On Saturday November 3, 2018 I decided to spend the day going on a warmup 65km ride down to Mountain View from San Francisco, meet up with a couple friends, then come back by Caltrain as preparation for a hard Sunday ride going up King’s Mountain.
On the return trip, the Caltrain was closed for repairs, so I had to take a bus from San Bruno to San Francisco. I tried to put my bike inside the bus, but the driver refused stating that it’s against their policy - so I put it on the rack outside. Looking out the window into darkness, the bus drove comfortably on the highway until getting to Market and 6th avenue.
There was a red light at Market and 6th avenue, and out of the corner appears one person who rushes to the front of the bus, and before I could blink snatches the bike off the rack. I saw it unfold entirely with my own eyes, but by the time I could react it was too late.
The bus driver opened the door and I took a run for it, chasing the thief. I had my cycling shoes on, which if you aren’t aware allow me to clip my feet into my pedals. Of course, the disadvantage is that you can’t run in them - in fact even walking on pavement is difficult.
To make matters worse, it wasn’t just me and that guy who snatched the bike - he had a couple friends joining the party as well. They actually followed me on other road bikes, and warned me to not even try running after him. Eventually I lost sight, and getting into a physical fight with several other guys on me wouldn’t be wise. The bus driver already called 911 and the police arrived.
What went well
Looking at the bright side first, there’s a couple things that went well.
- I didn’t have my wallet in my saddle bag (which could have been stolen in the process)
- Did not get mugged in the process (so phone/wallet were ok)
- No injuries occured
As well, my initial instinct was to chase them. But if I did catch up to them - what would I gain?
I may have knocked the guy off the bike, and taken off:
- I would need to clip-in my pedals fast enough + accelerate so he can’t chase me
- I could hold ~55km/h for 60 seconds to get far enough from him
- Crashing into people, cars or red lights are of concern to maintain that speed
- The benefit is that I would keep my bike
- Success rate of clipping in on for both feet is ~15%, high failure rate
If I failed to clip-in:
- Extremely dangerous since I’d be in direct harm of the thief
- Partial clip-in means that I’m basically bolted to the bike
- It wasn’t just one person but at least one other
- 2 vs 1 and they likely have knives (which I’ve seen many people carry around)
Below is a picture of sidewalk the thief rode on (though it happened at night):
What didn’t go well
I should have made sure my bike never leaves my hands. The issue with this is that you actually can’t lock the bike on the buses. I also explicitely asked to have the bike in the bus, but the driver refused.
Lastly, I also didn’t have the serial number with me. When the police was there on the scene, it would have been very valuable to have the serial number with me.
What I did after it got stolen
- The bus driver called 911 and I did as well after my failed chase - and the cops arrived on the scene
- I showed bike pictures and described the thief - and they alerted nearby cops to be aware of the event
- Interestingly, I overheard the radios police actually describing bikes being ridden in the area
- After getting home, I retrieved the serial number and reported the incident online to the police
- I religiously checked Kijiji, eBay and other websites for the bike or its respective components
- Posted on Facebook groups making other people aware of the theft
- Looked into renter’s insurance to see if I could make a claim
Update (November 13, 2018): My renter’s insurance happened to cover the entire road bike - so I got all my road bike’s value back and will be buying another one :)