Stealing a man’s motorcycle will surely have a number of angry bikers after you. However, when this man found out who stole his ride, his reaction was far from mad.
Shmuel Avital is the owner of the Spiegel restaurant, a biker-friendly restaurant and bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Avital arrived at work on a recent Tuesday morning, and noticed something was amiss: His KTM 390 Duke motorcycle, which is usually parked in front of the restaurant, was missing.
His bike had been stolen overnight.
“I worked hard on this bike. It’s a custom bike, so I built it over a winter. It was like a winter project,” Avital told Humanity. “I was very disappointed and very upset.”
In Avital’s experience, finding a stolen motorcycle almost never happens. Once it’s gone, it’s usually gone forever.
Avital went to his local police precinct and filed a complaint. He also posted a photo of the bike on Facebook and Instagram, hoping someone might see it.
Being close friends with the motorcycle community, when he told some of the different motorcycle groups what had happened, they shared it with their respective communities on social media as well.
As soon as they started sharing the news, it went viral rapidly.
“It was incredible. I had messages of people offering to come and help search for the bike. I got a lot of comments about it. A lot of people were bummed about it,” Avital explained.
The altruistic, tight-knit nature of the biking community would ultimately help Avital find his ride. And it happened quickly.
In fact, before he was even finished filing a police report, he got a tip from a truck driver who follows a biker friend of his on social media.
The man, who doesn’t even know Avital, called him and told him he had seen the bike in the Bronx.
The man rode motorcycles himself, and was knowledgeable about bikes. He was certain it was Avital’s motorcycle.
He even snapped a picture and sent it to Avital to confirm it was his motorcycle that he had spotted.
“In the beginning I was very doubtful,” Avital said. “When he sent me the photo it was clearly my bike.”
Avital asked where the photos was taken, and the good Samaritan gave him the location of the intersection where he had seen the motorcycle.
Avital sprang into action on his main ride, a KTM Adventure.
He called his friend and neighbor, Brian Hamilton, and told him he was going to go look for the bike. Hamilton, a police officer with Highway 1 at the NYPD, said he would meet him there.
On his way, Avital posted the photo he had received on social media of the stolen bike with a kid riding it.
Avital began cruising through the neighborhood, and amazingly caught sight of a kid on his motorcycle. He called Hamilton to let him know where he was.
“There was no way I’m going to let this guy go,” Avital recalled thinking.
Avital pulled up next to the man on his stolen bike at a red light. The kid pulled over to take a phone call, and that’s when Avital started to engage with him.
He began asking the kid random questions about the bike, trying to stall him until Hamilton arrived.
But he was slightly worried. Both the stolen bike and Avital’s main ride had the Spiegel restaurant name on them, and Avital didn’t know if was just a matter of time before the kid realized the ruse.
As Hamilton pulled up, the kid tried to take off. Avital tackled him until Hamilton exited his car and handcuffed him.
Against all odds, Avital had recovered his KTM Duke.
“It was euphoria,” Avital said.
Instead of letting his joy turn to anger towards the kid, he started to do a little research on social media, and began to learn about the young joy rider. He saw that kid had a keen interest in motorcycles.
“I feel like he’s very passionate about motorcycles, but he’s taking it to the wrong place. From what I saw, he’s a very skilled rider,” Avital said.
Avital didn’t want to see the kid incarcerated, thinking prison time wouldn’t help anybody. Instead he started to wonder if the kid would be open to a second chance.
“I wanted to get involved, and I wanted to try to help him with my connections to get any sort of job opportunity in the motorcycle world,” he said.
“It’s not my job to influence his life, but I feel like he’s a person that needs a different guidance,” Avital, and Israeli army veteran, said.
“If he did something in the motorcycle world and actually earned money from his talent, he could do really well. I think it’s a better fit for a someone who has the passion for motorcycles.”