It was a dream holiday that had been two years in the making. A journey back to his homeland on a Ducati, with sunshine, sticky tarmac a full two-weeks booked away from work, Damiano Chini was looking forward to a memorable riding holiday in Italy.
With his luggage packed and Eurotunnel ticket safely tucked away, the motorcycle sales manager from London had no idea that the biking holiday he was about to embark on would be filled with police, mountainside searches and a gang of organised criminals.
Rolling off of the Eurotunnel train on Monday morning, a swift ride through France and over the Alps followed, before crossing the border into Italy and arriving eventually at his Tuscany-based accommodation for the fortnight. With great weather and twisty roads in abundance, the first couple of days proved to be the perfect start to the holiday. Visiting family and friends and seeking out great rides along the way, Damiano was enjoying every moment with his Ducati Paniagale.
But after returning from a memorable ride on Tuesday evening in the hills around Livorno, Damiano's idyllic break quickly turned sour, when he checked his mobile phone on Wednesday morning.
"I did as I normally do that morning", explained Damiano, who works as the Ducati sales manager at Metropolis Motorcycles in Vauxhall. "I checked my phone to see what the time was and was alarmed to see a list of text message notification icons from Bike Trac. I thought something must have gone wrong with the system, but then I checked the times shown and I started to panic."
Quickly running to the nearest window, Damiano’s early fears were confirmed.
“I got to the window and looked out to where I'd left the Panigale that night, and my heart sunk - it had gone. I couldn't believe this was happening, so I ran down to where it was parked and my fears were confirmed, it had been stolen."
Having his iPad to hand, Damiano quickly logged into his Bike Trac portal and located his bike on the screen. It appeared to be several miles away, but crucially wherever it was, it was still talking to the servers via GPRS.
"I realised that I needed to get the police involved, so I rushed out and found the first officer I saw. It wasn't that easy to explain what had happened. I kept showing them my iPad and saying GPS, GPS. Eventually they understood and told me they would send a car out."
As Damiano waited his anxiety grew that the thieves may find the Bike Trac unit, despite being installed and hidden well by the team at Metropolis.
"I know that our guys are well practised at fitting Bike Trac as I'm a big fan and suggest all of my customers equip their bikes with it, but the longer a bike is missing the less chance there is off seeing it again, so I was really anxious that the police acted fast."
As time ticked by Damiano grew more concerned that the Panigale was gone.
"At one point the Police returned and said the bike wasn't where we thought it was. They told me that they thought the Bike Trac unit had been removed and thrown into the undergrowth. But I knew this wasn't possible because the voltage was still strong and wasn't dropping. Thanks to the online portal I could show the officers this and that gave them the incentive to continue the search."
With Damiano's cousin involved too (also a Police officer), the search continued and within a couple of hours the police struck gold.
"We were on a hillside next to a small sub-power station. The iPad was showing the bike close-by, but there were steep grassy hills in every direction. One of the officers decided to take a look down below the power station, where the Bike Trac map was directing us and bingo, there it was, still covered over but with several other stolen motorcycles too.
"We couldn't believe it, the Panigale must have been like winning the lottery for the thieves, but it had been their undoing, because the Bike Trac unit had led us right to their hideout."
Within a few minutes we’d pulled the Panigale back up to the top of the hill, along with several other stolen bikes that we’d found hidden too. And the best bit, the Panigale was still rideable with minimal cosmetic damage. I was over the moon.
With further Police investigation it quickly became apparent that Damiano’s Panigale had led Police to a large operation run by a team of organized criminals – traced and eventually caught all because of the Bike Trac unit.
Damiano concluded the story.
“Sitting here back at work, the whole scenario still gives me goose bumps. To lose your bike and then find it is virtually unheard of, and it reinforces my belief that the only way to truly stand a chance in the fight against bike theft is with a tracking device. Mine was stolen and recovered in less than six hours.
“I’ve got a bit of a reputation at work for being Mr Bike Trac, but everyone is impressed with the story and I just hope that this will make others realise that if you really do want to hang onto your bike, then Bike Trac really is the only choice.”