Do you know that a bicycle is stolen every 30 seconds in the United States?
This means two million bikes are reported missing each year!
When you buy a brand new bike, your first instinct would be to leap on it and never look back — but you need to hold your horses. Before you take your bike out, you need to first find its serial number.
This is the most important feature of your bike, but unfortunately, less than 20 percent of Americans know their bike’s serial number or even if there is one.
- 1 What Are Bike Serial Numbers?
- 2 Where Is Your Bike Serial Number Located?
- 3 What to Do Once You Have Located the Bike Serial Number
- 4 How Can Bike Serial Numbers Help You If Your Bike Gets Stolen
- 5 Why Should You Register Your Bike’s Serial Number in a Database?
- 6 What If Your Bike Does Not Have a Serial Number?
- 7 How To Tell If The Bike You Have Purchased Was Stolen?
- 8 Is it Legal To Track Down Your Bike With a Serial Number?
- 9 Bottom Line
What Are Bike Serial Numbers?
A bike’s serial number, also known as a frame number, is the exclusive identifier of your bike, just like your car’s number plate or VIN. This serial number is usually about 6 to 12 characters long and comprise of both numbers and letters.
Even if you don’t see a serial number on your bike at first glance, don’t give up.
These numbers are often hidden on various parts of the bike, sometimes in more than one place. It is very important for you to check your bike and note down your bicycle’s serial number because pictures of the bike just don’t do a good enough job of identifying your ride.
Where Is Your Bike Serial Number Located?
There are several places your bike’s serial number will be located. The most common place to find your serial number is beneath the bottom bracket shell where the frame meets the crank. Just bend down or flip your bike over to see the number.
However, if you don’t see it there, there are plenty of other places the number could be hidden. These include under the head badge, the top of the crank, the rear stays, or the inner or outer face of the frame tube closest to the chain.
A lot of times your bike’s serial number may be engraved but in many modern versions, there is a laminated sticker with the serial number and a bar code. If you have already used your bike, the sticker or the engraving may be covered with dirt and you may not easily see it.
To make sure you get the number, take a wad of tissue, give your bike frame a quick scrub to reveal the number.
What to Do Once You Have Located the Bike Serial Number
Once you have found the bike’s serial number, you should quickly write it down someplace safe or take a snapshot of it, email it to yourself and save it in your cloud drive. This way, if your ride ever gets stolen, the police can identify your bike by its serial number.
Do not confuse the serial number with a barcode next to it. This code is generally placed there to verify warranties and does not have anything to do with your serial number.
How Can Bike Serial Numbers Help You If Your Bike Gets Stolen
With millions of bikes stolen in the United States, only 5 percent are recovered. It is a good idea to keep your bike locked and stored inside your home, but if the thing you dread happens, make sure you can reference your bike number.
The police can identify your bike by its serial number and use it to track your ride down.
One thing you need to keep in mind is that your bike’s appearance is the same as all the bikes of that model from the same manufacturer.
So you can imagine how many bikes look exactly like yours. Even if your bike has a completely unique look, a serial number is the only surefire way to know the bike truly belongs to you.
Also, remember that most bike thieves will disassemble your bike and sell its part.
If this happens to your bike, you won’t be able to spot it. However, the police may be able to track down some parts of it that have the serial number engraved and use it to track down the thieves and bring them to justice.
Why Should You Register Your Bike’s Serial Number in a Database?
Once you have copied down your bike’s serial number, don’t waste time thinking you will register it someday. Many people with this kind of thinking have regretted their procrastination when their bikes have gotten stolen.
By registering your bike as soon as possible, you might not be able to prevent it from being stolen but there is a higher chance you may recover it or punish the people responsible for stealing it.
Fortunately for you, registering a bike is a simple process. Thanks to the internet, you can now register your bike on online databases. There are many watchdog services and databases like 529 Garage, Bike Index, and Bike Register which will register the serial number of your bike for free.
These websites have made it their mission to help ward off bike thieves and help bike owners recover their ride.
In some major US cities, you can also register your bike with the local police department. Once you have registered your bike, you may get a sticker to put on your bike. This is like an ID number and may serve as a deterrent to thieves because it shows your bike has been registered with the authorities.
What If Your Bike Does Not Have a Serial Number?
Not every single bike in the United States has a serial number. Some older models which are hand-made do not have serial numbers.
Additionally, there are some bikes that had the bike’s serial number laminated stickers which have been scraped off. If this is the case with you, you can still register your bike
With Project 529, you can purchase a registration kit that will establish you as the clear owner of the bike.
This kit is very helpful as it contains a tamper- and weather-resistant sticker that comes with a unique identifier. Once you place this sticker on your bike, it cannot be removed easily. The digits will serve as a serial number and help Project 529 and the local law enforcement locate your bike.
How To Tell If The Bike You Have Purchased Was Stolen?
If you have brought a pre-used bike but are worried that it may have been stolen from someone else before it was sold to you, you can look for its serial number.
If you find evidence of a serial number being scratched out, this is one of the biggest red flags that a bike may have been stolen.
If you find the serial number intact but still are concerned that the bike may have been stolen, you can go to one of the online bike registration databases above, type in the serial number, and see for yourself if the bike has been registered under someone else’s name or has been reported stolen.
Some other red flags that you need to be aware of are:
- Buying a bike for a price that seems to be too good to be true – it probably is.
- A bike seller who won’t post much information about the bike or is hesitant to post its pictures online.
- A bike seller who is only giving vague and indirect answers to your queries.
Is it Legal To Track Down Your Bike With a Serial Number?
Having a registered serial number is very important when it comes to contacting law enforcement authorities and given them these unique digits so that they can track down your ride. However, you can use the serial number to track down your bike on your own as well.
You can visit the bike registration databases, punch in the bike serial number in the search bar to review your bike’s details, and report to the database that your bike has been stolen.
You may also feel like doing some detective work on your own and track down your bike using the serial number as a reference.
Although tracking down your bike is legal, if you want to go and recover it, remember that this is not without danger. The people who have snatched your bikes are unscrupulous and did not take your ride just so they would easily give it back to you if you ask nicely.
It is better to track your bicycle online and work with the police to recover it and bring it back to your ownership.
Most of us don’t even give a second thought to our bike’s serial number and many of us don’t even know how to find it. Some of us don’t even know if there is such a thing.
After reading this guide, we hope you understand how important your bicycle’s serial number is in keeping your bike safe — or at least recovering it from criminals — and you might want to keep a hold of it.
If your bike gets stolen at some point, having a registered serial number can make a world of difference when it comes to tracking it down, even if it has been dismantled.
Last Updated on May 7, 2021 by Matthew Carpenter