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One-of-a-kind folding bike stolen in Sellwood — UPDATED

Posted by on May 16th, 2010 at 9:16 pm

If you see this bike, please call (503) 702-2708.

A prototype folding bike built by famed builder Len Rubin was stolen from his yard in the Sellwood neighborhood Saturday night (it was unlocked). Rubin is something of a cult figure in the bike industry and he told me today that he has spent “years and a fortune” tweaking and refining this bike and that he and his family are devastated by its loss.

Photo of flyer by David Lowe-Rogstad.

Flyers posted throughout the neighborhood read:

“Our titanium folding bike prototype — the foundation of our future business and life here in Portland — was stolen. THIS IS A FAMILY’S LIVELIHOOD – PLEASE HELP.”

Rubin has dedicated much of his life to creating the ultimate folding bike. He was impressed with the Brompton, and after getting the blessing from Brompton founder Andrew Ritchie to clone his design, Rubin went to work refining and perfecting it. His vision was to make a super lightweight and compact “magical bike” that would be the “missing link” for multimodal transportation.

“It’s like someone stole the Mona Lisa.”

Keep your eyes peeled for this bike. It means a lot to the Rubin family. Here’s the stolen bike listing for more details. If you see it, please call (503) 702-2708.

UPDATE: Check out more coverage from local paper, The Bee: SE bike theft has very high cost to victim

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. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • peejay May 16, 2010 at 9:19 pm

    Surely, they have CAD files of all the design elements, no? Sucks about losing the prototype, but I don’t get why it shuts down their business.

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    • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) May 16, 2010 at 9:31 pm

      thanks for pointing out the obvious. Mr. Rubin is simply trying to say it’s a very unique bike.

      I hear you.. but I don’t think he has drawings.. it was more of a working prototype that had all the design tweaks that had been refined over the years apparently. Now it exists only in his head (according to his wife).

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  • Hart May 16, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    The Mona Lisa? This bike is 500 years old?

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  • FauxPorteur May 16, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Now it wasn’t specified in this post, but it sounds like this bike wasn’t locked. Why are people always assuming that their yards are impenetrable fortresses?

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  • peejay May 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    In that case, he needs to get started on the next one fast, while he remembers. The bike is almost certainly not going to be recovered, although I hope it is.

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  • TimberJoe May 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Wow. This sounds awful. I wil totally be keeping my eyes open.
    Also, FauxPorteur didn’t say in his post, but why does he/she always assume that he/she knows what’s going on without the facts? (<— mocking generalizations made without all the facts)
    I really hope this gets found. I feel really bad for these folks.

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  • cyclist May 16, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Nobody deserves to have anything stolen from them, I’m very sorry for Rubin’s loss, and I live in the neighborhood and will keep a lookout for the bike.

    For everybody else, the lesson I’ve learned the hard way is that nothing in your yard is safe from theft, never, ever leave a bike in your yard, even if it’s not visible from the street.

    Best of luck Rubin.

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  • Len Rubin May 16, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    The Mona Lisa comment was an allusion to the singular and extremely recognizable (in folding bike circles) nature of this bicycle. Photographs, videos and reviews of it have appeared in half a dozen magazine articles, a book, television news and entertainment programs and on websites throughout the world. As a result, and combined with the fact that even many of the components are either one-off custom creations or extremely rare, it means that it would appear to be an impractical bike for a thief to attempt to use or sell without risking discovery.

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  • Len Rubin May 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    We were completely exhausted from a day of kayaking and biking with all the kids, and with our normal routine compromised, and the added distractions of feeding, washing, changing and putting four tired kids to bed as well, simply somehow fell asleep ourselves before remembering to put everything away!

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  • Len Rubin May 16, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    We have some very old and incomplete original CAD models, but we lacked the resources necessary to maintain as-built drawings over the years, and many/most of the subsequent revisions were done by many individual frame builders and fabricators without drawings, as this bike is a very, very complex and extremely costly affair to model, and after many thousands of dollars spent on modeling over the years, it became obvious that it was much more cost effective (and feasible!) to fabricate first and document later, a process we were in fact about to undertake at last.

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  • FauxPorteur May 16, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    @timberjoe I made the assumtption that the bike was not locked because Jonathan is usually very thorough.

    Perhaps the bike was locked. If so, I would then ASSUME that it wasn’t a run of the mill backyard bike thief, it was someone that knew where a titanium frame bike was stored and knew the technology needed to bypass the lock AND then be able to fence the bike without getting caught. Not likely, but a lot scarier.

