A 7 Step Guide To Buying A Quality Used Bike



A Guide To Buying A Quality Used Bike

While purchasing the newest bike on the market may allow you to be the subject of every conversation, it is not necessarily the most cost-effective way to ensure you rock up to your next cycle meet on the saddle of a different bike. Places such as second-hand bike shops, eBay, and Facebook marketplace are great ways to grab yourself a new bike and save a pretty penny in the process.

There are always risks when buying second-hand items, especially when these purchases are made online. It may not be the best idea to buy a bike over the internet as you can never be 100% sure of the quality of the item you are paying for. However, here is some advice that you might want to follow next time you place your bid.

1. Know what you’re looking for

The first and arguably most important step in buying a used bike is to scout out what you want. A common habit of online shopping is merely browsing the sales to see what we can find, and not going in with a clear idea of what we are looking for. Don’t let that be the case when you’re purchasing a used bike. Do your research and make sure you know your intentions for the bike. Know your budget, but don’t fall into the trap of buying something just because it is a good deal. Go in with a level head and be prepared not to find your ideal match straight away.

2. Ask the important questions

While many experienced sellers on sites such as eBay will no doubt have poured their heart out in the description left underneath their product, some sellers are likely to cut a few corners and leave a very brief and uninformative sentence regarding their item. While it is true that a more fleshed-out description is preferable, don’t be deterred by a shorter description, just be open to asking questions.

Some questions you should consider asking the seller before buying a used bike:

  • How long have you owned the bike?
  • Has any component or the frame ever been replaced or repaired under the manufacturer’s guarantee?
  • Is anything currently not working as it should?

Be sure to find out the general condition of the bike before you commit to buying. Many owners keep receipts from maintenance work or parts, just like they would do with a car’s service history, and you are not at fault for reaching out and asking to see said receipts.

3. Look out for damage

Making sure a bike has not been subject to neglect and damage can be a difficult thing, especially if you are a first-time buyer of used bikes. Begin your checks with the most expensive components first and work your way over the bike to its cheaper parts. Ask online sellers for good-quality photos of each part so that you can examine them in detail.

Matt Appleman of Appleman Cycles repairs a carbon frame.
Matt Appleman of Appleman Cycles repairs a carbon frame.

For example, check the frame: are there any cracks or dents? The chances are, if there are any visible defects, then you may want to keep searching and should probably reconsider buying that bike in particular. Carbon frames must be paid close attention to, as cosmetic damage could be hiding a structural issue that wouldn’t be as obvious as on a metal bike. When checking metal bikes, check the welds for small hairline cracks that follow the shape of the weld.

There is also no harm in asking the owner how many miles they have clocked on the bike. As no matter how well a bike is maintained many items are consumables and will wear out.

4. Good images go a long way

If an online seller has only used photos from a bike’s original listing, or god forbid stock images. Then the chances are you aren’t going to want to buy from them. High-quality, decent images are important to look for when buying any second-hand item online.

Photographs are also the perfect opportunity to get an idea of how the bike is treated. For example, if the owner has photographed a used bike while dirty, then this lazy approach can be a reflection of the owner’s maintenance of the bike. If you can’t see all that you need to such as detailed images of particular components, then don’t be afraid to ask the seller for more.

5. Sizing it up correctly

One obvious thing to bear in mind when buying a used bike is to make sure you’re getting the size that’s right for you. Understanding the key measurements of your frame is important to ensure that you get a bike that fits you and the type of riding that you intend to do.

When measuring a bike be sure to check these components:

  • Top tube length
  • Seat tube length
  • Reach and stack – and why they’re important numbers
  • Wheelbase
  • Chainstay length
  • Front centre
  • Seat tube and head tube angles
  • Bottom bracket drop
  • Bottom bracket height

If possible, check out the size of the same model of the bike before buying to make sure you’re choosing the correct frame size. Don’t be tempted to buy a bike that’s too big or too small just because it is a good price.

6. Is the seller reliable?

It is relatively easy to view an eBay seller’s history and feedback. Be sure to check reviews from both happy and unhappy customers to inform your business with the individual.

Buying from a well-known bike shop does reduce the risk of any dodgy dealings, especially if you’ve already got a relationship or know someone who has previously dealt with the shop.

frame identification number
frame identification number

One thing that is often overlooked, however, extremely important when buying online is checking whether or not the item can be sold on and is not stolen. If a seller is asking for an amount that is a lot lower than market value then perhaps you should consider asking why as this could potentially be a warning sign.

Any proof of purchase for example the original purchase receipt is always a great thing to ask for. Each frame also holds a unique identification number: ask for a picture of it and cross-reference this number to check whether or not the bike has been stolen, frame identification numbers can often be found stamped into the bottom bracket area.

7. Set aside some money

While you will have already made sure that the used bike you are buying is in good enough condition to warrant the amount you’re spending on it, there will undoubtedly come some maintenance costs along the way. A second-hand bike from a private seller will not come with a warranty and therefore if a fault is developed then the cost of repair will have to come from your own pocket. Try to avoid spending your entire budget on the bike itself and if possible set aside roughly 10 percent of the bike’s value for any maintenance.



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