Only hours after Bill Kiriakis became the proud owner of a brand-new and very expensive e-bike, it was stolen. But while most bike theft stories end in tears, this one ends with a laugh—thanks in large part to the cutting-edge theft deterrent technology built into the bike.
The bike in question is far from ordinary. It’s a Swiss-made Stromer ST2 E-Bike. Kiriakis was one of the first to own an ST2 in the United States, and he’d been waiting months to get it. He commutes daily into the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco from Mill Valley across the Golden Gate Bridge, a 90-minute ride each way. Three hours in the saddle every day takes its toll, and while bikes with electric motors like the Stromer don’t totally remove the pedaling from the equation, they do help riders go further and faster with less effort.
Last Tuesday, Kiriakis picked up the bike from The New Wheel, a shop in San Francisco that specializes in electrics. With his brand new, nearly $7,000 ST2 affixed to his car’s bike rack and secured with a cable lock, Kiriakis drove to his office and parked out front. When he returned to his car a few hours later, he found the cable lock cut and the ST2 missing.
So brief was Kiriakis’ time with the bike that he hadn’t gotten a chance to “set it up”—a process that involves pairing the bike with Stromer’s mobile app and activating the bike’s GPS-locating and theft-mode capabilities. Had the bike been fully set up, chances are this theft would’ve been thwarted before the thief could ride more than a few feet. The ST2’s on-board system includes a feature that locks the bike’s back wheel as soon as your phone leaves the bike’s immediate location. If a would-be thief attempts to pedal it away, the bike automatically launches into Theft Mode. The lights flash, and you can spot the bike on a map using GPS. Theft Mode can also be launched remotely, via the mobile app. But Kiriakis hadn’t turned any of this stuff on.
“I thought, ‘Now I’ve got to go through the motions of calling the cops and creating a report because that’s what you have to do,'” he says. “In the back of my mind, I’m like, ‘There’s no way I’m going to find this bike.”
Kiriakis called The New Wheel to ensure he had the correct serial number. Karen Wiener, who co-owns the shop with her partner Brett Thurber, had the idea to call Stromer. The hope was that they’d somehow be able to use the bike’s GPS capabilities to locate it.
Bill Kiriakis with his new bike outside of The New Wheel in Bernal Heights. The New WheelIt worked. Stromer manager of operations Oliver Dine pinpointed the bike’s location in the UN Plaza in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Unsurprising, as this part of town is where many a stolen bicycle ends up.
The police were alerted and searched the area. Because Dine had given them a precise location, the search area was narrowed. Still, it wasn’t until the ST2’s “Theft Mode” was activated that things came to a head. On an ST2, “Theft Mode” locks the back wheel, rendering the bike completely inert and unrideable. The lights begin to flash and the word THEFT is displayed on the bike’s built-in LED screen.
The search party picked up the location near 8th and Market streets. There, the police found a man burdened with a shiny new ST2 with flashing lights that was refusing to move. They promptly apprehended the man, took the bike to the police station and called Kiriakis to deliver the news.
Then man claimed to have purchased the bike on the street from someone else for $100—whether or not that’s true will get sorted out by the justice system.
In what is likely the oddest praise Stromer’s heard to date, the man with the stolen bike said it was an impressive ride. Apparently, despite the whole arrest business, he’d had a grand time on the ST2. The man told the arresting officers that this was one of the coolest bikes he had ever ridden.
“I couldn’t believe it, but it was confirmed by the police,” says Brent Meyers, a national sales manager for Stromer.
Peter Nicholson, another Stromer spokesperson, heard the same report. “He was kind of running his mouth about how much fun he had on the bike.”
Just shy of two hours after Bill Kiriakis had originally discovered the bike was missing, he was reunited with it at the police station. “The thing that I got out of it was that the tech really worked, which is cool,” Kiriakis said.