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Oregon’s infamous bike-touring con man is still going strong

Posted by on February 9th, 2016 at 1:12 pm

strandedguy
The infamous “Ian” in 2012.
(Photo: Chad Butler)

A con-man named “Ian” who we exposed for the first time back in 2012 is still at it. And while I don’t support the way he supports himself, I have to admit I’m envious of his lifestyle.

To get you up to speed, we too were initially duped by Ian when we published a story about someone who came to his aid after meeting him in central Oregon in May of 2012. After our story went up, a stream of comments came pouring in from other people who’d met him. They all shared different stories about his supposed hardships and bad-luck and how he just needed a little extra money and a ride to get back on his feet. Readers shared stories about being duped by him as far back as the 1990s and he’s probably been doing this for much longer that that (prior to the ubiquity of the Internet, how would anyone connect the dots!?).

Just over a year after our story, the comments started coming in again.

April 7th, 2013

“He’s BAAACK….. I saw Ian today in Arlington OR, by the public restrooms at the city park just off the freeway. He was pushing an overloaded bike / trailer combo. He was wearing the same orange jacket as in the top photo on this page. He tried to start a conversation with me by asking the time. I replied “Sorry Ian, I don’t have any idea what time it is.” He left the area immediately afterwards. I think he got the idea I knew who he was.”

May 21, 2013:

“Ian was in Waldport Or yesterday. He stopped by the Green Bile Co-op. Having encountered him before, I did not accommodate him. He was able, however, to sponge a free cup of coffee from the adjacent Espresso shop. He spent 3 hours sitting at the outdoor table”

January 15, 2015:

“Ian is on the road, pushing his bike through Lewiston, ID. I stopped and mentioned to him that he has quite a following on the Internet. He didn’t seem too concerned. I asked him where he was from and how long he had been riding the bike. He said “Alice, Australia” and “twenty-five years.” He said there was no better place to be than on a bike headed somewhere. He mentioned that he has worked all across the country. He was headed to Joseph, OR and then on to Baker City. He didn’t ask me for anything, but looked down at his rear tire and gave the bike a push to show me he was low on air. I don’t know if he was using that to get sympathy or a ride somewhere. The last I saw him he was pushing his bike to Clarkston, WA.

And just a few minutes ago, reader Maya Moore shared the most recent Ian sighting:

“Okay, we just met this guy in Ashland, OR a few days ago! We live near the bike trail and so invited him in for a burrito. Then we put him up at a nearby campground (paid for it and 5.00 for laundry money) His story was so odd, it made me wonder. Why did he chose to bike across the US in the dead of Winter? Was he really from a family of miners? Does he really work for Quantas Airlines? The things I DID believe (that he was robbed in Eugene, that his friends were driving him to SF to get a new passport) apparently aren’t true. Not sure what to believe at this point!”

We’re not sure what to believe either Maya, but we do know this man is dedicated to his craft and shows no signs of slowing down. And I have to admit, part of me never wants him to.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

32 Comments
  • SilkySlim February 9, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Yes!!!! I’ve never had more fun being duped in my life (it was Ashland for me, circa 2009). May the legend continue.

    Recommended Thumb up 13

  • brian February 9, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    I grew up in Clarkston, WA – he has my sympathy!

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  • reader February 9, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    “The Green Bile Co-op.”

    Eww!

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    • K-ken February 9, 2016 at 2:43 pm

      Actually, it’s the “Green Bike Co-op”. I’m familiar with the people that run it.

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • reader February 9, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    ORS 164.085 – Theft by Deception

    A person, who obtains property of another thereby, commits theft by deception when, with intent to defraud, the person:

    (a) Creates or confirms anothers false impression of law, value, intention or other state of mind that the actor does not believe to be true;

    (b) Fails to correct a false impression that the person previously created or confirmed;

    (c) Prevents another from acquiring information pertinent to the disposition of the property involved; …

    (e) Promises performance that the person does not intend to perform or knows will not be performed.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

    • Bjorn February 9, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      We can’t get the cops to prosecute bike thieves, I have a feeling burrito con artists are way down the list…

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    • Paul Z February 9, 2016 at 3:08 pm

      Do you mean I’m not to believe panhandlers’ cardboard signs?

      Recommended Thumb up 12

    • Pete February 9, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      Sounds like most of the car ads I see on TV.

      Recommended Thumb up 9

    • q`Tzal February 9, 2016 at 10:58 pm

      Specific legal code aside: how is what he’s doing any different than panhandling?
      Professional level, upscale, highly targeted panhandling but panhandling none the less.

