Buying used bicycles and equipment is a fantastic way to get bargains. Previously owned gear is often offered at fire-sale prices by sellers eager to move their equipment quickly. And a great way to find these deals is regularly searching our online classified ads.
However, we strongly recommend following a few guidelines to ensure that you don't get a lemon. Here are our top tips.
Before considering any used bicycle, be sure to check for frame and fork damage. If these parts are flawed, you should probably pass on the bike because it can be costly to repair these problems and it often indicates that the bicycle was abused (photo), which could mean you'll discover other serious problems.
To inspect used bikes, look from the side and inspect closely the areas where the top and down tubes meet the head tube (the tube that contains the steering bearing). If you spot bulges or dents in these areas, the frame was probably crashed.
To tell if traditional forks (non-suspended) are bent, look at the bike from the side. If the fork is good, an imaginary line bisecting the head tube will pass directly through the straight portion of the fork blade. For suspension forks, you may recognize damage sighting from the side. If the fork looks pushed back or overly extended, it could be bent. Also look for damage in the fork legs as you did inspecting the frame tubes.
Other telltale signs of frame damage include bent seat and chain stays and dents or cracks in the tubing. You can run your hands along the frame tubes feeling for dents. Sight lengthwise along stays to spot problems. And, to find cracks, scrutinize the tube junctions.
While you're checking the frame be sure to note any corrosion problems, too. Rusted and corroded parts can be weakened beyond repair, which can make a bike dangerous and force expensive upgrades.
After the frame and fork, check the wheels. Just give them a spin and watch for wobbles and hops, which indicate damaged rims that will need replacement. Check that the wheels are free of corrosion, too. And push and pull sideways at the top of the wheels to feel for play in the bearings, which might indicate broken axles and worn parts. To check for these problems, you'll need to remove the wheel(s) and take a look at the hub(s).
If the frame, fork and wheels pass muster, go over the rest of the components looking for signs of heavy use or abuse. If these items are worn, you'll have to replace or repair them before you can use the bicycle, which will add to your actual purchase price.
Parts, such as brake pads, cables and grips aren't costly. If the chainwheels, cassette and chain are worn out, however, it can cost more to replace these parts than you might want to invest in the bike. One ballpark and easy way to check drivetrain wear is to measure the chain. On a good chain, you can measure exactly 12 inches between two pins. If the measurement is 12 1/8 inch, or longer, you know that the chain is worn out and most likely, the chainrings and cogs are, too.
It's easy to overlook a potential problem. So, if you don't feel comfortable inspecting the bike, ask the seller’s permission to bring the bike into our shop for a professional inspection. We can verify that the frame is undamaged and that the components are in working order and the bike is worthy.
One tricky aspect of purchasing a used bicycle is getting the correct size. Bikes come in a wide variety of sizes and there are different ways of measuring them, which means that it's always best to double check size on any bike you're considering to make sure it's right for you. Fortunately, our classifieds provide contact information so you can visit the seller and stand over the bike or measure it to see if it's right.
Also, keep in mind, that we provide a professional fit analysis service, too. This will fine-tune your bike fit and riding comfort to perfection and give you the measurements to check that used bike and make sure it's the right fit for you.
No matter whether you're shopping for a bicycle or a new roof rack, a set of wheels or new shoes, there are significant advantages to buying from a seller who lives nearby. Buying from a local seller allows you to take home your gear the same day you purchase it. Also, negotiations take place with an actual person so you can avoid the uncertainty of paying auction prices. Besides buying a used bike is supposed to reduce costs. So why pay $50 or more in shipping charges?