It’s every cyclist’s worst nightmare: you ride into town, secure your ride to the rack—only to return later and find that someone took your bike.
That was the case for Jenni Morton-Humphreys, a Bristol resident who returned from a day out in Bristol Harbour to find that her locks had been cut and her beloved bike was gone, according to a blog post from Litelok.
And not just any ordinary bike: a beautiful, high-quality, expensive bike, made by German manufacturer Cube. The BBC listed the price as £800, or over a thousand US dollars.
But Jenni wasn’t going to just let someone get away with taking her bike.
She set out to track it down—and found herself in an epic adventure to reclaim the bike.
After reporting the robbery to the police, she also reached out to a Facebook page for local cyclist. She acknowledged it was a “long shot,” but asked the cyclists to let her know if they saw any information.
But miraculously, another user (who remained anonymous but is credited in the Litelok post as “Chris”) quickly chimed in with some precious intel. He had seen the same bike posted on Facebook marketplace earlier that day, by someone named Bebop, and passed along the ad. Jenni immediately recognized the bike as her own.
So Chris and Jenni teamed up on a plan: to set up a meeting with the thieves, pretending to be interested in buying the bike…
And then, Jenni would turn the tables and steal it back herself.
Chris made contact with Bebop, explaining that his “sister” (Jenni) was interested in the bike. Bebop then set them up with a meeting with a second individual known as Rocksteady. (Bebop and Rocksteady, by the way, are villainous henchmen from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Appropriate nickname choices.)
Jenni asked the local police if they might escort her on the mission. They declined, and tried to dissuade her from the potentially dangerous meeting, but couldn’t stop her.
But Jenni’s friend Matt joined in, keeping out of sight as a lookout, ready to step in if the situation took a dangerous turn.
Coordinating through Chris, it was finally time for the sting: Jenni met up with Rocksteady, and the bike was in her sights.
To avoid suspicion, Jenni downplayed her cycling expertise.
“I pretended to be interested and asked silly questions about the bike,” she told the Bristol Post. “I said the saddle was too high, and asked if I could get on it to test it out.”
He fell for it.
Jenni was careful about bringing personal possessions to the sting. She left most of her things at home, but knew she had to gain the trust of the thief by leaving something with him before the test ride, so she left behind a pack of cigarettes and a set of keys.
But the cigarette pack was empty, and the keys were decoys—with a brilliantly fitting touch: “It was two keys to the bike locks that they had cut off my bike,” she told BBC.
Jenni was on the bike, and it was time to make a move. “I cycled on the pavement, fell off a couple of times,” she told BBC, “Then I saw a corner, took it and cycled as fast as I could and didn’t look back.”
“My main thought was that I was worried because I didn’t really know where I was,” she told the Bristol Post, although she said she soon gained her bearings.
When Rocksteady realized Jenni wasn’t coming back from her test ride, he was reportedly left dumbfounded, with only confusion and a useless set of lock keys in hand.
“Ur bird has jus rode off on that bike!,” he texted Chris, according to screenshots posted by Litelok.
It was then Chris revealed that Rocksteady had been “played,” and that Jenni had just rode off on her own bike:
“Lesson to be learned son, don’t steal from the cycling community for a quick fix!”
Jenni’s story has quickly gone viral. But before everyone starts pulling their own vigilante heists, the police have warned that stings like these could tip off criminals to hide their tracks.
“We’d advise against people taking matters into their own hands due the risks involved and the fact it provides criminals with an opportunity to destroy evidence before we can investigate them,” a police spokesman told BBC News, although he noted that in this particular case, the Jenni was in contact with the police the whole time.
And learning her lesson that even locks don’t guarantee safety, Jenni told the BBC that she now traveled around town on a “less expensive” ride.
But really, it’s the criminals who better learn a lesson: never get between a girl and her bike.