      Has he committed any other crimes other than being an EPIC Level 80 Moocher?

      Recommended Thumb up 4

  • Pablo S February 9, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    It seems that Ian spins a pretty good yarn. So suppose if you look at it as slinging him a few bucks for entertainment, and if all he’s doing is telling a good sob story and asking for a handout, that seems pretty harmless in the scheme of things.

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    • Spiffy February 9, 2016 at 6:27 pm

      bicycling bard…

      Recommended Thumb up 6

    • B. Carfree February 9, 2016 at 6:46 pm

      That’s exactly the way I looked at it when I encountered Ian at Humbug Mountain a few years back. His stories entertained me (lots of stories since we had both called it an early day at the hiker/biker camp). I didn’t believe word one any more than I believe what I see in a movie. However, just like attending a movie, I temporarily suspended disbelief and was well entertained. Then I paid him about what I would pay for an evening movie, which may have been an underpayment.

      I’m surprised anyone feels defrauded by this troubador. If you aren’t entertained, don’t pay. If you believe him, then it must have been a masterful performance and you should pay for it.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Doug February 9, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    You left out the best part. He’s an Aussie, it’s quite a hook, makes you feel rendering international assistance.

    I gave him $10 in Warrenton in 1998. He said he was a helicopter repairman in between jobs. I’m pretty hard boiled, I was in the service 20 years; he must be persuasive, enough to get $10.

    He even took my address to mail me the money back when he got on his feet, still waiting on that.

    I was riding the whole Oregon Coast and saw his sorry act perpetrated on every other touring cyclist in the hiker biker area in Cape Lookout, South Beach, Honeyman, etc. with varying degrees of success. It’s a living.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Chris I February 9, 2016 at 3:02 pm

    Is he here legally? Has anyone contacted INS?

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  • was carless February 9, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    People like Ian are what make life and the world so great! Interesting, strange folks with even stranger tales. I’m glad he isn’t apparently hurting anyone. I’d love to run across him someday. I’d even give him $20 just for the entertainment I’ve gotten from reading about him.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

  • Jj February 9, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Chris I
    Is he here legally? Has anyone contacted INS?
    Recommended 0

    Really? You want to call the Federal government on some low level con man?

    Recommended Thumb up 2

    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 9, 2016 at 3:39 pm

      Pretty sure Chris’s comment was just for fun.

      Recommended Thumb up 6

      • q`Tzal February 10, 2016 at 2:33 am

        Well…. anti-immigrant xenophobia is fairly rampant in America right now.
        You need only travel a few miles south-east of downtown Portland to find some of that Murican pride that is missing in “tha People’s Republic of Portland”.

        So it could reasonably NOT be a joke.

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  • Jonathan February 9, 2016 at 7:44 pm

    Saw Ian near brookings on 101 last week. My friend didn’t believe me about why we shouldn’t help the man on the side of the road with all his bike stuff. I spotted him from quite a ways away.

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  • K'Tesh February 10, 2016 at 1:56 am

    If anyone wants to send money to someone… I’m currently in China, and near broke (my first paycheck was less than $500 USD). Among the things I need a new pair of tires 700×38, a pair of thorn resistant tubes to go with them (mine have issues, and I can’t find presta valves of this size in Yantai), and a Blackburn Central 50 Rear Tail light to replace the one that fell out of the box my bike was shipped in (it was shredded between Beijing and Yantail. The Bike Gallery replaced the broken kickstand.

    Recommended Thumb up 5

  • Mike February 10, 2016 at 8:56 am

    His lifestyle, if not entirely legal or honest, sounds interesting until you consider what happens when he becomes ill, gets injured or just grows old. All of those things will happen to all of us eventually. When they happen to him if he is lucky he will be supported by all of us still more through the state. More likely he will have a slow, uncomfortable and early death.

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    • reader February 10, 2016 at 10:10 am

      I wonder if he ever even rides the bike. I mean, his whole thing is pretending to be broke down, right? If he is actually riding all of these distances, he should be in top physical condition.

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    • Kat February 10, 2016 at 2:33 pm

      We’re all going to die. Might as well live in the meantime.

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  • Donovan February 10, 2016 at 9:25 am

    I met Ian in the summer of 1988, south of Wilsonville around Charbonneau
    on a hot summer afternoon. I was bike commuting home to Canby and stopped to talk to him. He told me he was an opal miner from Australia and that he had all his money stolen in Seattle soon after he had arrived. I felt sorry for him and offered him a place to camp in our backyard and a meal. My wife was less than thrilled with my generosity as we had a three month old baby and she was a bit overwhelmed by it all besides bringing a scruffy stranger home to dinner! He spent the night and I made sure he was gone by the time I left for work. Imagine my surprise when he showed up on this website a couple of years ago!

