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Bike boom means more stolen bikes being sold second hand

Bike insurer gives advice on how to spot a wrong 'un...

When you’ve managed to find the bike of your dreams and picked it up for a knock down price second hand the last thing you want is for the police to track it down a couple of days later and seize it.

But that could well be the case as more and more stolen bikes are ending up on the second-hand market, providing a potential minefield for prospective buyers.

Research indicates a bike is stolen in the UK every 65 seconds, and being managing director of leading online bicycle insurer Cycleguard, James Pickering is in the perfect position to offer advice.

“The boom in cycling has created rich pickings for bike thieves, with a fair proportion of stolen bikes ending up on the second-hand market. If you purchase stolen items they never actually belong to you, and can be seized at any time, either by the police or by the rightful owner.”

To help potential buyers in the second-hand market Cycleguard has published a checklist of some of the tell-tale signs that can help buyers spot a stolen bike before they part with any cash.

1 - Are the owner and the bike a likely match? Wherever possible, ask to meet the vendor face-to-face, preferably at their house or place of work. Ask yourself whether the vendor could reasonably have afforded to purchase the bike in the first place and is the bike is likely to match the vendor

2 - Do all the bike parts match? Thieves will often damage a bike in some way, or remove parts such as one of the wheels in order to make it easier to steal. If the front wheel is missing or different to the back, or the frame has scratches, don’t be afraid to ask what happened. A legitimate owner should have credible answers to this type of question.

3 - Does the owner have proof of purchase? It may not always be available but most bikes will come with some form of original documentation, such as warranty agreements and manual’s, some may even have a service history. A lot of owners also choose to insure their bike, so it is worth asking whether they have supporting documentation that they can show you.

4 - Are there any security markings on the frame? Most bikes will have serial number etched onto the frame, and a lot of cyclists now put a postcode mark or security tag on their bike to help them trace it of it is stolen. If any of these markings are damaged, or if the information doesn’t tally with the owner, start asking yourself some serious questions.

James added: “As a general rule, if you’re not certain about where the bike has come from, think carefully before buying it. Once you’ve handed over the money it can be virtually impossible to get it back should the bike prove to be stolen.”

According to the Association of Cycle Traders, bicycle sales in the UK have increased by 20 per cent on an annual basis in June. Evans Cycles, the country's largest independent cycle retailer, said it had sold out of many 2009 models of road bikes, and thousands more commuters are hitting the internet, or heading to local markets to look for deals on second-hand bikes.

But for those still worried about entering the second-hand bike market you can look to check out the bikes heritage with There are also government funded initiatives that offer a great way for cyclists to buy new bikes at discount rates. The Cycle to Work scheme allows consumers to buy a bike out of their salary before it is taxed. On top of this tax-break, the bike is also free from VAT.

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G-bitch | 14 years ago

I'm about to sell my first whole bicycle second-hand in Bristol (another cycle crime hotspot), thankfully I've got the receipt and will advertise as such seeing as all the other gumtree ads look dodgy as hell!

Jon Burrage | 14 years ago

check out ebay for a mass of "selling it for a mate" bikes, easy to spot

Tony Farrelly | 14 years ago

Yes, I remember hearing from a bloke once who'd had his bike nicked and visited brick lane on consecutive Sundays and sure enough his bike turned up… and after a bit of verbal argy-bargey he got it back.

OldRidgeback | 14 years ago

A trip down Brick Lane market some years ago when I was looking for a cheap secondhand bike made me very wary of the secondhand bicycle market here in London. The overweight vendors didn't look like the sort of people who'd be riding lightweight race bikes or high spec mountian bikes. It was pretty clear that a lot of the parts being sold had been stripped off stolen bikes, while the buyers didn't seem to give a hoot as long as what they were buying was cheap.

A couple of mates of mine have gone to police auctions to buy bikes. They've had some pretty good deals too, both on cheap hacks and on good quality bicycles. These are stolen/recovered bicycles for which now owner has been located and the police sell them on with the proceeds going to charity, along with a certificate saying that the bicycle has been acquired legally, should an owner identify a bicycle.

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