I am selling a bike to someone I don't know from Craigslist. I expect that the prospective purchaser will want to test ride the bike before making the purchase.

How can I prevent them from riding away with my bike during a test ride?

  • 2
    Do you have a car?
    – UKMonkey
    May 30 '19 at 9:06

The simplest answers are ask for their ID, or for their car keys if they arrive by car. There are plenty of other options on various forums like



  • 4
    Problem there is that you don't trust them with your bike, but you're asking them to trust you with something much more valuable. May 28 '19 at 17:25
  • 20
    @DavidRicherby my ID would be much more valuable to me than a used bike, but not to the used-bike seller. There have been a number of times when I've been asked to leave my ID for security while handling or trying out valuable items.
    – jeffB
    May 28 '19 at 20:03
  • 6
    Clearly this all depends on where you live. In the UK the police will never do anything more than provide a reference number for the insurance, so it's up to the seller to protect themselves. Unless of course you say it was hate crime but let's not open that can of worms. There are also several factors to how much a buyer will value their ID: cost and inconvenience of replacement, risk of "ID theft fraud", perhaps if dealing with a dodgy seller attempting to flog a stolen bike etc (naturally I mean this in a general case, OP please do not feel offended).
    – pateksan
    May 28 '19 at 21:26
  • 9
    But.. if the buyer comes in a car, can't you just stand next to it? Even if he flees, he will certainly come back to get his car
    – frarugi87
    May 29 '19 at 8:37
  • 14
    @9ilsdx9rvj0lo Could you specify some of these countries? This is the first time I hear about this.
    – HAEM
    May 29 '19 at 13:29

Cash in hand. They give you the purchase price, in cash, and it sits in your pocket while they do the test ride.

  • 10
    This absolutely works if the meeting place is the seller's home/office. If meeting at a public place, the buyer may not be very willing. What if the buyer thinks the seller might be trying to sell a lemon for a high price? (No offense to OP, just pointing out the potential issue). The goal of test ride is not achieved in that case May 29 '19 at 7:30
  • Meeting in a neutral or public place is a good security tip so worth bearing @Kiran ‘s comment in mind. But buyer would be able to inspect the bike thoroughly beforehand and only hand over cash when confident the bike is (sufficiently) not a lemon
    – Swifty
    May 29 '19 at 12:40
  • 26
    What prevents the OP from just walking off with the money, content that they have "sold" the bike? As a buyer, I would not fork over the full purchase price before a test ride. You've just flipped the problem around, as now the buyer needs some assurance that the seller won't screw them over. May 29 '19 at 13:26
  • 1
    @NuclearWang nothing stops them walking off, of course, just like nothing stops the buyer cycling off. However, the question is asked from the viewpoint of an honest seller, and this answer is the only one which protects the honest seller fully, as both parties hold equal value at all times. If seller holds the cash while the buyer has the bike, then the bike cannot, by definition, be stolen from them.
    – Swifty
    May 30 '19 at 10:08
  • 7
    @Swifty I see your point, but the suggest isn't very useful if reasonable buyers won't agree to it - I know I wouldn't. The reason the buyer needs a test ride is to determine if the bike is worth the asking price or not, so they have no way of knowing beforehand if "both parties hold equal value at all times". If the buyer returns from the test ride and doesn't want the bike, then they will have put down more collateral than the bike is worth. May 30 '19 at 12:30

If you have another bike that you are not selling, you can ride next to the person test riding the bike to make sure they don't take off with it. If you can't do that, then I'd suggest you have the person test riding give you something valuable to them so they come back to claim it.

  • 14
    Go with them is excellent advice - especially if they're not familiar with your local roads. Challenge them to a local strava segment, and let them beat you just slightly :)
    – Criggie
    May 29 '19 at 0:15
  • Not sure about this. How does supervising them prevent them from riding away? Even if you are confident you could keep up with them when they make a break for it, then what? Most places don't legally allow you to defend your property with harmful force, so you're not allowed to catch up to them and knock them off the bike. It'd be harder for them to flee, but probably still possible for them to get away with it.
    – Jared K
    May 29 '19 at 18:21
  • 5
    @JaredK I agree it's not a bulletproof method, but many bike thefts are crimes of opportunity. I'd expect that most people who would steal the bike while unsupervised would be much less likely to do so if the owner is right next to them. At a certain point, a free used bike isn't worth the trouble/risk required to steal it, and accompanying the potential thief raises the amount of trouble/risk significantly. May 29 '19 at 18:33
  • 2
    @JaredK For what it's worth, most states in the US allow you to defend your property with reasonable force. Sticky legal situation to defend, but not illegal in and of itself. May 29 '19 at 19:57
  • 3
    Having a long test ride together is not uncommon when selling high end road bikes. Cyclists often meet for rides anyway. The buyer has the extra benefit of having someone who knows the bike well and helps setting it up.
    – gschenk
    May 30 '19 at 21:06

Go to a Skatepark, usually there you have access limited by one or two doors, they are usually free, it's a good place to test a whip, you have mostly good visibility and riders, and depending on your location it may even have guards.

