Buying a Used Bicycle

If you’re thinking of buying a used bicycle but don’t know where to start and what to look for in a used bike, then don’t sweat, because we have rounded up a few top tips on how to make sure you’re buying the best-used bicycle for yourself.

Where to find a used bicycle?

  • Small ads in newspapers and magazines.
  • See if your local bike shop offers used bikes.
  • Use Facebook pages and bike forums such as the Single Track forum.
  • Use the internet and web pages such as eBay, Gumtree and Amazon – but make sure you view the bike before you buy!!
  • Do not buy a bike from abroad – always make sure you can physically see the bike and test it out before you buy.
  • Do not give the seller money before seeing the bike – as tempting as it may be to put a deposit down before somebody else snatches the bike up, make sure the money is given to the seller the same time the bike is given to you.

Use initiative

  • Take a friend with you when meeting the seller and viewing the bike – having an extra pair of eyes can help when it comes to examining the bike.
  • Is the seller bluffing or do they really know the bike’s history? Do they look like they could be the owner of the bike they are selling?
  • It helps if the bike comes from someone with some enthusiasm for cycling or at least someone who has taken care of the bike – they will tell you all the little details you need to know about the bike, which can help identify if the seller is genuine.
  • Examine the bike thoroughly to check its condition - see if it has been security marked (check the frame number).
  • Stock photos shouldn’t be used to sell a bike - the real owner would have original photos that they would be happy to show you.
  • Thieves often alter the appearance of stolen bikes, so consider: Does the bike have its original paintwork? Have there been any obvious attempts to remove the frame number or bike marking?

Checking the quality of the bike

  • Give the bike a once-over and examine it for dents, bending and rust. If it’s a carbon bike, look closely for cracks. Take the bike on a test run and test for any weird bends, then take your hands off the handlebars (assuming you can ride no-handed), if the bike wobbles a lot then it might be out of alignment.
  • Check the headset by holding down the brakes and moving the bike back and forth. If you feel a knocking noise, it has a loose headset, which while a cheap fix, also suggests the owner hasn’t looked after it very well.
  • Check your brakes by squeezing the callipers directly instead of pulling on the brake levers. If they spring back, they’re all good.

Mini checklist:

  • Check the frame for cracks - rust or scuffs are usually surface deep and only affect visual side.
  • Tyres are pumped satisfactorily.
  • Chain and cassette are rust and stretch free - although these won’t cost much to replace if they are.
  • Check the brakes work and the pads aren’t worn down.
  • The shifting and gearing are effective.
  • Bearings work and move freely without any grinding sensation (headset, bottom bracket and wheels).
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