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Is this guy a bike thief? Help us figure it out (Photos)

Posted by on December 7th, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Hey there, whatcha’ doin?

I’ve been sent images of a suspected bike thief in action; but neither myself or the person who sent them to me can figure out what exactly the guy is up to. I figured I’d share the images and see if your collective wisdom could help.

The images (see them below) were taken at the bike corral in front of Ace Hotel on SW Oak Street in downtown Portland. The person who sent them to me sits at his desk right above it and says he notices “quite a bit” of theft and vandalism. But today, he “caught a weird one.”

Here’s how he describes what happened:

“Man (who clearly doesn’t own this bike) rode up on the bike corral, took out the bike seat, which looked like it never came out before, flipped the bike over and “stashed” it, then hitch hiked a ride seconds later.”

The person who snapped the photos went down and rescued the bike and it’s currently being stored in a secure location. The question is. What now? And, what the heck is this guy doing?

My first reaction was that maybe it’s some kind of ruse to have the stolen bike switch hands in order to throw off anyone who might have seen the initial theft and would recognize the original thief. In other words, the first guy snatches the bike, then he leaves it for a second guy to ride off with it. But why remove the seat and flip the bike over? Perhaps to make it un-rideable for anyone else?

Or maybe it is actually his bike (although the guy who snapped the photos — a skilled bike thief watcher — thinks otherwise) and he’s just stashing it because he didn’t want to bike home?

I can’t figure it out. Maybe you can. Check the photos below. (And if it’s your bike, get in touch and I’ll tell you how to get it back.)

The stolen bike is flipped over. Its front wheel is sticking out in to the green lane.

The stolen bike. If it’s yours let us know.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • SilkySlim December 7, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Any chance that was legitimately his bike? And he didn’t have a lock on hand, but thought an upside-down, seat-less bike wouldn’t be stolen (or “saved”)?

    I know I have flipped my bike over outside convenience stores back in the days when Plaid Pantries didn’t bike racks (circa October 2012). But I never immediately jumped in car after that….

    Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Case December 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    The flip is a sign to an accomplice? You know, code among thieves.

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  • Ethan December 7, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    #2 emergency, needed to reach a secure bathroom FAST!

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  • danielle December 7, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    this is a really bad idea. you cannot prove that this bike is indeed stolen. by broadcasting a person stealing a “stolen bike” you can be implicated in legal action.

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    • bh December 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      Actually, there’s a very high probability we can. The whole database of stolen bikes, etc.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

    • dan December 7, 2012 at 5:39 pm

      But you can’t identify the person from the photos…who’s going to lose their anonymity to sue? “I didn’t steal that bike! I was just…um…borrowing it!”

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      • Rol December 8, 2012 at 8:06 pm

        The owner would. And if that’s him in the photos, he would win a libel suit as well.

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        • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 8, 2012 at 8:47 pm

          I don’t think so Rol. The person is not identifiable. And I’ve posted the story to simply have folks weigh in on what might be going on here.

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    • DO December 8, 2012 at 11:03 am

      remember last time, “bike thief exposed on craigslist”?

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      • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 8, 2012 at 8:48 pm

        Yeah. I remember that well. That was a big mistake on my part. And, shortly after posting the story and realizing my lack of good judgment, I removed the post. I don’t think this is a similar situation.

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        • JonathanR December 10, 2012 at 9:34 am

          I think you’d likely have NYT v. Sullivan protections.

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    • chucklehead December 11, 2012 at 9:30 am

      I can’t prove that hopping in a lion cage is going to result in me being killed, but I am willing to make that assumptions based on past observations.

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  • Hrdrider2002 December 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Maybe there was something more valuable than the bike in the seat tube. I’ve been watching too many movies lately

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    • oliver December 10, 2012 at 9:01 am

      Ooh, An illudium q-36 explosive space modulator. It’s about the size of a seat tube if I remember right.

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      • Tom December 10, 2012 at 9:14 am

        I think it was “The Ugly American” where they loaded the seat tube with centex and a timer, to be left downtown as a terror device.

        Maybe HOMELAND SECURITY should check over the bike before it’s released ?

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  • Sunny December 7, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    Who the heck hitch=hikes downtown? Did he get the plates on the vehicle? Was the seat expensive and easy to fence? Sick bike seat fetish — someone else’s butt sweat

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  • Paul in the 'couve December 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Weird – Portland !! I’m guessing the bike isn’t stolen but the situation is still really weird.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the bike being ‘rescued’ and it being posted here as a possible theft. I can see storing it safely but were it me who had to abandon it in such a manner, I’d appreciate a note and a phone # to call to get my bike back.

