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“Why would someone take the time to replace the wheel that’s being stolen? What does this mean?”

by Prince Of Petworth — May 16, 2017 at 1:40 pm 13 Comments

stolen bike wheel
Photo by PoPville flickr user Eric P.

“Dear PoPville,

I’m reaching out because I had a very strange situation with my bike on Thursday night.

It was locked up on Capitol Hill with both a u-lock (on the frame) and a pretty hefty cord (the cord went through the frame, the bike rack, and the front wheel). When I came out to unlock my bike something didn’t seem right. As I started to unlock it I realized that the front wheel was not the correct one. My commuter wheel had been stolen but replaced with a smaller mountain bike wheel.

Someone had tried to cut the u-lock (there were a few marks which looked like an attempt had been made), successfully cut the cord (which was no where to be found), and then after taking off my wheel, replaced it with another one.

The mountain bike wheel was too small for the frame so the wheel didn’t quiet reach to the brake pads. I was able to actually ride the bike home just without front breaks. Additionally, the mountain bike tire is not in terrible shape. The tread is fine and it was inflated and held air.

I’m so puzzled by this.

Have you ever heard of something like this before? Why would someone take the time to replace the wheel that’s being stolen? What does this mean?”

  • anon

    tradesys better than stealsys?

  • jim_ed

    Wild Ass Guess: It made him look like he was just swapping the tire instead of stealing it, giving anyone who may call the cops doubt.

    • stacksp

      My guess as well

  • Anon

    Seems like the culprit preferred your wheel to theirs but didn’t want to bother dragging their old wheel with them after the upgrade.

  • Anon

    Actually – are you riding on 29″ tires? (most mountain bike tires are 26″ in diameter). I’m having a hard time imagining someone trying to fit a 29er on a regular mtb frame.

    • TJ

      This was true until the late 2000s – but today the 26 inch wheel is borderline archaic. For several years now, most mountain bikes have come with 29 inch wheels and 27.5 wheels are surging.

  • 11th St.

    I had a similar thing happen in Dupont. Came out from work to find my rear wheel missing, with the exact same model (in much worse shape) sitting next to it. It was the most considerate crime that I’ve ever experienced, since I was at least able to ride it home and to the shop to get it fixed.

    FWIW, I installed wheel locks and the peace of mind alone was worth the price.

    ^jim_ed is probably right, though no one seems to question anyone working on a bike in broad daylight.

  • Ned

    Same thing happened to me except it was my seat, and they didn’t quite finish re-installing it. Ob Barracks Row. The replacement seat (and seat post!) they left next to my bike was actually a little more comfortable than my old seat.

    • Anon

      I had the same thing with a seat and seat post replaced, before I secured that more properly.

  • T-Noggle

    Someone once stole my bike seat with the pole, but replaced it with another bike seat. I would have actually been fine with the new-to-me bike seat, but the seat pole was too small so just sort of floated around. Was odd, but actually, the “trade” made me less mad about the theft…

  • dat

    Before I read the other posts which suggest that maybe this is a “thing” — i.e., thief disguised in plain sight strategy — I was going to suggest that maybe thief A cut the cable lock and stole your wheel, then thief B stole somebody else’s wheel, put it on your bike, and tried (unsuccessfully) to cut the u-lock before giving up…

  • Easyenough

    Crazy. Thanks for sharing the experience. Never heard of that.

  • Fogwalkerwithabag

    Ugh, just had this happen with my bike seat and post last night in Brightwood Park. Thief even covered it back up with my seat cover like I wouldn’t notice.

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