‘I was welling up’: Stolen bike built by late husband returned to Island owner

‘I was welling up’: Stolen bike built by late husband returned to Island owner
Gay Wise is pictured.

A Vancouver Island woman is happy to have her stolen bicycle back, after the bike that was built by her late husband was stolen in Vancouver roughly 30 years ago.

Most cyclists start early, but Gay Wise isn’t “most” cyclists.

“I didn’t start riding until I was 32,” she says. Wise is a remarkably well-preserved 84-year-old and rides several times per week. “None of the roads are flat around my house in Shawnigan Lake.”

Despite her late start in cycling, she made up for lost time and then some. At 33, she bought into a bike store, and in the next two years became a national champion and top-10 world finisher for women over 35.

Wise says there wasn’t a lot of domestic competition in her age group, but the world stage offered a massive challenge.

“When I went to the worlds in Austria, there was tons of competition there. The thing that motivated me was that ahead of time we saw the trophies and I knew that the big trophy went to 10th place. So when we set up on the race I was right out front in the early stages and once nine people passed me I said ‘that’s it’, and only nine people passed me.”

She ended up with that big trophy, and amassed an impressive number of honours in her competitive career.

A bike like no other

It was in the late 1980s that her husband, Tony Hoar, built her a one-of-a-kind road bike.

“It felt as though when I stood up and pushed down on the pedals, the energy I put in, it gave it back to me. It was quite wonderful.”

Hoar was an accomplished cyclist himself, riding in the 1955 Tour de France. He passed away in 2019.

The bike he assembled for Gay was customized specifically for her, and featured a distinctive pink-purple paintjob sprayed by Gay herself.

About 30 years ago, Gay was in Vancouver for a meeting.

“In typical fashion I was running behind,” she says. She parked her car, but was in for a shock when she returned. “I came back to the car an hour and a half later and somebody had smashed the car window and taken my bike.”

The bike was irreplaceable and she remembers the emotions later that day. “I was on the ferry crying, tears streaming down my face,” she recalls.

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She laughs about it now, but the bike was always in the back of her mind. Then, a couple of years ago she got a phone call from a man who worked in her bike shop decades ago.

“He said, ‘Remember that bike you had stolen?’ I said, ‘Yes of course,'” she laughs.

The bike, although in rough shape, was identified and matched. It was shipped over, and a couple of months ago Wise decided to get it back to its original glory.

She brought it to Experience Cycling in Duncan, where owner Will Arnold has worked on her bikes for years.

“It still had some original parts,” he says.

Wise says Arnold did the work for free and only charged her for parts, which he sourced from another vintage bike. Presenting it to Wise was meaningful.

“When I ended up delivering it to her house in Shawnigan, I was welling up in the eyes. It was pretty neat to see her ride it,” he says.

Wise is planning on a couple of long rides this summer, but she’s got another bike for those. “I think I’ve earned an e-bike at this point in my life,” she says. She’ll be training on her custom ride though, to build some strength.

If there’s one regret to the saga of the missing bike, it’s that the man who built it wasn’t there to witness the reunion.

“It really would have meant a lot to him,” she says.

One of many moving experiences, with plenty of road ahead.

SEE ALSO: West Shore RCMP and Metchosin Fire team up to replace stolen bikes for two students

The restored bicycle is shown.

Jordan CunninghamJordan Cunningham

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