    I work in a shop and people come in to replace stolen bikes all the time. After inquiring about their loss, almost without all the bikes were stolen from a yard/porch/open garage. Locks are extremely effective, but only when used. I feel bad for everyone that has a bike stolen, but when someone doesn’t properly care for/protect their bike, my sympathy can only go so far.

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  • Tamara Rubin May 16, 2010 at 11:46 pm

    Thank you for all of you who have been supportive – and Jonathan, thank you so much for posting this on We have CAD drawings from 8 years ago for the mainframe only – and – because there were many flaws with those drawings and the initial version of this iteration of the prototype made 8 years ago, in the past 8 years there have been many changes and improvements to all of the elements and overall geometry of the bike – so those original (and only) drawings are no longer an accurate place to even start to rebuild this. Also – almost every single component was a custom made or very rare (out of production) piece that was also slated for getting new CAD drawings now that we had finalized all of the elements of the bike. I know my husband plans to post here as well and he has all of the details – but this is truly an irreplaceable one-of-a-kind work of art as well as a bicycle. It is the lightest folding bike that actually rides comfortably (there are lighter folders but they don’t fold as small and they are usually one speeds and make you feel like you are riding a toy – like a clown on a mini-bike at the circus!)and feels like a real bike and not a toy. It came in at close to 17 lbs (with the single gear version closer to 15lbs if I am not mistaken) and has a 27 gear range and folds up small enough to fit in the overhead bin in an airplane. Every time someone takes it for a test ride they are always amazed at the performance of this bike, even outside of the context that it is a folder.

    After a very long journey we were just getting ready to get this company of the ground and start producing these bikes to make them available to others and to lose this prototype at this stage in the game would be tragic… however with the strength of the Portland cycling community I have faith that we will see the UFB again soon.

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  • bikeymikey May 16, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    having had bikes stolen from me in the past, i know this sucks. that said, i must say i am more conflicted by this as newsworthy especially once you start evaluating the limited details in the post.

    in the world of intellectual property, i would have imagined he had patented it before riding it all over town. otherwise, aside from his current vulnerable business model in a single prototype, you just gave away the design with such a well-detailed, digital/downloadable picture. while tragic (and i feel for him in having his property ripped off), it’s the idea (the IP) that is worth far more.

    i love pdx bike culture– but increasingly from a distance. like most fervent subcultures there is a kool-aid factor here that is worthy of gut-checking on this post. if he is “cult” figure i am sure he’s one step ahead of all of this. . . so please prove me wrong and people can give me bike culture equivalent of the tea-party treatment of anyone who dares question this. otherwise i’d have to say, hale-bop is about a good a cult as any with that kind of logical acumen for leadership material. the sad truth is just like the tool who stole it who has decided jail-time is worth the meth money he can get on CL for it instead of becoming a flash-wallstreet trader and legally bilking others, having no lock in SE pdx and parading such a precious cornerstone to your future is equally questionable– unless of course it was stolen by a chinese import corporate spy who rips off pdx bike prototypes to replicate in their IP wild west homeland. . . in that case you at least gave your buddy Rubin the last laugh as someone in India can find this post and hopefully manufacture the stolen design before their global counterfeiting counterpart.

    i wish Rubin good luck on the safe return . . . here’s hoping he planted an RFID tag in it and is tracking it on his iphone right now and this was just a clever PR ploy before they hit the stores next week!

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  • Mike Quigley May 17, 2010 at 8:02 am

    How about offering $1000 no questions asked for a safe return? Also, according to previous stolen bike postings, check the house at 8851 S.E. 11th.

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  • BB May 17, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Bike is left outside, but is so important.

    Bike isn’t given a reward, but is so important.

    Bike is a prototype with no plans to it.

    Bike is someone’s future going on 8 years in production.

    “The Rubins are hoping the thief will learn of this high-risk, low-return scenario, and will put it back where he or she got it.”

    Because by releasing all this information will likely just lead to the a$$hat dumping it by the nearest illegal trail.

    I sure wish I could write up something like that for my stolen bike and then have it plastered in the news. It was my lively hood also.

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  • twilliam May 17, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Given the value of the bike (according to the Bee article: 30 years of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars), I’d post a $25,000 reward.

    You’d have people flying in from back east to try to find it, not to mention every single person in town.

