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Old 07-24-08, 07:33 AM   #1
Manada
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Does this mean my bike was probably stolen somewhere???

Inspired by the arrest of Igor and THOUSANDS of stolen bikes that are being recovered in Toronto I was changing a flat on my bike last night and decided to look for my serial number to write it down...

I've had my bike about 3 months now, bought it from a man in a wealthy neighbourhood in a nearby city through Craigslist, as an upgrade from another old, used, but way worse condition road bike. He said the bike had been built up for his wife more than a decade ago at a local, well known store -- which generally fit the age and style of the bike, and didn't have more than 3 family-type bikes in his garage so I wasn't suspicious of anything at all.

But last night when I was changing the tire I realized that the bottom bracket where the serial number would be had a strip of black putty over it. I tried to chip it off, but no go. There isn't a number anywhere else on the frame. Looks sort of suspicious to me ---- but now I don't know what to do. I paid a decent amount for the bike (considering it's age), and LOVE it, I've put probably $200 worth of upgrades and accessories into it since I got it, and ride twice as much as I used to now. My intention was to register it, but now it looks like I can't...... and if it was stolen..... ???


Though in other news I commuted for the first time in the rain today, and LOVED it. It made me feel super hard-core.
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Old 07-24-08, 07:41 AM   #2
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Tough one but I guess it is going to boil down to how do you feel about it? Is it going to bother you every time you climb on the bike now? If so, I would work a little harder to get that putty off and go ahead and register it. It is the only way you will know for sure. I really do hate it for you, and is one of the reasons I am scared to buy off of craigslist, I don't want to help thieves move stolen goods.
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Old 07-24-08, 07:56 AM   #3
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Every single one of my bikes has come to me either from Goodwills and Sallys or from alley junk-guys and the bikes are so old they might well have been stolen multi-times over their 30-70 years. No way am I going to register any one of them anywhere, exactly because of the odd chance that one of them could already be on a database somewhere.

Boats are not meant to be rocked.
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Old 07-24-08, 08:22 AM   #4
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Put yourself in the other position. You get a call 15 years later from an honest cyclist who unknowingly bought your bike. He paid money for it, upgraded it, and likes to ride it. What are you going to do?

If it were me, I would wish the guy better luck than I had with the bike, and thank him for the call. I might ask a few questions, just to see if I could trace the bike back to anyone I knew. If the man offered me money I would refuse it. If he insisted, I would give him the number of my favorite charity.

Guess your experience shows how much good registering a bike does?
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Old 07-24-08, 08:30 AM   #5
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I had one of my bikes stolen, it's an awful feeling that changed my life I wouldn't want that on anyone and wouldn't give a second thought I'd try to get that putty off and find out if it's stolen. If it is, and the person contacted me telling me they purchased my stolen bike I'd likely let them keep the bike anyway at least it's in honest hands. I guess I just wish I had closure I loved my bike that was stolen.
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Old 07-24-08, 08:34 AM   #6
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I have a 30 year old bike that I was touching up with some rust-proof paint. One of the problem areas I had to deal with was the underside of the bottom bracket where the serial number had been stamped in. I don't know if the number was stamped in after the frame had been painted, or if the the existence of the number created grooves where the paint didn't reach, but either way the result was poor paint coverage around the serial number. So I wonder if it's possible that the serial number on your bike was covered up for similar reasons -- to fight rust rather than hide the number.

But even if it was stolen, there's a good chance that the serial number was never reported. Many people don't keep track of that kind of thing. And, given that it's an older bike, they may not be able to track down the original owner even if the serial number was reported. And if it was stolen a long time ago, the original owner very possibly has no interest in the bike anymore.

