Stranger’s trip to pawn shop reunites cyclist with stolen bike he’d given up on

Chris Chan’s bike was stolen this spring after he loaned it to a friend.

Months later, Debbie Reid walked into a pawn shop to look for used guitars. She found the bike instead.

Now these two strangers are forever linked by coincidence, and have created story with a happy ending.

Stolen from a backyard

Chan, the executive director of the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society, loaned his bike to a friend this spring. The friend secured the bike with a cable lock, but had it stolen from her backyard anyway.

Chan hadn’t written down the serial number, so he didn’t have high hopes he ever see his bike again.

“I essentially gave up hope fairly immediately that we might recover it,” he said. “Because most bikes aren’t recovered.

The bike was fairly distinct, though, so Chan posted to social media to see if, by some chance, someone might find it.

Enter Reid, a psychologist by day who frequents pawn shops to buy used guitars to repair and sell.

She was in a pawn shop a month or two ago when she stumbled across a nice-looking bike.

Debbie Reid found the bike at a pawn shop and had a hunch the price was too good to be true. She returned the bike to owner Chris Chan after finding his post online. (CBC)

“I happened to be looking for guitars one day and I looked over and saw this very nice bike priced very low,” Reid told Edmonton AM Friday morning.

Reid said the bike was priced around $150, and though she doesn’t consider herself an expert, she knew it was a great price.

That raised her suspicions but she said staff at the pawn shop ensured her the bike was not stolen. She even made them read out the serial number to ensure they had registered it correctly with the police.

After everything checked out, she bought the bike and took it home, then decided to research the make and model to see what it was worth.

“As soon as I typed the make and model, Chris’s ad popped up for a lost bike,” she said. Comparing the bike with the ad, she knew it was Chan’s almost immediately.

“It was unquestionably the same bike,” she said.

After a bit of sleuthing, Reid found Chan on Facebook.

“He was a bit hard to track down,” she said.

Through her search, she found that Chan had worked at Mountain Equipment Co-op in Edmonton – at some point, at least. She called there as a shot in the dark, and ran into more roadblocks.

“I phoned MEC, and it so happened the telephones were down at MEC that day, so I got put through to Vancouver,” she said. “But I sort of rambled the story out to them, and they knew who Chris was.”

‘Is this really happening?’

Chan was working when he received a call from Vancouver.

“I was like, ‘What was this about?’ ” he said. The caller told Chan the story Reid had told them – and soon enough he was reunited with his bike.

The call was unexpected, to say the least. “There was a lot of shock, and ‘Is this really happening?’ ” he said.

Reid returned the bike to the pawn shop and let staff know the bike had been stolen and the owner would come pick it up. She got her money back.

And because the bike’s serial number had not been registered with the Edmonton police, the pawn shop was not at fault either.

Chan used his memory of the distinct parts and stickers on the bike to identify the bike to police — and had it delivered to his house by police hours later.

Bike theft prevention

He has always been a champion of registering bikes in bikeindex.org, where owners can record information like serial numbers, colours and distinctive marks to help identify stolen bikes much easier.

He said posting about it online, whether it’s through the bike registry site or on social media, can make a huge difference in getting a stolen bike back. He’s living proof.

Bicycles are frequently stolen, which is why Chan suggests registering bikes on bikeindex.org. (CBC)

Chan has created a Twitter account, @stolenbikesyeg, that automatically tweets out bikes that are reported as stolen in the Edmonton area. He said he hopes social media will continue to help cyclists recover their stolen property.

As for his newly recovered bike, you can bet Chan recorded the serial number almost immediately. “I took a picture of it on my phone,” he said with a laugh.



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