How we uncovered thousands of stolen bikes and lived to tell the tale
VanMoof Bike Hunting Broadcast #2
Your peek into the wild world of VanMoof’s Bike Hunting Team
With over 3.5 million bicycles stolen each year in Europe alone, we consider bike theft as a huge barrier to happy riding. That is why our Bike Hunters are extremely determined to track down every stolen SmartBike. The latest hunt took a team of our top Bike Hunters on a 2,500km journey to Casablanca, Morocco. Instead of saving a stolen SmartBike from Paris, they stumbled upon a warehouse jam-packed with thousands of top-quality bikes.
Last week we successfully retrieved a stolen SmartBike from a lorry that was bound for Casablanca. At that time, we had also been tracking another stolen SmartBike, and were picking up tracking signals indicating it was in… Casablanca. By now we knew we were onto something, but we needed to move fast.
The beginning of a beautiful friendship
The mission had a rocky start. As soon as their flight from Amsterdam touched down, Bike Hunter Ben* and his team planned to head straight to where the last tracking signal came from.
Easier said than done. The first two taxi drivers refused to take these foreign men to the requested neighbourhood, and went to great lengths to make clear they were crazy to want to go there.
Finally, they met a brave guide by the name of Rashid who agreed to take them, if they agreed to not leave the car, use phones or take photos. And one final condition — that they keep that ghastly tracking device hidden at all costs.
Wild goose chase
As they fired up the tracker from the back seat of Rashid's trusty Peugeot 205, they met their second challenge. The SmartBike had been giving a consistently strong signal, from the moment it had been reported stolen in the app. But this morning the tables had turned. They weren’t picking up any signal. Did the Brussels thieves somehow tip off a wider bike theft network to be wary of VanMoof SmartBikes?
By the end of day one there was still no signal from the bike they had come to retrieve. Exhausted as they were, they refused to lose hope.
The next day they decided to try their luck at the local police station. The police officer on duty chuckled at Ben’s story and politely explained they had much more pressing matters to attend to.
After another afternoon without any sign from the SmartBike, the Bike Hunters got talking with some locals on the street. The friendly men pointed the team in the direction of a bike shop. It wasn’t before long that Ben noticed some shiny frames tucked away at the back of the store. He wondered where the owner got these European bikes from. Was this a lead? This question immediately started a quarrel, and Rashid summoned Ben and his team to get into his Peugeot. Once they drove off, Rashid explained he was taking them to a place they might be interested in.
Rashid pulled up to a warehouse hidden in the city centre. After posing as customers interested in placing “a large order of premium quality bicycles”, the men were invited to the back. To their surprise it was packed to the rafters with bicycles. All in top shape. The warehouse manager explained they get them off trucks from different locations. "From Paris, Brussels, anywhere in Europe" he boasted.
Once it became clear he wasn’t going to make a sale, the manager became impatient. When he noticed the Bike Hunters had been filming, he demanded to hand over the footage and the team fled the premises.
Slightly stunned, our Bike Hunters finally returned from Casablanca empty handed and feeling like failures. However, thanks to the help of locals we did gain valuable intel in the workings of organised bike crime in Europe.
Stay tuned for more..
*Our Bike Hunters prefer to remain stealth and not use their real names.