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After dogged search, Sellwood couple reunited with stolen bike

Posted by on May 25th, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Stolen bike recovery -1

Len Rubin, in blue, reacts to seeing his stolen bike.
(Photos © J. Maus)

A tearful reunion about an hour ago in a Sellwood parking lot culminated a 10-day search for a stolen bike unlike any other I’ve witnessed in years. Tamara and Len Rubin were distraught when the prototype folding bike Len had invested thousands of dollars and years of research into was stolen from their backyard on May 15.

“I’ve spent most my life working on this dream… And I had given up hope.”
— Len Rubin

The Rubins, spearheaded by the never-give-up attitude of Tamara, got a tip via voicemail near midnight last night from a man who said he had their bike and wanted to give it back. The tip turned out to be legitimate.

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Rubin hugs Russ Jones, the man who
bought the stolen bike from
outside a pawn shop.

Today they met Southeast Portland resident Russ Jones who says he bought the bike from a stranger outside a pawn shop on SE 82nd Ave. Jones paid $150 for the bike and it was only later that Jones’ friend said he recognized the bike as stolen from an article he had read in The Oregonian.

Today, Jones told a group that included the Rubins, a cameraman from KGW-TV, and the editor from the local Sellwood newspaper The Bee, that he went home and tracked down the article his friend told him about and realized right away he had to give the bike back.

“It was just the right thing to do,” Jones said, “It was obvious how much time and money these people had put into it.”

The cash reward for the return of the bike had reached $400 thanks to pledges (that they intend to pay back) from friends and supporters of the Rubins, but Jones declined the money (he only accepted the $150 he paid to buy the bike). “This isn’t about the money,” Jones said. Even so, Tamara says she insisted on giving him the full amount and she threw in a case of honey farmed by her mom for good measure.

As the Rubins stood over the trunk of Jones’s car today and realized it was indeed their bike, the look on their faces were equal parts disbelief and sheer joy.

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Tamara Rubin sees the bike for the first time.
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Tamara hugs her new hero, Russ Jones.

Len Rubin was skeptical this day would come. Even as he waited to meet this mystery man today, he uttered with exasperation, “I hope this turns out.” All the leads that hadn’t turned out in the past week or so had started to wear on Len. Today he said he owed his wife an apology “I owe my wife a big apology… All these false leads were breaking my heart every day, but she refused to give up hope.”

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Len Rubin

The first thing Len did upon seeing the bike in the trunk was unfold it and start assessing the damage it had received. “It’s seen better days,” he said, but for the most part — besides the WTB Devo Carbon saddle and original quick-release pedals — it was all intact.

Len cried several times during the emotional reunion. “I’ve spent most my life working on this dream… And I had given up hope.”

In the past 10 days, Tamara Rubin has worked tirelessly to find this bike (which she says the recovery of “saved my husband’s life”). Hoping to find it, she organized bike hunts the past two Saturdays and she chased down leads and followed up on sightings all over the city. The bike was reported seen as far away as Alberta Street in Northeast Portland and it had been spotted several times on the Springwater Corridor Trail.

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Len was eager to assess the damage.

The Rubins even followed a TriMet bus back to the station after receiving a tip that it was riding on the bus’ front rack. The Portland Police Bureau was also on the case, reminding officers at the start of every shift that the bike was missing and to be on the look out.

No strangers to long odds, the Rubins know all about facing a challenge and getting through it. Upon moving to Portland eight years ago, their house burned down and they spent two years getting the run-around from insurance companies who didn’t want to pay. During reconstruction, their sons got lead poisoning when painting contractors they’d hired burned off lead-filled paint in their home. Following that, Tamara went on a crusade to tell others about her story and raise awareness of lead poisoning. She has been on USA Today and the Today Show and she has fought for changes in Oregon law.

Following this string of bad luck, they were left in debt and with only one bright spot in their lives — the dream of Len and the business potential of this bike, Ultimate Folding Bicycle. Today that dream was restored.

— View more photos of the stolen bike handover here.

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  • Wake Gregg
    Wake Gregg May 25, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Len, We are ecstatic for you reunion!!! Here’s to a great journey with your bike and new trailer. Best, Wake

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  • Barbara May 25, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I love happy endings!

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  • Shetha May 25, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    He only took $150! What a stand-up guy! I’m so happy for them…

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  • Sziszi May 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Sure am glad they got their bike back. If a single material possession is your heart and hope I’ve got to wonder how it was left vulnerable to theft in the first place. Don’t expect they’ll be leaving it in the yard much anymore.

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  • patrickz May 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    I’m so happy for you guys. I’ll make a special toast at dinner tonight for your good fortune and for Mr. Jones’s honesty. This has made my day -or my evening. Cheers!!

