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When asking an "ID My Bike" question what information about the bike should I include?

Would a good "ID My Bike" question need all of the following or are there a few key things that would offer the best chance of an ID? Maybe something like - if these three things are included the chance of ID is 50/50. If these two things are added to that the chance goes up to 80%

Pictures (maybe some coaching on how to take good pictures)

  • every major frame joint
  • all decals/logos/stamped names
  • every component
  • Other

Words

  • Serial number
  • Information about my current knowledge of the bike
  • Links to information I have found so far
  • Other
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    The premise of this question - that there is such a thing as a good 'ID my bike' question should be debated first.
    – mattnz
    May 28 '19 at 21:05
  • I doubt we could give a percentage. Some of the weird ID questions have gained an answer mostly because the right person happened to read it. If its a BMX, then our hit rate would be down in the low single digit percentages.
    – Criggie Mod
    May 29 '19 at 11:47
  • Is there such a thing as a good ID my bike question has been debated and the answer was - yes there is. bicycles.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/881/… Not that the answer is set in stone. Do we want to revisit if this question is in scope?
    – David D
    May 29 '19 at 13:14
  • 3
    @Criggie On percentages, as an example; If we get a clear drive train side shot of a bike that still has the manufacturers name on the bike I'd say we have a 90% chance of figuring out what model of bike it is. If we get a fuzzy shot of a BMX frame that has been repainted we might say we have a 5% chance of identifying it. No picture = zero percent change of identification
    – David D
    May 29 '19 at 15:06
  • Starters for more answers - "include all known prior history" "old paperwork like warranty/receipts" "ask the previous owners"
    – Criggie Mod
    May 29 '19 at 19:57
  • Markdown sample: [How do I ask a good “ID My Bike” question?](https://bicycles.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1337/how-do-i-ask-a-good-id-my-bike-question)
    – HAEM
    Jan 2 '20 at 21:29
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First, accept that the chances of your bike manufacturer, brand or model being identified are low, effectively zero in many cases (repainted BMX frames, generic 80's drop bar ten-speeds, 90's inexpensive hybrids ...)

Having seen a great many id-my-bike questions on this site I think the goal is not so much getting the bike identified but avoiding looking like an idiot, collecting sarcastic comments and getting your question closed as a duplicate of Why shouldn't I care what model/make/year my bicycle is? within 20 minutes.

That said ...

An absolute necessity is well lit, high resolution, straight-on photo of the whole bike, right way up, from the drive side, with an uncluttered background.

Include the year of sale when new if you know it (or a guess).

Description or photos of major groupset components helps. Knowing the series/level of derailleurs, crank, shifters, wheels etc. can help narrow down the year range and model level.

Any other info or photos you can provide won't hurt, but don't raise the probability of an identification much it seems.

A piece of info that is generally left out that I think might help in some cases is the country or location where the bike is.

Including the serial number generally won't help. Collectors have made databases of numbers of a few collectable brands, and sometimes someone will be able to decode a numbering scheme, but in general they are meaningless as manufacturers don't provide a serial number lookup that will provide model or component configuration to the public.

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In order to ID a bike a question must have:

At least one clear picture.
If there is no picture there is zero chance of providing an ID. The question will be closed.

The picture should be high resolution (any modern smart-phone will work)

In the picture the bike should be:
- well lit - right side up (sitting on it's wheels)
- of the whole bike
- from the chain side of the bike flat on.

Pictures of the following are helpful:
- head badge ( on the front of the frame)
- logos
- decals
- distinctive frame features (lug work, square tubing, etc.)

Other helpful information:
- Country in which the bike is located.
- What has already learned or is known about the bike.

