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Police recover a container of charity bikes stolen from Mike's Bikes

Published March 2, 2021
UPDATED: "Even in a bike drought, you have to keep doing the good work," CEO Ken Martin says.

NOVATO, Calif. (BRAIN) — Police have recovered a 40-foot container full of donated used bikes that were stolen from Mike's Bikes' headquarters over a week ago. The bikes were collected by the Mike's Bikes Foundation and were to be shipped to Botswana, Africa. 

"The good news is that the container has been found! We should get it back tomorrow, and it supposedly has all (or most) of the bikes inside still," Mike's Bikes CEO Ken Martin told BRAIN.

Martin said it took a few days before he and his staff realized the container had been stolen.

The Mike's Bikes Foundation regularly ships container loads of donated used bikes to Africa — it has shipped more than 37,000 bikes since 2008 — and the container was full and waiting for a trucker to pick it up last week and bring it to the Oakland port.

When staff came in last Monday, Feb. 23, they noticed the container was gone and assumed their regular trucker had picked it up over the weekend. Then they noticed that the trucker had apparently bashed into their building on the way out and called the trucker to complain. 

"There was a lot of confusion. (The regular trucker) thought we were talking about the shipment he picked up a month earlier. Then he said, 'we didn't make a pick up this weekend,' and it all started to click," Martin said. "We looked at the security video and sure enough someone had pulled up and drove away with the container."

The container and semi were found abandoned in Concord, about 40 miles away, on Sunday. Martin said the owner of the stolen semi was kind enough to drive the container back to Mike's Bikes after police released it.

Martin said 30 or 40 bikes were missing from the container.

"They had been rifled through. I think (the thieves) didn't know it was full of used bikes and not full of Santa Cruzes. When they realized it was just used bikes they took a few and abandoned it."

Martin said local publicity about the theft led to an increase in bike donations, so there will be no problem filling up the container again and sending it off to Africa as planned.

The foundation distributes the bikes to entrepreneurs who run small bike shops in several African nations. The African shops refurbish the bikes and sell them. Martin normally goes to Africa once or twice a year to help train the new shop owners.

"We train them up and help get them started and the donated bikes essentially become their inventory. the idea is that it helps create a sustainable business; it's not just a donation," he said.

With the current bike shortage, some U.S. retailers would probably like a load of used bikes.

"I'm not sure these are the kinds of bikes that BRAIN readers would want, honestly," Martin said. "But even in a bike drought you have to keep doing the good work."

More information:

Security video footage showed the thieves drive up, attach the trailer and drive off.

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