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Test rides lead to thefts of two bikes at local shops

Posted by on September 12th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

North Portland Bikeworks new location-11-10

Hey! Don’t get any wise ideas
(Photo © J. Maus)

Once again bike theft seems to be on the uptick in the Portland region. In August we had a record 109 stolen bike listings and we’re on pace for a big increase in September (52 listed already). This morning I learned of two thefts over the weekend from local bike shops — both of which came during test rides.

Lakeside Bicycles employee Robert Shigeta reports that two men came into their shop around noon on Saturday. After looking around at bikes and talking with sales people, one of them asked to test ride a Lynskey cyclocross bike (see the listing here).

As collateral for the bike, the man offered up a Florida driver’s license. Unfortunately it was fake. Shigeta says they’ve given the fake ID to the Lake Oswego Police and the theft is currently under investigation. (Shigeta describes the man as a white male, about 5-foot 8-inches and around 30 years old.)

And yesterday, a similar thing happened to Citybikes on SE 8th and Ankeny.

According to a shop employee, a man asked to test ride a Surly Long Haul Trucker. As collateral, the man left behind a bag. Unfortunately, “[the bag] was worthless” says the employee. Citybikes has listed the stolen bike and they’ve offered a $100 shop gift certificate for information leading to its recovery. Keep your eyes peeled.

Thankfully, at least at Lakeside, this type of theft isn’t common. Shigeta says he’s worked there since 2009 and hasn’t experience it and it’s only happened a few times in the shop’s 14 years in business. Even so, if you work at a shop, let these recent thefts be a reminder to stay vigilant when sending bikes out on test rides.

— For more on recent bike thefts, watch the KGW-TV news tonight at 4:45, 5:00 and 6:00. Also check out our Stolen Bikes page for tips on prevention and recovery.

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  • XB September 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    how much does a fingerprint kit cost? or a digital camera? would folks reject to having these taken if they were destroyed in front of them upon return of the bike?

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  • Paul Hanrahan September 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Maybe they should ask to take a photo of renter with the id, saying they will delet it at the end of the ride.
    I wouldn’t care, nefarious types probably would

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  • bhance September 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Just wanted to comment on the backpack thing – it seems to be a common ruse, I remember about a year ago (?) reading about someone who loaned a backpack as ‘collateral’ when they showed up to test ride someone’s bike off of Craigslist. Same thing, they rode off with the bike, and backpack was full of debris/crap. A backpack is a great psychological exploit – they trust you, as a decent person, not to go rooting through the bag unless something goes wrong. Which of course it does and by then it’s too late …

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  • naess September 12, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    i would think that if someone wants to test ride a bike, they are probably in the market to buy one. why not ask for at least half the cost of the bike put up as colllateral? of course this would either be returned after the ride or used towards the purchase.

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    • El Biciclero September 12, 2011 at 5:48 pm

      Why not just use a stolen credit card to pay for the bike outright and stick someone else with the bill?

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  • laura September 12, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Why don’t they require a credit card deposit? I recently was trying some new kayaking gear. Even though the shop people know me, their policy is to take a deposit. Return the gear, deposit refunded.

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    • mabsf September 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      That it would be really impractical for our shop plus I an a little worried about transactions fees… every time we swipe we seem to pay even when we cancel the payment later (which is an entire different night mare!)…

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  • q`Tzal September 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Need to get to work on my longwave GPS transmitter thingy that you can embed inside a metal frame, sealed in waterproof epoxy, powered by the vibrations of riding.

    Or maybe we could do something realistic like have all of Portland’s bicycle shops agree that all test rides will require a valid photo ID and a fingerprint, either ink or electronic, before it leaves the premises.

    No law – just a friendly common sense agreement that everyone will do it so that none can claim that doing so will put them at a disadvantage.

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  • middle of the road guy September 12, 2011 at 3:28 pm


    I would argue that the bag was worth more than the Surly.

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    • captainkarma September 12, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      What a thing to say.

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  • Rol September 12, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    Jeez yeah, you really do need to make sure the collateral is something of real verifiable value; that’s the whole point!

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  • Brian September 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    I’ve always thought a simple solution to this would be for the shop to snap a photo of you before letting you take off pedaling with three grand’s worth of their merchandise. There. Problem SOLVED.

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    • mabsf September 13, 2011 at 5:13 pm

      …and the photo helps you how?

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  • Tony Franco September 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Some car dealers take a photo copy of the persons drivers license.

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  • Tourbiker September 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Lo-Jack for bikes

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  • kittens September 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    That sucks. But you know, if someone is determined to steal almost nothing will deter awful people. I am not sure why leaving a photo ID with the store is not standard practice. This is common with leasing offices and car dealerships, make a photocopy of it.

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  • Kristen September 12, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    The shops could hold the ID and at least one major credit card– with the caveat that the shop will run it for $25- $100 (whatever will make them feel secure in its legitimacy) that they will charge back (credit) when the bike returns to the shop.

    No credit card = no test ride. Or they can say, “you’ll need to put down a security deposit of $100 cash which will be given back to you when you return.”

    And I like the idea of taking a digital photo of the person– make sure it’s time and date stamped, and that you also get a shot of them with the bike. The more hoops a thief has to jump through, the less likely they are to actually take anything.

