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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

High-End Bike Shop Burglars Strike Again, Total Losses Now Top Over $150,000 Since December

At least eight bike shops have seen high-end bikes stolen in late night break-ins.

Thieves stole high-end bikes from BFF Bikes in Bucktown (left) and Cycle Smythy in Lincoln Park (right) in January.
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CHICAGO — Since opening up shop in 1996, Johnny Sprockets had seldom suffered the wrath of burglars.

That changed at 5:33 a.m. Sunday, when a gang of hooded figures broke in and stole $5,400 worth of bikes — an act that sucked the Lakeview store into what appears to be a coordinated web of thievery.

Since December, more than $150,000 worth of bicycles have been taken from at least eight Chicago-area bike shops and one triathlon training facility.

In and out in under a minute, thieves have swiped the stores’ most rare and expensive merchandise. They typically come between 3 and 5 a.m.

While some stores have captured surveillance footage of the masked figures, a getaway car has yet to be identified.

RELATED: High-End Bike Thieves Target Small Shops Around Town, Making Off With At Least $70,000 In Bicycles

While shop owners believe the thefts are connected, Chicago Police have yet to identify a crime pattern, spokesperson Jessica Rocco said Tuesday.

“If they discover a pattern, they will create an alert that will be disseminated to the public,” she said of detectives.

A lack of arrests have left many shop owners exhausted and infuriated. Especially the ones who have been hit more than once.

After Cycle Smithy in Lincoln Park was hit the first time, owner Mark Mattei bolstered security with stronger cables and locks.

Early Tuesday morning, thieves were able to cut through those cables and make off with $25,000 worth of Cannondales.

“I’ve been up since about 4 a.m. and I haven’t eaten yet,” Mattei said Tuesday afternoon.

Turin Bicycle in Ravenswood has been broken into three times in 2019, shop owner Lee Katz said. A fourth break-in, which Katz believes is connected to the others, occurred on Nov. 9.

Across all of the break-ins, Turin has lost more than $47,000 in bikes. Katz said the break-ins drove him to add a level security the shop hasn’t needed in decades.

“We have not had gates since 1964,” Katz said. “I hate gates. They’re so antisocial.”

But last week, the thieves were able to cut through the gates and take about $17,000 in bicycles. A small business owner who already operates on thin margins, Katz is worried about whether an insurance claim is worth the increased monthly premium.

Adding insult to injury, Katz said, this is the worst time of the year for this to happen.

“Everybody in a bike shop already has the experience of getting through Chicago winters,” he said. “This is just another element that nobody wants to deal with.”

Bruber, the manager at Johnny Sprockets, said there’s not much the police can do without more evidence.

“Even being on the inside like I am, we keep hearing about these instances through the grapevine,” he said.

One shop owner disagreed, saying the officers who arrived at his shop didn’t know the other bike burglaries happened between in the pre-dawn hours — details that could have led to catching the thieves in the act.

“A lot could have been done,” the owner said. “And it’s a big struggle for us.” 

All of the shops and gyms interviewed by Block Club Chicago carry insurance on their merchandise. But several shop owners worried their recent claims will send their premiums skyrocketing. At least one shop saw a claim flat-out denied.

Many shops operate on thin margins as-is, said Max Hertz, owner of Bike Lane in Bucktown.

“We’re small businesses who are employing people in the neighborhood,” Hertz said. “When this kind of stuff happens, it sucks, a lot. Insurance will cover some stuff, but there’s a huge headache with it. And now, there’s the constant worry that it’ll happen again.”

Bike shop thefts and losses, as of Tuesday

BFF Bikes, Bucktown

2113 W. Armitage Ave.

Break-ins: 3

Stolen bike costs: $5,000

Damages: $850

Insurance claims filed: 2

Big City Bikes, Lincoln Park

2425 N. Ashland Ave.

Break-ins: 1

Stolen bike costs: $3,000

Damages: unknown

Insurance claims: unknown

Bike Lane, Bucktown

2130 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Break-ins: 1

Stolen bike costs: $4,000

Damages: $1,000

Insurance claims: 1

Cycle Smithy, Lincoln Park

2468 1/2 N. Clark St.

Break-ins: 2

Stolen bike costs: $37,500

Damages: Unknown

Insurance claims filed: 2

Johnny Sprockets, Lakeview

3140 N. Broadway

Break-ins: 1

Stolen bike costs: $5,400

Damages: Unknown

Insurance claims: Unknown

Let’s Roast Cycles, Wicker Park

1116 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Break-ins: 1

Stolen bike costs: $3,600

Damages: Unknown

Insurance claims: 1

Pony Shop, Evanston

1224 Chicago Ave.

Break-ins: 2

Stolen bike costs: $40,000

Damagest: Unknown

Insurance claims: Unknown

Turin Bicycle, Ravenswood

4710 N. Damen Ave.

Break-ins: 4

Stolen bike costs: $47,000

Damages: $2,000

Insurance claims: Unknown

Well-Fit Performance, Near West Side

1700 W. Hubbard St.

Break-ins: 3

Stolen bike costs: $70,000

Damages: $100

Insurance claims: 3

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