Heads Up – Be Sure to Lock Bike Wheels Too, More Reports of Bike Wheels Getting Stolen


Unfortunately more reports of bike wheels (and bikes) getting stolen.

One reader writes:

“Sometime in the middle of the day yesterday [Saturday] my back wheel was stolen of my bike which was locked in the front yard [Potomac Ave part of Capitol Hill.] My fiancé was home and they tried to get the front wheel too (nuts gone) before they left. So angry.”

Another reader writes:

“On Saturday, at about 5:30 PM, I saw a man steal a bike that was locked up outside of the Shaw metro station on 7th between S and T. The bike only had the front wheel locked, so the guy was able to take the frame and back wheel. He then went up and down 7th street until he found a wheel he could take. I yelled at him a few times, but he was able to take what he needed to assemble a new bike. (I didn’t have my phone on me so I couldn’t take pictures or call the cops.) I followed him from the Shaw metro stop to the U-Street metro stop (over on 13th) until I was finally able to flag down a cop. They questioned him but had to let him go and keep the bike because there was no proof that it was stolen. They said they had his information in case anyone reported their bike stolen.”

43 Comment

  • its hard sometimes to have respect for law enforcement.

  • There was no proof it was stolen even though you saw the theft? I have no words…

    • One person claiming another person stole a bike. Bikes are unregistered–how could the police ever verify this claim?

      • Um, ok, so what if I witness a murder? Do I have to prove it on the spot before police investigate and arrest the person I claim to have seen commit it?

        • what if someone accused you of murder, but there was no body? they wouldn’t be able to prove you didn’t……

      • I’m not sure if you think the police were in the right or the wrong here. If you think the police’s excuse was sufficient, I’d counter that the police could have seen the tire remaining locked up at the Shaw Metro, plus the bike-minus-wheel on 7th street (the witness could have directed them there). That evidence, coupled with the detailed eye-witness testimony of the witness and likely the ID of the bike frame by its owner would have been very strong. Yup, it takes a little effort by the police, but the good citizen took a great deal of his effort too. Absolutely frustrating.

      • Eyewitness testimony stating that a crime was committed is all the probable cause a police officer needs to make an arrest.

        • Except that the eyewitness was not the owner of the bike — and unlike cars, bike owners don’t typically have registration materials on them that prove that they own a particular bike. So, yeah, one person saw what was likely a theft, but if the person who took the bike claims ownership, and there’s nothing or no one to prove anything different, I can see why things played out the way they did. So I have two take homes from this: Bike owners who decide to lock their bikes up outside, particularly in public places, need to ramp up the way they lock them up and recognize the high possibility of theft. Another intervention would be to require some type of registration process — so bike owners would be required to carry cards with bike id numbers on them to prove ownership, which could then be used to prove non-ownership. My sense, though is that this would be onerous enough that most/many bike owners would balk.

        • But why would the police officer believe a person claiming he saw a theft over the person in possession of the bike who claims it is his.
          Best advice would be to register your bike somehow. Some of these bikes cost as much as an old civic and are much easier to steal and chop.

          • Because why would the eyewitness have a reason to lie about it?

            Honestly people in these comments often wayyyyyy overthink situations like this. Often the way crimes are reported (and solved) is through vigilance on the part of uninvolved citizens. In fact that’s exactly how we want law enforcement to work. Cops can’t be on every corner at all times, and so private citizens need to do their part to speak up.

            The fact that the police didn’t do anything in this situation is absurd. At the very least, they could have investigated the crime as others in this thread have suggested without running afoul of anyone’s constitutional rights (if that’s what people are concerned about). At the most, they could have confiscated the bike and/or taken the alleged perpetrator into custody.

          • In the real world police deal with frivolous claims on a daily basis. People threaten their own children with CFSA.
            People on this blog think the police are something they are not. Be grateful for lazy cops that don’t abuse power.

  • That second story is infuriating. How can someone be so irreverent to the law that you would steal parts from multiple bikes while someone is following you and shouting at you? I would love to know what was going on in the thief’s mind.

    • When the thief knows they will suffer absolutely no consequences for their illegal activity, why would they care who is following them?

      Whoever this cop is, he just proved to the thief that he can steal any bike he wants with absolute impunity.

  • I’m not a biker and am wondering: What do people do with just the wheels? Is there a market for wheels alone? Do they sell the metal for scrap? I don’t get it.

    • Either or. People either sell the tires… especially if they are high end roadie ones, or just sell the rims for scrap metal.

      • Or more commonly do what the person described above does, they replace the wheel they couldn’t get unlocked.