Here is an example of a good picture.
Required and Optional Pictures

This answer is a summary of the excellent answers provided by Argenti Apparatus and Criggie

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Photos

a. the first photo should be a clear and well lit shot of the right-hand side of the bike. Ideally it should be sunlit or good incandescent or LED lighting. Avoid fluorescent tube lighting at all costs.

b. the bike should be clean-ish. Doesn't have to be concours level but we need to see the details and small features.

c. Show the whole bike, not just the frame.

d. high resolution - let us zoom in. The SE limit is 2 Mbytes on an uploaded photo. If that's not enough, upload your photo directly to http://Imgur.com/ and share the link.

e. Right-way up! Don't send in photos of the bike lying in a heap - try and get a view point that equates to about 2~3 metres from the bike, equidistant between wheel axles, and at a height somewhere even with the saddle or top tube.

f. Don't care about valve angles and crank angles, though trying to leave text visible is helpful.

Here's a workable photo - a plain background would have helped. Own work You can read off that its a shimano 105 groupset with dual pivot rim brakes and brifters, so the mechanicals are decades newer than the frame.

Another good photo from a successful ID question at Identify old bicycle w/locking steering column? Yes its inside, but the image is clear and well lit. enter image description here

Not terrible but not great photos for ID purposes: enter image description here from Looking for help identifying my newest addition

Pretty awful photo for ID purposes (though to be fair this question was somewhat focused on the logo visible) enter image description here from What kind of bike is this? Can anyone tell by the logo?


Subsequent photos should zoom in on points of interest - what about this bike might be unique enough to promote recognition? Standard things would include

  • Head badge or logo
  • Any decals anywhere on the bike
  • Strange things like writing or emblems in the frame
  • Odd dropouts, front or rear
  • Odd seat stay attachment to the seat tube
  • Sometimes the fork crown can be distinctive

This question has some great examples of closeups on useful areas, but even so still remains without a confirmed identification. Name that frame! (Likely Japanese, likely made in 1986, with known serial number, likely a Bianchi)

Component close ups might help with dating, but often the components are used on many different bikes from different assemblers, and they can be changed after purchase. So a bike with "Shimano" on it is not a lot of help.

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This answer emphasizes a few things in other answers for clarity. In general, we ask for clear photographs of the entire bike, and preferably some close ups of select parts as well. Be aware that these are usually necessary but not sufficient to ID a manufacturer, model, and year. Identifying a manufacturer is easier, identifying model and year is harder.

Bicycle companies typically rely on decals, usually on the down tube at minimum, and head tube badges for branding. If you have those in the photo, you usually know who the bicycle manufacturer is. Of course, if those items are present, then the OP usually has the information to identify the manufacturer already. Nevertheless, not all head badges state the manufacturer clearly, but they can be recognized by enthusiasts. One example is Giant Bicycles' head tube badge. Naturally, some bicycles have had their decals and/or head badges removed.

Failing that, with steel bikes, the design of the frame lugs and fork crown lugs can sometimes be informative, although not all frames use lugged construction. Some other design elements on bikes in general can be distinctive, which is why Criggie mentioned things like unusual-looking dropouts, sometimes the seat cluster. As another example, some Colnago steel bicycles (e.g. Master and Master X-Lite) used star-shaped down tubes on the argument that they had higher torsional rigidity, and I don't believe anyone else used these. I think that these unusual design elements are more rare, however.

Identifying the model and manufacturing year of the bicycle can be harder. Sometimes, enthusiasts can match a paint scheme to a catalog, thus providing model and year - if someone posted a scanned catalog online, or if they collect catalogs, or if there's an example of the bike online, e.g. on Bicycle Blue Book (but that tends to cover more modern bikes). We can make guesses if we recognize the components or other frame features. For example, in the first photo Criggie posted, the components look like 9-speed Shimano 105, which was current in the early 2000s. The bike has a quill stem, rather than a threadless headset and stem, and these were less common on early 2000s bikes. So, it's possible the bike is from around the early 2000s, but it's also possible the components were refitted and the bike was from the 1990s.

It's been stated elsewhere, but the serial number is usually not helpful at all. Presenting the serial number alone is worthless, and it is quite possible that the question will get downvoted and maybe closed.

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