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  • Chris May 25, 2010 at 3:22 pm


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  • bahueh May 25, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    cool. glad they got it back. now, if its so darn important to them, hopefully they can find a way to secure it better so it won’t happen again.

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  • Caroline May 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    I cry a little just sharing their joy! So happy (and surprised) it turned out this way. Yay! Super yay!

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  • Spiffy May 25, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    even I felt relief when I got this email:

    We got the bike back!!! Portland friends & press–you guys are amazing! Thank you very much for everything!

    The man (Russ Jones) who called us last night, bought the bike outside a pawn shop [on 82nd]. The man who had the bike was intending to sell it to the pawn shop, but the pawn shop was closed. Russ paid $150 for the bike and then a friend of his realized that it was the bike in the paper and he called us right away. The man he bought it from fits the description of the tall homeless man that many people had reported seeing the bike with. The seat is missing – the bike is in near-perfect shape (just a few slight tweaks that we can fix) – and the contents of Len’s bag is missing (pump, helmet, lights, tools, bike shoes, gloves, sunglasses – and most inconveniently – the key to the customized Pinhead Security locking hub skewers (that lock the wheels to the bike) and a few other custom items.

    WE are so happy to have the bike back in one piece!

    As far as we’re concerned, the man who returned the bike to us is a true hero and we are so thankful that he called us!

    Thank you all again for making that bike so readily identifiable in Portland–that is what got it back!

    – Tamara & Len Rubin

    glad everything turned out ok and a genuine good samaritan ended up turning it in…

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  • Lance P. May 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    This is wonderful!

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  • Daniel Ronan May 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    This is great news. I think it’s great that we have a community like this that can make reunions like this possible. Here’s to keeping this community!

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  • twilliam May 25, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Just… wow.

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  • bh May 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm

    Great recovery story – glad to hear all the hard work panned out!

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  • Red Five May 25, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    good news but geeze man, it’s a material thing. There *are* more important things like your health, and family.

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  • Bob_M May 25, 2010 at 3:56 pm


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  • Tamara Rubin May 25, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    Thank you everyone – we are so happy! We are going to get a fence around the yard a.s.a.p. (and of course keep everything in the garage!)

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  • 151 May 25, 2010 at 4:03 pm

    Mr. Jones’ honesty and integrity restored a sliver of my faith in the goodness of people. What a great way for this to end.

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  • Jerry_W May 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Russ Jones and his friend (let’s hear his name too) are the heroes here. Maybe we all learned a few lessons here??? Give Jones a Alice award rather than some self serving advocate type.

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  • kiwimunki May 25, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Good things do happen to good people, it seems.

    Rubins, I’m really happy for you.

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  • RonC May 25, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    Lost bike brings dark clouds.
    Tears of joy flood Portland streets
    as sunshine returns.

    Congratulations Rubins. I hope you have many more sunny days in your future.

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  • Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie May 25, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    A better ending than the show LOST! Glad you guys kept up the faith and the hunt. Good to read news with a happy ending. And tip of the helmet to Jones and his friend.

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  • matthew vilhauer May 25, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    this news made my day…

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  • wsbob May 25, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    This is great news. Excellent show on Mr. Jones part to get the bike back to the Rubins. Nice of Tamara to give him the additional $250, but with Mr. Jones having been so modest and honorable to only ask for the $150, I wonder if the extra money was best spent this way. Up to Mr. Jones to decide what to do next.

    Red Five, you’re right…keeping material things in perspective relative to life and family is important. Reading of some of this family’s past unfortunate experiences suggests to me that its members have a better understanding of what that means than so many people today do.

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  • Marcus Griffith May 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Good job!. Obviously the family has a lot invested into the bike and its potential development.

    As for leaving it unattended, lets not blame the victim. People are human.

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  • KWW May 25, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    Days like this where you are reminded that you live in Portland. Russ Jones, an honest man!

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  • Simon May 25, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I’m glad to hear the thief was most likely a homeless man and not some big well organized theft ring. Someone should look into that pawn shop however to be sure they are not in the business of buying stolen bikes from the homeless.

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  • david May 25, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Good news plus a great write-up.

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  • solid gold May 25, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Um, and maybe next time lock up the bike if it’s worth that much??

    But it’s great they got it back.

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  • Joe May 25, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Elaborate publicity stunt.

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  • Drew May 25, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    I am very happy to hear of the recovery of this special bike! It’s a wonder of engineering and a labor of love. A featherlight, yet durable and practical conveyance that folds into an extremely small package. There is nothing else like it on earth right now, but hopefully Len will put it into production someday!

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  • sabernar May 25, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    What makes his folding bike different and better than other folding bikes? I’m not too familiar with folding bikes.

