Bike Stolen? There's an App for That

May 16, 2014 at 8:24
by The Ümabomber  

Project 529 parked and registered over half a million dollars worth of bikes at the Specialized Valet Bike Parking at Sea Otter. That s a helluva lot of trust.

To say we dirt lovers are a passionate lot is an understatement. We ride because dirt is our church, our salvation, our Valhalla and whatever differences we have in how we ride—or what or where or with whom—nothing rankles us more than having ours or a buddy's bike stolen. And it's happening often…too often. Thieves can remove your entire rack and bikes from your vehicle while you're enjoying a post-shred beer faster than you can say “Terminal Gravity IPA, please.”

But now, there's an app for that. Here at Project 529 we aim to put the brakes on the stolen bike market through an innovative registration and recovery service called the 529 Garage. Although it won't prevent your bike from being stolen, the 529 Garage allows riders to record the information necessary to file thorough and quick police reports and insurance claims in the event of theft. It also plugs you into an extensive network of like minds and kindred spirits—people who ride and who can't stand bike thieves.

We're software developers and we ride. Most of us have had a bike stolen. We wanted to do something proactive about solving the problem of bike theft. So we designed the 529 Garage app to be easy to use; in just a couple of minutes, riders can “park” their bikes, detailing components, photograph identifying features, and register serial numbers. If your bike doesn't have a serial number we offer serialized “shields”—bomb-proof, tamper-resistant stickers—which adhere to frames permanently, allowing for thorough registration.

We were thrilled when Rebecca Rusch stopped in to get the low down on what we re doing. She was so impressed with how we were approaching the problem of bike theft that we ll be registering and parking bikes at Rebecca s Private Idaho ride in August.

Built with the support of industry partners including SRAM, the 529 Garage is a more than just a bike registration service. If you park a bike in the 529 Garage and that bike is stolen, an immediate notification is sent out, alerting the entire community to keep an eye out for it. Think Amber Alert for your—or your buddy's— stolen ride.

A Sea Otter rider registering their bike using the 529 Garage app. We designed it to be simple in its interface yet powerful in its implications.

Project 529 founder, J Allard, first conceived of this tech-powered community-based solution after his bike was stolen, eventually recovered, but not returned to him until he relentlessly hunted down the thief for nearly two months. As Allard reached out to engage law enforcement to better understand the problem, what he learned was alarming: over half of the estimated $400m bike theft “industry” is channeled through online resources such as Craigslist and eBay.

So, while we were developing the Garage app, we also authored a petition, asking eBay and Craigslist to require serial numbers on all bike listings. It won't immediately end theft but it will throw a wrench into criminal sales of stolen bicycles, while providing peace of mind for legitimate sellers and buyers. And while it's not as viscerally satisfying as physically throttling thieves might be, throttling their easy money channels feels pretty satisfying.

Project 529 founder J Allard explaining the drive behind the 529 petition to a Sea Otter participant. We talked to hundreds of people over the course of the festival and collected over 2 500 signatures.

Mountain bikes are among the most expensive recreational gear money can buy. But the real cost of losing a bike to theft is more than financial. It's emotional. For some of us, it's spiritual. Peering into the empty bike rack where you'd left your bike during your post-ride burger and beer is heartbreaking for even the most manly man, dudely dude brobrah among us.

There's no app for mending a broken heart, but if we have anything to say about it, that heartache will soon be a thing of the past.

In other words, we're rallying the masses to kick bike thieves' asses.


JOIN THE FIGHT

Join the Project 529 community. Take a bike out of crime.


Posted by Üma Kleppinger—aka The Umabomber—Project 529 evangelist, noise maker and freelance writer. When not out riding her bike, she can be found writing about life in the saddle, or vice versa. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and has unofficially adopted Sandy Ridge as her "trail baby".
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89 Comments

  • + 105
 $1m? So that's like 6 bikes from Sea Otter right?? Just kidding. Good work!
  • + 19
 Heh. Actually, it was several hundred bikes. But we know what you mean! There were some sweet whips out there!
  • + 11
 Was I the only one that saw just about 200 santa cruz v10's? If you get them to register next year, you have a good $2million more.
  • + 3
 I remember seeing a product that was like a sticker which you could see the location of on your phone. Not sure if the project went anywhere though..
  • + 2
 One question that I haven't seen yet:

