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Stolen bike rescued with bike-powered angle grinder

When a stolen bike was located tightly locked up, a group of bicyclists used their own leg power to free it.

Mundo 500 bike
The Mundo 500 was found with the thief's lock in place. Rock the Bike

San Francisco bike workshop Rock the Bike had a bike stolen a few weeks ago. It wasn't just any bike; it was a serious electric cargo bike called the Mundo 500. That means the heavy bike, locked to itself, posed quite a challenge for the determined thieves, who couldn't have just pedaled off with it. Nonetheless, they managed to take it.

So began a search aimed at recovering the valuable bike. Paul Freedman, Rock the Bike's founder, started asking around under freeway overpasses and spread the word through friends and on Facebook. Three weeks later, it was sighted, locked to a signpost. The blue bike's custom modifications led to a confirmed match, and a unique recovery operation was under way.

Rock the Bike is a big proponent of bike power, using the energy generated by cyclists' legs to power all sort of things. A crew arrived at the stolen cycle with an angle grinder and two bikes hooked up to a Pedal Power Utility Box, a device that converts the power from bike generators into usable power for anything that plugs into a standard outlet.

What came next was a whole lot of leg power as the cyclists cranked out the energy needed to operate the angle grinder and remove the thief's lock. The rescue was captured on video. "The Utility Box had no energy stored when we arrived. What you see in the video is a pure energy transfer between two determined friends' legs and a powerful angle grinder," writes Freedman.

The offending lock was removed and Freedman's bike was back in his possession, thanks to the power of pedaling. Freedman leaves us with some thoughts on recovering a stolen bike: "The greatest advice I can offer others is to get your network working for you. Multiply the number of eyeballs who are pattern-matching your bike to the bikes they see on the street." A pedal-powered angle grinder doesn't hurt, either.