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  • Tamara Rubin May 17, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Our house burned down and we lost everything (right after this titanium prototype was made) then – a few years later – our children were poisoned by the work of a painting contractor. I have spent the last four years trying to get the laws changed so other children are not poisoned as ours were. The new law was passed last month. We still have poisoned children and very few possessions and no money as a result of the costs of our fire loss and our children’s poisoning. That bike – the key to our future – was our only thing of value. We do not have $1,000 to post as a reward – we don’t even have $100. I will give the person who returns the bike to us a life-time supply of honey if they would like that – my mother has a honey farm. Or I would give them a customized Len Rubin SuperBrompton (we have two we could build up) – if they would return it to me. My husband thinks that offering a reward encourages a thief to steal – but I am sure he will post more on that later. Instead of posting critical comments – maybe ask questions -which I will answer. IF a thief leaves it by a trail then that might be the best thing that happens -because the person that finds it might recognize it and return it to us. There is almost no chance that the thief could figure out how to fold it – so once the hinge comes undone they may not be able to ride it and they may do just that. If you have $25,000 you want to post as a reward for us – or even $1,000 – please let me know and I will give you the lifetime supply of organic natural Napa Valley Honey… thank you for your support – and the bike – and my husband’s e-mail if you have info about the bike

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  • chris r May 17, 2010 at 9:17 am

    These are the type of blog posts where people’s comments turn everything to total rubbish. The family lost a prototype that was very important to them and they are asking for some community help. Does anyone really have to state that they should have locked their bike or that it shouldn’t have been in the backyard, or that they should have had CAD designs and patents? At this point, I’m pretty sure the Rubin’s are just looking for a stolen bicycle and can do without the life lessons.

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  • Huggybear May 17, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Well said #18.

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  • Jackattak May 17, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Ah, Portland. Gotta love some of these whackos.

    To the Rubin Fmaily –

    So sorry for your loss and of course it goes without saying I’ll keep my eyes peeled. I live Downtown and get around the city quite frequently so if I spot it I’ll call you. I also ride the MAX daily to the ‘burbs so if someone’s on it I’ll see them.

    If it gets returned, please let us know here so that I don’t by happenchance beat the ever-living crap out of you when you’re on the bike in an effort to return it to you. 🙂

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  • Zaphod May 17, 2010 at 10:19 am

    #18 + 1
    I’ve been keeping an eye out for it.

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  • Kurt May 17, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Yeah. I’m here in Sellwood, and I’ll be keeping a watch out for it myself.

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  • Tamara Rubin May 17, 2010 at 10:38 am

    If anyone wants to help distribute fliers – I will give you a jar of honey for your time! Please e-mail and make arrangements come by for a stack of fliers. Thank you.

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  • Cruizer May 17, 2010 at 11:10 am

    What color is this bike? In the bikeportland photo it looks gray but in the Sellwood Bee online picture it looks tan. The stolen bike listing describes the color as “titanium” but I don’t know what that looks like. I realize it’s a distinctive, one-of-a-kind frame but knowing the color is still helpful.

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  • Tamara Rubin May 17, 2010 at 11:19 am

    The bike is bare titanium – uncoated metal. It looks like aluminum (if one were to generalize) – Thank you for asking – There are more pics at and A website our friend put up for us: – I’d be happy to answer any other questions as well.
    – Tamara Rubin (Len’s wife)

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  • Steve B. May 17, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Hi Len & Tamara — What a horrible loss. I really hope you get it back. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

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  • Tamara Rubin May 17, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    We just got word from two separate people who think they saw a homeless person on the SpringWater trail with it earlier today…. if you are headed down there please keep your eyes open – it was possibly sighted by the Ross Island Bridge. We’re heading down on bikes right now.

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  • Jackattak May 17, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Good luck!!!

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  • BURR May 17, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    why was it unlocked?

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  • h May 17, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    i saw a few look-like bikes. how do I know the difference??? Sorry about your loss. My bike got stolen once. (my roomie did not lock it!) Fortunately it was factory-made. Hopefully you will get it back. By the way I dont want honey if I found yours.

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  • Bob_M May 17, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Work the springwater trail east also, there are lots of homeless who frequent that section of trail between Sellwood and Gresham (Beggars Tick wildlife refuge)

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  • Cemetery Rider May 17, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    As a victim of a bike theft from INSIDE A LOCKED GARAGE, my opinion is that no one should have to EXPECT for possessions kept on their personal property to be stolen. This story totally sucks, but what sucks more is some of these commenter’s reactions. I will definitely keep an eye out for the bike; I’m also a Sellwood resident.

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  • Dickey47 May 17, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    How much does it weigh? I heard 14 lbs.

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  • Tamara Rubin May 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    We rode the corridor from Sellwood to Omsi and a little beyond – it seems like some of the homeless folks may have seen it but they “were not sure” There is now a cash reward for the bike that has been donated by some friends -but if we get a tip that gets us our bike back we have this cash reward to give the person who helps us get the bike back. The bike as it was configured at the time it was stolen was about 17.5 lbs – with rack – and then there was the weight of the bag – it was configured as a 27 speed. Here’s the link to the KGW story last night and there will be two more news stories today:

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  • Tamara Rubin May 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    There is no house at 8851 SE 11th – but thanks for the tip.

