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Brussels man finds stolen bicycle in Albania thanks to app

14:45 28/10/2019

A Brussels man recently discovered his stolen electric bicycle in Albania, thanks to the digital savvy of local bike producer Cowboy and the good people of Reddit. With the further help of remarkably efficient Albanian authorities, he’s working to get it back to Belgium.

“About a month ago, my bike was stolen,” Denis Hacquin told Bruzz. “It was inside a building and locked onto the wall in Ixelles. I reported it to the police.”

Cowboy is a Brussels start-up that released its first bikes last year. It developed several digital services, such as being able to turn the bike on and off with its app. The app also gets to know the user and offers support if the rider starts climbing a hill, for instance.

It also comes with a built-in GPS with which it can track owners’ bicycles wherever they are in the world. Hacquin wasn’t even aware that a tracking device was part of his bicycle, until he suddenly got a notification from the Cowboy app.

Albanian holiday

“It said that my bike was in Budapest, and then a bit later it popped up in an Albanian village called Fier,” he said. He reported it to police, but again heard nothing back.

He then took to Reddit. “And that got the ball rolling.”

Several Albanians on the social media site reached out to Hacquin, and one suggested that he send an email to their minister of interior affairs. He did and got a response the very next day. “They had my bike. That’s how fast it can work.”

He’s now trying to figure out how to get the bike back to Brussels. “It would be a much cooler end to the story if I went there to pick it up,” he admits. “But it would be nice if we could find a cheaper alternative.”

Cowboy co-owner Tanguy Goretti told Bruzz that since last year, 45 of their bikes have been reported stolen. Of those, 30 were recovered thanks to a GPS signal. “The only time it doesn’t work is if the bike is being stored in a place that cannot pick up a satellite signal,” he explained, “or if the bike winds up very far away very quickly.”

Photo courtesy Cowboy

Written by Lisa Bradshaw