‘Insurance doesn’t solve trauma’: E-bike shops in Denver battle repeat thefts

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Barry Slights stands outside the e-bike shop he manages in Denver’s Golden Triangle neighborhood on Aug. 30, 2023. (Maia Luem/BusinessDen)

Barry Slights says every night the alarms don’t go off is a small victory.

The manager of a Pedego e-bike shop in Denver’s Golden Triangle said the business faced a string of break-ins this summer, resulting in thousands of dollars of lost inventory and physical damage. On another occasion, during business hours, one of his employees was assaulted by a man wielding a chain.

Surveillance video recorded it all.

Two miles to the west, at FattE-Bikes, owner Kenny Fischer said he’s taken to sleeping at the company’s production facility some nights in the hopes of stopping thieves. He did just that one night. On another occasion, he tracked down a stolen bike himself.

Both men believe their shops were hit by the same thieves. A spokesperson for the Denver Police Department would say only that the incidents are under investigation, and that no arrests have been made.

The brazen thefts speak to the popularity of e-bikes. And the repetition is getting old.

“With e-bike popularity right now, they can turn around and sell them in seconds,” Slights said. “I think the police are overstretched with everything. I’m not expecting miracles, but there’s clearly a record with this guy.”

“It’s changed our operations … let alone the sleepless nights and paranoia, constantly checking the cameras,” Fischer said. “Insurance doesn’t solve trauma.”

Caught on camera at Pedego

Pedego had been robbed once at a previous temporary location, next to the Starbucks at 575 Lincoln St. But earlier this year, the shop moved to 929 Bannock St., on the ground floor of Greystar’s Parq on Speer building earlier this year. 

It has since been robbed twice within a few weeks.

“In general this is a very expensive building. The rent here is stupid,” Slights said. “We’re in such an ideal place you wouldn’t expect it. It’s not a run-down neighborhood.” 

According to its website, the cheapest available apartment in Parq building is a 545-square-foot studio for $1,742 a month. The most expensive available unit, a three-bedroom, is $11,385 a month.

Slights said the first robbery happened on June 14, when a thief smashed the storefront windows and snatched a bike. 

On July 3, two people — one of whom Slights believes to be the same guy as June — hit the store again. He now goes to sleep every night anticipating the store will be hit again. 

“They know what they’re doing,” Slights said. “We use more locks, we’re putting up gates … but even then he goes through it. It slows him down 10 seconds.”

He said the robbers have stolen four bikes, three batteries and some other hand-held equipment, totaling $12,000 lost in inventory. Replacing the smashed window twice has cost the store about $35,000.

“E-Bikes are where the money is, they’re in such high demand,” Slights said. “Luckily we can survive it … but for some people, it’s going to cripple them.”

Theft isn’t the only problem. Last week, one of Slight’s employees, Michael Fritz, was assaulted by a man who entered the store and started yelling. Video surveillance shows the man striking Fritz, leaving the store and coming back armed with a chain, which he repeatedly swings at Fritz.

Fritz said the man had an ankle monitor. Slights said he hasn’t received an update from Denver police about the robberies, but the department seems to be more proactive about finding the attacker.

Up at night at FattE-bikes

Just two miles away on the other side of Interstate 25, in the Sun Valley, Fischer has spent restless nights sleeping in his store after a string of June robberies. 

“I lost a lot of sleep, pacing the warehouse as if I was a trained security guard,” the owner of FattE-Bikes said. “I knew I was taking serious risks.”

Fischer said the company’s store and production facility at 2596 W. Barberry Place was first hit by robbers on June 1. 

After the first incident, Fischer said he immediately started bulking up security. The robbers returned on June 5. 

“What they do is hit you really quick before your cameras come in,” Fischer said. “There’s very little you can do.” 

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Kenny Fischer

A few weeks later, Fischer said thieves tried to ram a truck into the shop’s garage doors to get into the building. But he was sleeping on site and chased them off. 

It’s not an unprecedented tactic. In 2021, two men drove a U-Haul through Cherry Creek’s eBike USA intending to rob it, although they left empty-handed.

All in all, Fischer estimated about $20,000 in inventory was stolen. He couldn’t estimate the cost of physical damage, but said it was “thousands of dollars” just to repair the garage doors. He’s paid to rent cargo containers to block the doors and for other items such as cameras.

Fischer said the store, which first opened in 2017, has been broken into before, but lately there’s been an increase of “blatant robberies.” He said he was able to recover one bike on his own, but otherwise he believes the rest are being sold on Facebook Marketplace. 

“There was a tracker on the bike and I actually stalked this person 10 miles through the city. They had no idea,” Fischer said. “I recovered it from a very undesirable-looking individual and got it back to my shop … at my own risk.” 

Fischer recognized that car theft has also increased and bike theft has always been an issue. But he said now it’s affecting small businesses, not just individuals. 

“Prevention is difficult … you can’t see things before they happen,” Fischer said. “In my opinion, you can punish to the highest extent … this is a slap on the wrist, it’s an insult. This is my livelihood. If there’s no penalty, there’s no stopping this – in fact they’re encouraging it.”

A Denver police spokesperson said the department “continues to work on reducing the number of bicycle and e-bike thefts throughout the city” and patrols more heavily in districts with crime trends.

Rob Brunt, co-founder of Project 529 — an effort promoted by Denver police — said his site allows owners to register their bikes, in the hopes the information will allow them to be returned if they’re stolen and later recovered. 

Brunt encouraged bike shop owners to register their bikes through the site, saying ownership info can be updated once bikes are sold. He said 33,000 bikes have been registered since launching in Denver this spring and 33 stolen bikes have been returned to owners.


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