For Rick and Lynn Hendricks of northwest Denver, their tandem bicycle meant much more than just exercise. It was a lifeline for Lynn, who has a nerve disease, struggles to walk and has had dozens of surgeries.
"It's just massive," she said of the positive impact bike riding has on her health. "It has become a big part of our lifestyle."
The retired couple rode the custom bike to restaurants, coffee shops and on long outings to Cherry Creek Reservoir.
"We go everywhere on it," said Lynn.
But in June, after they rode it to downtown Denver and parked it so they could go see a play, a thief
rode off with their tandem bike. The theft was captured by surveillance cameras.
"I was devastated," said Lynn. "They might as well have killed me -- it was that important."
Odds suggested the bike was gone forever, as the vast majority of the 131 bikes stolen in Denver every month this year are not recovered. Statistics suggest less than one of every 10 stolen bikes in Denver is recovered.
"I figured it was gone," said Rick.
But he went online and began searching for ways to recover stolen bikes. He happened onthat provided a number of places to search for stolen bikes.
"And your story was one of the things that came up and I thought, let me read this," said Rick.
One of the suggestions in the report was using bikeindex.org.
Rick checked on the bikeindex site and registered the couple's tandem as stolen.
Within a short time, two other site users sent him messages saying they had spotted the stolen tandem bike.
One of the witnesses sent him a photo of the bike at a homeless camp in downtown Denver near 17th and Pearl Street. Rick immediately contacted Denver police who went to the camp, located the bike and returned it to Rick and Lynn.
"It was like Christmas," said Rick. "I can't believe we got it back."
Within a week after their tandem was stolen, they had it back, although some accessories were missing.
"It saved us thanks to your story that made us aware of (bikeindex)," said Rick.
The couple said they have learned to be more careful about where they park their bike and the value of
"It's another weapon in the arsenal against theft is a way to put it," said Rick.
The Hendricks say no arrests were made in the theft of their bike since officers did not find anyone at the homeless camp.
How can you protect yourself from having your bike stolen and what should you do if it happens? CBS News Colorado spoke to numerous experts in the field and compiled a list of ways to protect yourself:
• Register your bike with your local police department and with bikeindex.org.
• Register your bike or try to find it if its stolen at project529.com.
• Search for your stolen or abandoned bikes.
• Make sure you have the serial number, a good description of the bike, pictures and take a picture of yourself with the bike in case it is stolen.
• Take a picture of your serial number.
• If you store bikes in your garage, lock them to something. "Harden your garage," says Bryan Hance of bikeindex.org. Use a U lock or another heavy duty lock. Thieves can easily defeat cable locks. And they are also using power tools to defeat U-locks. "Make yours the hardest target, make yours the one they have to spend the most time on," said Hance.
• If you are out riding but take a break, keep your bike within sight. Always lock it. Experts say cable locks can be easily cut and U-locks are preferable although thieves now use power tools to cut off U-locks. "Thieves have stepped up their game with power tools," said Hance.
• If your bike is stolen, file a police report. Scour the online marketplaces. If you find it, report it to police and to the online marketplace.
• Look for stolen bike groups on Facebook and post there- they might be able to help your recovery efforts. The Denver Stolen Bike group on Facebook can be a resource.
• Here's what to do if you locate your bike being sold online.
• Here are some red flags to watch out for to protect yourself from buying a stolen bike:
o If the seller won't provide a serial number.
o If the seller doesn't match their bike i.e. it would not fit them or if they seem to not know much about the bike.
o If it is being sold online along with other items that you might find in a garage like power tools etc.
o If the seller does not want to meet in a safe, public place.
o Look for marks on the bike that might indicate a lock was pried off the bike frame
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