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We do get a lot of bike identification questions, usually of the very specific format of "identify my BMX by serial number". Over the last year or so it has become a tradition to close them as duplicate of "Why shouldn't I care what model/make/year my bicycle is?". Duplicates are a mechanism for linking to the same question previously asked that may already have an answer. Asking for bike identification is certainly not the same question as the pseudo-question for why it does not matter.

In great tradition of ranting at question body, I think this is bad idea because:

  • Stack exchange already has unwelcoming reputation and closing honest questions as duplicate of the opposite does not really help
  • It prevents answers if someone would actually have one
  • It is intellectually dishonest

As far as I know we don't get any kind of bonuses for closing questions quickly. So, why don't we instead do one of:

  • Just let them go unanswered with comment explaining why these are difficult to answer. If someone digging through old questions happens to know, good for everyone.
  • Declare bike identification off-topic. Shopping recommendations and valuations already are, so it should not be impossible.

Jeff Atwood, the founder of StackExchange, has also an interesting view on duplicates and why they should not be closed too quickly.

  • There is an old question out there about whether or not identify my bike questions are on topic. For now, the community has agreed that they are. While that decision is not set in stone, we would need some indication that the prevailing opinion has changed to make them off topic. – jimchristie Jan 9 at 13:38
  • I think the fact that community marks them as duplicates of a completely different question hints that they are not welcomed. – ojs Jan 9 at 18:41
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    I don't think marking them as duplicates of the "why shouldn't I care" question is the correct approach, but given the quality of most of these questions, is leaving them floating around unanswered with -5 rep a good thing? I'd say not. – Andy P Jan 10 at 12:52
  • I don't see the harm in that. But it would be nice if they didn't pop to front page because "community". – ojs Jan 14 at 19:39
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    I really don't like the 'why shouldn't I care' answer for the reasons given above. I'd much prefer an honest comment given saying bike IDs, especially BMXs, have a low success rate. – Argenti Apparatus Jan 28 at 19:34
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    @AndyP The system will automatically delete unanswered, negatively scored questions after a year. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5221/… – jimchristie Apr 15 at 12:35
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I think there are many reasons for this question, and figuring the asker's reason may help choose a suitable response.

  • People who have a bike and genuinely want to know more about it. Perhaps they ride it, or might be for someone else to ride. Key fact here is it is or will be ridden.

  • Those who own a bike/frame and want to identify it for resale - may ask about valuations as well. Not interested in riding.

  • Those who are doing some due diligence before buying a bike - tend to have a photo off craiglist or similar, and no actual access to the bike. Possible they're looking for a valuable "barn find" for cheap, or on the hunt for a bargain. They're trying to confirm the facts presented by the seller.

  • Last, those who have already bought a frame that was stated as "being Tony Hawker's own G&T Rampage from 1967" and are trying to confirm that they've got something valuable. Justify their purchase, as it were.

What other motivations are there for asking this question?

Knowing or identifying the underlying motivation should help us choose whether it is worth helping them or not.


Separately - closing a question about a bog-standard BMX frame that will likely never be identified seems wise. The longer its open, the more opportunity for someone new to post some unconfirmed statement like "Its a GT Rambo!" with no supporting info. Example https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/57979/19705

If the bike has any unusual feature, then perhaps it is worth leaving open indefinitely. We've certainly seen a couple of these questions.

I need help Identifying this Dirt Jumper Frame Will likely never be identified, and a low-rep user asking.

Bicycle w/locking steering column? has enough unusual features that the right person will identify it eventually

Help identifying a bike model and Identifying small, moped-like bike Successfully identified, but the bikes pictured are odd enough to stand out.

  • Surprisingly, there really are bikes branded with "tony hawke" despite him being a skateboarder. They're Walmart bikes, but priced a little above a BSO. Not sure how quality runs. – Criggie Dec 30 '18 at 13:23
  • How do you determine the motivation? I really can't. – ojs Jan 9 at 18:42
  • @ojs gut feeling. Something like "I got a bike someone told me it was real expensive what brand is it?" feels like someone who wants to make money. Vs "I want to fix up this bike for my nephew - what brand is it?" sounds like better motivation. – Criggie Jan 10 at 0:17
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    my gut feeling for the majority of these questions is they want a valuation for resale. And the fact they don't know what it is in the first place suggests maybe they didn't buy it..... – Andy P Jan 10 at 12:54

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