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  • Former PoPo December 7, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    A common tactic among bike thieves is to steal a bike, take it to a different bike rack someplace, then leave it there for a while to allow the heat to die down before returning at some point to retrieve it. It limits the time he/she has stolen property in his/her possession, particularly immediately after the theft, when chances are high that someone might actively be looking for the bike. Same idea for long-term storage. Better to leave or lock a stolen bike to a public bike rack somewhere than have it in your garage or other place where someone might connect you to the stolen property.

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    • davemess December 8, 2012 at 5:43 pm

      What “heat” is really coming down on bike thieves these days? I just can’t think of a lot of instances of people being able to track down stolen bikes. How would it be a better move to leave this on the street (at a different rack), than to just stash it in a garage or house?

      Recommended Thumb up 2

  • bell December 7, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I guess I’m missing something… what does the photographer see that enables him to say “(who clearly doesn’t own this bike)?”

    Recommended Thumb up 9

    • are December 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      or that the seat post had never been removed before

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    • chucklehead December 11, 2012 at 9:52 am

      Maybe they saw who parked it, maybe it was several times the wrong size, and it is not difficult to tell when a seatpost has been seized.

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  • Hart Noecker December 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Wait, was this bike even locked up? Be kinda hard to prove he was trying to steal the whole bike if it wasn’t locked and all he took was the seat.

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    • Spiffy December 8, 2012 at 9:46 am

      I think he rode the bike there, then removed the seat, flipped it over, and left via car…

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  • Brian H December 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Or perhaps the man was riding his bicycle to meet somebody downtown to get a ride, went to the bike corral to lock it up, but realized he’d forgotten the lock. Since he was in a hurry, and he didn’t want his bike casually stolen, he removed the seatpost (which hadn’t been out before because he didn’t expect this to happen)… Whereupon somebody kindly stole it anyway! *Please* tell me the “rescuer” left a note, just in case he’s not actually clairvoyant.

    And I really hope that “…clearly doesn’t own this bike” doesn’t mean what I think it does.

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    • davemess December 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm

      Has anyone ever heard of removing a seat as a means of theft deterrence? That’s a new one for me.

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      • lyle w. December 9, 2012 at 1:19 pm

        If you have a semi-decent bike locked in the vicinity of several other nice bikes, it might be the one thing that makes someone looking for a bike to steal get someone else’s.

        Same kinda idea behind having a bunch of bikes locked up around the same general value, while some use cable locks and others use U-locks.

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        • davemess December 11, 2012 at 4:31 pm

          But that’s assuming there are other bikes unlocked on the racks that have seats. I doubt you’ll see many (if any bikes) unlocked on a rack downtown.

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  • CaptainKarma December 7, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    All good points. If I sat at that window, I think I might install motion activated video recording hardware for a more complete picture of the comings and goings. Kinda like birdwatching.

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  • Michaelangelo December 8, 2012 at 1:14 am

    Looks like the same person in the cover photo.

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  • Spiffy December 8, 2012 at 8:18 am

    I’m with Brian H on this one… looks like a fairly inexpensive department store 10-speed… since it can’t legally be ridden away without a seat then that’s a decent way to make the bike unattractive to thieves if you need to park it in a hurry…

    but then again Former PoPo could be right about it being a temp ditch spot…

    I just hope the person that stored it left a note or an easy way for the person to get it back… you have pictures of the rider with the bike right here on BP which can be used as proof of ownership when they come looking for it… and the person that stored it could be looking at theft charges… they better post a free found ad in the local paper asap to avoid criminal charges…

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    • Paul in the 'couve December 8, 2012 at 10:22 pm

      No, it doesn’t look like an inexpensive department store bike. Looks like forged rear dropouts, Early 80’s SR cranks, late 80s aero brake levers, decent side pull brakes. Rear brake cable clipped on with chrome clips was common on mid-level and above bikes up until early 80s. It has a head badge we can’t see but it’s the right shape and color for a 77-81 Trek. Trek geometry in that vintage on most models was similar to that bike and they usually came with SR cranks. The Seat post cluster looks consistent with Trek as well. The fork crown looks identical to my 1979 Trek and the lugs also. Even the stem looks like my Trek’s. I’ll go with it being a 1980 Trek that’s been powder coated baby blue. Those also look like vintage Japanese quill pedals – not cheap department store. Notice also, presta valves.

      It’s a decent bike easily worth $200 and more if you can find the right buyer. Definitely something I’d hate to lose.

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      • Dabby December 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm

        Yes, is an older Trek.
        Hard to tell which model, but not a dept. store bike at all.

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    • Sbrock December 9, 2012 at 9:48 am

      That is without a doubt NOT a dept. store bike.

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  • Brian E December 8, 2012 at 9:06 am

    It would seem to me that whoever has the bike in their possession is 9/10ths the owner. As an example, I’d have a very hard time proving that I own my personal bike. It would be a lengthy process to prove it. Actually, I have photos, S/N and I think I have a receipt somewhere.

    Hmmm. Just now realizing, maybe I should keep that information on my phone.