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  • Tamara Rubin May 25, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Not a publicity stunt at all… my husband has been practically (and quite possibly literally) suicidal over this. I would not wish the past 10 days of our life upon anyone – even you “Joe” and other cynics. If the bike were currently available for purchase – you might have some ground to be suspicious and call it that – but we don’t even have the tooling or the funding to go into production quite yet – we have just finalized the prototype and the first round of handmade bikes is some time off (with tooling to be funded a little bit at a time through the sale of our bike trailers and our work as Apple Computer consultants.) It is sad for us that in this community of amazing people (like Kristi) willing to put their time into helping us recover our dream there are others so upset and angry and mistrusting. Our life is an open book – we would never do something like this as a publicity stunt… I mean, get real – that would be illegal! The police helped us every step of the way and the community rallied together in support and we will do the same for you in your time of need. Portland is an amazing town and we are glad to be part of it. My grandmother was born here and her mother was born here, but this incident (the support we have received around this incident) has really made us feel like we are finally “home” and part of a community – a “village” (even though we moved our family here 8 years ago!) Saberbar – I will have Len answer that question as his response will be more technical than mine… but, in a nutshell, it is the lightest smallest full suspension folding bike with the biggest gear range. Folds small enough to fit in an overhead bin in a plane (not practical after 9-11 but gives you a sense of the folded size), has 27 gears and weighs in at just under 17 lbs in that configuration (under 15… 14.9 I think as a one speed.) Ever since my husband was barred from taking his bike on the “T” in Boston 38 years ago (when he went to a summer session at Berklee College of Music when he was 14), he has been in search of a bike that you can carry around with you like a folding umbrella – practically invisible yet completely practical as a link to complete a full car-free intermodal transit solution (planes, trains, busses an bikes!) He has wanted to solve this problem for himself and has always shared his innovations with others.

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  • sabernar May 25, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Tamara, thanks for the quick synopsis on the bike! Good luck with everything and I hope you guys are successful with it.

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  • J.R. May 25, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Wow, what a story. I wish the same happy outcome for the owners of the 23 other bikes listed stolen here in the last 10 days. Keep your eyes open.

    Dang bike thieves…(sigh).

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  • robert May 25, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    Anyone who thinks there aren’t any good,honest people left in this world are WRONG !!! There are lots of them !!! They are helping others every day,IMO,that’s the BEST thing a person can do in their life.Russ Jones just showed us how it’s done !!! But please keep yer GOOD bikes in the house with ya,bikes need love too !!

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  • robert May 25, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Don’t kid yourself folks,the homeless ARE the biggest “bike theft ring” in this town. I’m not saying that all homeless people are bike theives,there are lots of good people in that group too. BUT,whether they are bad people or just desperate,stealing is stealing.Serious about your stolen bike hunt ? Check out all the places where free meals are given out ( like the old Washington High School on the weekends ),you just might find it there.

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  • Sziszi May 26, 2010 at 12:26 am

    Again, glad they got it back but all the hero-worshipping of a guy who bought a bike from a destitute-looking man outside a pawn shop is misplaced. Jones got a good deal on a cool looking bike he had to have know was stolen and when his friend spotted it as this bike he returned it — good thing he did and all but, still, you know, he’s a guy who buys stolen bikes from homeless people.

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  • robert May 26, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Maybe NOW he’s NOT a guy who buys stolen bikes from homeless people !! He did the right thing,he thought more about the victims than of himself. Whether it’s the first time he did so or the millionth time,he IS to be applauded !!!

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  • kitten May 26, 2010 at 1:34 am

    that is a sweet story. its reassuring to know this was not another balloon boy. moral justice is not as scarce as we are told to believe!

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  • Bob_M May 26, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Within my garage I lock my bikes to the wall. This “belt and suspenders” approach is reasonable considering how easily and quickly these valuable items can be stolen. I recommend that others do likewise.

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  • beth h May 26, 2010 at 8:40 am

    I am happy that these folks got their bike back.

    I am also mindful that there are thousands who get their bikes stolen who have neither the time, resources or social network to hurl at a search the way the owners of this bike did.
    In many cases these other bike owners rely on their bikes to get to a job they may now lose, if they lose their reliable transportation — or if they take too much time away from work to look for it.

    Who’s out there to help them?

    This is a truly good story with an all-too-rare happy ending, but it is not the end of the bike theft story by any means.

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  • alex May 26, 2010 at 9:25 am

    glad you got the bike back!

    please take this opportunity to make CAD drawings and store a copy off site!!!

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  • esther May 26, 2010 at 9:48 am

    It is frustrating to see homeless guys on fully suspended treks etc. that’s what gripes me. if they’re going to steal a bike to knock around town on, grab the old beaters that people ride intentionally because it doesn’t hurt so much when they get stolen.

    perhaps licensing bikes would help with the theft issue. in a lot of cases we’re talking about bikes that are worth more than a lot of cars. how about registration too with proof of purchase. but then of course you’re losing the freedom which is part of the joy of owning a bike.

    excuse the ee cummings typing please. my collar bone didn’t survive a run in i had with the trolley tracks yesterday.

