Left on the streets of Boston, Lincolnshire, UK: an absolute treasure and bargain for those who know how to fix their treadlie.

5 Golden rules to buying second-hand

Purchasing a pre-loved bicycle definitely comes with a list of ‘make your heart sing’, feel-good vibes: while you’re saving money, the pre-owner makes a few bugs and everybody saves the planet a little bit by diverting potential scrap from landfill.

Having said all this, if the only reason you’re contemplating a second-hand purchase is to save money and you have no idea of even the right sized bicycle, then seeking the advice of a professional bicycle shop may be worth in the long run and save you from buying something that isn’t doing it’s job for you.

Here a little handy list of things to consider that should make your second-hand shopping a pleasant and thrifty experience:

  1. Do your Homework First

    Shopping, whether online or in person is always a whole lot easier and quicker when you actually know what you want. Buying a bicycle is no exception. One of the first questions you would get asked in a bicycle shop is “What do you want to use the bicycle for?” and you should have a rough idea in mind, regardless of whether you seek the help of a professional shop or go second hand.

    Whether you’re going mountain biking, road racing, bike touring or simply want a bicycle that is an all-rounder determines what the bicycle can handle. It determines it’s shape, style, weight, material it’s made from, the breaks and other specs: basically it shapes the bike from top to bottom. If you’re trying to get back into riding, have a read of one of our earlier posts on good beginner bicycles, which should give you a good idea of where to start.

    Even though you might be keen to buy second-hand, it’s a great idea to check the current retail value of the bike you’re after. While the pre-loved bicycle you’ve spotted may not make that price, it’ll give you a basic idea of whether the seller’s asking price is reasonable, an absolute bargain or a little beyond their wildest dreams.

  2. The Devil is in the Detail

    How do you assess whether your perfect dream bike is good quality? Overall, anything that looks rusty, dusty and cobwebbed is not particularly ideal. A bicycle that has been waiting in someone’s garage is unlikely to be well-served and maintained. I had friends purchase a bicycle second-hand that had never been used, because it was still half-way wrapped in the box it came in and hadn’t even been assembled.

    If you’re not a bicycle nerd and wouldn’t be able to tell whether a bike is worth it’s money just try and take a closer look at the basics. The details you’re after isn’t the colour of the bicycle, but all of the technical components that make a bicycle valuable (or not). Crank-sets, derailleurs, breaks are all parts that can be worth between $100 to $500 each. Ask the seller for the names of the components and simply google the current selling price. If they don’t know, simply ask them to send you close ups of the bicycle so you can see for yourself.

    Also, If parts look overly worn, rusty, have scratch marks or dints breaks consider your purchase carefully.

  3. Choose Your Seller Carefully

    Unfortunately, not all bicycles being sold second-hand are totally legitimate. If you know the seller, excellent. If  you’re looking at online platforms beyond your personal reach like Gumtree, Facebook or Ebay take the time to find out whether the bicycle you’re eyeing is kosher. Police have developed a national register for stolen bicycles (which is highly advisable to register you bike on once purchased), but more informal, local networks like this one are a good checker too.

  4. Try Before you Buy

    So you’ve done your homework, found the bicycle you’re after, checked that it’s not stolen: you arrange to meet the seller and buy your bicycle, right? Not quite. Definitely try the bicycle you want to buy. Literally. Don’t assume just because you think this is the right one, it is. Hop one, give it a spin up and down the road, try gears, breaks, even take a family member or friend to see how you look on the bicycle.

    Want you want to check is: do all leavers move easily and do what they’re supposed to? Do the frame and handle-bar feel comfortable? Do you hear any irritating squeak or clunking noise that points to issue? Want your family/friend should check is: does the frame-size look good? Are you pelvis and hip nice and still when you pedal – if they rock sideways, can you adjust the seat height and stop the movement?

  5. Budget a Service

    If you are savvy enough to do your own bicycle service: definitely schedule in time to do this before you’re using your brand new purchase and fix any issue that you come across.

    If you’re not bicycle maintenance savvy at all: definitely book your bicycle into a good, decent bike shop to check your bike from top to toe. A basic bike service costs anywhere between $60 and $160, depending on the shop and your relationship with said outlet. Also budget for some parts that may need replacing. It is definitely worth the time and money!


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