Manitoba

'No value to anyone other than me': Teen's family offers $500 reward for stolen homemade e-bike

A Winnipeg teen is searching for his homemade e-bike which he says was stolen from Assiniboine Park on Saturday.

Riley Dillabough, 17, built the bike from scratch and hopes it will be returned

A Winnipeg teen hopes to recover his stolen e-bike, which he built from scratch over the past few years. The bike disappeared from Assiniboine Park on Saturday. (Submitted by Riley Dillabough)

A Winnipeg teen is searching for his stolen homemade electric bike — but it's not just a bicycle, it's his life's work.

"It means a lot to me … it's like an extension of myself, because of all the time I put into it and all the knowledge I've gained from using it," said 17-year-old Riley Dillabough.

"It feels, honestly, like a part of me is gone now."

The Grade 12 Glenlawn Collegiate student built the bike from scratch. He began working on it in Grade 9 and eventually built a custom frame, electric motor, and one-of-a-kind circuitry to customize the machine.

Riley Dillabough, 17, says the bike has no real value to anyone else but it's priceless to him and his family because it's a record of the work he's put into building it. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

On Saturday, Riley was at Assiniboine Park for an ultimate Frisbee tournament from about 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. He said he left the bike propped up against a tree near the Wellington Crescent entrance of the park, on Assiniboine Park Drive and Locomotive Drive, the same place he's left it a number of times over the summer.

He didn't chain it up because the tree was too big and the bike is not easy to manoeuvre.

"I figured it would be too much work, frankly, to steal, so I left it," said Riley.

When he returned for the bike it was gone.

"I saw it wasn't there, I couldn't believe my eyes," he said.

'It's a part of me'

The teen is now without his main mode of transportation, but he's also lost much more. Riley plans to become a mechanical engineer after high school, and the bike has been an investment in his education.

He's spent thousands of dollars over the years on components to build the bike. He's also spent countless hours teaching himself how to weld, build an engine, learn software programming and design his own circuit board.

"It essentially has no value to anyone other than me, but to me it's like a body part of mine has gone missing," Riley said.

"I guess you could say it's a part of me, because it represents a period of my life over the past few years where I've learned so much, and I've grown so much as a person."

Now he and his parents hope someone will turn it in, and are offering a $500 reward for the safe return of the intact bike, no questions asked.

"We just want it back because it means so much to all of us and everyone … knows what he put into that bike is just an incredible amount of work," said Wesley Dillabough, Riley's dad.

"I'll give them the money, I just want it back," he said.

Everything on the e-bike, from the circuitry to the customized frame, was built from separate components by Riley Dillabough, who hopes to become a mechanical engineer and design electric vehicles. (Submitted by Riley Dillabough)

Wesley said he and his son searched the park for hours after it disappeared, hoping to find the bike abandoned.

"We searched the riverbank, the trails, the water," said Wesley.

"I knew it was bad, but you hope that someone put it somewhere or did something, or maybe someone did a prank and they might have pushed it in the bushes."

The bike weighs nearly 80 kilograms and would be difficult to push away. It's also equipped with a one-of-a-kind ignition system that can only be started by Riley.

"To start it, you need some very obscure software from a very obscure location, which you will not find," said Riley.

"It's worth so little to everyone else, because nobody will ever be able to get it running," he said, adding the reward is worth more than what the parts would fetch for sale online or for scrap metal.

Riley said because the bike is so unique, he hopes someone will recognize it and call police.

'Eternally hopeful'

The Dillaboughs believe the bike was taken between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, and a witness told them they may have seen three people pushing the bike away.

The family has made a police report and posted an ad on Kijiji in the e-bikes sections. They hope someone will come forward with information about where it is.

"I'm eternally hopeful, I got a lot of faith in humanity," said Wesley.

"I just have such a hard time accepting that it would be gone permanently."

Riley said the bike is more than just his means of transportation, it's a record of the skills he's learned and the progress he's made.

"It's more than just having the physical thing, it's more than the money I put into it even," said Riley.

 "It's just having something to show where I learned all of this stuff."

Wesley Dillabough, right, is offering a $500 reward for the safe return of the e-bike which his son Riley Dillabough, left, spent countless hours building. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

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