This Dutch Manufacturer Will Track Down Your Stolen Bike—and If They Can't, They'll Replace It for Free


Typically, the search process for a missing bike involves police reports and posters. But as Fast Company reports, Dutch high-end bike manufacturer VanMoof has developed an innovative tracking process to help customers hunt down stolen rides.

In late 2015, VanMoof debuted the SmartBike, a smartphone-connected bike with a touch-activated e-lock and a GSM tracking device embedded in the frame. If thieves bypass the lock, the tracking device allows VanMoof to keep tabs on the bike’s movements with a special tracking dashboard.

Customers report a missing bike to VanMoof via a smartphone app, and agree to pay a $110 “recovery” fee for its return. In turn, the company deploys their secret team of global “bike hunters”—there are two in Amsterdam, one in Berlin, and another in New York—to track down the vehicle. ("Our bike hunters prefer to remain stealth, but I can assure you they're real people," VanMoof co-founder Taco Carlier tells Mental Floss.) If the bike isn’t home safe and sound within two weeks, VanMoof promises to replace it for free.

So far, VanMoof has managed to track down 43 of the 62 reported stolen SmartBikes. Many of them were found parked on the street not far from where they went missing, company operations director Brent van Assen tells Fast Company. In these types of situations, bike hunters secure vehicles with a special lock so the thief can’t transport them elsewhere. They use a lock cutter to break any other bolts or barriers, and bring the recovered bikes back to their offices for the owners to collect.

SmartBikes are also sometimes stolen and moved abroad. "Bike Hunters have been around the world in the past 12 months," Carlier says. "We've calculated that they travelled as far as 30,000 kilometers. They have tracked down stolen VanMoofs in cities such as Casablanca, Amsterdam, New York, Brussels, Gdańsk [in Poland], and Paris."

VanMoof plans to use their tracking data to help law enforcement officials identify bike theft patterns. In the meantime, their service provides peace of mind for potential customers who want to splurge on a fancy bike but are wary of being targeted by thieves. "Our plan is to make our Bike Hunters so famous that bike thieves are too terrified to steal a VanMoof in the first place," Carlier says.

VanMoof is based in Amsterdam, but American customers can visit the company’s Brooklyn, New York outpost, or resale locations in states including Ohio, California, Minnesota, Washington, and Oregon [PDF]. Their bikes with anti-theft technology include the SmartBike (starting at $1100) and the new Electrified S (starting at $2500).

[h/t Fast Company]

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.