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Question: stolen bikes and craigslist

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Question: stolen bikes and craigslist

Old 06-04-10, 05:33 PM
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Question: stolen bikes and craigslist

A friend's birthday is coming up, and she could use a second bike. She's got a very nice one, but lives and works in lousy parts of Seattle, and is too worried about bike theft to use it for commuting, but hates the bus, and hates walking because of the crack heads asking her for money. So I've started looking around Craigslist for a cheap beater bike ... if something happens to it, it's not the end of the world.

I've seen a few deals that are too good to be true. One is a full-suspension MTB for $50; it's missing a pedal, and the guy says this is why it's so cheap. ( A new set of pedals, plus the local bike shop putting them on, isn't more than $100, so I'm suspicious. ) It's a little flashy for her needs, but got me wondering about whichever bike I do settle on. How do I make sure it's not stolen? I can ask for the serial number before I head out to look at one ... but then what do I do with it?

I asked Google, and didn't find the answer, although I did read about someone who bought a bike, realized it was stolen, and (somehow) got it back to its rightful owner. That brought a smile to my face, but on the other hand, I don't want to buy a stolen one in the first place, because that would "feed" the market for bike theft.

So, can I walk into a police department with the serial number and get an answer, or will I have to just stay away from anything that sets my spider sense off? As always, thanks for your wisdom.
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Old 06-04-10, 06:25 PM
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You verify the serial with the maker first, then the police.

You must realize that you may be donating your time and money for this cause though.... or just live with the fact you may be buying something stolen.
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Old 06-04-10, 06:43 PM
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It turns out that Walmart has a full-suspension mountain bike for less than $150. And this is one of those. So, the reason I had to suspect that it might be stolen, is a mistake on my part. Of course, it's also not such a good deal, and I'll keep looking for something more appropriate.

Do the manufacturers know when their bikes are stolen? Or do you check first with them to make sure the person emails you the right serial number, instead of making one up?

I've bought one used bike before, from the shop. If I'm going to buy one from an individual ... there's about a month until my friend's birthday, so I'm waiting for a deal for now. But I do want to make sure I don't buy a stolen bike. Over the years, two of mine have been stolen, and its devastating. I don't want to have any part in doing that to anyone else.
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Old 06-04-10, 07:07 PM
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craigslist also has a lot of overpriced XMart bikes, watch out for them

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Old 06-04-10, 07:58 PM
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If the deal is too good to be true, then you might as well buy it. Go up to buy it, get a receipt (just write up a quick bill of sale) It's just for your tax records, you see ... Have it written up before you buy the bike, leave the price and seller blank and fill that out later if needed. If the guy is unwilling to do that, it's a big red flag that it's stolen -- but even if it is, they'll probably do it -- after all, you've got cash in front of them, and they'll just put down the wrong name.

Be sure to print out the CL ad or save it before you buy the bike, so you have a record of that before you buy it.

Once you have the bike, if you think it might be stolen, get the serial number, call the police with it and ask. You can also check the national bike registry. If it turns out to be stolen, give the police all the information you've got on the guy who sold it to you, or give it to the owner. (The CL ad, where you met the guy, what he looked like, his license plate if he drove, any emails (including headers), caller ID information, etc. -- there's quite a bit.)

If it really was a great deal, the owner might be willing to give you what you paid for it (and perhaps more) -- but you'll really want to be able to prove that you aren't the one who stole it in the first place. If he doesn't, well, you're out of luck -- it's still his bike, you can't make him pay for it -- but it's a risk you take when you find a really good deal.

