You’ve just purchased a brand new bike and the first thing you want to do is take it out for a ride, but before you do that there’s something else you need to do ASAP: you need to find your bike’s serial number.
This is the most important feature of your bike because if it gets stolen this number can help you track it down. Yet, quite alarmingly, less than 20 percent of bike owners know their bike’s serial number, as Bicycle Law reports.
What, exactly, is a bike serial number?
A bike serial number is basically a string of digits that will have between six and 10 numbers in it. It is sometimes referred to as a bike frame number.
Your serial number is very important to check on your bike and keep somewhere handy in case your bike goes missing because photos of your bike just aren’t enough in the event that you need to track down your beloved bicycle.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how to find your bike’s serial number and how to go about using it if your bike gets stolen.
Where Is Your Bike Serial Number Located?
Your bike’s serial number will most likely be found underneath the bike’s bottom bracket. So, turn your bike around and look for the spot where the two pedal cranks join.
What might happen, however, is that there’s no serial number there.
There are other places where your serial number could be stamped on your bike.
Try to check the headset, the rear stays, the seat downtube (next to the crank), and the top of the crank, as these are common places for a serial number to be put.
Once you’ve located the bike’s serial number, it’s important for you to record it so that you have copies of it.
You can do this in various ways, such as by emailing it to yourself, taking a snapshot of the serial number and then emailing that to yourself or backing it up in your iCloud account.
If you want, you could even take pictures of yourself and the bike, making sure that the serial number is visible. That way, if you ever do need to know your serial number, like when reporting your bike as stolen to the police, you’ll have it handy.
After you’ve found the serial number that’s stamped on your bike, you might notice a barcode that’s printed on a sticker next to it.
This is actually just a sticker that the bike manufacturer put on the bike in order to check and verify warranties, and isn’t related to the serial number itself. Now you know.
Why Bike Serial Numbers Are So Important
You might think you’ll never need to use your bike’s serial number, but you never know what could happen.
Your bike’s serial number is really like it’s identity number should it get stolen or lost – it’s the most important way in which you could track it down.
Even if you own a device tracker on your bike, that’s sometimes not enough to keep your bike safe.
If you want to track down your bike, you’ll have much better success by being able to provide the bike’s serial number to organizations that track down stolen bikes and to your local police.
Just think of how many bikes are out there that look so similar to yours. Your bike needs to be better identified so that it can be found. Even if it looks really unique and stands out in a crowd, having the serial number is still a must.
Something that’s important to bear in mind is that some bike thieves don’t steal a bike in order to use it themselves or sell it as a whole.
They will want to disassemble the bike as soon as they get their hands on it so that they can sell its parts. If this is the case with your stolen bike, no one’s going to be able to spot your unique bike on the road because it won’t be there.
By having the serial number, however, you’ll still be able to track down the bike (or at least part of it) and this could help to bring bike thieves to justice.
Why You Should Register Your Bike
Once you’ve made a copy of your bike’s serial number so that it’s somewhere handy if your bike gets stolen, you should waste no time in registering your bike so that it’s on a bicycle database and you’re registered as its owner.
You know that it’s important but maybe you think that you’ll get to register your bike “someday.”
This is dangerous thinking because if you find yourself the victim of a stolen bike, you’ll wish you had taken the steps to register it. You know what they say: prevention is better than cure.
You might not always be able to prevent your bike from being stolen, but registering can help you get your own back!
The good news is that registering your bike doesn’t have to be a mission. There are many places where you can register your bike, but make sure that it’s done with an international, or at least nationwide, registration service.
Some great bike services are Bike Index, 529 Garage, and Bike Register (which is an international example). It’s totally free and really easy to register your bike.
In some U.S. cities you can also register your bike with the police department. These include Chicago, New York, and Milwaukee.
After registering your bike, you might get a sticker that you’ll need to put on your bike. This is sort of like an ID number and just the presence of it might be enough to ward off criminals because they’ll realize that your bike has been registered.
