By John Moodie
His dad taught him how to ride a bicycle at age six. It was an orange Kent BMX bike. He had been watching an older neighbourhood kid bunny hopping off a speed bump and he yearned to do the same. “I wanted to do the tricks. That was the point,” says bicycle enthusiast Adam Tilley.
As a kid Tilley became interested in customizing bicycles. In the second grade he purchased a Raleigh Bighorn bicycle with coaster brakes from Doug’s Bicycle shop in Belleville. Though his parents had just bought him a new bike he recalls trying to convince them he needed a pair of fingerless gloves.
Growing up his parents were involved with customizing homes so it wasn’t long before Tilley got the idea to tinker with his own bicycle. At 16 he began hanging out at Doug’s Bicycle shop.
“I wanted to build my own bike and learn absolutely everything about them,” says Tilley.
Now 21, he has become a regular at Doug’s. Without having to ask he has earned the privilege of filling his own tires.
“If you can steal air, you are one of the club,” says Doug’s Bicycle co-owner Tyler Allsopp.
Often Tilley can be found at Doug’s working on his own bicycle or helping fixing others. Tilley likes to challenge himself by thinking of ways of making bikes work the way they are not supposed to.
“Adam never really comes in and requests something that is easy,” says Allsopp, “It is fun to work with creative people like that.”
All of Tilley’s bikes he has built or customized himself. He owns five bicycles each for different purposes.
That changed on January 31, when a couple of his bikes were stolen. He had leaned his bicycle unlocked with another one up against his house as he had many times before. Normally he would store his bikes in the shed but he wasn’t going to be long inside.
“There have been up to 10 bikes left outside overnight…and there has never been a problem,” says Tilley.
An hour later he came out to discover the bikes were missing. At first he felt disbelief. He had never had a bicycle stolen before. He checked the backyard, the shed and even across the street thinking the bikes could have blown away. Realizing his bicycles had been stolen and knowing there was little he could do about it at the moment he decided it was best to go to work. All his other bikes happened to have flat tires so he had to walk to work that day. When his shift was over he contacted the police.
Recognizing the chances of the police retrieving it were slim to none he made up his mind to do something about it. In addition to his passion of cycling, Tilley is also interested in photography and web design. Combining his talents, he designed a blog to reach out to his social network.
“When it happened I knew I had to act, I knew I had to reach people,” says Tilley.
He felt he had to do something to grab their attention. “A poster on a corner may have a thousand people walk by it, but who reads it,” asks Tilley?
Instead of taping posters to lamp posts or posting on Kijiji he felt a blog would be more productive. This led to the creation of the blog WHOSTOLEFROM.TILLEY.ME. The blog uses a mix of highly stylized photography and web design with personal stories about his bike in an attempt to reach out to the public. He has also created eye-catching posters to put up around town. Since creating the blog, Tilley reports he has had over a thousand views. He says many people have responded to his campaign, expressing their condolences for his stolen bicycle and many have complimented him on his blog and posters.
Tilley admits that he rides his bike all year long. The bike that was stolen was customized with larger tires for winter travel.
“This is why it is such a big pain…that bike was specifically made to ride in winter,” says Tilley.
He describes his bike as a brute that can navigate snow and stairs. Tilley says the bike meant a lot to him. He invested a lot of time into the bicycle, building it part-by-part. He has put a lot of mileage on his bike. The bike has accumulated a lot of scratches which Tilley feels gives it character. Tilley knows he may not get his bike back, but his campaign is about taking control from the helplessness one feels when they have had something stolen.
“I feel I have done everything I could.”