planned to meet the seller in Kirkland, I couldn’t call the Seattle police to help; I’d need to call the Kirkland police. The UW police, however, were willing to help me wherever.
If you ever get into a situation like this, don’t try and meet the seller alone. Always make sure it’s a public place and have someone with you. Unfortunately, what often happens is the buyer (victim) is robbed again.

This website entertains me: 
WRITE DOWN YOUR SERIAL NUMBERS for ALL your bikes. Go do that right now! It’s the easiest way to identify it if it’s later found or if you find it on Craigslist. And keep them up in a spot you can’t lose them. I have them taped on the wall in my laundry/bike gear room. I was 90% sure I had mine written down, but actually ended up having to call the bike shop who had it recorded for me. Thank you, Redmond Cycle.

If you have any leads on a Trek 1500SLR or are looking to unload a good commuter bike, please contact me via Twitter @cknutson82 or through the comments on this blog.

Thanks, ride safe, and love your bikes!



  1. Good luck! My old bike was stolen as well recently - especially because it didn't have a crank or pedals but was listed as in "great condition!" I actually set up various gmail accounts to try to contact the seller as different prospective buyers, was able to set up a meet, got police involved and got my bike back. I don't think they ever arrested the guy, despite the fact that he *clearly* was in possession of stolen property trying to resell me my bike but got it back and have learned that even the best of locks aren't that reliable. Good luck and I highly recommend setting up a dummy gmail accounts or several to get back in touch with him! It took me about 3 weeks of baiting my buyer but finally worked...

    1. Thanks for the comment and I'm glad you got your bike back! My friend sent me this article, which is good, but basically more stories of how often and quickly bikes are stolen: The CL ad was taken down shortly after I contacted the seller, but from a couple Internet searches, I can tell he's trying to sell other stolen bikes. Good advice on setting up additional email accounts. I'll definitely do that, if my bike shows up again!

  2. Holy crap, that sucks. I should try to "buy" it back and bring Jason looking all mean and imposing.

    1. Thanks for offering the BFG! But, the bike was taken off Craigslist... :(

  3. Cathleen, So sorry to hear about this ridiculous thief, but absolutely loved the play-by-play complete with his named saved in your phone as Bike Thief. I'm certain there is a particularly harsh brand of karma reserved for bike thieves. Hugs, Kendra

    1. Oh, ya know, lemonade out of lemons... Sydnie and I had some pretty good laughs at the CL ad and then when I was getting text messages from Mr. Theif (first name Bike). Luckily, I have my own little Chito in the stable, so the tri training lives on. I hope your stress fracture is healing!

  4. Gah! Seriously the worst... THE WORST. I'm so sorry! My bf had his tri bike stolen literly five minutes after we pulled into town after his first 140.6.. thanks to the power of twitter and an honest Craigslist buyer, it was recovered (several months after the insurance claim).

    Crossing my fingers that you're able to recover it! There's nothing like that first road bike, no matter how old it is.

    1. Thanks! That's great to hear that he got his tri bike back. I'm still really nostalgic for my bike and a little bitter when I see happy bike commuters, but I'll get over it. And I'm not yet giving up hope that it will show up eventually.

  5. Small and small makes huge that has made the post awesome. I wear this type of triathlon shorts and sports clothes that makes my mind sound. Thanks for the nice post.