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Thieves target high-end bicycles

Pam LeBlanc

A rash of thefts of high-end bicycles has the cycling community on edge.

Hill Abell, the owner of Bicycle Sport Shop, was among the first targeted. Seven bicycles with a collective retail value of about $50,000 were taken from a locked shed at his home near Zilker Park in January. Since then, dozens more thefts have been reported, many of them in the Allandale, Zilker and Barton Hills neighborhoods.

“I know of four within four blocks of me, one just last Thursday,” Abell says. “No question these people know the homeowner has valuable bicycles,” Abell says. “They left behind bikes they knew on the market didn’t have any real value.”

Theories abound about how victims are targeted. Some think the thieves look for cars with bike racks parked in front of homes. Others think they pay attention to who posts information about bike rides on mobile tracking applications like Strava or MapMyRide. They may also look for photos on Facebook or check what’s for sale on Craig’s List. Some think the thieves may have a connection at a local bike shop.

“It could be everything. These guys are using every tool to suss out who has bicycles,” Abell says.

Steven Mullins had three high-end road bikes worth about $21,000 stolen from his home in the Allandale neighborhood in north central Austin on March 27. He thinks the thieves saw him driving with a high-end mountain bike on the roof rack of his car.

“I think it’s pure visibility,” he says.

Mullins has been tracking the thefts on a spreadsheet and says he’s tallied 35 so far this year, including seven in the last 10 days.

Jonathan Pattie, a real estate agent and contractor who lives on Shoal Creek Boulevard near 45th Street, says he thinks the burglars cased his home before breaking into a shed and stealing two bicycles early Monday. In the weeks leading up to the break-in, he heard noises that he attributed to raccoons, noticed the motion detector lights at his house had been re-directed, and several items leaning against his bike room had been knocked over.

Monday morning, a noise woke him up at about 3:45 a.m. When he got to the carport he heard footsteps, then a car door shutting and the roar of a car engine. Two bikes were missing but others were left behind.

“It’s out of control and I’m seriously afraid they’re coming back,” Pattie says. “That’s how brazen I think these guys are.”

In many instances, the thieves passed up electronics and other valuables in targeted homes or garages, stealing only bicycles.

Kelly Kerby, another amateur bike racer, says about $20,000 worth of equipment - a road bike, a cyclo-cross bike and an extra set of wheels - were stolen in January from his Allandale home. The burglars entered through a kitchen window while he was sleeping.

“They took only my good stuff - they left all the kid’s stuff,” he says.

Josh Metteauer, a district representative officer with the Austin Police Department, says homeowners should make sure their sheds or garages are well-lit and securely locked. Bikes, even if they are inside garages, should be locked to something that doesn’t move.

Abell, the bike shop owner, suggests using U-locks to lock at least two bicycles together. He also installed an accordion gate and alarm on his home bike storage area. “I think anybody who has valuable bicycles, they can’t do too much to secure their storage area,” he says.

Bike owners can register bikes with APD at