Bike registration is outdated

We need to step back and take a hard look at the scalability and impact of bike registration. What it is today and what it needs to become to really combat bike theft…

Currently, there are many ways to record your bike details online in various databases, whether with specialist bike and asset registration initiatives or with specific bike manufacturers, brands, and insurers. Some initiatives make their data available to the police.

However, most of these initiatives are relatively standalone, owned by private companies that might shut down at any time and don’t necessarily consider the entire lifecycle of bike ownership. Nor might any be able to pivot to meet additional needs and technological advancements without starting from scratch with collecting new data.

At a high level, we believe that manufacturing, buying, selling, and maintaining bikes (and parts) should be at the heart of bike registration. Registration being an instrument to tackle bike theft will naturally flow from this.

Marketplaces and history verification

Making it hard or very undesirable to purchase a used bike (or part) without history will dampen the black market and reduce the incentive to steal bikes. While registration alone won’t end bike theft, it can have a significant impact.

Firstly, official online marketplaces should provide a bike history checker tool, provenance scoring through integration with one or multiple third parties.

Bikes with history should be more attractive to owners than bikes without. The bikes holding greater value with a full history than those with little or none. There is a lot of synergy with the car industry here…

Bike history, including servicing and upgrade purchases, should be unwavering, verified by trusted third parties (manufacturers, shops, and other organisations). You can’t just rely on an individual registering their bike and taking their word regarding ownership and the bike’s history. If you do, the provenance ‘point system’ should be far lower.

Even if a bike is sold separately to an official marketplace, there should be a mechanism for a buyer to thoroughly and independently check the bike history, as you would with a car.

Person verification and safety

Due to the volume of stolen bikes in circulation, it’s hard to trust sellers online, and most people don’t really want to meet face-to-face due to safety risks. Ideally, there would be an ID verification check, securely managed by a third party (so sellers show to buyers as ‘approved’), with a final digital handshake regarding the release of payment funds and registration update.

Away from online marketplaces, a setup like Escrow (releasing funds when both parties are happy) might be sufficient, but it ideally needs to include the bike ownership transfer in an automated manner.

How do we do this?

At a high level, we believe that bike details should be separated from personal details, and bike registration (providing ownership details) should not be compulsory. But what should be compulsory is the bike/frame (and ideally parts) registration.

Splitting data into two main layers:

Bike Registration Data - the future by Stolen Ride

Inner data

Firstly, the inner data layer, being the core bike details with compulsory registration when a bike is manufactured and built, linked through the frame/serial numbers.

Just like the car industry, it should include all the specifications of the bike (or e-bike) all the way down to the original colour of the bike frame. If this is not possible at the manufacturing stage, then it should be at the first point of sale (or next sale point, if pre-existing).

The bike/part data storage could be decentralised (you might have heard of terms such as Web3.0 and Blockchain) on a distributed ledger that is tamper-proof and does not fully rely on a single authority. Or stored by a not-for-profit organisation backed up by governmental and international layers to ensure its longevity and governance.

Specific access should be granted to qualifying manufacturers, shops, and other organisations to ‘add’ data. Every time a bike is in for a service, for example, a trusted shop could add service details which are officially time-stamped and linked to the frame/serial number.

Or if a bike is stolen (or claimed against), an insurance company (or police) could add to the record. And when a bike is sold, that should also add a timestamp to say that the bike is under new ownership, which adds to the ‘number of previous owners’.

The inner data layer should not include any personal identifier, it’s purely about the bike.

Outer data

Secondly, the outer layer of data, the personal details of each owner, can remain with private registration companies in an editable and compliant format without being visible to new owners.

This layer can be optional but should be encouraged and temporarily tied to purchases and privately to the inner data layer to build provenance scoring.

Extra elements can be added to it, such as an independent bike shop condition checks, bike part upgrades (verifying those purchases which also have the added benefit to check parts are real and also not recalled) and time-stamped photos.

Innovation and data portability

The ‘outer data layer’ could provide a host of business opportunities for private companies within a competitive environment. Each company could offer benefits to a user throughout the whole lifecycle of owning a bike (essentially anything that saves a user time, money, or benefits their overall experience of cycling).

Users should not be tied into any company and should be able to carry their data to a provider of their choice. We also don’t believe that the police should promote just one service as this will act as a blocker for innovation.

Conclusion

An enlarged second-hand bike market will add new potential income streams to shops, brands/manufacturers, and open the door for newcomers to the cycling industry. Not to mention the environmental benefits of a circular economy.

What we have covered in this post is very high-level and does not dive into technical detail and nuances. We do believe that now is an important time to reinvent bike registration, start a conversation, and really look at the complete lifecycle of owning a bike.