Why Do People Steal The Wheels Off Bicycles?


It saddens me but I understand why folks steal entire bikes. But why steal the wheels? Is there really a market for stolen bicycle wheels?

30 Comment

  • because theirs is flat or someone stole theirs

  • Are you sure the tire was stolen? Even when a bike is locked some folks take one of the tires with them as a theft-prevention device.

  • Basically no on takes the rear wheel off though. It’s tons harder to remove than the front wheel, which is the one people take with them for theft prevention.

  • the front wheel has a bolt on insted of a quick release.

    My wife watched somene strip a Rear derailleur and handle bars with shifters, levers and stem.

    On a high end bike that can be worth a bunch

  • I sure hope there is a market for that stuff. Otherwise, it would be another example of scum being scum.

  • Even if there is a market, doesn’t make it any less offensive.

  • I had my rear wheel stolen at the corner of 16th and P NW. It was in broad daylight at a bus stop. My Dura-Ace cassette went with it. It was nice and greasy though. That’ll teach ’em.

  • About 20 years ago… and every time I type that out it scares me… I was with a friend who was a bike courier for about a month at this bike courier’s barbecue hangout thing at the burnt-out church on 18th st (now a nice church and park). The couriers came in with all kinds of gear that they’d “upgrade” to on their crapped out bikes. Since then I’m convinced that it’s the weird bike couriers who are stealing all the equipment. These people were bragging about having $100 gears on their bikes- they were coming in carrying 1 and 2 spare wheels, I mean of COURSE they’re stolen!

  • I can absolutely confirm that couriers run much of the stolen bike racket in DC.

  • Wow, I hadn’t heard that about bike couriers. Even if they don’t do the stealing personally, there’s your market right there.

    I’ve never had my wheels stolen, because I take off the front wheel and U-lock it together with my back wheel and frame. Textbook, but it works. If I’m going to some particularly dark and stormy neighborhoods, I use a metal chain with a combination lock, too. I can thread it through the seat supports as well.

    (On the other hand, my bike’s cheap. Not sure that there’d be a market for my wheels.)

  • even worse is when you’re wheels are locked up and people steal your seat… 🙁

  • I had someone steal the wheels (front and back) and the seat from my bike. Grrrrr – I’d only had this bike a few months. When I bought my new bike, I made sure they changed all the quick release to “needs a tool to release.”

  • I had to leave my bike outside overnight once at 18th & T. Bad idea. When I arrived in the morning, my front tire was gone, although the thief was nice enough to put his flat tire in it’s place…

  • oh my gosh–I’ve had soooo many wheels stolen off my bikes through the years…and I’ve had a lot of bikes stolen in general.

    when I was younger I had bikes that cost around 300–400 and it cost like $150 to replace the back wheel. Before I had a healthy income, it always stung a LOT to have wheel stolen. here is “jerk” shout out to all those jerks that stole things off my bike!

    Now I have three awesome bikes and carry two locks at all times and a cord that I can wrap around a tire if I need to. It’s worth it.

  • Whoa now, I ride some alley cats and do some other events with DC messengers and the vast majority are totally upstanding in my experience — less their “flexible” understanding of the rules of the road, of course. Bike theft, even for parts, has become a gigantic black-market business during the recent bike boom. Here’s a Canadian article for an idea of the scale:


    While that was a huge bust, that type of operation really isn’t very rare. About a year and a half ago there was a guy in Forestville, MD who was finally caught after selling upwards of 50 bikes stolen from downtown DC on Ebay. There are tons of operations of that size in and around DC.

  • Neither here nor there, but this reminds me of Kids in the Hall:


    Dang it, now I’m going to be trawling for KITH clips for much of the day.

  • re:> Is there really a market for stolen bicycle wheels?
    Of course! Don’t you think this guy’s gonna be looking for a new wheel?

  • I had the brakes stolen off my bike, in front of my office on K Street. The CityBikes mechanic was like, I guess he needed some brakes. As if I didn’t really NEED the brakes on my bike!

    I’d like to see a public awareness campaign, “don’t buy stolen bikes”. Maybe some stickers and flyers, and definitely in spanish. The other day I saw a compadre wearing painters pants and boots trying to ride a pricey carbon fiber road bike with clipless pedals…

  • I had my rear stolen from a bike rack right in front of the Longworth House Office Building at the Capitol in the middle of the day and right under the noses of the ever-vigilant Capitol Police. The irony here is that a police officer made me lock up the bike there after evicting me from the spot where I had been locking the bike up without incident for two years. Accomplice?

    At any rate, there is a special circle of hell reserved for bike thieves.

  • mphs hermano, that comment was racist, not all Hispanics, or compadres as you call us, are thieves.

  • when ever I see someriding a bike that cost $2k or more and it does not fit them at all, I always assume it is stolen

    Joe0n11th, why would lock up a bike that has dura ace anything on it?

    If I had to lock up a bike in the city, I would no doubt build up an old steel frame as a Single speed,

    then I would use something like this for the quick release



  • This is one of the main reasons i bought a Folding Bicycle, I could invest in a really nice bike, but i take it inside with me, and never have to leave it out for the theives

  • Joe0n11th– Why oh why would a bike with anything dura ace be left outside locked to something??? Any why oh Why would you let dura ace anything get dirty and greasy?!?!?

    Which is not to say I feel anything but sympathy for you. Getting bikes ripped off- or bike parts ripped off is the worst.

    MPHS: “I’d like to see a public awareness campaign, ‘don’t buy stolen bikes’ ”. YES!!!! Once I saw some dude on my street riding around on a high end road bike and I posted a description of the bike on craigslist to see if anyone was missing it. My post got flagged and removed!

    So- what can we do to raise bike theft awareness???

  • El Puma, surely you’re joking. I found that every time I pretended that someone walking like a duck and talking like a duck wasn’t a duck I was proven wrong. You really believe the painter had a super-expensive bike? Loser.

  • Oye, Puma: FWIW – Yo soy Latino!!

  • people steal the wheels off bikes because its really fucking funny , and when the owner comes out you watch from a distance at how mad that dumb fuck gets AHEHHEHEHEHEEH

  • Got to say.. people do steal the back wheels, and it costs twice as f****** much to replace them

  • you wouldn’t be laughing if i broke your legs and used them to batter your head in though, would you ‘trev’

  • oh sorry, did i sound bitter? 😉

  • i have had my rear wheel and seat stolen, and my bike was locked up to the stair in the fire escape stair well in my apt block. it is high end newly build apt complex and you need 2 dif keys to get to it. what the f@*k!!! trev (do u mind if i call u trev) u r a prick, and like about i would stop with ur legs

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