I am a Moulton fan but have also been after a Rohloff bike for some time too. I thought I'd end up with a Thorn of some description so got quite excited when this TSR popped up, until I saw where it was located! The thought of sending a load of cash to some bloke in Eastern Europe didn't really appeal.
I sent the listing to a friend of mine who replied, mainly joking, asking if I won it was I going to ride it home?
To be honest, I wasn't even sure where Lithuania was, other than "somewhere in Eastern Europe". So, I brought up Google maps and had a look. I drew a line from Vilnius to Amsterdam, (from where I could get a ferry back to Newcastle,) and it came out at 850miles. However, what really drew my attention was the fact that if you head almost due west from Vilnius then you hit the Baltic coast of Poland, which I had heard was really nice. Follow that along as far as Lubeck in Germany and then turn south to skirt Hamburg and Bremen. I figured that would be maybe 900. I could do that in 3 weeks.
The seed was planted and I started emailing the seller who seemed like a genuine bloke.
Cutting a long story short, I won the bike, (after a few shenanigans at the end,) took 3 weeks off work and flew out to Vilnius with camping/cycling gear on the 3rd Sept to be met by the seller, who took me to a bike shop where I picked up some stuff I hadn't wanted to lug out there, then for something to eat and then back to his place where we prepped the bike. He then left to head back to Riga, where he was working, leaving me the key to his house, the only stipulation being "no parties"!
I stayed there for the rest of the weekend, having a good look around Vilnius, (nice city,) before starting the ride on the Monday. I'd got a bit of a late start and by 1700 I was at a small town about 30 kms away called Trakai when a thought struck me, "where was my wallet?" I didn't need look for it as I knew I'd left it on top of his fridge!
Luckily, I was able to get a bus back, (with bike,) for just EU1.80 and it was back to his place for another night. In the morning I got a bus back to Trakai and resumed the ride.
It was a brilliant 2 weeks across Poland with weather that couldn't have been any better. I had several great swims in lakes and the sea and the bike was brilliant. I loved the Rohloff and the load arrangement of bags on the front with tent and sleeping bag/washing on the rear.
The bike got loads of interest and people were amazed when they learnt I was riding it back to England. "What? This bike, with little wheels?"
I had dropped a bit behind schedule across Poland and did think that I might end up having to get a train in Germany of Holland but when I got into Germany I turned left a bit earlier than planned and that, plus the fact that I started doing 140/130km days made it look as if I could have reached Amsters by Thursday at the latest.
Then it all went pear shaped just outside a small quiet town called Molln. I'd done 130kms by 1800 and felt that there was enough light and time to do another 20. I was feeling great. I saw a Shell station and, thinking that it might be the last place I'd see to get anything, (not much open in Germany on Sundays,) I decided to stop for one last coffee.
Parked the bike just outside the door and put the lock through the frame and front wheel. Went in and sat at a table facing the door but the bike was just out of sight. Had my coffee, looked at the map and 10/15 mins later left to discover the bike gone. I ran around the building thinking someone might have moved it because it was in the way or maybe even "for a joke" but no, I knew that I was screwed. I was stranded at a German filling station with only what I was stood up in plus, thankfully my wallet. Everything else had gone.
Yes, that was last week, the 18th of September. If I'd still had my passport I might have made my way up to Berlin and hung around the second hand bike markets for a a few days.
So that's the story. I had taken out a specialist cycle tour insurance policy so I'm waiting to hear what they say.
On the Monday morning I went to the local newspaper office who put it out as a story. I hoped that if people saw a pic of the bike then, as it's so distinctive, someone may have seen it.
Obviously that hasn't happened yet so I'm kind of hoping now that the police, perhaps following up a completely different lead, come across a garage full of stolen bikes, mine among them. Slim chance, I know.
Clearly very, very gutting. To own for 2 weeks my dream combo, just to let it get stolen. I keep asking myself why I had to stop in the first place, why didn't I chain it to something or why couldn't I have gone out just as they were moving it? One of the things I'm most upset about losing is my Brooks saddle. 20 years I've had that and done 10s of thousands of miles on it. I'd practically worn the word Brooks off the side. No one is going to want to keep that. It will probably be uncomfortable for anyone else.
3 or 4 days from Amsterdam.
Lawrence O'Reilly. firstname.lastname@example.org