In this kind of eviroments if you shout "thief" or "help" skaters and bikers will help in my experience, they like their skate parks to have a good rep and they tend to push away sketchy people, altough YMMV.

  • 3
    This solution is more bike-dependent. Test riding a mountain or 'cross bike at a skate park may work well enough, but the same is likely not true for a time trial bike.
    – Altom
    May 29 '19 at 19:15
  • What kind of place has indoor skateparks?? This is news to me!
    – Clonkex
    May 31 '19 at 3:24
  • @Clonkex - Scotland. It does occasionally rain here...
    – Rory Alsop
    May 31 '19 at 8:34
  • @Clonkex We have them in Chile and they are gated. I believe a couple are indoors and a bunch more are open but some of those are in bad shape.
    – dmb
    May 31 '19 at 12:04
  • 1
    Similar option is to go to a fenced parking lot. In my city there are a lot of parking lots with just one exit. Jun 5 '19 at 11:08

I've just sold a bike. The buyer left their bike locked to the fence next to myself place. I offered to test ride as long and far as they consider necessary. If they wouldn't have turned up I should have waited there until they recovered their bike.

If that would have taken unusually long I should have put my own lock at their bike and inform them via email or text message.

  • 1
    +1, especially for "If that would have taken unusually long I should have put my own lock at their bike and inform them via email or text message." May 31 '19 at 11:58

A lot of people are saying to take the ID, but isn't checking the ID sufficient? Besides, there are other things, like a bank statement, which confirm the name and on top of that their address.

I guess if you live close to the buyer you could ask to meet them at theirs. You see them leaving their house, how exactly are they going to hide from you?

Another idea is to pick a good spot. A tennis court for example would be naturally closed off, stand next to the only gate and voila, they'd have to use force to get away with the bike.

Also, sometimes just the good-old first impression is sufficient. You can base the decision of whether you will let them try it out on that.

  • 4
    Some decent suggestions here, except for the last one. Most people thought Ted Bundy was an OK guy - if the average person can't spot a psychopathic serial killer, what makes you think you can determine a bike thief from a brief interaction? Also, what is a "bike statement"? May 29 '19 at 14:46
  • @NuclearWang: I think the idea here is that if you know their legal name (from just checking their ID), you can report them to the police if they don't come back. But agreed, the other ideas are much better. May 29 '19 at 20:57
  • 1
    "but isn't checking the ID sufficient" no - going to the police and saying "this person took my bike - here's their ID" has a lot more weight to it than "Joe took my bike, I know it was Joe because he showed me ID"....
    – UKMonkey
    May 30 '19 at 9:06
  • @UKMonkey I don't know, it feels like the name would have been mentioned in some online exchange prior to the selling. However, nothing stops a person from registering with false names on selling portals, which is why I suggested to confirm it is their name. Although here in UK they wouldn't care whether I did have their id or not, from my experience they don't really catch thieves anymore.
    – Tryb Ghost
    May 30 '19 at 10:18
  • 1
    @NuclearWang That's what happens when I want to write bank but the questions is about bikes..
    – Tryb Ghost
    May 30 '19 at 10:19

Make them bring their car and a friend (partner, familymember) and make the friend wait with you in their car. Then they have to be violent to get rid of you (forcing you out of the car) which means they have commited a much more serious crime than not returning a motorcycle.

  • 12
    Just to nitpick this a bit what would you do if that person said I'm going to get something to eat / have an emergency or just generally walk off for no reason? It's not like you can legally detain them.
    – PeterJ
    May 29 '19 at 12:18
  • @PeterJ: You combine this idea with the cash-in-hand idea. The buyer's friend is there to hold the money and prevent the opposite problem. So if they want to leave, say "ok, I'll hold the buyer's money until they get back". Establish up front that you're not ok with having both the bike and the cash leave your presence, so you don't need to worry about trusting anyone. May 29 '19 at 21:04
  • 3
    As another nitpick, what happens if the buyer rides off with the bike, never to be seen again? You can't hold the friend hostage or force them to pay for the bike, so you're just standing there with a random stranger who's saying "yeah I don't know sorry about that." May 30 '19 at 1:35
  • @ZachLipton Then as PeterCordes says, if they've got the buyer's money in their pocket then you insist they hand it over. If they won't then you call the police, because the friend is an accessory to theft.
    – Graham
    May 30 '19 at 6:41
  • 3
    @Graham the other person may simply deny you the money and walk away. If there's malicious intent involved in using the bike in the first place why would they wait for the police to show up? If the police would miraculously appear out of nowhere they could plausibly deny any involvement in the matter.
    – gschenk
    May 30 '19 at 20:37

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