Dirk deGroot made headlines a few years back as Seattle’s “Bike Batman,” a guy who would find reported stolen bikes for sale on sites like Craigslist or OfferUp and then go recover the bikes and give them back to the owners. He did this dozens of times before retiring a few years back. This American Life recently started an episode by interviewing deGroot in an attempt to answer the larger question: Why would a person do something big and risky to help out somebody they didn’t even know?
Here’s Carrie Helminger, the first person deGroot helped, describing what it was like when he first reached out and told her he wanted to get her stolen bike back:
He said, I saw that you posted it on Bike Index. And so I’m like, ah, this is starting to sound a little bit more legit. But I still have no idea who he is.
I think we spoke probably around my lunch break. And he told me that he was maybe going to go get the bike. And I was like, what? And he was like, yeah. I remember him saying at one point, yeah, I’m kind of jazzed about this. I’m getting a little adrenaline high from this.
And part of me is like, great, that solves that problem, if he wants to do that. But are you nuts? Why do you want to do that? And be careful. That would be the scariest thing for me. There’s no way I would ever do that.
To be clear, I do not recommend trying to do what deGroot did. I did it once, and it was a mistake. Luckily, neither deGroot nor I were injured in an attempt to recover a bike. But there are very real risks whenever you confront someone like this. At the same time, I understand the impulse to want to get your beloved bike back. Be careful out there, and remember that a bike is an object, albeit a special one, and can be replaced. For more advice on what to do if your bike is stolen, check out this page on BikeIndex.