In early 2021, users of the bike registry Bike Index alerted the website that a seller based in Juarez, Mexico, appeared to be selling large numbers of bikes that matched many of those stolen in Colorado. The tips catalyzed a special data compilation project that took place throughout 2021, has indexed more than 1000 suspicious bikes, and has matched several victims of bike theft with their bikes.
To start out, Bike Index is a nonprofit organization that has created an online database of bikes, stolen and not, that can be used to identify and recover stolen bikes. The organization also collects information about the bicycle black market, so that the more bikes are recovered, the more the organization understands how to efficiently identify stolen bikes in the future.
Over the next several months, Bike Index watched and documented as Alexander's Bikes posted bike after bike for sale on its Facebook page, which was geo-restricted and only viewable from Mexico or using a Mexico VPN.
Bike Index tediously combed through theft reports on both Bike Index and in Colorado cycling Facebook groups. In the first batch of 43 bikes that it looked at, Bike Index was able to match 10 with owners who'd had their bikes stolen, verifying the matches using identifying markings that couldn't be attributed to chance. That was enough for Bike Index to keep going. All in all, Bike Index documented 1077 bike listings with more than 15,000 screenshots.
In this instance, the owner had a photo of a rim dent that they could match up with the photos in the listing.
Now, all those bikes are indexed in an exhaustive spreadsheet
. If you or someone you know has had a bike stolen in Colorado since roughly 2019, that spreadsheet would be a good place to look. Read Bike Index's report
for more information about using the database and working with authorities to recover the bikes.
While Bike Index was working to compile screenshots of bike listings, Colorado's Attorney General Phil Weiser was working on an anti-theft operation of his own called Operation Vicious Cycle. In November 2021, Weiser charged eight men
with 227 counts related to 29 bike shop burglaries in which they stole about $985,000 in high-end mountain bikes, according to a press release
The thieves had a system: they would steal either a box truck or a van, ram it into the front windows of a bike shop or otherwise break in using heavy landscaping rocks, and then specifically target mountain bikes. In one instance, they stole $90,000 worth of bikes in under five minutes. Some shops were hit multiple times. One was robbed four times over several months.
The press release goes on to suggest that the Attorney General believes the group worked with "fences" who sold the stolen bikes for them - such as Alexander's Bikes - and that it's likely the stolen goods may have been moved into Mexico.
The specific bikes stolen have not been publicly listed, but Bike Index has cross-referenced its list with the shops targeted, and some of the bikes listed on the Alexander's Bikes Facebook page still had stickers from some of the shops named in Operation Vicious Cycle.
Alexander's Bikes is notable in part because of the way it connected two very different demographics - the people who had their bikes stolen in Colorado and the people who were looking to buy bikes in Mexico. It's quite unlikely that someone looking for their next ride in Mexico would be keeping tabs on the bikes stolen in Colorado, and it's unlikely that someone who had a bike stolen in Colorado would stumble upon the geo-restricted Facebook page.
Also fascinating is that the bikes for sale by Alexander's Bikes came from all over Colorado and were stolen using a wide variety of tactics. The lack of specificity points to Alexander's Bikes having a multitude of thieves and groups stealing bikes, not just one main source - thus, the thieves apprehended by Operation Vicious Cycle are highly unlikely to have been the only ones, though they're likely to have been at least somewhat involved. Other large burglaries have been linked to Alexander's Bikes, too, including the Guerilla Gravity headquarters break-in
in November. Guerilla Gravity has identified at least two of the bikes stolen from its showroom in the Alexander's Bikes listings.
The Bike Index investigation also highlighted how quickly bikes can make their ways into the black market - one example that Bike Index shared was a Zerode Katipo that was stolen in late August and appeared for sale in early September, taking just over two weeks to make its way south and onto Facebook.
The vast number of stolen bikes that were listed by Alexander's Bikes points to the existence of bike theft operations that are larger and more profitable than was previously understood, but also to the possibility that once those operations are cracked, the bikes are recoverable.
The investigation also quantified the black market in a way that hadn't been done before, according to Bike Index. Most of the bikes for sale listed in the $4000 to $5000 USD range. For the number of bikes that were likely sold, even without knowing Alexander's Bikes' overhead costs, that's likely a huge profit margin.
As of right now, it appears that Alexander's Bikes has been fully shut down, and there's a fair chance that it has to do with the Colorado Attorney General's investigation or with the amount of publicity this story has received in the last few weeks. Alexander Espinosa Perez, who ran Alexander's Bikes, denied any involvement with bike trafficking and the sale of stolen goods and promised to work with US and Mexican authorities against bike theft, but he immediately deleted the shop's Facebook and TikTok pages and wiped its Instagram page clean of all content.
It's unclear where Perez is now or whether he'll be able to continue selling bikes, but authorities now definitively have more information about large-scale bike theft and resale than ever. No doubt, when the next operation of this type crops up in the future, there will be some knowledge to be taken from this, and authorities might know just where to look.