Four years ago, Riley Conner and his dad split the cost of buying his first mountain bike.
It was an old hardtail, far too small for the then-15-year-old, and it was barely in working condition.
“It started out thinking that it was great, then I realized it wasn’t that great. But it became more of a sentimental value to me,” said Conner, now 19.
Conner lugged the old two-wheeler along with him when he moved to Kelowna from Chilliwack last September.
The bike was Conner’s travel companion on several lengthy rides in the Lower Mainland: a five-hour expedition to Chilliwack Lake, a few trips to Cultus Lake and regular 20-kilometre ventures along the Chilliwack River.
Moving into a house in Kelowna’s Wilden neighbourhood, Conner frequently took the bike to nearby Knox Mountain Park. He also made a two-day journey to Vernon and back last October.
While the bike saw a lot of long-distance action, it was also Conner’s main way of getting around the city. He used it to commute to work — a part-time gig at a local jewelry shop, a role he filled three weeks ago.
After wrapping up a five-hour shift on March 30, he walked out of Orchard Park Mall to find his bike gone.
Conner searched for hours that afternoon, walking from the mall through downtown, eventually ending his search after crossing the Bennett bridge, still empty-handed.
“I was really let down. It was like a hit to the gut,” he said.
That night, Conner took to the Kelowna Rant and Rave Facebook group, pleading members to keep an eye out for his bike, saying “he put more km on it than some people’s cars.”
Within hours, Michael Melenchuk, the general manager of Kelowna Chrysler, commented on the post. He asked Conner to give him a call the next morning because he “would love to hook you up with a new bike.”
“I literally started to tear up. It was incredible. I couldn’t believe it was real,” said Conner.
Melenchuk said Conner’s post “hit him right away.”
“It just struck me that it was his lifeblood. People need to hear some good news,” said Melenchuk. “It was the spur of the moment, and I felt like we had to do the right thing.”
Conner gave Melenchuk a call the next day, and the two began their hunt. A couple of days later, Conner spotted his new ride on Lake Country Cycle’s website.
“I told Michael, sent him a link to the website. He said, ‘Awesome, let me make a few calls,'” said Conner.
On April 1, Melenchuk texted Conner to swing by the dealership.
“He went behind a very nice SUV, and next thing I knew, I saw him wheeling out the brand new bike with balloons and everything attached to it,” said Conner. “I don’t even have the words to describe how grateful and happy I was.”
The only thing that Melenchuk asked from Conner in return was to pay it forward.
“I said to him, ‘If you ever are in the position to do so and someone needs a helping hand without any expectations back, you gotta step up and do it,'” said Melenchuk.
Conner plans on doing just that. He said he hopes to repair discarded bikes and donate them to kids who find themselves in a similar situation.
“This was something good that came out of something bad,” he said.