THIEVES stole 20 top-of-the range mountain bikes worth up to £70,000 from a Forest cycle centre at the weekend.

The test bikes, belonging to a German manufacturer, were locked in tents at the Forestry Commission’s Cannop Cycle Centre when they were taken in the early hours of Sunday in what appears to be a “professionally targeted” raid.

It is thought the gang smashed a barrier beside the road and wheeled the bikes over a bridge down towards a lorry or van along the Family Cycle trail.

The bikes had been at the centre since Friday, May 12, as part of the Rolling Circus tour, a demonstration event by owners YT Industries, where riders trial new models valued at between £2,000 and £4,000.

Security had been arranged, said the company, but the gang were able to sneak in and remove the complete stock some time between 1am and 5am on Sunday, May 14.

The firm was forced to cancel the rest of the event, disappointing hundreds of cyclists, stating on Facebook: “With deepest regret (and anger) we have to announce that all our test bikes have been stolen last night at the tour stop in Forest of Dean.

“Watch out for 2017 bikes being sold within the next weeks and months. Sorry guys, we’ll keep you posted.”

Responding to questions about the theft from more than 230 cyclists who commented on Facebook, some of whom said it put the Forest in a bad light, it added: “Be sure we had the bikes locked and a security company on site.”

The firm also announced: “Due to a grand bike theft on Saturday night in Forest of Dean we have to cancel the last stop of our UK tour in Sherwood Pines next weekend. Sorry, sorry, sorry but no test bikes available.”

Gareth Sheppard, who runs Pedalabikeaway at the Cannop centre, said: “I understand the bikes were locked in tents, but all 20 were stolen. I’d imagine a lorry or large van was involved and there were several thieves. It would appear to be a professionally targeted operation.

“YT go around the world demoing their bikes, which can only be bought direct from the manufacturer, and are top-of-the-range pieces of kit with full suspension.”

Pedalabikeaway has itself been the victim of thefts, with four bikes valued at £20,000 stolen in April 2016, and 22 bikes worth more than £5,000 stolen earlier this year.

A Forestry Commission spokesperson said: “We are very saddened by the theft of 20 YT Industries bikes from Cannop Cycle Centre on Sunday.  

“YT Industries were visiting Cannop Cycle centre over the weekend as part of their Rolling Circus tour. The tour was a big hit with visitors and many people enjoyed taking the bikes out for test on both Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday morning it was discovered that 20 bikes had been stolen.

“We urge anyone that may have seen any suspicious activity around the centre or near to the Family Cycle trail to get in touch with the police.”

Gloucestershire Police are appealing for witnesses or anyone with information to come forward.

A spokeswoman said: “Maybe you saw or heard a suspicious vehicle or vehicles in the area or have seen or been offered a bike for sale.”

Call 101 quoting incident number 91 of 14 May 2017 if you can help.