TOP TIPS FOR BUYING A SECOND-HAND BICYCLE

Shaun George BOTS News, Tips & Tricks

Looking to get onto a bicycle? That’s awesome! Cycles are only getting more technologically advanced, and as a result, prices are going sky high. Buying a second-hand bike is a fantastic way to save a good amount of money. There are, however, some risks involved with the purchase of a second-hand bicycle.

WHY USED?

There’s nothing wrong with going for a second hand bike because of a good deal. In fact it’s a very smart and economical idea. But you should know when a deal’s too good to be true – there’s usually a nasty surprise awaiting you. Things may seem alright initially but soon you’ll find yourself spending more than you bargained over maintenance and such like issues.

With any purchase, it pays to do your research first – just like you would for a new bike before purchase. If you have a specific model or manufacturer in mind, jump online and look for reviews or articles that summarise the pros and cons of the bike, and be sure to pay particular attention to performance, comfort, and reliability. 

YouTube is a great source of easily consumable information, so look for videos from manufacturers for specifications and technology information but also look for unbiased opinions of reputed riders or reviewers. Try and avoid manufacturers or bikes that don’t have a lot of material or reviews online. It’s a sign of a manufacturer that’s not doing too well.

OTHER REASONS TO GO FOR A USED BIKE

  • Cost – One of the main reasons for picking up a second-hand bike. New bikes tend to be really expensive
  • Good Deal – buying a great used bicycle is really satisfying.
  • Better Bike – it’s very possible that you will get a lighter bike with better components for the same money. Definitely worth it as it makes your time on the bike even more enjoyable
  • Upgrade – get a good second hand bike and upgrade various components with the money saved.
  • Salvage the Components – salvage the drive train, frame and suspension and other components
  • Unsure of your riding – not sure of how much you will be riding? Get onto a good used bicycle rather than a cheaper compromise. The cheaper bikes typically come with cheap components which need more maintenance and are prone to issues. Not confidence inspiring when you are contemplating if you will enjoy this new hobby!
  • Sustainable – a used bike is sustainable and an environmentally sound decision. Waste less and Reuse!
  • Access to a Vintage Bike – for the classic, retro appeal.
  • History – a used bike has been places and has history. Stickers, scuff marks, dents might remove the shine off the bike, but they also add character to your ride.

WHERE TO LOOK

There a quite a few pre-owned bike websites floating around. Do your research and find one that has a bike you want. CyclOp is one such super successful buyer/seller marketplace on Facebook that you look at.

Avoid general websites that do not specialize or are not dedicated to cycling as people selling bikes there may not be genuine or of the caliber that you are looking at.

BE INQUISITIVE

When buying a second-hand bicycle, be sure to ask a lot of questions. Why are you selling it? What parts have been changed? What is its usage history? Has it ever been crashed? When was it last serviced? Who did the service? Where did they buy it from? The list is endless. What we’re saying is that you should leave no stone unturned.

If the seller avoids certain questions or acts suspiciously, it’s a good sign that you should consider walking away from the deal. Knowing how to check over a bike for damage and wear takes experience, and it’s something that good bike shops will typically offer for a small fee. If this isn’t an option then here’s a list of things to look out for:

THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

1. FRAME

This matters the most. Ensure you give the frame a proper checking. The frame is the core of the bike, other components can still be changed if slightly worn out but the frame is something that can be a very expensive mistake.

Check for any scratches, dents, chips, or unusual bends. These are likely the result of a crash or dropped bike. This is especially important if you are looking at a carbon frame as a small crack could lead to catastrophic failure of the frame later down the road. If you are inspecting an alloy bike, look for any signs of rust or paint bubbling which could indicate corrosion.

It’s crucial that you take the bike for a spin to get a feel of things and ensure that the bike rides alright.

2. DRIVETRAIN

The drivetrain of a bike consists of the cranks, chainrings (front cogs), chain, cassette (rear cogs), derailleurs and shifters. These components are directly responsible for the efficiency of your shifting and generally, the more it costs, the more it requires.

All drivetrain components can be replaced, but at a cost, so it’s important that the drivetrain is clean, well-lubed and performing well. If you feel that the bike doesn’t shift well and that the drivetrain is not well maintained you are entitled to drive prices down as this can cost quite a bit depending on the groupset. If it’s a high-end groupset then you will definitely want to bring down the prices on the bike if the drivetrain looks neglected.

The chainrings and cassettes shouldn’t have sharpened teeth or a ‘shark tooth’ profile, which indicates excessive wear which will lead to poor engagement with the chain and your gears slipping. With the chain you are checking for ‘stretch’ – the chain doesn’t actually stretch, the pins that join the links together become worn and the chain grows in length.

3. WHEELS

The wheelset on a bike is important – if the more is more than 5 years old you should ask the owner if the wheels have ever been serviced. Wheels need regular maintenance and can be quite expensive to fix or replace if they aren’t in sound condition.

The spokes, hubs, rims and tires are the main parts making up the wheel. Ask the owner i f any of the spokes have ever broken. If so, it gives you an idea of the kind of usage the bike may have undergone.

When it comes to the tires, look for a square or flat section down the middle of the tire which indicates it’s probably due for a refresh. Most tires will have wear indicators in the form of a small hole in the center of the tire. When you can no longer see these holes, it indicates there is not sufficient tread left, and they need to be replaced.

The same goes for the rims (rim brake models only). Look out for wear indicators on the rim. If they are worn out then the rim will need replacing.

OTHER EXPENSES

Remember that the expenses don’t end with the purchase of the bike. There’s more to it. You will most definitely need a helmet, bottle cages, water bottles, pumps, cycling apparel, spares, and additional parts if they need replacing.


Second-hand bikes can be a great deal if you’re careful. Remember that there’s plenty of fraudulent sellers out there too. Apart from that, there’s a lot of bikes that simply have a lot of hidden issues or have met with an accident and are waiting to be sold to the unsuspecting buyer. Like we’ve mentioned, keep asking – be inquisitive and read up a bit. Make sure you visually inspect and ride the bike before a buy.

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