The owner of a mountain bike micro-business near Kingussie says his hard work and carefully laid plans to open a bigger shop have been turned upside down after a massive break-in at the weekend.
Duncan Bailey, 40, says he will fight back after the devastating events at The Wee Bike Hub at Laggan Wolftrax, where three years ago he turned his mountain biking passion into a hire and retail business.
By the end of 2020, despite the challenges of Covid, the business was in a healthy enough financial state for Duncan to sign the lease on a new bigger premises in Kingussie.
But his dream was shattered after thieves smashed into the café at Wolftrax, where Duncan was storing eight Polygon Siskiu T8 bikes, and into his shop where they took a further seven high-end bikes – worth a total of £45,500, along with clothing stock worth around £3,000.
Neighbours reported several sightings of a larger than usual Transit van spotted in the car park in the month leading up to the break-in.
Duncan said: “Lots of people pull in and use the car park as a pit stop, but they were unusual.
“The police, who’ve been amazing, think this was a very well-organised gang, which is my impression too. They knew exactly where everything was, including how to cut off the main power.
“We didn’t have CCTV but we’re hoping some will show up from locations in the general area.”
Officers are now appealing for anyone who was driving in the area around that time to check dashcam footage.
For Duncan, who is originally from Cape Town, South Africa, the heist felt like a body blow.
He said: “I came to the Highlands in 2007 to get away from thefts that were happening there every day.
“I’ve made a family here, and want my children to have a sense of security and freedom.
“Nobody imagines there’s going to be crime in the Highlands.
“I think though we had become too complacent about it.
“The police are doing a crime prevention survey for us and things will change.”
The future of Duncan’s business now depends on his insurers.
If they underwrite all or part of the losses, Duncan says the future remains rosy and his plans to grow the business can proceed albeit delayed.
If not, “it’ll be very tight”.
His next problem is sourcing replacement bikes at a time when the demand for them has never been as buoyant.
“My suppliers are being as helpful as possible but they may not be releasing new stock until 2022.”
Duncan said the response from the neighbours and the mountain biking community has been heart-warming.
“Lots of messages of support, people asking if I have an online shop so they can purchase from it.
“I had plans for one and this has given me a push.
“But we built the business into a success over three years, and we can do it again.”
Detective Sergeant Andy Bilton said: “We are appealing for any drivers who were on the A86 or roads in the local area, between 11pm on Friday January 15 and 3am on Saturday January 16, who may have dashcam footage to get in touch.
“Someone would need to have access to a large vehicle in order to steal 16 mountain bikes and we would ask anyone who recalls seeing anything like this to get in touch on 101 quoting incident 0935 of January 16.”