Everyone knows a car has its own unique identification number. Fewer might know that most bicycles have them too. Before you take yours out, write down the serial number and keep it somewhere safe in case yours gets stolen.
Photo by Richard Masoner
Having your bicycle's serial number handy can help police track down and identify your bike much faster. Because bicycles aren't registered, it's more difficult to prove that a given bike is yours even if they find it, but knowing the serial number gives you a leg up. As one commenter on Reddit with experience in law enforcement explains:
I can count on one hand how many times I've been able to recover stolen bikes. One of my best arrests was sending this thief to prison for 2 years because he had a stolen bike and the victim wrote the serial number down. Not lack of trying but lack of serial numbers or identifiable marks is what limits bikes being located. Plus If two people make claim to a bike and no one has proof that it is theirs, then how can I make a decision on who is the owner. I don't know about you but I run into stolen stuff all the time that I can't prove is stolen because no one writes down serial numbers.
The flip side for buyers, of course, is to keep an eye out for serial numbers when purchasing a bike from a private seller. While it's not impossible for a thief to try to scratch out a serial number, any legitimate seller shouldn't have a problem providing one. This can help reduce the motivation for bike thieves to steal bicycles to begin with.