Upon my return from winter holidays, I found that someone had stolen the rear innertube from my locked bike. They took only the innertube: the rear wheel was still there, the chain correctly attached, and the bike otherwise seems untouched (so far at least, for obvious reasons I haven't ridden it yet).

I had the front tire and the frame locked to a bike rack. The bike is stored indoors in a common bike room for my apartment building, so access is somewhat restricted to those with a key.

Why (and how) would someone steal just the innertube?

  • 3
    Maybe someone needed an inner tube? They're quite easy to remove, unless the chain / lock was put through the rear wheel. Are you sure you did not have a tubeless?
    – RoKa
    Jan 8, 2016 at 12:24
  • 6
    Is there a tube in your front wheel? Have you checked? Maybe your bike uses tubeless tires and you never knew it.
    – zeFrenchy
    Jan 8, 2016 at 13:34
  • 2
    It seems that President Skroob has become more stealthy in his quest for clean air.
    – Kibbee
    Jan 8, 2016 at 13:34
  • 2
    Scotty got his coordinates wrong -- he was trying to transport Kirk. Jan 8, 2016 at 18:53
  • 2
    Nope, no tubeless tires here. The inner tube was definitely taken/cut/removed somehow (and not by me!).
    – Felix
    Jan 10, 2016 at 18:55

4 Answers 4


Occam's razor says that you should try the simpler/null hypothesis first, in this case that your tube wasn't stolen. There are two alternate hypotheses that you should test:

1) Are you sure that you had one in the first place? Perhaps you were running tubeless and never knew it?

2) Are you sure the tube is actually gone? One thing that can happen (either by prank or accident) especially with schrader valves if you don't have a valve cap (but also with presta if you don't have a locknut) is that when the tube deflates, the valve can retreat back into the rim and get lost (I'll avoid making any dirty jokes about this).

I grabbed the following image off an unrelated page but you can imagine what would happen if the valve got pressed in even further and got lodged inside the rim. It would look like there was never any inner tube in the first place.

enter image description here

I've almost done this (gotten the valve lost inside the rim) trying to inflate a tire. It's not hard and it could even conceivably happen as a tire self-deflated.

  • 2
    Sadly the inner tube was definitely gone :(
    – Felix
    Jan 10, 2016 at 18:54
  • @Felix - And there was no valve stem anywhere? Jan 13, 2016 at 2:26
  • Not until I replaced the tube :). I think your answer is likely to be the correct one in more cases, although in my instance it was most likely theft/mischief.
    – Felix
    Jan 13, 2016 at 9:43

Perhaps someone was playing a prank on you. It would be very easy (less than a minute) to deflate the tube, cut it, then pull it out. You actually wouldn't need to touch anything else on the bike and depending on the tire size, might not even need to remove the tire.

I have used cut tubes as a "tie-on" bungie cord in several instances, so it's also possible MacGyver was stuck in your bike room and needed it to thwart some dastardly plot.

  • 1
    +1 I didn't think about cutting it, if it was a prank.
    – BSO rider
    Jan 8, 2016 at 18:43

That's pretty funny. Here's my guess...

Why: Seems like someone found themselves in need of an innertube and convinced themselves that, under the circumstances, it would be okay to take yours (also consider that this may be a prank).

How: By removing the rear wheel, it would be easy to remove the tire, pull the tube, put the tire back on, and install the wheel again. This also means that it would have been easier for them to steal the whole rear wheel, reinforcing my "non-malicious intent" theory.

  • 4
    Or if it was a prank, they may have cut the tube to get it off. Making its extraction quicker than removing & replacing the wheel & re-seating the chain.
    – renesis
    Jan 8, 2016 at 15:45
  • 7
    "prank", by someone who assumed you could afford the cost of their vandalism. If I caught someone doing that "prank" I'd probably "prank" them back by hilariously kicking them up the arse unexpectedly.
    – Móż
    Jan 8, 2016 at 19:42

To me too weird to be a prank. Take a tube is the not what I would pick as a prank.

Pretty simple they needed a tube and decided to steal yours.
If they were a pure thief looking to steal what ever they could they would have taken the whole wheel as they were actually more exposed (more time) by replacing the wheel.

Another remote why is to delay detection. Another tenant may see a missing wheel and know you are gone and report the missing wheel. A missing tube is not obvious.

They removed the wheel, removed the tube, and replaced the wheel.

To me it was kind of like I know what I did was wrong but I did not take more than I needed.

I would suggest a lock for your rear wheel even if just a cable. This was most likely a crime of opportunity and need so not likely that they had a cable cutter with them.

  • 5
    The psychology behind the evil to steal a tube and the polite enough to put the wheel back is beyond me. Jan 8, 2016 at 19:02
  • 1
    +1 A missing wheel is much more noticeable to passersby than a missing inner tube Jan 13, 2016 at 17:00

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