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]