Seems like a worst case scenario is that you determine the bike is stolen and have to transfer all of the stuff you bought for this bike to another one. That's a pain, but it's not the end of the world. But that seems like an unlikely scenario to me. And if you can't get at the serial number to begin with, then it's really a moot point. I also would feel badly about riding a stolen bike, especially since I know how annoyed I've been to have my own bikes stolen on occasion, so I would be tempted to try and figure it out, but there's only so much you can do, and without the serial number, there's pretty much nothing you can do. Someone should be enjoying that bike, and, as far as you know, the rightful owner is you.
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Old 07-24-08, 09:15 AM   #7
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Does home owners insurance cover a bike if it is stolen? Not to hijack the thread, but it seems like too small a question to need its own thread.
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Old 07-24-08, 10:31 AM   #8
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Does home owners insurance cover a bike if it is stolen? Not to hijack the thread, but it seems like too small a question to need its own thread.

Depends upon your policy and the value of your bike. If you have an expensive bike you might need an extra rider on your policy to cover things like expensive bikes, cameras, jewelry, tools, shop equipment, firearms, artworks, and other items. You might also want to see if your policy is for current depreciated value or for replacement value, and what they require if you need to make a claim. Keep records and take photos.
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Old 07-24-08, 10:45 AM   #9
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But last night when I was changing the tire I realized that the bottom bracket where the serial number would be had a strip of black putty over it. I tried to chip it off, but no go.
Have you tried using mineral spirits? That stuff with take of road tar; it might take off that putty. Just a thought.
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Old 07-24-08, 12:32 PM   #10
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You should be able to sand it down till its almost to the paint of the BB and then you might be able to read the numbers that were filled. Of course if you sand it down far enough you better have some touch up paint to cover where you sanded.
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Old 07-24-08, 01:22 PM   #11
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And if you are DYING to know...

Grab some Hydrofluoric Acid (HF), it's a forensics technique used to recover serial numbers... Just make peace with the bike before hand because there goes your frame strength...
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Old 07-24-08, 02:02 PM   #12
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Some places, registration is mandatory. At UT, no registration == bike impounded, and good luck with getting it back if one doesn't have an original receipt from a known bike shop.
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Old 07-24-08, 02:53 PM   #13
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uh... okay. Next time I have something handy that WON'T damage the frame I'll see if I can get the putty off -- but wrecking the bike in the process is not something I'm about to do.

Registering isn't required, but to register with the police a serial number is needed. Otherwise, proof of ownership in the form of a receipt, a serial number, or even a recent photo of the bike is enough to prove ownership in the event that it is recovered from theft.
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Old 07-24-08, 02:57 PM   #14
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Mineral spirits won't damage the frame, but I would advise using a cotton swap so you'll have better control and just work on the putty. I had fresh asphalt spray up on my Harley once and was told to try mineral spirits and it worked. You might even ask around to see if someone has any (pretty common garage item). Good luck.
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Old 07-24-08, 03:13 PM   #15
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Before the age of identity theft and general paranoia, bike owners had crazy stuff like their social security numbers, names and drivers license numbers engraved or hammer-stamped into their bottom bracket shells. If you clean off that putty (epoxy putty?), you might find such a thing.

I had that done once when I was young and foolish. No more. I simply photograph the bike and make a list of all the relevant frame markers, if any, and the components list. I guess you could put an engraving inside the BB shell or seat tube, though.
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Old 07-24-08, 03:17 PM   #16
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Before the age of identity theft and general paranoia, bike owners had crazy stuff like their social security numbers, names and drivers license numbers engraved or hammer-stamped into their bottom bracket shells. If you clean off that putty (epoxy putty?), you might find such a thing.
That's true; hadn't thought about that. Now, if you fine the numbers 4 8 15 16 23 42, get rid of the bike immediately. It's cursed, man, the numbers are cursed. But seriously, if it's not a serial number, you can either file it down or fill it back in. Most likey, tho, it is a serial number.
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Old 07-24-08, 03:24 PM   #17
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uh... okay. Next time I have something handy that WON'T damage the frame I'll see if I can get the putty off -- but wrecking the bike in the process is not something I'm about to do.
Try mineral spirits first. If that doesn't do it, try denatured alcohol. Niether of these should damage the paint. If your frame is powder coated or painted with enamel, you can try a little lacquer thinner. Small amounts for brief periods shouldn't soften the paint, but will almost certainly soften the putty. I would test this very carefully, just in case. Obviously, if it's painted with lacquer paint, lacquer thinner will remove it almost instantly. If the putty is epoxy, you'll have to mechanically remove it. Good luck.

