Online marketplaces such as Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp may make it easy to clear out the clutter, but they come with a serious darkside: they are a haven for selling stolen property, especially stolen bikes. We’ve been trying to get online marketplaces to take action on this for years (even gathering over 50,000 signatures on a petition to Craigslist and eBay). It’s a rare week where we don’t get email from our users asking what to do when they spot their stolen bike being sold online, and unfortunately, these marketplaces do little or nothing to help.
That’s why when 7 from sprocket.bike reached out to us about partnering to help create a more trustworthy online bicycle marketplace, we were thrilled to help out. Now, each bike posted on sprocket.bike clearly indicates if a serial number is provided (always be cautious if the seller won’t share the serial number!) and serial numbers are checked against our registry to make sure it isn’t reported stolen with us.
We chatted with 7 to share more about sprocket.bike’s mission.
529: Tell us about sprocket.bike – what is it all about?
7: Sprocket is the worlds first mobile bicycle marketplace where you can sell and buy bicycles, bicycle parts! As a bike app built for riders by riders one of our main differentiators is serial number verification from partners, like 529 Garage, and other security measures which allow buyers to better understand which items are legit.
529: Where can I buy or sell a bike with Sprocket? Are you global?
7: Yes, we have taken time to make the app work everywhere on earth you can ride a bike. Our biggest markets are in English-speaking US, India and UK. That being said its exciting to see bikes pop-up occasionally for sale from such far away places as Singapore, Philippines, Nigeria or even the Cook Islands! 🙌
529: Does it cost anything to sell or buy a bike on Sprocket?
7: The first sale is always free and after that you get a free one for every friend who signs up through our referral system. Because we are funded by riders rather than Wallstreet, we do charge $1 ( or less, for example ₹17 in India on Android ) which goes to development costs. By comparison with all the competitors we know of we are way cheaper because they either take a cut on a % scale of anywhere from tens to hundreds of dollars or sell your private data ( i.e. Facebook ). With Sprocket you pay us to maintain our platform for you and take 100% of whatever you negotiate with your buyers!
529: How did you get started?
7: Being an avid reader I kept coming across books warning about an impending climate catastrophe dating back all the way to the 70s! It became quickly apparent that modern oil & automotive interests have done nothing since then but cover up and dispute climate science in order to rake in ever bigger profits. It occured to me that founding a business to remake the world better than I found it by furthering the advent of mass cycling is simply the right thing to do. In 2014 I started the app as a bicycle specs database, and by 2016 pivoted into it being a marketplace as I had so many inquiries to help people find a great deal on their first used ~$200 bike!
529: What’s your background? Have you always been active in the cycling community?
7: 2007-9 Recession is when I really seriously got into cycling for the first time and so did a lot of other riders. For me specifically a Yahoo! developer totalled my car, so I decided to “try” cycling and have been happily car free for ~13 years now! I live in the SF Bay Area and am very fortunate to be in an area with such a strong bike community, bicycle industry and excellent year round biking weather. By far my favourite thing to do is attend the massive community Bike Party rides which occur every month in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. Highly recommended and if you’re looking for more info they each have a website and a presence on Facebook. One of the things that really inspired the app are bicycle co-operatives where you can go and learn how to repair your bike or help others. Thats another thing I highly recommend and they’re all over the United States so finding one near you should be fairly straightforward 🙂
On a professional level I am an App Designer and have designed interfaces for over a decade now for many Silicon Valley startups, some of which you might be familiar with such as: Lyft, SoundHound and Verizon. I’ve always wanted to be an artist as far back as I can remember. It just so happened that while I was attending Cogswell College to become a Video Game Concept Artist both the iPhone and the App Store came out and changed everything. One of the three simultaneous internships I had in parallel with school ended up shipping the #1 Game on Play Store in 2011 called Blast Monkeys. This really showed me it was possible to be successful as an interface designer and led to a passion designing apps that solved people’s problems. Tying this back to the app; I’ve thought about many other ways I could contribute to the bicycle community from politics to local bike shop ownership. I ultimately decided to build an app because I have a unique set of skills from already doing so for many businesses over the years.
529: Why should I sell my used bike with Sprocket instead of eBay or OfferUp?