What if there is some jackass or someone simply forgets, and sells their bike but doesn't take out the serial number or remove it from their garage..? It will then automatically pop up as stolen..? How do you deal with that?
  • + 1
 If its bouht ur not gonna look for stolen bike i guess!
  • + 2
 Always get a bill of sale with detailed information to prove that he sold it to you. You gotta protect your own ass sometimes.
  • + 1
 I sold a bike recently and the buyer told me he wanted to do a bill of sale. At first I was offended because I felt like I was being judged or something. When I thought about it some more, it totally makes sense. If I buy a bike used, there's nothing stopping the seller from turning around and reporting it stolen. I'm probably going to start doing a bill of sale when I buy bikes used.
  • + 1
 Think about a car... they cost the same.
  • + 35
 Anybody thought of a little in-the-frame GPS device? "Find My iPhone" for bikes? I've gladly sacrifice 50 grams to be able to pull my bike's location up on my phone.
  • + 1
 spy bike
  • + 2
 I actually wanted to post a similar comment on the "a wolf…. stolen bikes" post a few days ago. I Thought of it too, and I think placing it in different locations of the frame so it is hard to find and remove, would work well.
  • + 0
 To be honest i thought of this years ago tho i thought to myself well since they can already track phones and what not...they probably already have a gps in the bike frame..... guess not.
  • + 3
 dude you could place it in the down tube through the head tube when the fork is off I'm willing to bet 99% of thieves wouldn't check inside the frame
  • + 7
 I'm 99% sure it has to be external on the frame. If you put it inside i think the frame would act as a faraday cage.

If you want to see what i'm talking about, try wrapping your phone in tinfoil and then calling it from another phone. It wont work.
  • + 6
 @Nobble. Should be fine in a carbon fiber frame though.
  • + 1
 not necessarily, carbon fiber is a good conductor. it might have the same effect.
  • + 3
 www.thetileapp.com

Everyone should check this out! Track your bike from your phone with a small tile that would hide under the seat. Only available for iPhone right now but is absolutely perfect for catching the rat bastard that stole your bike finding it. Only like $20
  • + 1
 The tile thing is only good for finding things in your house. The app just tells you if your getting closer or not, and it rings. Good for lost keys, not lost bikes.
  • + 0
 Balls. Thought that the tile would be perfect. Didn't realize it didn't pinpoint location
  • + 4
 @ ihatetomatoes: If you post the link, you should have at least looked at the video Razz

anyways, you can also locate it through sound or a map. Also, it is advertised that it also works for bikes and if yours got stolen, then you can alert the "tile community" and anyone who picks up your tile signal can locate it.
  • + 1
 there's a transponder device you can glue to any part of your bike,that is the size of a grain of rice!! so you could glue it in the head tube,or even drop it through the heat release hole in the head tube so its unremovable and inside the top or down tube, you could get on for every part on your bike, pretty cool idea, just type, datatag stops theft in your search bar on ebay and have a look...
  • + 1
 @Nobble - fair enough if it is GPS based (up around the 1.5 GHz range). Should work well enough if it is RF or EM based. But, EM is a bit short on range to be useful except for local ID.
  • + 0
 wont work, any electromagnetic signal of any frequency will be blocked by a faraday cage.
  • + 2
 Could you not have a transmitter/receiver designed to look like a waterbottle cage bolt, or something similar?
  • + 2
 Faraday cage
  • + 1
 @Nobble - lots of back and forth, but it is kind of fun. I have been working with EM lately and have used CF with imbedded coils to track movement within local magnetic fields. I can say that it works (with a reasonably predictable warp in expected position). I would guess that it has something to do with the fact that CF is non ferromagnetic.
  • + 28
 This is great, another idea is that when you register a stolen bike, it searches ebay, gumtree etc.. for bikes with a similar description and if it finds a match you can buy it back, arrange to pick it up, hurt the guy. Or call police.
  • + 23
 I'll go with hurt option!
  • + 3
 Im liking this idea too @project529
  • - 1
 Isn't that called google?
  • + 1
 I believe at Sea Otter Classic they were having people sign a petition that required the seller to have the bike registered in order to sell on ebay/craigslist/pinkbike.
  • + 1
 or hurt the guy, then say he tried to beat you, then call cops
  • + 12
 Had a bike stolen once. Found it on CL, MTBR, and PB via searchtempest. Had the fucker arrested, got my bike back. Any company that can bring a similar happy ending to a semi-tragic event like that is ace in my book!
  • + 8
 stoked to see 529 hitting PinkBike! I had a great time working with the 529 crew at Sea Otter; it was awesome to help out with such an awesome initiative.
  • + 5
 Awesome was it?
  • + 4
 clearly my eloquence decided to take a break for awhile.
  • + 3
 Why do I need to login the app with Facebook ,google+ or twitter
Woudn´t a simple email login do the same. ( I know that they want as much information about you as possible to make their profit out of this app, but some people have no Facebook account )
  • + 1
 Bikeindex.org
  • + 6
 Apple should make an iBike so when people get their bikes stolen all they need to do is go to Find my iBike
  • + 4
 Petition SIGNED.

