Parrot gets peckish, destroys wheel

How an eclectus parrot called Gypsy became the internet's most notorious cycling-adjacent animal.

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There’s a full spectrum of ways for bike parts to be destroyed – crashing, driving into a garage, simple neglect. But it’s safe to say we’ve never heard of a parrot writing off a high-end wheel with its beak. Until now.

In a post to a local buy/swap/sell group, a Queensland cyclist called Vanessa asked for a lead on a new front wheel, with a surprising story behind the request. 

“I know it’s a long shot but hoping someone has a Mavic CXR 60 Elite Exalith front wheel for sale,” she wrote.  “My recently labelled ‘pain in the a$$’ parrot found inspiration in Harry Houdini, Prison Break and Dexter and attempted to dismantle/murder my front wheel.” Under the post was a picture of the parrot in question – a female eclectus parrot called Gypsy – caught in the act. 

Gypsy’s misdeed, quite understandably, got people in a flap. The Bicycle Market post went viral, netting more than 1,000 reactions and 350 comments, and spread across platforms as the story took flight around the world. Soon enough, Gypsy was the star of Reddit posts, investigative deep-dives by skeptics, and cycling meme pages:

“It’s so crazy the traction the post got,” Vanessa says. “I was just wanting a replacement front wheel!”

Gypsy, a fully flighted and flight-trained parrot, has been Vanessa’s pet for more than a decade. And while this was Gypsy’s most brutal misdeed yet, she has form. “She eats walls, tables, chairs, beds … if left unsupervised she’d destroy everything,” Vanessa told CyclingTips. 

“Don’t get a parrot,” she adds with a laugh.

This model of wheel used a “Blackcell™ flange” – basically a foam fairing. Hence Gypsy’s ease at chewing it.

Gypsy is one of three birds in the house – Vanessa also owns a green cheek conure and a budgie – but the eclectus is the one with the biggest beak and “the only one smart enough to get out of her enclosure, in the middle of the night while everyone else was sleeping.” 

That fateful day, Vanessa woke up to a murdered Mavic, clearly beyond repair, with Gypsy still munching on the rim. “The wheel was dead,” Vanessa says, with a touch of understatement. She fired off a few pictures on her phone to record the moment. 

“I think Gypsy knew she fucked up,” Vanessa says. “She went and hid behind the surf boards … I had to go hunting to try and get her out.” 

Could you stay mad at a face like this?

While Gypsy’s fame grows, Vanessa’s BMC TM01 is still sitting there without a rideable front wheel. ”They’re impossible to come by, so it seems,” she says. “Considering this post has gone viral in less than 24 hours I’ve had not one person have the wheel I’m after … And my bike is too pretty to throw on a mismatched combo.” 

The model of wheel is no longer in production, which means that Gypsy’s night of carnage will end up being an expensive one. “I got peer-pressured into making a cheeky GoFundMe page because so many people had a good laugh,” Vanessa says. “Rightfully so – it’s hilarious … hilariously painful.”

But while Vanessa understands that a parrot biting a wheel into pieces is objectively funny for others, it’s still not a great thing to have happen to you. “The husband is more grumpy, but I’m probably disappointed or sad to be honest,” Vanessa says. “I love my bike a ridiculously embarrassing amount, and being able to afford to replace the wheel just isn’t overly feasible at the moment. So that sucks a lot.”

“But she is a bird; they chew,” Vanessa says, reflectively. “It’s like you can’t get cranky at a toddler for accidentally breaking something, so I can’t really get cranky at her for eating my wheel.”