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Austin, Texas 'vigilante' group patrols city to recover stolen bikes

Who you gonna call? The Sith Lord Vader Squadron!

Anyone who’s ever had a bike stolen has had fantasies - perhaps violent ones - of tracking down the thief. When you calm down, you realise that since staking a bike thief down next to a wasp’s nest and pouring sugar water on them would be, technically, illegal, all you really want is your bike back. But who you gonna call?

No, not Ghostbusters or Bikebusters; if you live in Texas cycling hotbed Austin, you call the Sith Lord Vader Squadron (SLVS), a 100-strong group of cycling vigilantes who patrol the streets of Austin looking out for stolen bikes.

On the group’s Facebook page, they say “Our Mission is to protect every cycle and cyclist from the grasps of the worse people on earth - BIKE THIEVES”.

Interviewed by KXAN News, the group’s president Michael Johnson said: “We consider ourselves a cycling organization. LLast year we recovered 47 [bikes]. This year we recovered four.”

Members ride in groups of seven to ten - there's clearly safety in numbers when you’re confronting lowlife bike thieves.

Armed with bike description and serial number, the SLVS locate stolen bikes, and then either ask for their return or let the real owner know where they are.

“Most of them just give up,” said Johnson. “They say ‘I know. I’m sorry. Here you go.’”

If that doesn’t work, they call the police.

The way it works is pretty simple, then. People whose bikes have been stolen post the details on the group’s open Facebook page, the bike theft recovery wall. SLVS members then keep a look out on their regular rides around Austin.

It’s so simple, we’re surprised it’s not happened here. Or has word just not reached us yet? Let us know.

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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