Poll: What Would You Do If You Caught Someone Stealing Your Bike?

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The fantasy of catching a bike thief does involve a measure of violence, if truth be told. A u-lock upside the head, perhaps. At minimum, a good aggressive shove, physical expression of the sense of violation, frustration, and anger you feel at having something something stolen that’s as a special and intimate as a bicycle.

Reality, though, well, that might be a different story. Imaginary smackdowns are tempered by real-world common sense and, perhaps, pacifism. A scumbag who would steal a bike might turn out to be a scumbag who’d stomp you into the ground, too, unless you have the brawn and smashmouth experience to stand up for yourself. Fact is, getting your bike ripped off is a crappy situation, uncontrolled, potentially dangerous, and with no good option. How would you respond?


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{ 92 comments…read them below or write one }

  • off-roadie

    I like to think most theives would give-up once called out. If not, maybe a big stick would be in order…

  • Jay

    Made this mistake once and got stitches in my head for it. Most thieves will find an easier target if you confront them without violence.

  • Chris

    no point getting a conviction for assault … so try to get some pictures/video on my phone and let the police deal with it …

  • Tyler

    I think most people have fantasies about catching these people in the act. Think Chris has it right…can’t say I would be that smart in the heat of the moment though.

  • David

    I’d first make some witting comments about how it looks like that they are stealing the bike, and then hint that it is my bike. If they don’t get the picture, a call to the police, and a little physical coercing may be in order.

  • Sam Gendler

    I spotted a thief riding past on my bike (easily identifiable) several weeks after the theft. I ran up next to him and grabbed the front brake, looping him over the handlebars. Then I just grabbed the bike and walked away. It was tremendously satisfying. The thief didn’t try to argue my point.

  • stormin'

    Like nearly half the respondents I voted for “beat the snot out of them” although we all know it’s likely wishful thinking. I’ve actually confronted a bike thief who was brazenly riding my recently stolen bike about a mile from my house from where it was taken. My 1 year old son was with me at the time so no beat down happened, just a loud, public confrontation with many expletives. In the end none of the many curious bystanders called the police (despite my pleas to do so) and the thief rode (sprinted really) away into the sunset leaving me fuming with a very scared and upset little boy. My son is 20 now and seems fine despite seeing his old man go completely mental those many years ago.

  • Tina

    I’d have a hard time not attempting to foil the thief in some way, but my bike isn’t worth more than my well-being.

  • IdahoRider

    Stealing bikes ought to be treated like stealing cars. Since the law won’t do it, thieves, put up your dukes.

  • kc

    I’d like to think most will stop if called out… but a satisfying bead-down would be hard to pass up, at least in my head. Calling the cops if they don’t back down is probably smarter.

  • GOOG

    Maybe take a finger off with their chain cutters and mail it to the police. Guilty as sin officer, no doubt about it. Yeah I’m still a little mad about my bikes being stolen over time.

  • Tony Fitzsimons

    if they were stealing my bike I feel the social contract has been broken, hence manners be damned, somebody is going to have an unpleasnt day.

  • Lee

    I clicked beat the snot out of them with the assumption that being caught, or the threat of physical violence will ecourage them to run off. If not, I guess we’re going to see who wants that bike.

  • Casey

    Of course the natural reaction is to say beat the snot out of them, but I guess it would all come down to the situation, the person and the mood I am in.

    Honestly, if it was my daily ride, 89 Schwinn Single speed, I would probably unlock it for them and say you need worse than I do.

  • Larry Vanderlinden

    Asking a bike thief to stop seems too passive to me. I would also issue a threat that if the thief didn’t stop I would beat the snot out of him and I would call the police as well.

  • Roy

    Usually confronting them should scare them off. And if it doesn’t, they probably aren’t somebody I want to get physically violent with.

  • K-ro

    I knew a world class mountain biker that chased a guy down after his very nice titanium bike was snatched while his back was turned. The thief thought he could ride away fast enough. My friend sprinted after the guy for about 2 minutes and finally pulled him off the bike. The thief was far more winded and weezy than my athlete friend who completely lost his mind and kicked the bejesus out of the guy. We pulled him off of him and waited for the police. All they said was ‘serves him right.’ This was in Canada, incidentally.

  • Brian

    I’m still looking for the two bikes I’ve had stolen out of locked garages (and the scumbags that stole them).

  • Chris

    Not sure. Either instant anger followed by violence, or let him finish cutting the lock and pumble him with it. Then take his wallet and use his card to buy a new lock.