You could always try to check the serial number before you buy it -- but if it's really that great of a deal, it'll be gone before you're done. And just because something is a smokin' deal -- that doesn't mean it's stolen. Lots of people just don't realize what their bikes are worth, and in that case you need to be the first to respond to the ad. (And to be fair, lots of what look like smokin' deals turn out to be not so great -- you've got to know what you're getting into.)
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Old 06-04-10, 08:15 PM
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I'm not sure exactly how the stolen bike market works, but In my experience with bike theft, they usually arn't stupid enough to sell stolen bikes "as is" on craigslist. Its usually more of a chop shop type operation, so beware obvious "frankenbikes" with high end this and low end that, missing key parts, etc. I have my stolen and recovered old shwinn S-10 full suspension MTB still, and man, did they ever do a number on it.

as for advice on finding a cheap "beater" commuter: Old mid end rigid MTB's are quite easy to find cheap still, or free. If they have a broken STI shifter or a rusty chain or somthing people will often just give em away. I picked up an early ninetys Cro-moly MARIN with full shimano 400LX off the side of the road just the other day, needs a new chain and rear shifter, and some "new" rubber, but otherwise a great bike. Free.
If road bikes are more her thing, if you look often enough, older entry level road bikes can sometimes be had at reasonable prices, but by and large anything "vintage" with drop bars is selling at an inflated price these days.

As for wally world bikes and their ilk, any price is too much, only suckers would pay any ammount of money for one of those things, esp. the full suspension variety.
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Old 06-05-10, 07:43 AM
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I disagree on the value of WalMart bikes.

In general if they are fully functioning a $95 WalMart bike is worth $40.

I occasionally buy,fix and sell bikes. A WalMart bike will have to be selling for about $25 for me to buy it, or $20 needing an innertube patched.

They are functional bikes.

The real downside to WAL Mart bikes is many have suspensions, and suspended bikes are out of fashion now.Folks have rediscovered that with wide 2" 26' 40 psi tires, you don't need a front suspension in the city. In fact, the cheapo front forks make bikes a little less stable.
Now a good fork-something with adjustable preload and adj compression damping- means a bike isn't a WALMART bike, and it is worth buying.

Walmart bikes are OK- Just don't pay more than $40 for a "good' one.

Charlie

PS Walmart bikes are commonly stolen-there are so many of them.
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Old 06-08-10, 02:05 PM
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The only good thing about a walmart bike is the 90 day return policy. I tried.
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Old 06-08-10, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by SCROUDS
The only good thing about a walmart bike is the 90 day return policy. I tried.
The large number of people (perhaps larger than the number of "serious" cyclists) riding theirs everyday, be they children or people who can't afford a better bike (or a car), would beg to differ.

https://www.bicycling.com/article/1,6...39-1-P,00.html is a good read.

And really, some of the Walmart bikes aren't that bad.

And yes, they're stolen a lot. It seems like the shiner a bike is, the more Goodwill asks for it, and the more often it's stolen -- quality often doesn't have a lot to do with it. It's how clean and shiny it is.
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Old 06-08-10, 08:29 PM
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I bought a mongoose paver from wally world. Took it home, lubed and adjusted it. Filled up the tires then they exploded. Bought a spare tube and had pacific ship me a replacement. A week later, I snapped the pedals going up a small hill in florida. Somewhere along the way, the water bottle cage broke off on one side. Just as it rolled to the 30 day mark, the freewheel seized up.

I'm currently riding on the sears bike I had as a kid before I could drive. Tore it apart and built it up anew, and spent the $130 I did on the wally special in parts to make the old rigid mtn bike city friendly. I understand not being able to afford a better bike.
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Old 06-11-10, 12:45 PM
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Thanks for all the info folks, especially the warnings about xMart bikes. I don't begrudge anyone who rides one ... but I'm going to avoid them myself. My friend who'll be getting one of these does some of her own mechanical work herself, but I'm pretty inept, and don't really trust myself to evaluate them, and not miss something. The pedal snapping off is a good example ... I'm not going to inspect every joint and moving part, and even if I did, I'm not sure what I should be looking for.

I think I may have found a nice commuter fixie; it seems like something that's been loved in its time, and probably spent the last few years in the corner of a garage. My friend would enjoy giving it a new life, but wouldn't be heart broken if a crack head stole the seat, or just threw up on it. These are the sorts of fears that are preventing her from using her own bike. And I have no reason to think this one was stolen.
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