Stolen bike spotters guide – time to check those chassis numbers...

Published: 23 March 2011

This week's MCN – out Wednesday, March 23 – contains a crucial two pages for anyone contemplating buying a used bike.

Following the police raid of Brands Hatch, where 16 racers had their bikes seized, MCN has produced a pull-out poster showing what genuine chassis and engine numbers look like for each manufacturer.

Checking the fonts on the poster against those of the bike you're hoping to buy will give a good indication if the bike is a ringer (ie, stolen bike built round legit frame with a legit V5 document) or has been cloned (stolen bike with fake chassis and engine numbers, no V5) – see MCN for full explanations.

The cost of unwittingly buying a stolen bike is potentially huge. For a start, your insurance is invalid because you are riding someone else's bike (not knowing that is not a defence).

So, if you have a crash, you will be in trouble because a) you won't be able to recoup the cost of any damage b) the police will seize the bike because it's stolen and give it to the rightful owner c) you will be prosecuted for not having any valid insurance.

Plus of course there's the risk that your bike was built so ineptly by thieves that it caused the crash in the first place.

Feeling paranoid? We all should be. Time to learn the difference between a Honda and Suzuki font. Read more in this week's MCN, out Wednesday March 23.