7: Why should one drive for Lyft or Uber only, and not both? This isn’t really an either/or question and people who have bicycles should be free to sell on as many platforms simultaneously as they feel comfortable. To that extent we are another ( al-be-it specialized ) platform to post on, which increases your chance to sell faster and at a higher price!
Most of these platforms are generalized so they are looking to help transact in everything from TVs to Cars. Sprocket on the other hand is becoming the other must-have bicycle app on your phone along side with Strava because its really a platform that comes from the bicycle community to solve specific needs our community. These include preventing bike theft, making it easier to find your first bike or figuring out compatibility for repairs, maintenance and upgrades. As I mentioned above you can also earn 100% of what you negotiate with us where as all of these other platforms want a cut or for you to sell your private data ( which we securely protect ) Most recently we added bounties on Android, which allows you to post specific parts or bikes you’re looking to complete your build and which may be hard to find with the breakdown in international supply chains. It is because of this specialization that we continue to focus on the needs of the bicycle community only and become more robust the more riders use and share our platform!
529: How does partnering with 529 Garage help?
7: I see a future where bike theft and bike locks will be a thing of the past, and you can leave your bike anywhere without worrying about it getting touched. A big component of that is the 529 Garage serial verification platform. Having a bicycle registered immediately upon acquisition allows its ownership to be tracked, making it really easy to prove ownership, invalidate stolen sales on online marketplaces and aids in a surprisingly high percentage of recoveries. Once serial number verification and other security solutions become widespread enough it will become increasingly hard to steal a bike and get anything worthwhile for it, without drawing attention for attempting to get money for it offline. If you have bicycles you have not registered online I highly/strongly recommend putting your serials in 529 Garage asap – after all when police find stolen bikes this is the first place they check to find contact information associated with the serial.
529: Since not all bikes are registered, what other steps do you take to keep the bikes being sold legitimate?
7: The number of security measures on our platform continues to grow and evolve. Our system is very privacy-centric. The more security info a seller gives to increase trust, the faster they will be able to sell at a higher price. Sharing a trustworthy profile photo of your face sends a strong signal to the buyer about who you are and what to expect when meeting up vs hiding it entirely. Selecting Strava, a new auth provider were adding, now shows that you’re a part of the cycling community with a badge. Worth mentioning were working on being able to import Strava ride history so you can show all the rides with the bike, and that you didn’t just steal it yesterday. In regards to location if you set it to a zipcode its possible to see what city its in, deduct some safety information based on that city’s reputation. We even added the ability to tap through to maps app to see where it’s at in relation to you. Serial number verification with 529 Garage is a big one, and you can also verify with Bike Index registered serials. In addition even if you do not have your serial registered in one of these two databases it can still be added and render a filterable “Serial provided” tag that lets you look it up on your own and verify its the same during the purchase. More obviously we make item photos mandatory and its sometimes easy to deduce from them when a sale might be illegitimate. In addition to all this our news tab shows a real-time feed or bicycles reported stolen so you can always keep an eye out for other peoples rides seen in Sprocket, and they can do the same for you.
529: Have you had any success stories preventing stolen bikes from being sold?
7: We put privacy first and don’t track sales or shipping data through our app so it makes it impossible to track that stuff. Because of the security measures already listed above and the fact that you cant put up a bicycle with a serial number already marked as stolen I believe we’ve prevented quite a few stolen bikes from being listed at all for sure!
529: How do you think we can work together to get more people to recognise the value of registration?
7: If more bicycle shops and bicycle software get registration embedded as a first-order-of-business feature it will make it easier for everyone to make sure bikes are registered from the first owner onwards. Cross-linking between registration services and transactional platforms like Sprocket really helps spread awareness and were happy to already be doing that. Working with some of the manufacturers in the industry to integrate their proprietary serial databases with bicycle registration databases can also be cool as a way of checking for counterfeits and protecting frames even before sale. Something I would be personally excited for is having manufacturers provide parts with unique part serials that could identify if parts came off a stolen bicycle as well as having serials in scannable RFIDs.
529: We’d love to see that as well. Thanks 7 for taking the time to chat with us, and for building a more secure marketplace!
Each week 529’s very own Annie Rhyder answers your questions about bike theft and bike security. To get your question featured, drop her a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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