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Man travels 250 km to confront alleged bike thief

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Viktor Čáp/Thinkstock

A heartwarming (if expletive-ridden) YouTube video featuring a band of friends who confront an alleged bike thief is gaining traction online, and reminding would-be swindlers that posting stolen wares on Craigslist is still risky business.

"Simon Jackson" (an alias), had his $2,500, custom-built bike stolen in Portland, Ore. Trolling Craigslist for his prized ride, he saw it posted in Seattle, so he did what any other cycle-obsessed urbanite would do: He rallied some friends together and decided to seek out the seller in a homemade sting. Putting on his "lucky hat," Simon was off to Seattle, 257 kilometres away.

The nine-minute clip sees the guys closing in on the seller, "Craig," who looks like an everyday schlub in his plaid cargo shorts; his Barbie-esque girlfriend is an accomplice. Using an app that masks the Portland area code on his smartphone, wily Simon poses as a local prospective buyer. He keeps Craig chatting as his friends call police, but eventually loses his patience and confronts the man, who feigns ignorance before bolting.

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The pals attempt but fail a citizen's arrest, and so an awkward-not-like-in-the-movies chase ensues, with Simon in pursuit on his recovered bike.

"This is how it goes down everybody! This is why you don't steal from bicyclists, because we care about our rides," Simon yells as he films and follows the man. Police show up eventually and arrest Craig.

Posted on Tuesday, the YouTube video (titled Bike Thief Gets Owned) has garnered nearly 700,000 views. It's a testament to how much cyclists love their bikes, and also how Craigslist can fuel vigilante justice when people discover their beloved possessions up for sale online.

Simon's story is also making the rounds on Reddit and Metafilter, where readers have been divided on whether they'd risk their necks for a bike.

Still, the video is delicious to watch, much in the vein of a particular Facebook album that went viral this spring: A woman who had her iPhone stolen on a Disney cruise was delighted to find that her phone was still automatically beaming photos back to her Apple iCloud account. These served as a real-time indictment of her thief, "Nelson," a cruise staffer who figured prominently in many of the party shots. She posted them to FB, and the rest was history, with Nelson placed on leave by Disney.

Would you ever attempt vigilante justice on the scale of Simon's for a bike or other stolen possession?

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