By Elizabeth Weise
The strange and wonderful still happens every day, we just don’t always know it. Take the surprising case of a stolen bespoke bike that found its way across the Bay and back to its owner with the aid of a sharp-eyed Glen Park resident and a surprising coincidence.
It all started on July 3rd, a Sunday.
A gentleman who asked that we just use his first name was relaxing with friends from his bike club at a Berkeley pub called Fieldwork Brewery after a long ride in the Berkeley hills.
His car was parked just 50 feet away from the outdoor seating, but somehow thieves managed to break in without anyone hearing them.
When he went to leave, he found that the very cool fold-up commuter bike he’d gotten just six weeks before was gone. The chances of recovering it seemed vanishingly small.
“I thought ‘Well, so much for that,’” Mike said of the bike he’d been using on BART to get to his various jobs as a therapist around the Bay area.
What he didn’t know was that same evening, around 8 o’clock, someone had shot off a large firecracker in San Francisco’s Glen Park. The booming explosion sent neighbor Kate Evans outside to investigate.
She didn’t find the source of the explosion but she did see something metal leaning up against a tree near the corner of Brompton and Chenery.
Walking over, she realized it was a folded up bike.
“It looked fancy enough that I didn’t think someone left it there as a give away,” she said.
Evans brought the bike into her house, where by a remarkable coincidence she noticed its brand name was Brompton.
That seemed odd, as she’d found it on Brompton street.
“I thought ‘Maybe it belonged to someone who lived on Brompton and they had left it out by accident,’” she told the Glen Park News.
Taking a closer look, she saw that the bike was a limited “Nickle Edition,” only 1,500 were made and it had a serial number.
Monday was a holiday, but on Tuesday Evans decided to do a little online sleuthing.
“With that much identifying information, I figured it would be easy to find the owner. I found a list online of bike shops that carry the Brompton Nickel Edition, I called one of them up (in Fremont) and told them about the bike,” she said.
Meanwhile, across the Bay in Berkeley, Mike had filed a police report about his missing bike and friends in the bike club had been scouring Bay area stolen bike reports to see if his turned up.
When nothing popped up , he figured there was no hope and called Perennial, the Minnesota bike shop where he ordered his lost bike, and started the process of getting another built to his specifications.
By this time, Evans had texted a photo of the bike’s nameplate to the Fremont shop, which in turn sent it along to Brompton, which is based in London. Calls and emails were flying between Glen Park, Fremont and London. Within 24 hours Brompton had found the serial number and discovered the stolen bike had been sold by Perennial Cycle in Minneapolis. Its owner was added into the loop.
Back in Berkeley, Mike was well into the process of working with Perennial to finalize the details on a replacement bike when he got an odd message from his contact there.
“It said ‘You’re going to get a really nice phone call, so be sure to answer,’” he told the Glen Park News.
Mike thought maybe the shop’s manager was going to call to say he was getting a discount because his first Brompton had been stolen.
So when the phone in his office call rang at noon on Thursday, he picked up.
But instead of the manager, it was a woman in Glen Park, calling to say she had his bike and would he like to come over and get it?
“I was just stunned,” he said. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I was completely elated,” he said.
That very night he took BART over to Glen Park where he met Evans and her husband. They showed them where she’d found the bike and the trio spent some fruitless minutes trying to figure out how the bike had possibly gotten from Berkeley to Glen Park in the less than 90 minutes between when Mike’s car was broken into and when Evans came out to see what had blown up.
Ultimately, the mystery of how a bespoke bike made by Brompton Bicycle Ltd. in London, England and stolen in Berkeley happened to end up 20 miles away on Brompton Street in Glen Park, a mere 90 minutes after the smash-and-grad robber, remains unsolved.
But the wonder of how his bike came back to him has not left Mike, even a month after it was first stolen. “I just keep thinking ‘Wow, despite everything bad that’s happening in the world, there really are good people out there.’”