Where to Buy a Used, Not-Stolen Bike

Thanks to Bicycling Magazine for this article on Perfecto!

Many cyclists want to buy used bikes, but don’t have many good—or at least trustworthy—options. You can find gear organized by industry pros at face-to-face markets—think swap meets, sporting goods consignment stores, and a few bike shops that sell second-hand bikes (like Portland’s Sellwood Cycle and Boulder’s Community Cycles)— but the lion’s share of used bike sales start online, through Craigslist and eBay.

While the goods are cheaper than new, there are risks: fraud and counterfeit, for two, and the possibility that you’re buying from a thief who’s using the Internet to anonymously fence stolen goods. Aside from the “ick” factor of buying a stolen bike (not to mention potential safety issues that might arise during any in-person transaction), criminal law provides few remedies for buyers of stolen goods, which, when found, are often confiscated without compensation. A few weeks ago, Rob Lawson, a tech entrepreneur in Los Angeles, launched a website that he hopes will change things.

Perfecto is billed as the world’s first online marketplace for used bikes—exclusively—focused not just on connecting buyers and sellers, but also on helping ensure that all sales are legit. That’s an ambitious goal; we caught up with Lawson to learn how he plans to make it happen, and the considerable challenges inherent in using technology to attempt to create a theft-free marketplace.

“I’ve ridden a bike all my life and had bikes stolen when I worked in London, in New York City, and here in California,” Lawson tellsBicycling. “My kids have lost two bikes each. I’m very familiar with the personal pain of bike theft.

But it was buying a used bike (a Specialized Roubaix Pro) that gave him the idea to start Perfecto. “I ended up connecting with the [owner] on Strava, and we were able to talk about the bike and where he’d ridden it and how much,” says Lawson. “There was a human connection that built trust on my side that I wasn’t buying a stolen bike, and he was more comfortable selling it to someone who he’d gotten to know. So the question became: How could you use data to produce a market that was better for cyclists?”

To shop on Perfecto, buyers and sellers must create an account. The preferred method is to link your Strava account, which provides a kind of used-bike report, because Perfecto auto-fills any fields you created on Strava for make, model, and components, and—of course—how far and where the bike was ridden. Users can also log in through Facebook, or create a dedicated Perfecto account.  

Perfecto also prompts you to enter your bike’s serial number, which it runs against several databases of stolen bikes, like BikeIndex. Lawson declines to elaborate upon which law enforcement databases Perfecto accesses as well, to deter thieves.

Listings will look familiar to any user of online marketplaces: a brief description, photos, and specs. But the seller’s name and city location are also listed, and the specs can include mileage and serial number. Buyers can filter to see only bikes posted with a Strava profile or serial number, and also narrow the search by type of bike, frame size, price, mileage, and more.

Payment is via Braintree, which supports credit cards and Paypal, among other options. Buyers and sellers can chat through Perfecto; if a buyer bids and the seller declines or does not respond in five days, the sale does not go through. If a sale does go through, the funds are held in escrow until the buyer acknowledges proper receipt, to ensure that the buyer gets what was advertised. (If the buyer fails to complete the accepted sale form, but also doesn’t file a dispute notice, the funds are automatically released after 14 days.) Perfecto works with several shipping partners, and Lawson says shipping is typically $60 to $100 in the continental US. Fees? Perfecto takes six percent of the total sales price – half of which goes to Braintree. Lawson points out that’s about 50 percent of the commission that eBay charges.

Despite the name, Perfecto isn’t perfect, and Lawson admits it’s impossible to say for sure that there are no stolen bikes in its listings. If you’re not on Strava (or are but are not active), the added seller features aren’t very meaningful. Serial number databases like BikeIndex are a great idea in theory, but BikeIndex itself has fewer than 60,000 bikes registered, and if you haven’t registered your bike yet, a thief could easily do that with a stolen ride and claim it’s his. It’s possible to create fake Facebook profiles. And it would also be possible to create a fake Perfecto account.

While being free of stolen bikes isn’t a guarantee, it’s Perfecto’s goal, and Lawson is adding functionality to the site to help reach it. There is a dispute resolution process, and Perfecto scans listings for questionable sales (of which Lawson says he’s removed several).

Lawson plans to add more integration for other social account logins, and has started to approach bike manufacturers about building a more proactive system around serial number registration—anything he can do, he says, to build more trust and reassurance in the system.

But the overall aim is to rally a sense of community around buying and selling used bikes. “Some people might like the anonymity of Craigslist or eBay, but I think if you’re spending $2,000 on something, you don’t want that to be anonymous,” he says. “And— this is very subjective—but I feel like bikes are emotional things. I think the community wants to know who the people are who they’re buying from and selling to."

Perfecto Is A Marketplace For Bikes That Are Not Stolen

Thanks to Techcrunch for this article on Perfecto:

"Launched last month, Perfecto is a bike marketplace that verifies buyers, sellers, and bicycles, essentially eradicates the potential of stolen bikes being sold as legit ones.

As bicycle commutes becomes a larger trend in cities worldwide, the market for secondhand bikes is skyrocketing. Traditional marketplaces like Craigslist are exacerbating this problem, as there is no safeguards in place to detect and stop the purchase of a stolen bike.

This problem is much bigger than most people think: over 1.5 million bikes are stolen each year, totaling over $350 million.

