We often get questions on bicycles.stackexchange about identifying a bicycles manufacturer, model, make, and year. Often these questions are downvoted or closed -- usually with a comment attached to them that it's not necessary to know the exact model/make/year of a bicycle if you want to fix, repair, or ride your bike.

Why should owners not care about the model/make/year of their bicycle?

Especially when it comes to less expensive bikes (aka BSOs) and BMX bicycles?

This is intended as a canonical question that we can point closed questions to.

Also cf: How can I tell what year my bike was made?

  • 1
    I appreciate the thought and logic behind this question, but fear it is significantly opinion based. – Argenti Apparatus Feb 2 at 21:09
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    I vacillated between making this a meta question (which we could also link to) or a main question. We’re getting flooded by identify my rando BMX questions and we need some way of telling folks that it just doesn’t matter if you don’t know the exact year model and make. – RoboKaren Feb 2 at 21:13
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    This is a good question, but is more appropriate for Bicycles Meta – Rider_X Feb 2 at 22:32
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    @Rider_X - I think its appropriate here - the audience for this question are the ones flooding us with "Identify my bike" who would not visit Meta. Meta has bicycles.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/881/… for further discussion on if we should accept these questions or not. – mattnz Feb 3 at 2:17
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    I too think that the premise behind this question is wrong. There is no reason why it's wrong to be interested in the make/model/year, the problem is that most of the questions are unanswerable. – ojs Feb 3 at 10:03
up vote 13 down vote accepted

The problem with the question is not the owner's interest in the answer - it is clearly there. The problem is that the answer has almost no value for the community of this site:

  • most generic bikes are hard to identify to begin with
  • most successful identification will be based on a photo which cannot be used to answer the same question again because questions and answers are centred around searchable text and tags.

In total, there is too little to gain from answers for the community in the short and in the long run to make them worthwhile. Hence, they should be banned in my opinion.

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    I agree but this doesn't answer the question. The question is "Why shouldn't owners care about the make of their bike?" not "Why shouldn't we answer 'what make is this bike?' questions?" – David Richerby Feb 3 at 1:53
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    Christian did answer the question perfectly "it is clearly there" => they should care! It's just the community who doesn't care. – Francisco Presencia Feb 3 at 3:49
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    @FranciscoPresencia the community would certainly answer if one were available. Its definitely about bicycles, just very hard to give a good answer. Perhaps this info should be added to the tour? – Criggie Feb 3 at 4:58
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    Like @ojs noted, the premise of the question is flawed. You can't convince people to not care about a question because you can only speculate about their motivation to ask it. I am no saying that the question is pointless but I am arguing that this is not the right place to find answers about the identity of a bike. – Christian Lindig Feb 3 at 11:36
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    Looks like someone flagged this answer as "low quality because its length and content". Anyone want to admit and explain? – ojs Feb 3 at 23:36

Most questions are based on a need for knowledge about what parts to use or curiosity. The latter do not make suitable questions for SE sites and will normally be closed.

For the former, fortunately the bicycle industry is fairly standardized (even if there are many and evolving standards), so knowledge of the bike make/model/manufacturer is rarely helpful in determining any maintenance issues and parts requirements. Ultimately the industry is dominated by a few parts manufacturers and a very large number of "Bike manufacturers", who largely build a frame to the standards of the day and attach components.

In most cases, a better question that will lead to more practical answers for the community should revolve around the specific problem that needs to be addressed. Photos of areas of a problem are almost always all that is needed to identify what components and work is required. In rare cases its helps to know the bike manufacturer and model as some parts are very specific (e.g. Bottom bracket widths)

In cases of vintage bikes and none traditional bikes, knowing the bike manufacturer/make/model and year can help track down old and obsolete parts, and the real problem is solved by knowing this information. These are valid "Identify my bike" questions.

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    I think there is a third reason: popular culture has convinced us that any old comic book, bike or anything could be a valuable collectible if you can just identify it and find the right buyer. Most vintage BMXes are not, but in the asker's mind there is just a slight chance this one was on screen in E.T. or Stranger Things and just lost and ended up in someone's garage sale, and asking is free anyway. – ojs Feb 3 at 9:57

I think an owner should care more about what generation their bike and groupset are from.

I've successfully fitted a 2000's 105 groupset to a 1980s steel 10 speed, mostly because the groupset was moved over complete. Had I been mixing an 80s deraileur with a 2000 shifter, that would have been less successful.

So there are two motivations for "what year is it?" questions

  1. Compatibility with stuff
  2. Thinking of their bike like a car, where the year model is more related to monetary value.

So to the asker - you should care more that your bike is

  • Safe to ride
  • Comfortable to ride (fewer aches)
  • Reliable (breaks down less)
  • Functions well (no misshifts etc)

...rather than nailing down what year each part is from.

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    They're usually BMXes. Do single-speed and one-piece cranks count as a groupset? :-) – David Richerby Feb 3 at 11:26
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    The cranks can be Ashtabula or euro with different sized pedal threads, freewheel can be ISO vs other thread vs cassette driver, etc... – ojs Feb 3 at 23:32

I think that the question is appropriate if it can be answered in a way that helps other community members answer the question for themselves.

So if someone asks, "I just inherited this bike from some relative," with a serial number supplied, then anyone in the know about the different serial numbering schemes can explain how the serial number allows the bike to be identified.

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    Serial numbers, in general don't allow the bike to be identified. Unless you know the manufacturer (or a short list of possible manufacturers), the serial number is useless. And please note that this is not meta. The question here is "Why shouldn't people care about the make/model/year of their bike?" not "Should we accept questions of that form?" – David Richerby Feb 3 at 23:01
  • Looks like this was too flagged as "low-quality because of its length and content". Seriously, disagreeing is not a reason to flagging as low quality. – ojs Feb 3 at 23:38
  • @ojs As with the other one, I flagged as "not an answer" for the reason I explained in my comment. It literally doesn't answer, or even address, the question. Flagging because of disagreement would indeed be inappropriate, but why do you assume that anybody did that? – David Richerby Feb 4 at 11:44
  • It might help to flag the question rather the answers. Who are we to tell somebody not to care about a question they have? – Christian Lindig Feb 4 at 12:39
  • Looks like we, as community, are. And also using "duplicate" in some sense not known to dictionaries. – ojs Feb 4 at 19:54

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