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Does the serial number tell you the model of the bike?

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In general, not unless you're the manufacturer.

The serial number is applied to the frame early in manufacturing, and the frame can be specced out differently, often with variations on the name but not always. For example the same frame could be used for a hybrid with rigid forks and a suspension hybrid; these would be unlikely to share a model name.

The manufacturer could choose to encode the frame model in the serial number, but could just assign them sequentially. What manufacturers in general often do is encode the production line, mould, product division, or factory location in the beginning of the serial number, with the rest sequential. Or something similar.

The serial number is only associated with the model in a database once the bike is finished.

Of course there are exceptions to this.

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  • Even if you present the serial # to the manufacturer, I wonder if they will a) be bothered to respond, or b) perhaps have lost the information due to incomplete records transfer after corporate restructuring, or perhaps records not digitized, or even c) maybe didn't keep comprehensive records, especially in older times
    – Weiwen Ng
    Apr 17, 2023 at 15:35
  • @WeiwenNg (a) probably not, at least for big manufacturers (b) for modern stuff they should be digital and searchable in case it's necessary for product liability. Paper records are a hassle so digital may be all there is for all but the smallest framebuilder. But as you say, data migration is an issue, even just to new software. In another field I've seen this (c) they probably kept them, but the books have probably been discarded. I've even got a bike from the last 10 or so years on which I can't find a serial number for anti-theft registration. Somehow I doubt the manufacturer will care.
    – Chris H
    Apr 17, 2023 at 15:40

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