An empty bike rack at night.

A letter to my bike thief

Handover notes from one bike owner to another.

I swear I left something here.

Iain Treloar
by Iain Treloar 16.05.2024 Photography by
Iain Treloar
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To the person that liberated my bike on Tuesday night:

Congratulations on your successful acquisition! I won’t say that I wish you a happy time together – that wouldn’t be true – but I accept that there is a small chance that you felt a need for this bike greater than my own, and it would only be responsible to leave you some handover notes.

So: you’re probably wondering what it is that you have on your hands. Great question! What you are dealing with is the finest in Cannondale’s aluminium cyclocross range from more than a decade ago. If that sounds embarrassingly outdated, don’t worry – it’s got good bones and has been enthusiastically upgraded over the years.  

This bike entered my life in a more legitimate way than it entered yours: as a frameset with a couple of stray parts attached, purchased from a nice man on Facebook Marketplace. I remember driving there with a one-year-old making happy noises in the back of the car, and picking it up as a project to hang some parts off that I had left over from another very fun (albeit much more silly) Cannondale. Plans changed; I got given a nicer groupset, bought some second-hand wheels from another nice man on Facebook Marketplace, and spent some happy evenings in the garage trying to put it all together. 

Red Cannondale CAADX leaning against a garage door, with Dura Ace Di2 groupset, cantilever brakes, skinny tyres.
The first iteration: February 2018.

There’s not much left of that first build: seatpost, cranks, that’s it. The seat that came with the bike lives on another red Cannondale in Norway now; the pedals from that Norwegian Cannondale are on the bike that you, dear bike thief, now have in your possession. This is the way with bikes owned by habitual tinkerers: parts move from one to another, a bike slowly evolving to be a more ideal match for its user. That was the case here, for a bike that has been everything from a pub bike to an all-weather commuter to an End-Times Zwift Bike. It started out as a project to build a cheap(ish) bike that I wouldn’t care too much if it got stolen; now it has been, I recognise that statement as dumb bravado. 

But even as the parts list has changed – through three different groupsets, two different wheelsets, different brakes, three sets of tyres, etcetera – the bike has become more familiar to me. It’s gone now, but I’d recognise it again anywhere: all those nights working on it, changing things around, optimising it for purpose, have meant that, more than perhaps any other bike in my garage (and luckily, this isn’t the only one I own) I feel that I know it. The corrosion on the stem bolts, how close the wrap of the tape goes to the centre of the bar, the spidery web of scratches on the edges of the pedal, the way the brake noodles just squeeze over the mudguards, the old Mike Giant bartape wrap on the chainstay to cover old heel-rub, the little stickers I’ve hidden around the bike for no reason other than I wanted to make it my own. 

And, for 6,000 kilometres and six years, it was. And now it’s not.

Red Cannondale CAADX, leaning against a fence, with mudguards, fat tanwall tyres, 1x groupset, v-brakes and a front rack with racktop bag.
The final iteration: April 2024.

Statistically speaking, it’s unlikely that I’ll see this bike again. A rummage through the crime stats in my state show that 7,686 other people also reported their bikes stolen last year, and I’d have to imagine that was the end of the story for most of them (Media Hat: Victoria Police didn’t get back to me on that repatriation stat; Victim Hat: nor have they contacted me since I reported the theft – perhaps they know my dirty secret). Maybe you’ll break my old bike down for parts – all of those are pretty distinctive too, which is probably a bit of a shame for your purposes. Maybe it will get clumsily rattle-canned and be ridden around. Maybe it will have a really happy life with someone that recognises its value, but somehow I doubt that. 

The annoying thing is that, as much as some part of me can rationalise bikes as ‘just a thing’, that’s not really true, is it? There’s some deeper connection at play with bikes that we own and love. Perhaps it’s in the shared experience; the way that a bike accompanies us on whatever soul-searching it enables. I think of that bike and I think of dumb tipsy rides home when I’ve missed the last train. I think of that bike and its silly little bag on the front and the way I used it to transport groceries, enormous cucumber flopped out the front like a vast green phallus. I think of that bike and the nights I rode it for my designated one-hour of daily exercise during lockdowns, when things were really bad, how the light spooling out on the road in front of me helped push back the darkness one pedal stroke at a time. 

It’s not my fault the bike got stolen, but it’s annoying that I keep thinking of it in those terms. I could have used a better lock. I could have ridden a cheaper bike to the bar that night, if that one hadn’t had a flat tyre, or that one wasn’t at Mum and Dad’s. I could have stayed home, instead of wrestling with that article over a Jedi Juice or two. But I didn’t. I don’t even know, really, if it’s your fault that the bike was stolen: I mean, in a very literal sense, yes it absolutely is, but I recognise that this was probably a choice you felt compelled to make via addiction or out of desperation, which are kind of the same thing.

Anyway. What’s done is done, and I have other bikes – objectively better bikes, some of them – that I can ride. But if I could put one thing out into the universe here, it’d be this: even though that old Cannondale may not have been much, it was a good bike, and I miss it, and I hope you treat it with the kindness it deserves.

A hearty (but compassionate) fuck you,


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