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Beware when buying a second-hand bike

By BikeRadar | Sunday, August 9, 2009 7.00am

Insurers Cycleguard have warned that the growing bike market means more and more people are being conned into buying stolen bikes.

They say that, with a bike being stolen every 65 seconds in the UK, the second-hand bike market is a potential minefield for the prospective buyer.

Here's a checklist of some of the tell-tale signs that can help buyers spot a stolen bike before they part with any cash:

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

Do all the 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.

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Does the owner have proof of purchase? It may not always be available but most bikes come with some form of documentation, such as warranty agreements and manuals. 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.

Are there any security markings on the frame? Most bikes have a serial number etched onto the bottome of the frame, and a lot of cyclists now put a postcode mark or security tag on their bike to help them trace it if 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.

Cycleguard's managing director James Pickering said: “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.

“As a general rule of thumb, 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.”

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