Small mystery: Manhattan chained bikes with bent wheels

Maybe it’s not a mystery to anyone but me. Or maybe it’s a mystery to everyone and folks can only conjecture (in which case, if there’s no solidly right answer, this will probably end up in IMHO or even MPSIMS). I’m talking about chained-up bicycles in Manhattan whereby a surprisingly (to me) high percentage of them have one wheel bent in a curve like a Pringle’s potato chip.

Unlikely Scenario A: Aaaaugh, I’m riding my bike and some damnfool in an automobile has just struck me and actually ran over my bike. Umm, I’m all right, just bounced along the pavement and left some armbones behind. Yes I’ll get into the ambulance in just a moment, but first I have to chain my bike to that lamp post.

Unlikely Scenario B: Hey, let’s fuck up that guy’s bike, ya wanna? Here, you watch in case he comes back, and I’ll just put this portable 3 foot wide vise around the wheel and pinch it until it bends in a smooth arc like that, heh heh, looks wicked don’t it?

Unlikely Scenario C: When, I say when, will the modern city start respecting bicyclists and care about our safety? Oooh, I know how to raise public awareness about how so many of us get hit and injured or killed while riding! You know those people who go to the trouble of painting bike victims’ bikes white and putting up a memorial sign and flowers and all that shit? Well I figured we’d do that too but we’ll just put the damaged bike not bother with the flowers and paint and plaque, everyone will know what the chained ruined bike means. Oh, and we’l only include the bikes that were hit at the wheel, not those where the handlebars got run over or something…

?!??? :confused:

I think its Scenario B. I notice the same thing a lot on College Campuses and assume its drunk college students limping home after the bars close and deciding to indulge in some low-grade vandalism. Presumably they don’t really need a vice to get it to bend like that though, I think they just brace the wheel against whatever the bikes chained to and then kick/jump on the edges

I’m not going to go test it out on my bike though.

Bicycle wheels are very strong vertically, and fairly weak horizontally. It doesn’t take much sidewards force to potato chip (yes, that’s the technical term) a wheel.

I always assumed some vandal applied sidewards force to the wheel of a locked bicycle. The owner can’t ride it away and needs to get help bringing it for repair. Arranging for this could take some time. So, the bike sits for awhile.

Getting a new wheel is also expensive. Unless the bike frame is good quality and new, it may be cheaper to abandon the bike and buy a new one.

Unlikely Scenario D: People carry a bent wheel with them and mount that on the bike when chained, and carry the good wheel with them to prevent bike theft.

if you pin the wheel with the chain/lock to whatever it is locked to then you could bend the wheel. some young kids might be trying to break the chain or lock. others just want to damage your ride.

+1 for B

I thought the proper term was, “taco.” At least that’s what my mountain biking buddies call it.

B - people mess up bikes because they can.

Seems to me a vandal could wedge the wheel in those bike stands found in public places and use the bike frame as leverage to twist the wheel. Once a critical point is reached the rim would willingly go along for a full twist.

potato chipping or tacoing a wheel is really easy. Place knees at 3 and 9 o’clock, and pull with hands at 12 and 6. Takes maybe 50 lbs of force on a front wheel and perhaps 20 for a dished rear wheel.

It can be undone just as easy, though the wheel won’t be exactly straight, it is usually ridable. I’ve only done this once, after potato chipping a rear wheel when I hit a patch of sand in a turn…rear wheel slid sideways about 8" and stopped when it hit the clean pavement. I was able to ride home with the not straight wheel and sprained ankle.

ETA: talking about road bike wheels here. 26" MTB wheels are stronger due to increased bracing angle of spokes, and I have never heard of a 20" BMX wheel tacoing.

I think it’s a matter of degree, where “potato chipped” wheels might still be ridable but “taco’ed” wheels are not.

Former mt biker here and taco is how my friends and I referred to it.

street rider, we always call it taco too

Another vote for B. I’ve seen wheels folded in half, everything below the front hub folded upwards. That was a bike which had been there for a while, with increasingly bent wheel. I went past one day and it was just folded over. Next day it was straight again, but with a visible crease in the metal of the front wheel rim.

Have to go with B and with Taco.

There was a bike on campus that first came to notice due to the taco’ed wheel. Presumably abandoned it slowly lost bits over the course of 5 years until all that remained were the front wheel and frame chained to the bike stand. Who knows, it may still be there.