As Whistler's mountain biking garners international acclaim the resort's reputation also grows among bike thieves.
Some of the best mountain bike trails are in Whistler and so are some of the world's best mountain bikes, and, as it turns out, pretty good mountain bike thieves. Whistler RCMP report 80 mountain bikes were stolen in Whistler between May and August last year and the 16 thefts reported so far this summer will have more bike owners hanging their heads when they find their bike is gone.
So far this summer the thieves have been good, getting into a locked garage in White Gold without leaving any trace — except three Specialized race bikes were gone, including a one-of-a-kind dual suspended FSR gem valued at over $5,000. Another custom-built ride was ripped off out of the back of a locked car in the conference centre underground.
The thieves that are striking Whistler are the kind that seemingly materialise out of nowhere and nab unattended bikes off the patio while an unsuspecting rider nips into the house for a drink after a long ride. The amazing thieves can climb to seemingly unreachable balconies.
The average new mountain bike sports a price tag of around $1,000 and tricked-out titanium toys can be worth three times that. As the price of bikes goes up so too do the lengths thieves will go to get their hands on them.
"Whistler is being actively advertised and promoted as a place to go mountain biking," says Cpl. Darryl Little of the Whistler RCMP detachment. "With that increased profile the Vancouver thieves will be coming up to Whistler when they realize there are some good bikes up here."
Little says a very small percentage of stolen mountain bikes are ever recovered, as they are stripped, repainted, and components are swapped before they hit the street again.
"The bikes are taken back to the city and then the parts from three or four bikes are interchanged before the sale," he says. "You could be buying a $3,000 bike for 150 bucks."
One way to stop the cycle is to not buy stolen parts, but it's not easy to tell if a part is hot and cash-strapped bargain hunters can be blinded by an apparent steal of a deal.
If big city thieves are starting to eye up bikes in Whistler a number of local riders and bike shop employees have suggested a method of dealing with thieves popularized by inner-city bike couriers.
If messengers catch a thief, the perpetrator is taken to the steps of the Vancouver Court House where he or she is U-locked to the handrail, stripped naked and the words "Bike Thief" are spray painted on the person's chest. Others in the Whistler mountain bike community have floated the idea of erecting a set of stocks in Village Square for the public display of thieves caught in the act.
Little says no one should take the law into their own hands as they could be charged with criminal offences like assault. What bike owners can do, Little says, lock bikes at all times and keep an eye out for suspicious activity.
"It doesn't take long for someone to walk up to an unattended bike and ride off," Little says. "If your eyes are not on your bike and it's not locked somebody else's may be."
He adds if riders don't record their bike serial numbers it is almost impossible to claim their bikes if they are found. There are currently 12 unclaimed bikes at the Whistler RCMP office.