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.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.