Bobby Sterling, 57, of Brookhaven, has braved rain, wind, and even snow on a bicycle for as long as he could remember. But his adventures were interrupted when his newest bike, a Specialized Hardrock Disk 29er, was stolen on July 23.
Sterling left his bicycle on his dock at Post Morrow Marina in Bellport while he unloaded the boat he had been on. When he returned, the bike was gone.
Sterling's friend, Bill Hajek, 67, of Bellport, printed flyers, asking the thief to return the bicycle to the local character, who is often seen biking around town, including last Memorial Day, when he dressed as Captain America.
“I was disappointed that someone would do that to Bobby,” Hajek said. “I made flyers and distributed them around town and to neighboring towns. They said ‘To all concerned, Bobby Sterling’s bike has been stolen. Please return because it’s his only means of transportation.’ ”
The bike never turned up.
Chris Joinnides, 50, of Brookhaven Hamlet, a friend for more than 20 years and owner of Kreb Cycle bike shop in Bellport, wanted to help.
Joinnides had been fixing Sterling's bike for years, and vowed to help raise money for a new one. He has been collecting donations since last Wednesday to help buy Sterling a new bike. So far, he has raised more than $800.
Meanwhile, the South Country Lions Club, Bellport Fire Department and Larry Sribnick, editor and publisher of Bellport.com, have also helped raise money.
"As soon as people started seeing that we wanted to buy him a bike, they wanted to help," Joinnides said.
Sterling and his bike have become a common sight around Bellport Village. Last Memorial Day, he decorated his bicycle with American flags while dressed as the Marvel comic.
"I do that for Memorial Day parades to make them a little more interesting," Sterling said.
And now his friends have a chance to give back to the spirited bike rider. Sterling said he is grateful for the community support.
"Everybody knows me and everybody cares about me," Sterling said. "They're very kind. I appreciate them."
Joinnides plans to order a new bike for Sterling soon. He will also start a maintenance fund for any extra money raised to keep aside for Sterling's future repairs. As for Sterling, he has plans for what he'll do when he gets his new bicycle.
"I'm going to learn to lock it up more," he said.