HOW TO BUY A USED BIKE
If you’re in the market for a new bike, you may run into the problem of out-of-stock alerts and empty bike shops. With the unprecedented events of 2020, many bike manufacturers have seen record sales. Newly launched bikes have sold out in a matter of a few days, and some companies have already sold through their model-year inventory. If a new bike was on your wish list this year and you’ve yet to buy one, chances are you may have trouble finding the bike you want in the size you need. That said, there’s no reason you can’t get yourself a new (to you) bike this year. The used-bike market is busier than ever, and with these few tips and tricks, you can find an amazing deal on a slightly used bike. Here’s how you should approach your next used-bike purchase.
WHERE TO LOOK
Today there are dozens of ways to find used bikes; however, here are our go-to options. If you’re looking for that bike-shop feeling when buying a used bike, try using The Pro’s Closet. This pre-owned bike shop is well-regarded for its customer service and large selection of bikes. Other options include websites, such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. These websites are better for riders who want to purchase a used bike locally and see it in person before they hand over their money. A third option is smartphone apps, such as OfferUp or LetGo. These apps tend to offer a limited selection, but with patience and consistent searches, you may find just what you’re looking for.
FINDING A GOOD DEAL
One of our favorite ways to find a used bike’s value is plugging its information into a website called Bicycle Blue Book. There you can search the recommended values of bikes based on BBB’s database. This site isn’t perfect, but it is one of the best ways to quickly determine the value of a bike, allowing the buyer and seller to feel comfortable with their agreement.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Buying a used bike can come with some major pros and cons. The most obvious pro is that a used bike is cheaper. On the other hand, a used bike’s warranty rarely transfers to the new owner. This could lead to expensive problems should you have any kind of failures. Here are some things to pay attention to when buying a used bike.
Never buy a dirty bike: If you come across a used bike covered in dirt and grime, it’s likely a sign that the bike has been neglected. This could mean the suspension might need to be rebuilt or other parts may have premature wear from lack of care. A clean bike is also more likely to reveal any damage to the frame or its components. Last but certainly not least, a clean bike shows a rider has pride in his or her bike.
Don’t be fooled by new grips and tires: One of the most common tricks used to sell a used bike is to make it look new by tossing on fresh grips and tires. When looking over a used bike, make sure you pay attention to drivetrain and suspension components, as those often cost a lot more to replace. It’s easy to overlook a worn-out drivetrain when you’re caught up in new, less-expensive accessories.
Look for upgrades: Many riders enjoy upgrading their bikes with carbon parts and other expensive items that do very little to change the bike’s resale value, but greatly enhance its value to you. It’s possible to find a great deal on a bike with a set of wheels that may be worth more than the bike by itself. Carefully look over the bike to see what kind of upgrades have been done.
Inspect for damage and wear: You can quickly spot a bike that has been ridden hard by paying attention to the following components. First, check the ends of the crankset to see if they have been beaten to death by rocks or other trail debris. Next, inspect the wheels to ensure the rims don’t have digs or dents. It may also be helpful to squeeze the spokes, making sure they are all tight. While you’re at it, go ahead and spin the wheels to confirm they are spinning true. Another important place to look is the bike’s frame. Always purchase a bike in a well-lit area so you can more easily spot cracks or dents on the frame. If it’s a full-suspension bike, make sure the front and rear triangle have a strong connection with minimal to no play.
Do your homework on pricing: As mentioned earlier, Bicycle Blue Book can be a good resource for finding a fair price; however, it’s not the only method you should have in your arsenal. If possible, find similar or identical bikes for sale with the same components in order to come up with what you feel is a fair offer. Rarely should you negotiate a deal online or over the phone. It’s best to make a realistic offer with cash or a trusted payment source in hand. After all, money talks.
Look for modern standards: This one can actually be argued in two different ways. An “outdated” bike, such as one with 26-inch wheels, may have an enticing price tag but could become a headache should you need or want to replace parts. Finding 26-inch tires these days is no easy task. That said, if you’re looking to get into the sport with the lowest cost of entry, it’s more than okay to purchase an older bike to get your feet wet. More serious riders, on the other hand, will want a bike that can grow with them as their skills progress. These riders will want to find a platform with modern standards, such as Boost hub spacing, internal dropper-post routing, a tapered head tube and, of course, either 29- or 27.5-inch wheels.
Why you shouldn’t buy used: Purchasing a used bike comes with many unknowns that could lead to expensive repairs or mechanical failures. A brand-new bike is typically backed with a warranty and assembled by a professional. A used bike, on the other hand, could have been worked on by a less-than-knowledgable home mechanic. Hopefully, any mechanical problems are noticed during your test ride; if not, you could be buying a lemon. If you’re not willing to take the risk of a used bike to save a few bucks, you may be better off saving up to purchase something new.
Pre-ride inspection: If you pulled the trigger on a new (used) bike, congratulations. But, before you head for the trails, it’s important to give your bike a quick pre-ride inspection. Go through the entire bike and make sure all the bolts are properly torqued to the correct spec. Then, look at your tires and identify if they are tubeless or tubed. If they are tubeless, it’s more than likely the bike could use some fresh tire sealant. Another thing to check is your suspension parts to see if any oil is getting past the seals. If this is the case, a suspension service should be on your shortlist. Checking your chain to prevent premature drivetrain wear will also save money in the long run. If cycling is a new sport to you, don’t be afraid to bring your bike to the professionals and ask for a safety check or pre-ride inspection. A shop will likely charge you for this service, but if you’re unsure of your bike’s condition, it’s money well-spent.
No matter what you’ve got, get out and ride: The most important rule of all is that you get whatever new or used bike you have out to the trails as soon as possible. At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what you ride, so long as you’re having a blast riding it.
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.