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Old 07-24-08, 03:37 PM   #18
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Does home owners insurance cover a bike if it is stolen? Not to hijack the thread, but it seems like too small a question to need its own thread.
I had a bike stolen from my garage a decade ago and filed a claim on my homeowner's insurance. At the time, I had a $250 deductable. They gave me replacement cost of the bike + all accessories on the bike less the $250 deductable. Once I added up the retail value on all accessories (helmet, gloves, rack, bag, pump, bottle cage, tools, lock, etc.), I was surprised it totaled over $200 so they basically cut me a check for the cost of a new bike.
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Old 07-24-08, 06:07 PM   #19
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Thanks for the putty-removing advice I'm off to the hardware store this week for some tools anyways so I'll look into it.... it'd actually be sort of interesting if I DID find some other personal identifyer....

mmm -- makes me feel less like an unwilling accomplish to theft and more like Nancy Drew
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Old 07-24-08, 08:26 PM   #20
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If it's epoxy putty then the solvent's won't touch it. But careful use of a small flame from a propane torch will soften it to near melting and you'll be able to scrape it off. Most epoxies will soften and allow you to lightly scrape it away before the paint blisters. Just keep the flame low and play it around so it's not on one area for too long.

Clamp the frame to something with the bike upside down so you can use both hands to work it.

Or if you have a heat gun (not a hair dryer, they aren't hot enough) then use that instead for a little more safety. Take your time warming it up and keep prodding the epoxy to test it. If you're doing it carefully it should take you a good 4 to 6 minutes to sneak up on the temperature where the epoxy will soften and scrape off easily.
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Old 07-24-08, 11:00 PM   #21
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I sold a bike through Craigslist tonight, and gave the guy the original receipt.

The bike was never registered, however.

It's his now, an honest transaction.
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Old 07-25-08, 12:18 AM   #22
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Not ALL bikes have the serial# on the bottom bracket.
Some are on the chain stay and others have them on the head tube.
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Old 07-25-08, 06:30 AM   #23
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If it's epoxy putty then the solvent's won't touch it. But careful use of a small flame from a propane torch will soften it to near melting and you'll be able to scrape it off. Most epoxies will soften and allow you to lightly scrape it away before the paint blisters. Just keep the flame low and play it around so it's not on one area for too long.

Clamp the frame to something with the bike upside down so you can use both hands to work it.

Or if you have a heat gun (not a hair dryer, they aren't hot enough) then use that instead for a little more safety. Take your time warming it up and keep prodding the epoxy to test it. If you're doing it carefully it should take you a good 4 to 6 minutes to sneak up on the temperature where the epoxy will soften and scrape off easily.
This depends upon the paint used on the bike. You may end up blistering the paint. Also, you will get some nasty fumes with this method, so you should do it outside in a well-ventilated area. Proceed with caution!

Another method that may work on epoxy is to get some gel paint stripper that contains methylene chloride. Find the most viscous stuff you can and carefully apply it to the epoxy with a small throw-away brush, being careful not to get it on the paint. Most epoxies are softened by methylene chloride enough to remove. I would only do this as a last resort, as it will be easy to damage the paint.

Regards,
John.
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Old 07-25-08, 07:47 AM   #24
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A soldering iron might work as well, one of those trigger operated ones. Easy to control where the heat goes, use a small flat bladed screwdriver to gently poke and peel the putty off as it softens. Not so much heat that you affect the metal of the bottom bracket.
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