  • Burgess Eberhardt

    Agree w/ Jay – no violence…can’t say what would happen if a thief did not stop upon confrontation….

  • colby

    call the police from a distance, then quietly sneak up behind him and “restrain” him until the police arrive. if he continues to fight after you attempt to peacefully restrain him, he may need to be knocked/choked unconscious so he does not further injury himself, damage your property or injury any bystanders.

  • gherf

    anybody who steals a bike (including at least 5 of mine) will find his/her way into hell some way or another

  • Michael

    I would pull out my scimitar and shout “Attack me maties!” – engaging said bike-thief into man-to-man lethal combat.

  • Sam

    I had an old, scratched up specialized that was too big for me, with a bald and leaky rear tire, rear derailleur held in place with a paper clip, no front brakes, nearly-worthless rear brakes, non-functional front suspension, and brand new grips. I bought it for $75 from a friend in high school. My heart broke the day it was stolen… I was feeling very violent. I would like to think I’d call the police, only confronting them if they were about to leave before the cops get there, as to not scare them off before they do get there, but if they kept trying to take the bike, I don’t think I would be very gentle in regaining possession.

  • Doan Pendleton

    I had a bike stolen from me in July 2007.. I wish I could find that person and kick the shit out of him and then steal their soul.. I loved that bike.. maybe not so much the frame but the shimano dura ace and the wheel set.. I keep my bike in the dining room now.

  • RB

    I once rode up on a guy a year after he stole my bike. I yanked the seatpost out from under him and he went over the bars. Justice served.

  • fred

    I voted beat down, but rolling video on them, then denying them to get away with my bike would come before violence. Violence sounds nice though….

  • Cort

    I say we kill him! I say we hang him, then we kill him! I say we stomp him! Then we tattoo him! Then we hang him! And then we kill him! …..”i say we let him go”….. NOOOO!!!

  • Travis

    Normally I try to avoid violence but if someone was stealing my bike, it would be one like donkey kong! Just saying.

  • Granticus

    I’d beat the snot out of the thief and then probably feel sorry for them and give them the bike anyway. I’m an old softy, after all.

  • Jeff

    Um, doesn’t it depend on who the thief is? A 300-lb. bodybuilder might warrant a different response than a skinny 13-year-old.

    Probably the most effective approach, if you have your cell phone handy, is to take their photo while they’re sitting on or hacking away at your bike, e-mail it to yourself at home (should only take a few seconds), and show them what you just did. Now they’re screwed unless they walk away, and they know it.

  • FlaPack

    Option one followed by option two. I don’t feel like being prosecuted for trying to stop a crime with force.

  • Kurt

    As much as I would like to say I could keep my cool, I don’t see anyway this doesn’t end in violence… unless they ran away.

  • jim

    I’d ask them to stop since i figure most bike thieves aren’t super tough. If that doesn’t work my commuter bike i hardly worth the bruised knuckles.

  • Steve

    Had one taken from outside of a bar once and found it the next morning down the street – lucky….since then I keep the expensive piece inside as much as possible

  • MK

    As satisfying as it would be to beat the snot out of the perp, taking the law into your own hands often ends up with things working against you. Two wrongs (theft/them ~ assault/you) don’t make a right. On the other hand, if the bike is inside your house…

  • Matt

    Since I had my bike stolen 2 weeks ago, definitely beating them up was high on my list. Probably shove/throw them to the ground, calling the police, etc all the above. Very pissed though.

  • Nate L

    Call the cops, give chase, and tell them where the thief is. (Don’t go attacking anyone – that’s just an invitation for a lawsuit. Let the cops do their jobs).

    Note – this approach worked for me a few years ago when my apartment was broken into… while I was still home.

  • Dan Murphy

    I voted “beat the crap out of him”, though at 58 years old, 160 lbs, and simply not a fighter, it most likely wouldn’t happen.
    I had a nice bike stolen from me in ’79 – I was 25. Raleigh International, Reynolds 531 double-butted frame w/ Campy Nuovo Record. I loved that bike. I owned very little at the time – car, bike, skis. When I went away for the weekend, I put it in the shower of my apartment so a thief wouldn’t see it, even though I lived in the mellowest of suburbs. Anyways, I think I would have killed if I had caught the guy, and again, I’m a pretty mellow guy. I was *really* pissed. Having something stolen is very personal to me.
    Realistically, I would first size the guy up, take a few pics, then confront him. The degree of agressiveness I approach him with would be inversely proportional to how scary the guy looked.

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