Bike Buyers Tip: Your motorcycle might have a clone

Bike Buyers is in the business of purchasing motorcycles which then find themselves on the showroom floor of the famous Fire It Up dealership in Fourways, and the number of motorcycles on the Fire It Up floor suggests they are damn good at what they do. Collectively, they have many decades of bike buying experience and will be sharing their knowledge with The Bike Show Website every Monday offering tips, advice, guidance and warnings regarding your bike buying or selling experience. For this week’s tip, we look into how your bike might have a clone.

Motorcycle cloning

This has been big business in the car industry for nearly a decade now, and as car manufacturers begin to cotton on to this problem and provide solutions, scammers move on to the next most lucrative market – motorcycles. 

It works like this – thieves steal a motorcycle, usually one from beyond our borders, like Namibia, Botswana or Lesotho, then they smuggle it into South Africa, find a registered bike that’s exactly the same model and take a photo of that bike’s licence disk. From there on, everything is pretty simple – the engine and frame numbers on the stolen motorcycle are filed and replaced by the ones from your bike, then they get a duplicate set of papers and even a license disk matching yours and voila, your bike has a clone. 

From your point of view, the damage isn’t too severe; you may receive strange speeding fines now and then that need questioning, but otherwise nothing. To the unlucky person whose bike has been stolen, that bike now technically no longer exists. It’s now prancing around pretending to be your bike, and the chances of it ever being found are minimal. 

It also gets worse for the person who buys your clone, because that person might be inadvertently buying a stolen motorcycle. If this is found out, the bike is taken and returned to its original owner. The new buyer loses out.

There are ways around this, but nothing foolproof. The best way is to check whether the VIN number on the frame looks legitimate. Different manufacturers have different methods of engraving or stamping this number, and thus have a style. If the bike in front of you does not match this style, it’s probably best to stay away. 

The best method of preventing cloning is if motorcycle owners do not display their licence disks openly. Rather hide them somewhere, such as taping them to the bottom of your seat, and should a cop ask to see it, you need only pop it open with the key and reveal all.

Technically, the law says that your licence disk should be openly displayed for police to be able to see it without having to ask the owner. But the practical side is that cops understand that licence disks are often stolen or, now, cloned and it would take an extremely tight-arsed cop to fine you for hiding it.

On the upside, if your licence disk is hidden, then cloners can’t photograph it and make clones. That seems like a worthwhile risk.


Bike Buyers check the VIN numbers of every motorcycle that enters their store. If it looks like the number is not legitimate, then they politely decline the purchase. 

Bike Buyers contacts:
Tel: 011 467 0737

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