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  • Faux Porteur September 12, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    There’s standard practice and then there is 100% employee compliance with shop policy. Two different things.

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  • Nick Tingey September 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I won’t mention the shop name but was recently test riding bikes & was amazed that they let me ride out of the store on a $1000+ bike without asking my name or any other details. I was expecting to be asked for an ID or CC.

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    • was carless September 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm

      This is my experience, too. I have been able to ride $2,000 bikes (several at a time) w/out even giving a name to any employees. Some of which barely even look me in the face, just offer “want to try a test ride?” Like a bike like that is an impulse buy?

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  • canuck September 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    The shop I managed had a very simple test ride policy, both a driver’s license and a credit card, with name matching the license are held by the store.

    Or even better, charge the bike on the customer’s credit card before the test ride. If the charge is voided the same day there’s no cost to the dealer or the customer.

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    • Hugh Johnson September 12, 2011 at 8:43 pm

      a shop I frequent here in town does the same…just a credit card and license and ride whatever ya want.

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  • meh September 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    This type of thing doesn’t happen often at Lakeside?

    I guess it’s not the same thing but didn’t they leave some customer’s bikes that were in for repair outside unsecured in a bike rack and had them stolen?

    Seems to me there’s a real need for some policies and procedures to be reinforced if not created for this store.

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  • ME 2 September 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    The issues I see with each anti-theft protection are for the car credit option the banks will charge the shop each time so the bill will add up. The fingerprint idea sends the message to a lot of folks that you already think of them as a crook. I don’t run a small business but I suspect that sort of practice would cause the shop more than the odd theft now and again. Also unless they already have their fingerprints registered somewhere then have a copy of them isn’t going to help the cops track the person down.

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    • Harald September 13, 2011 at 6:57 am

      Yeah, for the record: I will never ever buy from a shop that requires me to be fingerprinted before a test ride. Just not going to happen. Put a charge on my CC or require a cash deposit: no prob.

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    • canuck September 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm

      If done correctly there are no charges to the dealer on a credit card payment. Credit cards are processed in batches, usually in the early morning hours. The void removes the charge from the batch and does not cost the dealer a cent.

      If on the other hand the dealer charges the card before the ride and does a reverse charge after the ride, the dealer will be hit with the fees, somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5% of the total sale, depending on the processor.

      So the key is that the charge has to be VOIDED after the ride.

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  • ws September 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Portland, if it does not already, needs to implement “bait bikes” for stupid thieves to steal, much like they do with cars.

    I’d say put bikes on racks and wait for the idiot criminals to steal them. I’d say go ahead and use poor locking systems to catch the people who do steal bikes for a living. That shows direct intent to steal.


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  • steve scarich September 13, 2011 at 8:40 am

    I once worked at a shop where an employee would actually go out with customers on test-rides. I don’t think we did it in every case, but definitely on high-end bikes, when we did not know the person. We would send a fast rider with them; we also could help the person with bike adjustment and assist in the sales process as well.

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  • Duncan September 13, 2011 at 9:14 am

    This is a bummer- I know I would never have bought my road bike without Rose City letting me test ride it for hours. I beleive I left my DL and a CC with them, but nothing sells a bike like riding it. If they put a heavy damper on that, I could see it lowering sales.

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  • Dabby September 13, 2011 at 9:41 am

    I was sad to see this among other things was on the Prime Time news.
    Isn’t there actual news to report?

    It is a bummer this happened, but I mean you handed the guy the bike to ride, correct?
    And as pointed out above, Lakeside has had their bike issues….

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  • capthardcore September 13, 2011 at 10:43 am

    At the shop I work for, it’s gov’t issued photo ID or no ride for you. I’ve had to turn several potential test riders down over the years due to lack of ID.

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    • mabsf September 13, 2011 at 5:16 pm

      Id is good as long as it is not fake. We used to take credit cards, but those can be stolen/fake too. Plus people forget them (and their ID)… I am dreaming of a tracking device…
      BUT: in 4 years we haven’t lost a bike yet – a few Brooks saddles, but no bike (and I just jinxed myself!)

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  • commuter September 14, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    I test rode quite a few high end road bikes about a year ago and all the stores just asked for ID. I also rode there on my old high end bike so I guess they also used that as collateral.

    Many years ago I test rode a bike at the downtown BikeGallery. I went there in street clothes and they charged the full price of the bike before I could go out on a test ride. I didn’t have a problem with that except I ended up going to another bike store the same day, found a bike I liked but couldn’t by it because my CC was maxed. I think it took about 2 days before the charges were reversed from my test ride. It was a unique situation though and my CC back then had a really low limit.

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  • NW Biker September 15, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I test rode a really great bike recently. I left the sales guy with my driver’s license, credit card, and the keys to my Mercedes. He didn’t ask for that last item, but I didn’t have any way to carry them, so he offered to hold onto them. And even better, it’s a great bike and I bought it.

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  • roger noehren September 15, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    oops – there’s a reason why the policy at Citybikes is (was?) to take a photo ID as security plus a credit card for more expensive bikes (relaxed if you know the customer personally).

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