By reporter Steven Smalley
If you?re a certain age, Sprocketts might sound like a segment of an old Saturday Night Live sketch in which a German television host named Dieter famously asks, ?Would you like to touch my monkey?? In Magnolia, Sprocketts Recycled Bicycles is the name of a four-year-old business on Thorndyke Avenue owned by Michael Benson, a long-time two-wheel enthusiast. Most of his stock of his bikes-for-sale comes from police auctions, although trouble, in the form of stolen goods, occasionally walks in the door.
?A man and a woman got out of a black RV that had been parked on 20th all summer. Now it?s at the front door.? Benson tells Magnolia Voice. ?They bring in a bicycle and some parts and want to sell them. The carbon fiber wheels alone were worth $3,000 each.?
Unknown to Benson at the time, $40,000 worth of racing bicycles and parts owned by members of a team of professional riders from Union Bay Cycling Club, were stolen from a private garage in Madison Park.
Jump now to that Lake Washington neighborhood ? as was his custom, Mike Rogers drove home from a biking event and put his high-end Specialized-brand cycles in the garage before retiring to his residence.
?The next morning when I got up, the garage was broken into,? Rogers tells Magnolia Voice. ?Everything I own, cycling-wise, was meticulously taken out. Two of the bikes were mine; five total were taken.?
To Rogers, it looked like a set up.
?I had to have been targeted,? he continued. ?Obviously, someone had seen me come home and put the bikes away. I felt extremely violated.?
Back in Magnolia, Benson witnessed trucks unloading bicycles all summer into an ugly black RV parked on 20th Avenue. He called police at the time, to no avail. When the same primer-painted RV showed up in front of his business with a seemingly homeless man and woman wanting to sell some of the most expensive bikes available, he was immediately suspicious.
?I told them I wasn?t interested in buying the bikes,? Benson said. ?They were trying to sell a $10,000 carbon fiber bike. It just didn?t look right. In instances such as this, it?s almost guaranteed the bicycles are stolen. I told them I was interested in consigning it for them, that way I could call the police or figure out whether they were stolen.?
There is a way to tell if a bike has been listed as stolen. Bike Index (.com) is a national website based in Portland, dedicated to re-connecting stolen bicycles with their owners. Bryan Hance, co-founder of Bike Index, sent a Tweet about finding the stolen bike.
?The owner [Rogers] called me up and said, ?That?s my bike,?? he recalls. ?Our recovery agent found not just one bicycle, but was able to confirm the perpetrators had four bicycles.?
It all came to a head at a storage unit in West Seattle with the arrest of the RV woman.
?The [Seattle Police] from the Southwest precinct were all excited,? Rogers says. ?They did a Sting-Buy. They got two of my bikes as well as four other bikes. [Police] were elated. They were great to work with.?
?She had $7,000 worth of parts. Add that to the $3,000 wheels in my shop, and that?s $10,000,? Benson said. ?I?ve recovered twelve bikes so far this year.?
The not-so-good news: All the bicycles were not found, and the woman in custody isn?t talking.
?She refused to identify her partners,? Benson said.
?I interviewed the woman who did it. She couldn?t care less. She thinks it?s her right to steal stuff,? Rogers said. ?For the last year there was a ring of high-end bikes that were being stolen. They caught the guy that was in charge of it, but not all the little minions he hired to go out and get stuff.
Overall, Rogers is frustrated.
?I?m battling to prove to my insurance company that I own these things,? he says.