You should too. It will help make up for all the time you spend trolling people on the merits of your favorite wheel size.

Here is the link (again):
project529.com/garage/petitions
  • + 1
 I propose @529garage develop and licence a proprietary GPS chip -with the help from their partners SRAM- that can be integrated into frames and/or other high end components like wheels so that it can't be removed without destroying it. I mean if bikes are already 9-12k stock from the dealer it wouldn't add too much to the sticker price but, it would make people feel secure a hell of a lot more secure!

Love the idea downloading the app now!!
  • + 2
 The only problem might be powering the GPS device. If you wanted to be able to track it, the chip would have to have some sort of battery or power source right? Which would mean you'd either have to be able to change the battery (which would also allow someone to easily disable it) or you've have to plug your bike in and recharge it.
  • + 1
 Didn't take that into account. My train of thought was more aligned with Recco, where a signal is sent out and the chip bounces a signal back. There are lots of hub style generators as well. I think there is a way. I will leave that up to to big guys while I head out and ride my bike!
  • + 1
 You could charge it easily off of any rotating part of the bike.
  • + 1
 BC- I get what your saying about the Recco, but that kind of passive system isn't something with a long range and you can't really track something. It just allows you to find something if you sort of know where it already is. If you want something that can truly be 'tracked' I think it will always have to have some sort of battery. Scott - I'm sure you could create some sort of charging system but that would just add even more to the complexity to the bike. And if it is based off the rotation of the wheel there would have to be something external, which would then just tip off the bike their that the device is there.
  • + 1
 Internal off the bob is more what I'm thinking but it'd be hard to get a brush and rotor system in there. You could make a system to where you could drop it into the seat tube. Have the rotor system mount off of the crank spindle.
  • + 1
 It's just a tough situation, trying to find the combination of functionality and stealthiness that would be required to make a system like this feasible.
  • + 4
 Why couldn't you power it with a motion device like a self winding watch?
  • + 1
 Haha maaan, I can't believe to finally see you here again.
It has to be like seven years since I've had the luck of running into you guys (J, Clinton, Andrew & Tubbs) in Whistler, not knowing that this soon was ought to become one of the most memorable days of my young life.
It involved 'insane riding' and 'epic partying' to say the least.
Piggybacking random girls, fake-stealing Clintons V10, having wayyy too much drinks at Longhorns and Amsterdams, and climbing on the roof of a couple girls condo also may or may not have been part of it.. Haha.
Thanks pinkbike for bringing this back up. And thank you guys for those invaluable memories.

It's awesome to see you guys working hard to make a difference in the mountainbike world and I feel this project is a big step in the right direction by addressing a problem that just seems to be commonly accepted in society.
Project 529 has come a long way since it started out as a fun racing team and a small blog. Finally, everything has fallen into place, I guess.
I hope you will make lots of people happy by returning their bikes and I'm sure you are going to have loads of positive influence on people's lives as you continue being the awesome bunch of people that you are.
  • - 1
 Fanboy
  • + 1
 Tagg gps pet tracking collar. 8 bucks a month and it shows me exactly on the map where my dog is right from my phone and Alerts me when the collar is taken out of my designated zone. Long battery life and should be able to find a place for it on my bike.
  • + 1
 but what if a thief has the app too?
A good thief will figure out ways of not getting caught they scum of the earth...

Bikes should come with a GPS Tracker built into the frame come on its 2014 if phones and cars can have em why not bikes?
  • + 1
 Seen those before can't you take them off?
I mean permanent built into the frame you can't see it or nothing.
  • + 1
 The Tile thing is nice, but this is a brand new thing. There's no 'community' to help you find your bike. It says when it gets close to other tile users, it will signal their tiles and upload to the cloud to send you an alert of where your item is. Hey, great. So give this new thing 10 years 'hoping' that it takes off and everyone gets one. And then there'll be a community. Until then, it's just a $20 chip that you have to replace every year.
  • + 1
 That's an interesting idea, I hadn't heard of this company l till just now, but it sounds like a good starting point. I agree that it should be available for more phones if not already in the works. better still would be a Rottweiler in the box of your truck, and a tracker in your bike.. Incase the Rottweiler doesn't finish the theives off.
  • + 4
 Cool idea. But I don't have any Google, Facebook, or Twitter account. Not all of us want to be part of some social network.
  • + 1
 Agreed. And perhaps I also don't want to associate my social network to other apps.
  • + 1
 Nothing wrong with Social Media if you use it for its intended use...Most of its use is Drama, Slandering and Bullying...