Here’s how Perfecto works: When first signing up, users have the option of connecting their account with Strava, a performance tracking platform for cyclists. They can then create a bike listing by pulling existing bike and ride history from their Strava account.

This allows potential buyers to see how long the owner has had the bike, where they have ridden it, and even how many miles it has traveled…essentially making the platform a Carfax for bikes.

Perfecto also asks sellers to include their bike’s serial number, which they check against databases of stolen bikes. The platform also includes more traditional verification methods like buyer and seller ratings and buyer-seller chats.

Rob Lawson, founder of Perfecto, explained that by using integrations like Strava and stolen bike databases, the company hopes to create a smart marketplace that eliminates stolen bikes.

The rise of bicycle commuting plus new technology coming to bikes is resulting in more and more expensive bikes entering the market each year. If this trend continues, expect smart, focused marketplaces like Perfecto to continue growing, and eventually replace generalized sites like Craigslist and eBay."

How does Perfecto.bike partner with Strava?

Strava is the leading "social fitness" community for cyclists (and runners). Strava members use the service to track their own activities, but also to connect and compete with their friends and the wider network of fellow cyclists. 

We have partnered with Strava to bring our members several benefits:

  • To simplify sign-up
  • To allow sellers to quickly and easily list their bikes
  • To allow buyers to get to know both the bike and seller before they buy. If you want to buy a used bike then Strava is the ideal way to build confidence that you are buying a bike that will be perfect for you. 

1. Sign-up with Strava

From the home page of Perfecto, just click the "Login with Strava" button. You will be prompted for your Strava password, and then we instantly create a Perfecto profile including your name, photo and other details from your Strava account. Easy.


2. Add a listing with Strava

When you create a new listing, if your Strava account is linked to your Perfecto account we detect the bikes you have in your Strava profile and give you the opportunity to list them.

When you select one of these bikes, all the information associated with it is automatically pulled into your listing. 

3. Searching for Bikes with Strava profile

When you are buying a used bike with Perfecto you can search for bikes that have a Strava profile. 

When you look at a bike you can see how far the bike has been ridden, how long the owner has owned the bike, and much more. This builds confidence that the owner really is the owner, and lets you see how the bike has been ridden. 

For any seller with a linked Strava profile, click the Strava logo under their name to visit their Strava account to see all their recent activity. 

By partnering with Strava, Perfecto lets cyclists connect around their shared passion - so you can find the perfect bike to buy or the right person to buy your bike. 

What size bike do you need?

Fitting a bike is a personal thing, and lots of people will give you different advice. A key thing to remember is that the exact fit is achieved by adjusting saddle height and position, stem height and angle, etc. Below we have provided some best-practice guidelines for picking the size of frame. A few other useful tips:

  • What is the size and geometry of the bike you ride today? Are you happy with it?
  • Talk to the seller of a bike you are interested in - how tall are they? How was the bike fit for them?
  • Check the manufacturer's website for details of frame geometry and fit.

Road bikes

The simple version...

For a quick, simple and visual guide, this graphic from Machine Bike is about as good as it gets:

The more detailed version...

The following excellent chart from ebicycles shows the frame size (in cm) to look for based on your height and inseam. They also have an online calculator that gives you the same results.

The really quite complicated version...

If you want a more sophisticated way of calculating size, head over to Competitive Cyclist and their excellent Fit Calculator. You'll need to take a total of 7 measurements, and its best to have a friend to help you with the measurements.


Mountain Bikes

Road bikes are measured in cm - presumably because the sport originates in Europe. Mountain bikes are measured in inches - presumably because of US origins. Often Mountain bikes just have a XS-S-M-L-XL type sizing. Because of all the different suspension and ride types, mountain bike sizing is somewhat more vague. Just like road bikes, the fit is adjusted with stem, seat post, etc.

The simple version...

This article by Singletracks is a good overview, not just of frame size but all the elements of bike fitting.

The more detailed version...

Again, the folk at ebicycle have produced a good chart (below) and online wizard to help find the right frame size:

The really quite complicated version...

If you want the sophisticated version, then head on over to Competitive Cyclist with a tape measure and a friend who doesn't mind reaching into your nooks and crevices.

In summary - if you think the bike is going to be the wrong size - its probably is. Otherwise...

Bike theft - the numbers

We started Perfecto! partly because we were sick of having bikes stolen, and hated the notion that buying a used replacement bike might be causing the problem. So, how big a problem is bike theft?

  • The National Bike Registry estimate that 1.5 million bikes are stolen in the US each year
  • The FBI estimate $350 million worth of bikes are stolen in the US each year
  • Active.com quote FBI data that the average price of a stolen bike increased from $351 in 2009 to $420 in 2013
  • In the UK, the British Crime Survey suggests that more than 500,000 bikes are stolen each year
  • Also in the UK, 96% of bike theft victims don't believe that classifieds sites are doing enough to combat crime
  • A survey of 2,000 cyclists in Montreal found:
    • Half of cyclists have had a bike stolen
    • The average bike theft victim has had 2 bikes stolen
    • Only 36% of victims report the crime
    • 8.5% of victims had their bike registered at the time of theft
    • Only 2.4% of stolen bikes are recovered
    • 7% of victims never replace their stolen bike
  • San Francisco estimates that bike thefts increased 70% between 2006 and 2012
  • In Portland, the Police Bureau believe bike theft costs the city $2m+ a year, and that this has doubled since 2012