I'm looking for, ideally, an academic study or authoritative source on what happens to stolen bikes, rather than just speculation. Is there anything I can do at this point to help track mine down?

My very dear two wheeled friend disappeared into the night yesterday, after its lock was cut through. Left in a bad spot for 'a few minutes' that turned into several hours.

I've filed a police report and the rest of it, but something that I keep wondering is where these bikes end up? Surely it would be too obvious to resell them on Kijiji or Craig's List, since people like me are now checking every couple of hours for their bike. Should I even bother looking around town, or do they get shipped off to a different city? Are they just scrapped for parts?

  • 6
    A little bit of everything, I suspect. I have heard of people finding their bikes (and other stolen goods) on Craig's list. Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 17:50
  • It would probably only be sold as parts if they were all high end brand name bits. Stupid bike thieves will ride it around town; casual bike thieves would likely sell themselves; but a professional surely has someone to fence them (in another city, most likely.)
    – WTHarper
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 18:41
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    I've had a "saved search" set up on eBay for almost 2 years now after my bike was pinched....but zilch
    – PeteH
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 18:47
  • Craigslist, fleabay, pawn shops, broken down and sold as parts, ridden for use, any number of things like that. There have been a few local instances where they were found with dozens of others in a defaulted storage locker (Presumably to sell later after the looking dies off).
    – JohnP
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 19:11
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    This "What happens to stolen bicycles?" article is pretty good. I might turn it into an answer when I get home.
    – Alex D
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 19:44

1 Answer 1


Bicycle Theft, Guide No. 52 (2008) gives details around bicycle theft in different variants, stages and from different perspectives, contains reference for theft data.

From the report:


Not all bicycles are stolen for financial gain. Some offenders may take a bicycle simply to get from one place to another, and then abandon it. Research suggests that bicycle thieves can be categorized in the following way in terms of their motivation:

Joyriders-those who steal any type of bicycle for transportation and/or enjoyment. These offenders generally abandon the stolen bicycle after use. Younger offenders (16 and under) typically fit this group.

Acquisitive-those who exploit easy opportunities to steal any type of bicycle and trade it for cash or goods (such as drugs).

Volume-those who steal specific types of bicycles and/or numerous bicycles to order.

50 Denv. L.J. 177 (1973-1974) Marketing Theory and the Fencing of Stolen Goods; Roselius, Ted; Benton, Douglas (paywall!) -- goes down on marketing of stolen goods, and bikes are considered one of main prizes in this market (see previous link why)


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