Stolen Bike – Back, 25 years Later

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I got an email from a guy in Lawrence saying that he was selling a Schwinn Paramount that was mine from back in the 80’s. I emailed him back and asked him a little about the bike and told him I’d come down and look at it. So, Friday night we drove down to Lawrence to have dinner, but we stopped by to see the bike before. When I got there, I was pretty sure it was a bike that got stolen from my garage in 1987. Here’s the story.

One morning, when I was riding for the Schwinn/Icy Hot Team, I woke up and went out to the front yard to get the newspaper. I was looking at the yard and saw a pair of my race wheels laying in the grass. I thought, “That is weird, I wonder how my wheels got in the yard?” Then I looked and saw the garage door was open some. I went into the garage and my bike was gone. I went back outside and saw that Trudi’s bike was laying in the yard with the wheels.

This was early in the week, so I called our team director, Mike Farrell, and told him I needed a bike. Mike was pretty cool, but must of given me some shit. He said he’d work on it. So, I went downstairs and got a Pinarello that I rode the year before on the Levi’s team. Mike called me the next day and said that they were doing a dealer thing at Waterford, where they built the Paramount frames, and said he was sending me a plane ticket to fly up. I would do the dealer meeting and they would build me a new frame and we’d put the parts on it. So, I flew up to Chicago on Friday night, our mechanic, George Noyes picked me up, we went out for sushi and then the next day I went up to Waterford. I’d never been to the Waterford before, so I was pretty into it.

Sunday, I called home to say when I’d be flying back and Trudi told me that the guys had come back on Friday night and stolen both my Pinarellos out of the garage, plus her bike again, only to be rejected a second time.

I came back with my new bike and called the bike shops in Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City. A couple weeks later, someone from the Schwinn shop in Topeka said a guy came in trying to sell my Paramount, but when they offered him $500, the guy kind of freaked out and ran out. I don’t think he thought it was worth so much.

Then, the next week, Rick’s Bike Shop in Lawrence called and said that they had two guys and my Pinarellos, but they were having a hard time getting anyone from the Topeka Police Dept. to verify they were stolen. I called the detective I called when they were originally stolen and he really was uninterested. That was until I told him that the Lawrence Police were holding a couple guys at a bike shop in Lawrence, with the bikes.

I went down to Lawrence a couple days later and got the Pinarellos. But, no Paramount. Flash forward a couple more months, a friend calls and says that my Schwinn is in a pawn shop in East Topeka. I go down there and it is definitely my bike. I call the detective once more and he reluctantly meets me there. The only problem is that I don’t know the serial number. No one at Schwinn knew the serial number, but my name was painted on the chain stay. The problem here was that someone had taken black spray paint and sprayed over the stays. I had a picture of me on the Schwinn catalog riding the bike, with me.

The detective was a prick and said that he had no way to identify the bike. I said there were only 16 of the bikes in the world and I knew where the other 15 were and could document it. That didn’t work. It seemed like the pawn shop guy and police were somehow in some kind of relationship. Anyway, no bike. I offered the pawn shop guy $1000 and he said no.

I heard later it was in a pawn shop in Lawrence, but I never saw it there and it just disappeared. That was until last Friday, when I got the email. So, here it is 26 years later and I have the bike back in my garage. I bought the bike for $300 from the guy. It didn’t have many of the same components on it and was pretty beat up. Someone had spent some time on removing the black spray paint from the stays, but there is still a little down by the bottom bracket and up on the seat lug.

I really have no use for the bike now, as I have a brand new Wheaties/Schwinn Paramount in my basement, but there is no way that I was going to pass up this chance to get it back. Maybe I’ll just take it back to Joe Bell and get it redone. He was the original painter of all our team bikes, no decals for us. I’m sure he would make it perfect. I think I’ll do just that.

Here it is, all beat up, with a mishmash of parts.

I’m not sure how this came about, but I’m pretty sure this is how the frame came.

Proof it was my bike.

Early season photo of racing on the frame.

This is from Joe Bell’s website. These are our frames from the next season. I can read my name on the one on the right. That is pretty weird.

11 thoughts on “Stolen Bike – Back, 25 years Later

  1. Rod

    Glad you got your Paramount back! Pretty cool. Just for clarification, the Joe Bell image you have shows the bikes from two years later, not the next year. The first years paint was a little different: lines through the decals and three color forks, etc.. Maybe Joe Bell could make us a package deal on restoring my old Wheaties/Schwinn Paramount!

  2. Craig K

    Steve, I”m pretty sure it was 1987 when you had that bike. In 1986 you were still on Levis Pinarello (Levis Raleigh in 85′). Remember that was the year that Andy was on La Vie Clair in Europe and Levis ove here. Same with you, Thurlow, and Roy. Phil Anderson rode for Levis Pinarello , with you guys, in the 86′ Coors Classic. Was 87′ when you rode with Broz, McCormack, etc. (just after Tour of Texas, I think?) Same year that Jeff P. went from Schwinn to 7-Eleven (full-time!) and Andy went to 7-Eleven too. Anyway, glad you have the bike again!

  3. Franz

    One of my bikes was stolen. I reported it to the Ames police with the make/model/serial/nmber. A few months later the police are auctioning off bikes they had recovered. I went to the auction and saw my bike. I tried to claim it but the police said it was to late. I did not feel like waiting for them to start auctioning my bike and I also did not feel like paying for my own bike. I ended up stealing it from the police auction. I rode down the main road in Ames on a bicycle with my recovered bike over my shoulder.

  4. Franz

    One of my favorite bikes, a Concorde Gavina, was stolen in Ames. Michael loaned me one of the Pinarellos until I got another road bike. About 10 years later Ronn said my bike came into the shop for an overhaul. He said my name was even on the steerer tube. He did not claim it for me. I wish I had. I had gotten insurnace money so technically it is now the insurance companies. It sounds like it is being taken care of better than I have would have.

  5. Franz

    I had a really nice mountain bike stolen in Ames as well. Years later I learned that I knew the guy who stole the bike. He took it to a party to show his friends what he had stolen. They told him it was Franz’s and he got scared and took it to the Skunk Rive and threw it in. Why couldn’t he have just left it unattended on a street corner.

  6. Hobbs

    Tilly, I remember about 5-6 years back I saw an eBay ad for Steve Tilford’s Wheaties bike. I let you know about it and I think you wound up getting it back from the guy. Maybe you’ll be reunited with all your bikes one of these days but you’ll need to expand the garage.

  7. Sam

    I remember from a couple years ago that I was having beers with Joe, from Sunflower, and he was telling me something about a frame with “Tilly” tagged on it that he’d seen hanging around somewhere.

    Pretty cool that it made it all the way back to you.

  8. Roberto

    Good stuff Tilly, I wish I had a couple of my old bikes back. Nice that you were cool with the guy that had it, and bought it back. And thanks for the info on Joe Bell. I want to have my old Carrera/Battaglin restored, and it looks like he’s the best bike painter i’ve seen.

  9. Greg

    I commented on your stolen bikes on your blog from sept 10th.
    Thats pretty cool that this came up just after I was thinking about it.


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