Buying Second-hand Bicycles
Size is key
You don’t need a bespoke bike to get a great ride. Bikes are manufactured so that they can be adjusted to fit your body shape. For example seat posts, stems and handlebars are all easily adjusted or swapped out to improve the fit. However, if you are test riding the bike, make sure you can stand over, and sit on, the bike comfortably. Avoid any feeling of stretching for the handlebars or being cramped over them. If you are buying online, refer to a good online sizing guide to get the right size.
Check the bike’s condition
Second-hand bikes come in all sorts of conditions: almost new, vintage, lovingly restored, well maintained, left in the shed. Each of these could turn out to be ideal for you. However, checking the bike’s condition will help you find your perfect two-wheeled partner.
Inspect the frame and fork:
Superficial marks or scratches to the frame are not a problem, but avoid a frame or fork which is rusty or has cracks or dents. In addition, avoid frames or forks with any bends or distortions. These will result in the wheels not being aligned and the bike not running smoothly. Because it’s difficult to repair damage to the frame or fork it is best to avoid bicycles with frames or forks in poor condition.
Check out the bike’s components:
A bike’s components can be replaced if necessary. However, new parts can be expensive so it’s well worth checking out the components before buying a used bicycle.
Wheels are a bike’s most important component. Make sure the wheels aren’t buckled and that the spokes are rigid (they should give out a nice “pinging” noise if you pluck them like a harp). Minor wobbles when you spin the wheels can be quite easily fixed by truing the wheel or replacing a spoke. As a further test, run your finger along the rim to make sure the surface is not worn down or concave. Worn rims indicate the useful life of a wheel is coming to an end and can make braking difficult.
The condition of the bottom bracket, which the pedals rotate around, is simple enough to test. Whilst holding the cranks push them from side to side to see if there is any movement. Any “play” will be an indication of wear and tear to the bearings that make up the bottom bracket. In addition, the pedals should rotate nice and smoothly. Any grinding noise is evidence of worn bearings.
A quick but useful test is to check that you can rotate the seatpost. If you can do this, it shows it has not corroded and still allows you to adjust the height of the saddle.
Gears, brakes, chain and tyres
It’s a good idea to test the gears and brakes and inspect the chain and tyres. Faulty gears and brakes can usually be fixed quickly by a mechanic and a chain or tyre replaced at relatively low cost. It is not the end of the world if these components are not quite right but you will want to factor the labour and cost of parts into the price you pay for your second hand bike.
Get the right price
One of the reasons to choose a used bicycle is the great value for money you can secure. There are some simple steps to make sure you get a great deal. Go online to do some price comparison of second hand bikes. Check the online second hand bicycle markets and also find out what an equivalent bike would cost new. You can get some great prices at online auctions and don’t forget that you can also make offers below the asking price to fixed price sellers in the online classifieds.
Many people ask us what a second hand bike will cost. The answer depends on the type and age of bike you’re after. In addition there are certain brands which keep their value very well. Road and mountain bikes tend to be the most expensive. Either of these, in good condition from a well-known brand, will cost in excess of £200. Town bikes, fixies and hybrids are a little bit cheaper and kids bikes tend to be the cheapest. An example of a brand that keeps its value well is Brompton. They rarely appear on the auctions for less than £400.
Make sure the bike is not stolen
At Pedal It we are passionate about creating a legitimate market for used bicycles. We have suffered too many times at the hands of bike thieves and we do not want you to buy a stolen bike.
It encourages thieves to steal bikes and can result in the police having a discussion with you about handling stolen goods. However, if you take steps to check the legitimacy of the bike being sold then there is every reason to believe you won’t be buying a stolen bike. The best thing you can do is check the bike registers to see if the bike matches one that has been reported stolen. There are three bike registers which act like a cycling equivalent of the DVLA. They store details of the bicycle and owner, including whether it has been reported stolen.
BikeRevolution.org and BikeRegister.com are bike registers which allow cyclists to check their registers online for free by inserting the frame number or a registration number. In addition there are certain places, physical and online, which have a reputation for selling stolen bikes. Avoid these areas and trust your gut instinct about a seller. If you think they stole the bike, don’t buy it from them.
Ask questions of the seller
One of the best things to do when buying a second hand bike is to ask the seller lots of questions. Below are a few things to find out:
How long the seller owned the bike and did they buy it new.
Get a feel for what type of rider they are and how many miles they’ve done and how many of those were in wet weather.
Has the bike been stored indoors in the dry, or outside in the damp?
When was the bike last serviced and how new are the components?
In addition, if you’re buying the bike from a second-hand bike store, you may be able to get a warranty for any problems the bike may develop in the first few months. That is a question worth asking!