Tasmanian mountain biking popularity surging, as are thefts of high-end bikes

Brad and Michelle Quinn were asleep in their West Hobart home, when their prized mountain bikes were stolen from their locked garage in the early hours of Friday morning.

“I went down to the car about 7:30am, I was heading off to Maydena Bike Park for a ride,” Mr Quinn said.

“I noticed the garage door was already open, and I was positive I’d locked it the night before.”

The high-end bikes, worth around $17,000, were the only two items stolen, despite there being power tools and other family heirlooms stored in the garage.

An expensive mountain bike inside a house.
A Yeti SB150 29-inch Enduro mountain bike, stolen from Brad and Michelle Quinn.(Supplied: Brad and Michelle Quinn)

Michelle Quinn believed the thieves had been watching the couple because the bikes weren’t visible from the road and there are no windows into the garage, which was secured with two locks.

“We have heard from police that these type of criminals do follow you around,” she said.

“They see the bikes on the back of the car, and they’ll just follow you from the bike park home and stake your house out.”

The couple said they were told by police it was an increasing problem in the state, with mountain biking becoming extremely popular in the past few years.

“Anecdotally, I’ve been told of a range of scenarios from kids roughly re-spray painting them and selling them on to their mates,” Brad Quinn said.

“Right through to more sophisticated operations, where they’re moving these bikes interstate in shipping containers, where of course it’s much easier to offload them.”

Brad and Michelle Quinn looking dejected after their bikes were stolen.
The thieves ignored other items in Brad and Michelle Quinn’s garage, taking only the bikes.(ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)

Making the crime even more devastating, the Quinns are unsure if they’ll be able to replace the mountain bikes — Michelle Quinn’s e-bike was quite rare and ordered from interstate.

“We’ve rung around a few places to see if they’re any bikes available for us in the event insurance pays out, but apparently they’re few and far between,” Michelle Quinn said.

“The process of building them and getting them to Australia has slowed right down as well.”

Brad Quinn said one bike shop told him they were no longer taking orders.

Riders on a trail at Maydena mountain bike park, Tasmania.
Riders on the trail at Maydena — one of a growing number of bike trails in Tasmania.(Facebook: Maydena Bike Park)

Alison Hetherington, from Tasmania Bicycle Network, said unfortunately the Quinns were not alone.

“As more people have got into mountain biking, we’re seeing more people getting their bikes stolen,” she said.

“It is because there’s a lot of popularity around mountain biking and also quite a few bikes that are expensive and worthwhile for thieves to target.”

Ms Hetherington said anecdotally it was happening right across the state.

She said the bikes were in hot demand, given there was also supply issues with some brands “due to the COVID pandemic and the impact it’s had on production”.

“It seems to me from talking to bike shops it’s affecting certain models and types, but it’s not widespread … you should still be able to get a mountain bike, it might just not be the exact one you want.”

A dark haired woman in a multi-coloured top stands in front of bicycles in a shop.
Alison Hetherington said she had heard of thefts from where people camp near mountain biking locations.(ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)

Ms Hethrington said the spike in mountain bike thefts was an issue the Network had discussed with Tasmania Police.

“We’ve spoken to them in the past and their strong advice to owners is to keep your bikes locked securely wherever you can,” she advised.

“[Police] do what they can to try to recover bikes but there are things owners can do; [register] your bike on something like Bike Vault, so that it is easier to recover if it is stolen.

“There’s a range of insurance products that you can undertake to cover your bike if it’s stolen.”

She said there was also a Facebook group called Tassie Lost and Stolen Bikes, where “people report stolen bikes and also report found bikes and try to match them with their owner”.

Gaps in supply due to increased demand globally

Bike shop owner Wayne Chapman said there had definitely been some shortages in the range of mountain bikes available.

“We’ve noticed demand has increased significantly … we have a fair volume of bikes come through but certainly there are unusual circumstances at the moment,” he said.

He said it was due to a number of factors.

“I think people are spending more money doing things at a local level; supply is constrained with increased demand globally for bikes and in Tasmania there’s an increased interest in mountain biking, with all the new tracks,” he said.

A man in a checked shirt and black vest stands in front of bicycle helmets in a shop.
Wayne Chapman said it was too early to know whether COVID had affected bike suppliers.(ABC News: Mitch Woolnough)

Mr Chapman said it was hard to tell if COVID-19 was affecting supply, adding he thought the pandemic’s effects “might be more apparent in the next 12 months”.

“It’s very hard for us to determine whether not being able to get certain bikes is due to supply being constrained or just because demand has increased so significantly across the board and it takes the supply chain sometime to gear up to meet that.”

Mr Chapman said bike thefts had always been an issue because bikes were in demand and tradeable.

Tasmania Police has been contacted for comment.

Katherine E. Ackerman

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