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  • naess May 17, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    BURR #29: as many others have already said, “why does it matter?”

    but if you had read the comments you would see that they give a reason in post # 9

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  • jude May 17, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    will consciously look for it. please let us know when it is found so we can all celebrate!

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  • Tamara Rubin May 17, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    The bike has been allegedly spotted by several people on 2 consecutive days in the same location at the same time of day. We received calls from 4 separate lucid sounding individuals who were each insistent that it was a perfect match to our photo—complete with the custom front rack and bag (with matching descriptions of the same suspects in the same part of town) – accordingly, we have decided to organize a bike “posse” during that time in that place tomorrow – the “suspects” are probably not online BUT I don’t want to announce the location here. If you want to join us tomorrow afternoon in this “stake-out” ride – please e-mail us at and we will have a pizza party at our house afterwards. There is a $200 reward for the person who find the bike and gets it returned to us – not much but it was a generous gift from a friend who wanted to help… plus it should be a fun ride tomorrow!

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  • Stig10 May 18, 2010 at 5:12 am

    Good luck and be safe. Take proof of ownership and make it as easy for the police as possible.

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  • alex May 18, 2010 at 7:44 am

    be safe and legal. emotion will me high, no use in getting the bike back if you end up in the dock.

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  • Jackattak May 18, 2010 at 8:00 am

    PLEASE DO NOT CALL THE PORTLAND POLICE if you find the bike in the hands of a transient.

    We don’t need anymore homeless shot dead, particularly over a stolen bicycle.

    Just bring some food and possibly even some cash for them or another bike that is worth less but might prove handier to them (like a cruiser with a nice cart/rack). I’m sure they’ll hand your prototype right over, and no one will have to be hurt and the police won’t need to be involved.

    This is not meant to sound inflammatory. I just have little trust in the PPB right now (and can’t imagine why anyone else would after their multiple recent debacles ending in death).

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  • Liz May 18, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I hope they get their bike back soon.

    But one point… why the hell anybody would leave their bike unlocked in their backyard is beyond me. Lock your bike up. Always! Lock it up! Everywhere!

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  • Tamara Rubin May 19, 2010 at 8:56 am

    reward just increased to $400 with another donation to the kitty! follow @tamararubin

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  • Tamara Rubin May 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Hello everyone – just a reminder that tomorrow, Saturday we are organizing a bike scavenger hunt with a $400 grand prize (the reward money) for the person that finds our bike. We are meeting at our place at 10 and taking off at 10:30 and we will all come back to our place to celebrate and swap stories of our day’s adventures between 3 and 5. Please e-mail me for the specific location or you can meet us at 10:30/10:45 on the bike path next to the Sellwood Park Playground (between the playground and the pool house) and we will give you flyers to hand out to help you and others in the search. The after-party is pizza and beer – and we’ll take more donations of both of those if you’re inclined to contribute (we’re broke at the moment!) Thanks to everyone who has helped so far. There was another siting today – but not sure if it was bogus or not … on Alberta, a sighting on Lombard and Vancouver, a sighting on the Tigard/Portland border where I5 and 99 intersect, a sighting by the Ross Island Bridge, a sighting on the north end of Naito Parkway, a sighting on the SpringWater trail by Johnson Creek (&46th) and on the SpringWater Trail by Foster (& 100+th – not sure of the cross street.) Most sightings have been with a tall skinny man riding the bike with dark hair t-shirt and long pants and possibly a beard and other sightings have been with a short fat woman – both in the 30 to 40 age range – man may be younger. Sorry to be redundant, but since others have posted on both of the articles I am going to post this there as well. Thank you!

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  • Tamara Rubin May 25, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Damnitall! I crashed early last night (10:00 ish) It’s been an exhausting week – we got a call at 11:17 pm and a call back at 11:19 both calls are from a blocked number and the gentleman left a voicemail (which I just got this morning) He said he has the bike and he will call back (it was a gruff voice – seemed like an older man in his 60s or 70s) I called the police to see if they can trace a blocked call and will call the phone company right now – if you know anything about tracing blocked calls let me know!

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  • Spiffy May 25, 2010 at 9:03 am

    that’s awesome news!

    don’t know if it’s too late, but if you haven’t called anybody and nobody has called you then you can maybe use *69 to call them back…

    good luck!

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  • Tamara Rubin May 28, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Hi all (one year later) – if you did not see yet – we launched our kickstarter project for our trailer – please check it out! Thank you!

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