An amateur racing cyclist recovered three stolen bikes thanks to a GPS tracking device that he only recently bought.
David Wilkins, 46 and who is a member of Onyx Racing Team in London, went to collect one of his bikes at 6am on Tuesday, November 23 to begin his morning’s commute when he realised his three bikes and £5,000 worth of tools had been stolen.
A Specialized S-Works Tarmac, worth £10,000, was the most expensive item robbed, alongside a Cube cyclocross and a Brompton bike.
The recent spate of aggressive bike robberies in Richmond Park had prompted Mr Wilkins to buy four Apple AirTags for £100, the Cobham resident having been a victim of bike theft before.
Upon noticing the disappearance of the items, he immediately used the AirTag’s app to locate the S-Works Tarmac, and rang the police informing them of the theft.
“They were very helpful, but I got the impression they couldn’t do too much as they said the location wasn’t specific enough," Mr Wilkins explained to Cycling Weekly.
“I then took the matter into my own hands, got in the car and drove 25 miles to this housing estate. I parked up, patrolled on foot, and then got a fresh tag which gave me a more specific location of just seven feet away."
Mr Wilkins rang Surrey police again informing them of the updated location in a village outside of Guildford.
"What happened next was quite comical as the police said the AirTag could still be inaccurate," he added.
"But then myself and the police officer pressed our ears up against the window of the property, I pressed the button on the app that plays a tone on the AirTag, and sure enough we heard 'beep, beep, beep'. At that point it was unequivocal."
The police then entered the apartment and located all of Mr Wilkins' stolen property and other items. They also arrested suspects at the scene.
"To think that a £25 tag found £15,000 worth of bikes... it's a pretty decent investment! They might not work all of the time, but for me they worked brilliantly," Mr Wilkins added.
"When the thefts were happening in Richmond Park, someone on the Onyx chat had mentioned the AirTags. I was so fed up, so angry, of everyone around here having bikes, cars and tools stolen, that I thought it was worthwhile. Now everyone on the chat is buying them."
Mr Wilkins attached his AirTag with a zip tie under the saddle, noting that if hidden inside the frame the reach can be reduced and less easily detectable.
He will receive his bikes once again after the police have conducted their investigation into the theft.
As for where he placed the other three AirTags... "One's on the cat, one's on the dog, and the other I gave to my eldest son as he loses everything. I now have faith in whatever he loses!"
Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.
Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.
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