It’s every cyclist’s worst nightmare: you’re on a long, hard ride, you get to another city, and when you least suspect it, you suddenly find yourself without the most important tool of your trip — your bike itself.
Now imagine that ride took you to another country, an ocean away from home.
For a Taiwanese man biking around the world, that was the scenario that met him not long after he arrived in Vancouver, 5,000 kilometres into his journey. Last Friday, Sept. 11, Chen emerged from the local home hosting him on his trip, located on 16th Avenue near Oak Street, to find his bike gone. The Giant XTC mountain bike — a nearly-new hardtail with disc brakes, and therefore candy to Lower Mainland bike thieves — had been removed from the part of the fence to which it was locked.
Chen, understandably, was crushed by the loss. “The first thing I thought,” he told Metro News, “was ‘how am I going to continue my trip?’ I rode this bike for three and a half months. It’s meaningful to me.” As the single most vital piece of gear on his planned round-the-world, 100-country, 100,000-kilometre trek — an expedition for which the former Taiwanese electrical engineer quit his job earlier this year — that, one could argue, is probably an understatement.
Nearly a week later, though, the globe-riding cyclist stranded on Canada’s west coast received a much happier surprise: on Thursday, Sept. 17, Chen’s bike was returned to him.
The bike, police said, was found in the possession of a man stopped for riding around West Vancouver without a helmet — something prohibited by law in British Columbia. When questioned, suspicions as to the veracity of the man’s story, police reported, prompted them to seize it. But because Chen hadn’t reported his bike’s serial number, it was up to officers to make the connection, after the first news of Chen’s dilemma was published.
On Sept. 17, Chen picked up his ride from Vancouver police to find a few of its components stripped. But ultimately, he’s just relieved — “ecstatic,” to quote reports — to have his steed safely returned. That it was reunited with him after being stolen in a large Canadian city, though, where bikes can easily disappear forever, never to be returned, doubly amazes the Taiwanese cyclist.
“It’s incredible,” Chen told Metro. “It’s awesome. There are thousands of bikes stolen in Vancouver. I didn’t think I would get it back. It’s great.”
Officers, citing the bike’s obvious significance, shared Chen’s elation in having his ride returned. Noting how easy it would have been for it to be lost, though — particularly when bike theft in the B.C. city is at a high — Vancouver police are reminding the public to use its Log It or Lose It service to register their bikes. “When we don’t have serial numbers,” said Const. Brian Montague, spokesperson for the Vancouver police department, “it makes it extremely difficult. Bikes are typically generic-looking, but I think one of the things that helped was that it was a unique bicycle.”