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    • Pete December 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm

      I have a personal web site with a private photo album where I record every bike I’ve ever owned and list SN and descriptions in the comments. It started out as just for nostalgia purposes, but I’ve always thought a stolen bike registry would be a good place to have this service, then in the event your bike was stolen it would already have detailed information and would change ‘status.’

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    • chucklehead December 11, 2012 at 9:55 am

      I put my name and information on a piece of paper and place a copy in the handle bar tubes and the seat post.

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  • Martin December 8, 2012 at 2:26 pm

    Could you elaborate on what makes it clear that he doesn’t own the bike? He looks like someone who could own a bike to me. Do you think he is someone who could own a backpack? Perhaps that’s stolen too….your assumptions sound a lot like racism, classism, or at least profiling.

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    • Sunny December 8, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      It’s obvious Trayvon, he’s wearing a hoodie.

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  • Sunny December 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

    Maybe the kid just wasn’t thinking.

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  • Rol December 8, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I notice nobody seems to entertain the thought that the saddle, only, would be an easy-to-carry, easy-to-conceal, untraceable resale item that could generate a few bucks with much less effort and risk than stealing a whole bike. Spend two hours, you might be able to get 8 or 10 saddles.

    On the other hand, what if he owns the bike? Then, this whole thing stinks, starting with the well-intentioned busybody who took the photos and STOLE THE BIKE. All the would-be Junior Detectives out there, please don’t ever “rescue” my bike, OK?

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    • marijane December 8, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      This. When I lived in SF, saddles were a high-theft item. A coworker had three of them stolen and another friend managed to avert a theft in progress.

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    • Pete December 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm

      In the photo he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to conceal the saddle.

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      • Sunny December 8, 2012 at 11:00 pm

        That’s why he flipped the bike — to make it less obvious he removed the saddle. I’ve walked around with my brooks saddle and seat-post when it was on a bike with a quick release and no way to secure it besides the u-lock.

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    • Sunny December 9, 2012 at 12:08 am

      I mentioned fencing the saddle way early in the post counts.

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  • Tom December 9, 2012 at 8:21 am

    Not in this particular case , but in general , I can’t understand why kids think flipping a bike is a substitute for locking it ?

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    • Skid December 9, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      The idea is that you keep an eye on your bike, and in the time it takes for the thief to flip the bike over and mount it you can be on them beating the living crap out of them.

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  • Joe December 9, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I work downtown same thing happens underground bike parking, someone came in and stoled few good fokes bike lights. never caught.. This has to stop, ppl should leave stuff alone if its not theirs. * ok to admire someones bike just don’t touch, everyone is already freaked out parking
    a bike anywhere these days. just a bummer if you ask me.

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  • Editz December 9, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Might be fun if the photgrapher installed an outdor speaker connected to microphone. Hey buddy! Whatcha doing with that seat?

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  • ws December 9, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    C’mon guys and gals. He had a getaway car and “hitchhiked” out of there.

    That right there is one major red flag. Don’t be so naive and trusting.

    I think it’s time Bike Portland set up its own Bait Bike crew. Nab a few of these tweekers who are causing multiple bike crimes across the city.

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  • Sunny December 9, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    “Well if I remove the seat the rain might get into the bottom bracket. I better flip the bike so the owner doesn’t have to replace that too.” — Nice guy bike thief.

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  • Adam December 9, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    I have heard of bike thieves often leaving their “mark” on bikes they or their accomplices intend to come back and steal when it is less busy around. Slashing tires is apparently one sign, as is removing saddles. In a row of busy bike racks, it is easier for the thieves to pick out the bikes this way. Never seen this in action, but have heard about it.

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  • Oh Word? December 10, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I think you guys have too much time on your hands while you’re at work.

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  • Justin December 10, 2012 at 9:05 am

    24hr Fitness in the Pearl has pictures posted of a guy stealing a bike from their rack. Of course I cannot say this is the same guy, but I can say the photos posted outside of the gym seem to show a guy with a similar hoodie, a baseball cap, and green backpack.

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  • Jeff Parker December 10, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I think they take it from one place, leave it easy to see at another rack with the seat off, and a truck comes along later to collect. Remember the couple the other day with the truck?
    I’m personally a little tired of fake scrappers driving around taking bikes (kids bikes!) and scooters. They usually hit in the very early morning right at dawn.

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  • Dabby December 11, 2012 at 5:39 pm

    I have known bikers to flip the bike when they go into a store if they have no lock.
    Also have known many, many bikers who remove the seat so it is not stolen.
    The combination of the two seems very feasible to me.
    Weird as it is, people do it.
    Could be a thief, or someone too poor to spend the cash on a lock.

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  • Marsh December 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Looks exactly like my 78 centurion. Down to the lugs, dropouts, and that baby blue color. It’s almost a doppelgänger:)

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