I use it to talk with family and friends out of town or people what can't share memorys with me so I share pictures if I don't know you i'm not accepting your friend request (which it is hard to find me
...only got 85 friends on facebook all which I have met personally..
  • + 1
 Use BikeIndex.org It's an existing service that doesn't require social network integration, is easier to use, and is open source.
  • + 3
 I think that it should be expanded to whole world, and it needs apps for all systems ( android and wp8.1).
  • + 3
 This is awesome, but I'm still holding out hope for a in-the-frame lojack type device.
  • + 2
 I like the app, but I don't like how you have to update to the latest OS (iOS 7) to install it.
What if I like the older OS better?
  • + 2
 this concern is going to be true of a lot of apps, if you haven't had the problem already. if you want the latest tech, you should consider using the latest tech.
  • + 2
 Welcome to apple.

They force you to download the latest iOS by limiting the most current apps to the app store and require they run on/developed for latest iOS versions.
  • + 1
 Datatag systems are now available in New Zealand This is a worldwide recognised system They have two new kits available specifically for cycles Check out www.datatag.co.nz
  • + 3
 No android app? What about those who don't enjoy technological communism?
  • + 1
 Dont they make little gps tracking stickers for like... cars and remote controls and what not?? ... coulda swore my stealership tried to sell me one ...
  • - 1
 Four things:
1) Many bikes do not even come with serial numbers to begin with. With trials bikes for example, manufacturers do not even bother putting any serial number on their frames.

2) The actual thieves might turn away from the usual nsmb, pinkbike, craigslist, etc to a more closed means of sale such as selling it on small forums or classifieds in other countries. I say this because I also retrieved my stolen bike from a bike forum for sale section, but with the serial number requirement in place, thieves might move to a more hidden location all together.

3) This does not account for stolen bikes being sold in parts, which is what happens to the majority of the bikes anyways.

4) There is no app for Blackberry Frown
  • + 8
 Who owns Blackberry's anymore?

Bikes w/o serial numbers can use a sticker they offer. As far as selling goes, I don't think it's going to change things-you might see forged SN or maybe one recycled from a bike sold previously. As far as parted out? Still have to sell the frame.
  • + 3
 Good questions that I'll try to answer in the order they appear:

1) Project 529 offers tamper-proof stickers—or "shields"—which riders can adhere to their bike. The shields are serialized, so for those bikes which have no serial numbers debossed or engraved or are stickers from the manufacturer, there is a way to serialize your bikes.

2) The 529 Garage approach is a long-term, industry-wide, community-based collaboration that merges high tech with community involvement. If a theft occurs, and is promptly reported, an alert is blasted out to the local community. With more eyes on the lookout, the idea is recovery will happen more swiftly, more often. And as more bikes are tagged with the 529 Garage shields, it sends a message to thieves that the community is watching out for each other. It's a psychological deterrent, much like an ADT sign in your front yard to deter home burglars.

3) Correct. Many stolen bikes are stripped and parted out. However, the shields can be used on expensive wheelsets, forks, etc. You could serialize any expensive "toys" in your home garage—surfboards, bike trailers, bike racks. And "park" them in the 529 Garage, the same way you would your bike. And again, #2 is relevant here as the network grows and more people are on the lookout and involved, the deterrant scales as well.

4) You can register your bikes online without the app at: project529.com/garage/users/sign_in
  • + 2
 The point is that it makes it more difficult to steal and sell bikes, bottom line.
  • + 2
 I hadn't heard of this company until now, but it's a great step forward short of actually having a tracker in your bike.
  • + 2
 Great idea. Pretty annoying that my Canadian postal code doesn't count as a "Valid Zip Code" though.
  • + 1
 it seems thieves only steal bikes from iPhone users... Luck I have an Android phone, like most smartphone users out there...
  • + 1
 They need I add Ghost Bikes to their list of makes. I have a 2014 Ghost ASX 5500 and even the company is not listed!
  • + 2
 Need mohr violence to bike theefs!
  • + 1
 ebay and CL are never going to require serial numbers, keep dreaming! the app is a cool idea though!
  • + 1
 Excellent! This is a grand idea, and I will distribute to all my rider buddies. Bike thieves suck ass.
  • + 1
 In Brazil we have this website with all stolen bikes thats is working great!
  • + 1
 www.bicicletasroubadas.com
  • + 2
 Just to hear "bike theft" makes my blood boil!!!!!
  • + 1
 sounds a lot like nationalbikeregistry.com - just updated with an app.
  • + 1
 Awesome app.... great idea. good on yas!!!
  • + 1
 Great write up! What a great idea, I hope this is nationwide!
  • + 1
 This is fantastic!
  • + 1
 Finally

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