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  • bahueh May 26, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Tamara…quick suggestion worth considering..if this bicycle design is such a big part of your families’ life..put it inside your home…triple u-locked to the refrigerator or something…a fence and/or keeping it in your garage is no guarantee of security. I know plenty of folks who have had bikes stolen out of a “secure” garage…
    my bikes all reside in my windowless basement, locked to a floor joist with kryptonite locks. a thief would have to go to a LOT more trouble to steal them..

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  • Len Rubin May 26, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    To clarify/correct an aspect of comment #32 (by Tamara), it is NOT technically a “full suspension” design, as I can handily rely on the vertical compliance of the titanium fork for soaking up a certain amount of road vibration (admittedly a far cry from the plush front suspension on say a Moulton, Birdy, PBW, Go, etc.–but without the substantial weight penalty, bulk, complexity or arguable inefficiencies associated with those mechanisms either–it’s obviously a trade-off!)

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  • Hart May 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Glad you got it back, but lock the dang thing up if it’s your life’s work, sheesh.

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  • Jim F May 26, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Yeah, we all have brain farts from time to time, but I DO keep even my cheap commuter bike in the house AND locked at all times. Not a mistake they will make twice, I hope (please do not think that a garage door lock or a fence is a substitute for a kryptonite lock).

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  • NecroPsyChroNauTron May 26, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    Wow thats great.
    Sound like they got a lot of help from the community too, which adds to the positive sentiment of this story.
    and @ #37
    Someone’s going to buy stolen bikes; better that it’s someone honest don’t you think?
    Do you expect stolen bikes to vanish into a black hole? Or to only be purchased by complete degenerates? If so, then what?
    Peoples bikes get stolen less?
    It’s a gray area.
    I personally wouldn’t buy the bike, but I’m not about villify people that do, especially when they return it for free like this guy.
    What would have happened if he hadn’t?

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  • Joshua Patterson May 26, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Hey everyone thank you for such a outpour of support for the Rubins. I really feel compelled to respond to a couple things here. As to the comment that this was a publicity stunt.. I understand how you feel after the Balloon Boy Incident however this was not the case here.. Len and Tamara are our personal friends. I helped them with the social network and internet push to start the campaign to get their bike back. They had one really important thing in their advantage to getting the bike back. it was unique. Two weeks ago around 74th and Glisan out house was broken into all my tools were stolen, my nice air compressor, computers, my grandfathers hand tied fishing fly’s (he has passed away long ago) and I will NEVER see any of it ever again.. When I heard about Lens bike I sprung into action because I wanted len to get his bike back but almost more because I wanted to stick it to a thief. They violated my family just like they did Len’s family.. which brings me to the next point.. Homeless people and bike theft.. SOMETHING needs to change.. I don’t know what it is.. RFID Tags hidden in the frame? Homing devices? No Idea but our homeless population has the mose expensive bikes and trailers I have ever seen and it disgusts me. More often the police do NOTHING about it and some of these bikes are worth more then cars..
    Anyway, as to locking up his bike.. come on people.. you have really never done ANYTHING you regretted.. I am sure that Len is considering an armed guard at this point.. but come one people lay off.. we all make mistakes..

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  • Jerry_W May 27, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Come on, that’s a bit strong IMHO. This whole situation was sold to us with so much emotion and panic, the business, the kid’s illness, the theft. I don’t see ANYTHING over the top in any of the replies here, and most people (guessing)just don’t want to see this happen again, to anybody. I also think everyone knows that it isn’t likely to happen to the Rubin’s again, so they shouldn’t take the pleas to secure bike too personally. People cared about this story more than most bike thefts, and so many cared enough to go out of their ways to help look for the bike. I’m giving every poster here a pass, I think I know where you are coming from, and it’s OK.
    Sorry you were hit by thieves Joshua, I feel your pain. We are the good guys here.

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  •! the other one May 27, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Len and Tamara congratulations, the treasure is back where it belongs. But Len, the real treasure is your wife. Good luck!

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  • Tamara Rubin May 28, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Hi! This is Tamara Rubin, Len’s wife…one year later! We’ve launched our trailer project on Kickstarter and we just posted on our Kickstarter Home Page (in the F.A.Q. section) how you can help us to meet our goal and win/earn a FREE M.O.M. Trailer™ for yourself! Please check it out! Thanks for your enthusiasm and stay in touch. Our other website (project on hold for the moment until we get trailers in production) is (Len’s Ultimate Folding Bicycle) As for the M.O.M. Trailer™, there are 19 updates with additional trailer photos posted on the kickstarter home page too – and if you want to get all of the updates automatically – all you have to do is pledge at least $1 as a backer of our Kickstarter Project. Thanks again!

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