By registering your bike, if it gets stolen at a later stage you’ll be able to notify the community as well as bike shops in your area so that they can be on the lookout for your stolen bike.
This can help to stop bike criminals while also (hopefully) ensuring that the bike finds its way back to you.
How To Register Your Bike If It Doesn’t Have A Serial Number
Now, what if you’ve looked all over your bike with a magnifying glass and you still can’t find a serial number?
Although all bikes are assumed to have serial numbers, not all do! This is the case for some old, hand-made bikes, for example. If you find that your bike doesn’t have these digits, it doesn’t mean you can’t register your bike.
You can still (and should) register it.
What you should do is get in touch with Project 529, a non-profit bike-registration company that helps people to recover their stolen bikes, and purchase a registration kit from them so that you can establish that you’re the owner of the bike.
This kit is great because it also contains a weather-resistant and tamper-resistant sticker that comes with a unique identifier. After sticking this onto your bike, you’ll be able to identify that the bike is yours according to that specific number.
So, it sort of replaces your serial number. These digits will help you locate your bike if it gets stolen.
Just make sure you’re happy with where your sticker is placed on your bike frame because it’s impossible to remove once fastened onto it and you really don’t want the hassle of ruining it and starting the process all over again.
Can You Search For A Bike’s Serial Number?
Imagine the worst-case scenario: you stepped out of your office building and noticed that the spot where you usually park your bike is empty.
Your bike has been stolen.
Having it’s serial number is not only important to help you when contacting organizations and the police because they’ll be able to track down the bike according to its unique serial number, but it can also help you do some detective work of your own.
There are websites, such as Bike Index, that make it their mission to help bike owners locate their stolen bikes.
How you make use of these websites is by using their search bar that’s specifically for serial numbers and punching your number in. It’s that easy!
Another site that offers this service is Bike Register.
How To Tell If Your Bike’s Stolen Goods
If you’ve purchased a bike and worry that it was stolen before being sold to you, check the bike all over for its serial number.
If it’s scratched or filed out, this is a red flag that the bike could’ve been stolen and the thief wanted to try to erase the number.
If the number’s there but you’re still concerned it’s been stolen, use the serial number to try to locate the bike on sites such as Bike Index.
Serial number aside, there are other ways to tell if the bike you’ve purchased – or want to purchase – is actually stolen goods. These include:
- The price of the bike seems too good to be true. You know what they say: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Giving you an excellent deal on a bike is sometimes what bike thieves will do if they’re eager to get money for the stolen goods and get the product off their hands as quickly as possible.
- The bike seller’s ad is a red flag. If you’re interested in purchasing a bike online, something to look out for is if you want to purchase the bike but the seller’s ad doesn’t contain much information or photos about the bike. This is usually done by criminals to prevent the bike from being identified online.
- The bike seller won’t answer your questions. Don’t be afraid to ask the seller questions about the bike. If they’re vague or ignore you, those are warning signs that the bike has been stolen. Stay away!
Do e-Bikes Have Serial Numbers?
Yes, electric bikes will have serial numbers. You’ll be able to find the serial number on your e-bike by checking the same locations on the bike as those on a traditional bike, such as underneath the bottom bracket.
Is It Legal To Track Down Your Bike Yourself?
What if you’ve managed to track down your stolen bike?
You might want to go ahead and get it back, but although this is legal, as Bicycle Law reports, it’s not without dangers. It’s a better idea to try to track it online and work with local law enforcement.
You might never have thought about your bike’s serial number, or maybe you didn’t even know what it was or how to find it.
But after reading this article, now you know that your bike’s serial number is the most important number you need to keep your bike safe – and you don’t want to misplace it.
If your bike gets stolen, having registered it with its unique serial number can make all the difference in ensuring that your bike comes back home.
Even if these efforts don’t bring back your bike, the serial number is the most important tool at your disposal to try to track it down while serving an important function: it will alert other bike owners in the community that your bike’s been stolen so they can keep their eyes peeled for it and not fall prey to crime themselves.