  • This happened to me, too. My back tired was stolen from my house in Capitol Hill during the middle of the day. My recommendation is to keep BOTH tires AND frame locked at all times. I filed a police report and encourage others to do so, too.

  • I defs recommend to anyone who routinely locks their bike up outside that they go get a set of locking tire skewers. They make it much more difficult for thiefs to get the tires off of the frame.

  • If you have to choose (or cannot stand the though of carrying multiple locks), lock your back wheel inside of the frame so that even if the rear wheel is removed, it is stuck inside of the frame. It is really difficult to cut through your entire wheel, so this way you’re protecting the frame and back wheel (which is much more expensive than the front one) at the same time.

    • Oh, and Pinhead locks for your tires and seat. Not foolproof, but it’s a deterrent and at least you’ll be better protected than most people. As the story of the campers goes, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you.”

      • I don’t leave my bike locked out in public for long. I just poured wax into the screw heads of my seat post set screw.

        • Interesting approach. I take my bike almost everywhere, though, so that’s not really an option for me. If I know I’m going to be gone for long, I bring two locks.

          • Yeah I typically use a small u-lock with sheldon brown method and a cable for my front tire. I lost my cable tho and haven’t replaced it yet… maybe tonight I’ll do that.

  • Interestingly, I read in today’s Post that car thefts in the District are way down due to technology advances. There’s no way MPD keeps those kind of stats for bike thefts but I wonder if bike thefts are up in that same time frame.

  • If one were to witness their bike being stolen (or any bike being stolen) and attack the perpetrator what are the legal ramifications? Could you one get assault charges?!

    • Based on what? “Stand your ground”? This isn’t Florida.
      Detain them, maybe or call the police if you’re not interested in physically confronting someone.

    • Reasonable non-deadly force is usually available to stop property damage.

  • rear wheel is higher value and if a thief is presented with an easy opportunity it’s a no brainer. U bar on rear wheel through triangle at a minimum. 2 U bars – front/rear max. more practical — mini ubar on rear wheel with locked to cable through front wheel.

    Picture above is baffling — 2 u bars and neither securing the rear wheel? A pro with ax grinder will make short work of virtually any lock, but if you make it challenging enough (require multiple tools, techniques and added time) there will always be someone less careful who makes a better target.

    • sorry – 2 U bars maximum protection — the smaller and higher quality the better to prevent leverage attacks

    • The second U lock was added afterward to prevent the thief from coming back for the front wheel later. Fully agreed that at least the rear wheel should’ve been locked.

  • I’ve noticed a huge uptick in wheel thefts at Union Station (including, sadly, one of my own). It’s baffling that thieves are basically free unsecure and take off with something as obviously stolen as bike wheels practically every day from that location. I have no idea why there isn’t a security camera there.

    • It may be unfair and nerdy, but I like to call the immediate area around Union Station a hive of scum of villainy. There are so many shady ass people just hanging around wiling away the time, it amazes me that it’s tolerated.

      • Probably because outlawing loitering would be unconstitutional.

        • That is an inaccurate statement, and I’m getting a little frustrated seeing it parroted in POP comments all the time. Not all loitering laws are unconstitutional. Just like any other law that could potentially infringe on First Amendment rights, the law has to set standards for enforcement so that it is not unconstitutionally vague, and those standards have to be consistent with First Amendment jurisprudence. But anti-loitering laws are not per se unconstitutional.

      • If anything, the old bus station felt more like Mos Eisley Spaceport.

      • Sure, but you’ve just described the train station in every medium-to-large city in the world.

  • This happened to me at the Potomac Ave metro as well. I’m partially to blame for not securing the rear wheel, which I now do, but I’m still very upset that a person was able to walk down the street carrying 1 bike wheel without anyone saying a word to him nor reporting the situation to the police. I also struggled to believe that no one saw the person removing my wheel in broad daylight, on a weekday, right off Pennsylvania ave in Capitol Hill.

    • some people lock their bike and take one wheel with them
      so that wouldnt always be an indication of theft

    • Happened to me on the Mall. Quick release means quick release. Wheel locks might help, as would locking up our bikes properly. Gotta keep honest people honest!

  • There’s a special place in hell for those who steal bicycle tires. My back tire was stolen and it cost me almost $250 to replace everything.

  • In the 600 block of O St NW, a couple of guys tend to their flock of dozens of bike wheels, chained up en-mass to a No Parking sign. Someone pausing to look at this odd display will elicit a “Get away from those! They mine” from the shepherds.

Comments are closed.