Friday evening, another evening browsing Craigslist. Not that I had any space in my budget for another bike, but it was a beater I was looking for. A crappy rigid 90s MTB, and I would be set, I thought. I found a listing for a cheap Nishiki MTB, no photo, and a phone number saying "text me for photo." Off went a text, a blurry picture was received in response.
I called the guy, Vince, in the early evening. He spoke unusually fast and told me he'd knock $10 off the $40 price if I could meet him in Hollywood RIGHT NOW. Not wanting to drive 40 miles for a $40 bike, I told him I'd rather meet in Long Beach. Perfect, he said, he will bring the bike to his girlfriend's house in Long Beach later that night. His speech was fast and he seemed to ramble on excessively. I'm no saint; I know how men on uppers talk. He called me again to update me on his transit progress - he was on the metro rail headed South with the bike, and by now it was 8-9 pm and dark. Knowing the meet would be late at night and with a strange, rambling speedfreak, I opted to take my gentle giant of a roommate with me.
10ish pm rolled around and Vince was finally here in downtown Long Beach, so off we drove to pick up the bike. We met a tattooed, shaved head, spun-out individual in the hallways of his girlfriend's apartment complex. He showed us the bike, and it was crap - beat, wrong size, ugly. Not wanting us to leave, Vince led us to the basement with a stable of other bikes for sale. Mixed in among a few other beaters was a shiny, nearly-new, stock 2008 Bianchi Pista, conveniently in my size. I had some idea, at this point, that this fellow wasn't your normal bicycle salesman. The bike had its crankbolt hanging loose, as if an ignoramus wanted to pull the crank but didn't have a puller. I lowballed him at $100, "cash right now, bro," knowing that he probably wanted cash/crack/meth/whatever more than he wanted a track bike. He tried to tell me they went for $800 online, but I held firm. I think he gave it up for $110 or so; I don't remember. My roommate could barely contain his excitement, and for that matter, barely could I. We both take pride in finding sick CL deals, though they're usually more legit than this one.
On the way out with my new fixiewhip, my suspicions were further confirmed when he told me he could get more bikes from his 'messenger friends that give me stuff.' He asked me what I wanted to buy, and I truthfully told him I'm in the market for a cyclocross bike, which was true, since I still didn't have a stupid beater rigid MTB (and still don't.)
Sunday morning, I get a call. "Yo dawg, I got this bike, it's called Soma Double Cross!! Come look at it!" Whatever, I thought. I rolled on over, gave it a look on his hallway balcony. He changed the wheels and tried to sell me a geared bike with a set of beat up fixed wheels for $150. The bike was tiny, 48-50cm at the most. He showed me a wheelset for sale, and it obviously went with the Double Cross bike, but he denied it and wanted to sell them separately. I snapped a picture of the CX bike he set on the balcony while he went inside to grab the wheelset he wanted to show me. I declined all of his sales pitches, not wanting another shady bike, especially one that wasn't my size and was obviously a custom build.
I hopped on Craigslist as soon as I got home. The latest post was listed at the top: STOLEN SOMA DOUBLE CROSS $500 REWARD. Oh ****, *click*. The guy described the bike to a tee - Tiagra groupset, check, Ritchey fork, check, small girlfriend's bike, yep, 105 RD, orange bar tape, yep and yep, that's it. The bike was built so recently, the post said, there were no pictures of it. Dude also posted a stolen bike report on BikeForums. So I sent off an email attached with a copy of the photo I had of the bike and a request for a phone number to call. A reply came in a few minutes later with a phone number, "PLEASE CALL!"
I called and chatted for a bit. Described what I had saw that morning and the story up to that point. He told me to call up Vince and try to get that bike, and I would be reimbursed for purchase price + $500 reward. The owner really wanted that bike, I thought. So I texted Vince to try to set up a buy, but he never texted me back. I had given the owner Vince's name, address, and physical description. i told him to get at the cops and see what they could do. I figured I might as well put some effort into this to warrant collecting a reward, so I decided to cruise over to Vince's to see if I could catch him and get that bike.
As I rolled past his apartment complex, the flash of police lights caught my eye. There was the bike, orange handlebars and all, upside down on the pavement next to a cop car. Looks like the law caught up with him. I got the story from the bike owner - apparently the police couldn't really do anything with what was in the apartment, but as they cruised by they spotted Vince trying to load the bike into a car on the street - what timing! They picked him up on theft as well as an outstanding warrant (riding the metro without paying the fair, failure to appear for his ticket I guess?) and snagged the bike as evidence.
The owner and his girlfriend drove down a few days later to pick up the bike from the police. I met up with them while they were at lunch. I don't remember his name, but he was a very nice fellow. His girlfriend went to a movie and locked up the bike with a cable lock - oops! He graciously hooked up the reward money; I told him to buy a U-Lock, duh. I don't think the poor fellow ever got his wheels back, though he did get those beater fixed wheels.
I tried to find the original owner to the Pista I had, but never found a thing about a missing stock Pista in LA.
Vince sat in jail for about 2 weeks; I tracked him on LA Sheriff's Inmate Information after I e-stalked him a bit to figure out his real and full name. On the day of his court date and release, my phone beeped: "Why are you such a ***** snitch." I guess he figured it out. I changed my number.
So thanks to Vince for the entertainment and the original owner (forgot your name!) for the motivating reward. Sorry to the dude who's Pista I rode for a few years and sold; maybe you should have posted on craigslist/lafixed/bikeforums/stolenbikeregistry/internet.