‘Even the sheriff double locks his bike’: Bike thefts total more than $87,000 this summer in Summit County

Bike theft is a crime of opportunity, especially in Colorado mountain towns known for their recreation and located along Interstate 70

Benjamin Umayam/Courtsey photo
Silverthorne resident Benjamin Umayam has never owned a car in his life and relies on his bike to get around. But on Aug. 21, 2023, Umayam woke up to find his bike stolen.
Benjamin Umayam/Courtsey photo

Silverthorne resident Benjamin Umayam has never owned a car in his life. So, when Umayam, 68, retired from his career as chef in New York City and moved to Summit  County three years ago, he invested in an electric bike worth $1,800 to get around.

Like many retirees, Umayam has a routine: Most mornings he’ll hop on his bike in the morning and coast down the big hill from Wildernest to Silverthorne to have coffee at Red Buffalo Cafe before swinging by the recreation center.

“The bike is my attraction to getting places in my retired life, it’s essential,” Umayam said, adding that he writes short stories, some which have been published, about “riding around and enjoying nature.”

But for the past two weeks, Umayam has been taking the bus. 

After returning late from a ukulele performance on Sunday, Aug. 20, Umayam found his bike had been stolen. He said he used a cable lock to secure his bike in a carport the night before, right where he usually does when he gets home. But it was gone — not even the lock had been left behind.

“You leave New York and you come up here to paradise and you don’t think stuff like this would happen,” Umayam said.

Benjamin Umayam’s bike, which was stolen Aug. 21, 2023, in Frisco.
Benjamin Umayam/Courtsey photo

Just like ski and snowboard theft in the winter, bike theft ebbs and flows in Summit County and along the Interstate 70 corridor all summer long, according to Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons.

The proximity to the fast moving and crowded highway, as well as the high concentration of recreationalists with expensive equipment, makes these Colorado mountain towns popular targets, FitzSimons said.

“These thieves are opportunists,” FitzSimons said. “They drive around looking for these bikes that are unattended and they snatch them pretty quickly — really quickly.”

Between July 1 and Aug. 8, FitzSimons said 18 bikes worth a combined $87,000 have been reported stolen in Summit County alone. Meanwhile, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office is working jointly on more than one bike theft case with law enforcement in Vail, he said.

“That’s a lot of high-end bikes being ripped off,” FitzSimons said. “It’s not any different than we’ve seen in past summers. Bikes are just getting more expensive, more high end, and because of our great trails out here, we attract people who invest in their equipment.”

Leadville resident Terence Rix says he’s been the victim of several thefts in the High Country over the years, including bikes, a boat, a moped and a trailer. A double amputee who teaches biking and skiing to people with disabilities, Rix said he most recently had his fold-up e-bike stolen at the Frisco Transfer Center.

Around 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 7, Rix said he used three locks to secure the bike valued at $2,000 outside the Copper Mountain shelter at the newly constructed bus station. When he returned less than six hours later at 7:15 a.m., the bike was gone.

“I put it outside our transfer center in Frisco one night. I never do that,” Rix said. “I hide my bike. I’m a wiley old guy with no legs and these bikes help me get around.”

While law enforcement can sometimes recover a stolen bike, more often than not, when a bike is stolen, it’s gone for good. For the 18 bikes stolen between July 1 and Aug. 8, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office has identified six suspects and four associated vehicles, FitzSimons said.

The Sheriff’s Office has recovered just one of the nine bikes stolen in its jurisdiction, FitzSimons said. Meanwhile, none of the five bikes reported stolen this summer in Dillon or the two bikes reported stolen in Frisco have been recovered, according to police chiefs in those towns.

However, in Silverthorne, three of five bikes reported missing have been recovered, “which is a high percentage,” acting-Police Chief Rachel Dunaway said. Breckenridge Police Chief Jim Baird did not return an email request for comment.

To prevent bike theft, local police chiefs and FitzSimons were unanimous in reminding residents and visitors that they’ve got to remain vigilant.

The best practice is to always secure a bike inside somewhere, whether that be in a garage, a locked vehicle or inside an apartment. When that isn’t possible, a sturdy lock that can’t be cut is the next best option.

Cable locks or the built-in locking mechanisms on most bike racks are largely inadequate, according to public safety officials.

“My bike rack has one of those internal locking mechanisms, but I also have a double lock with a heavy-duty cable,” FitzSimons said. “Even the sheriff double locks his bike.”

Small commercially-available tracking devices like Apple Airtags have been the most successful means for tracking down stolen bicycles in recent years, FitzSimons said. But all bike owners should also know their bike’s serial number. That way, if it is stolen police can confirm whose bike it is, he added. 

“People become complacent leaving their bikes either unlocked or with insufficient locks,” FitzSimons said. “Newer bike racks come with built-in locks, like a cable lock, but they’re just not sufficient.”

Local bike shops can recommend bike locks that have the technology and sturdiness to properly secure a bike, FitzSimons said, adding, “If you’re going to invest in a bike, invest in a sturdy lock.”

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