How to use IFTTT to recover a stolen bicycle and for other more pleasurable pursuits


IF This Then That, or IFTTT, is an online warehouse of a variety of web tools.  They have a treasure trove of “recipes” as they call them, that perform various activities for you.  With each recipe, you first set a trigger: “If this happens…”.  Then you tell it what you want to happen once the trigger is activated: “then do this.”

For our purposes, there is only one “recipe” we need: “Stole Bike Finder”. 

If you’re remotely computer savvy, then after your bike was stolen, you went to craigslist and searched for it.  But since you are reading this post, you didn’t find it.  With the Stolen Bicycle Finder recipe, you can have IFTTT perform that same search indefinitely and email you if your search ever has any results.  Sounds awesome, yes?  Here’s how you do it.

1)      Sign up for IFTTT at

2)      Search for the recipe: “Stolen Bicycle”

a.      You’ll see that the recipe has two parts. The first part is the craigslist search. The second is the email you part.

3)      Search craigslist for your bike using a simple term. Go to craigslist and do a search for with the most general search term you can that would result in a hit for your bike.

a.      Make your search simple but not too simple. If you simply searched for all bikes for sale, then IFTTT would email you every time a new bike was for sale on craigslist.  However, if you search too specifically, by adding the year for example, you may never get a hit as the thief likely won’t know or care what year your bike is when posting.

4)      After you do the search, copy the URL.

5)      Paste the URL into the first part of the IFTTT recipe and click ADD.

6)      Insert your email address into the second part of the IFTTT recipe. This is the email address you want to be emailed should someone post a bike matching your search description on craigslist.

7)      Repeat as needed. You can set up several IFTTT searches by using different descriptors in your geographic area or use the same descriptors and search nearby geographic areas.  For example, if my commuter bike was stolen, I’d likely search for “Viscount” in “Seattle.”  I’d also search in Portland and Bellingham as they are the two nearest geographic zones.  You get the idea.


Hopefully, you’re reading this post because you were curious about the “other more pleasurable pursuits” part of the title.  If you are, then imagine how else you could use IFTTT!

I’ve used it, for example, to search for the hard to find Islabike brand kids bike that my kids love but have grown out of.  There are not a lot on the market and I want to be notified right away if any are listed on craigslist so I can pick up the next size up!  I also have an ongoing etsy search for vintage bicycle parts.  Then there's the recipe that searches craigslist for a good deal on a bike trainer.  My plan is to get a good deal on a trainer for work so that I can do some indoor bike training while working at my “standing” desk!  I can dream, can’t I?

How have you used IFTTT?  Any other recipes that you’d recommend?   For more information on what to do if your bike is stolen, check out my other blog post here.