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  • Beth H February 10, 2016 at 9:57 am

    I believe this guy got written up in an old Bike Culture Quarterly magazine back in 1998 or 99. Still not sure what I think of him. I don’t need to be “entertained” by scammers when I work so hard for every dollar I earn honestly. And I must say it’s a bit surprising that a blogger who cares so much about preventing bicycle theft would envy this guy for his lifestyle. But that’s just me.

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    • longgone February 10, 2016 at 11:24 am

      @Beth H.,… I believe J.Maus stated he is a bit envious Ian is able to exist at his chosen level, out and about. Having run into Ian more than FIVE times touring the coast of Oregon ( four times before I even lived here! ), I like others here take him with a grain of salt, so to speak. I’m not sure he was ever convicted of theft. He once bored me to tears so badly around my campfire one time, I had to tell him to scram. He never once tried to rip me off. I do the think he is full of it though.

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      • Doug February 11, 2016 at 6:12 am

        I agree with your take, he’s just a bore.

        I feel about him like I do all homeless. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. Sorry I was in the military and we believed in high standards. He don’t meet mine.

        Jesus now I’m the bore.

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    • Matt S. February 10, 2016 at 12:05 pm

      I’m sure this guy doesn’t live a plush existence. Express some compassion for someone that probably struggles like we all do, but probably much more…

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  • jmh February 11, 2016 at 7:01 am

    I met an Australian with the same story in Mendocino,2002. I remember him because his passport and wallet had been stolen. He had plastic buckets rigged as panniers. I gave him 5 dollars.

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  • Annefi February 12, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    Has anyone ever seen this guy actually riding a bike?

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  • Tom J. February 12, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    It’s amazing yet maybe not too surprising to read just how many people have interacted with Ian! Here is an excerpt from my journal of my 2008 bike tour from Seattle to San Diego:

    “…Finally, I pedaled the last 8 miles or so to Cape Lookout…I went to bed very early (it was still light out, probably around 9:40) but not before a short, 50-something Australian bloke with a massive pot-belly came over and talked to me. He had been biking across the country and had many stories to tell, some of which were of dubious veracity. He said he talked to Demi Moore in Sun Valley and slept with a rich woman. When I told him I was from Madison, he said “great town, I had no problem getting girls there” haha. I can’t imagine any girl wanting anything to do with this guy. He said he was a combat-decorated veteran and had killed “hundreds” of Vietcong in Vietnam. He said he set up snares with something similar to piano wire, so that when the victim struggled it would slice off their wrist, head, whatever. This guy was a character but also made me a little uneasy. He had a hatchet on his picnic table and all his military talk got me thinking, what if he’s really crazy? He hailed from Darwin (figures that he’d come from one of the most isolated parts of the country) and had lots to say about the current state of American politics, bashing both Bush and Obama. He said the US economy was going to collapse in a year or so, the government was going to confiscate everyone’s weapons, and they’d get rid of the dollar and institute the “Amero”. Funny stuff. He said he’d gotten a bag stolen off his bike in Portland and so he had no money, but he had a friend sending him money and he needed to get to San Francisco. The only thing he scammed off of me was a disposable razor that I didn’t need. I guess he’s just a pathological liar who happens to like bike touring!”

    A commenter added the following:
    “I’ve run into Ian, a couple times myself, and have heard stories from ‘victims’ of his small scale scams. He hangs out in northern California/southern Oregon Hiker/Biker camps. He’s sometimes an Aussie (with almost no accent) whose rich father gives him tons of money to stay out of his hair. Or sometimes he’s a helicopter mechanic who fought with the Australian army in Vietnam. Other times he is a Canadian from BC. But almost always he’s just been victimized by someone (a woman who sideswiped him or a native American who stole his passport) and is in need of $10 or $20 to get him to his friend’s house in _____ or to the Aussie Consulate in SF. And he does have some great stories about his female conquests! I’ve found references to him from some cycling journals as far back as the 1990s, so I guess he does this full time. He told me he had over 300,000 miles on his Specialized bike, and that Specalized paid him to ride. Like you, I wonder how that body of his stands up to cycling–let alone how any woman would let him within 100 yards of her.”

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  • Ryan B March 13, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Spotted him today at the Rowena exit off I-84. Thought I recognized him..

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