Buying a Secondhand Bike


Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to walk into a bike shop or look online and say “I’ll have that one”. However, this is the real world and shelling out a (often) large sum of money for a new bike may not be possible or practical. But fear not, there are some cracking secondhand bikes out there – you just need to know how to find them. Following recent experiences – I’ve put together 7 tips for buying a secondhand bike.

1. Think about the type of bike you want vs need

This will really comes down to the type of riding you will be doing. If you are looking for a bike for commuting, think about the route you will be taking. As much as you would like to buy that skinny-tyre road bike, it may not be practical if 50% of your journey is off-road trails or gravel tracks. Likewise, a 29″ wheeled knobbly tyre mountain bike may be a bit sluggish if your commute is around built-up city streets. However, these are rules and simply recommendations. It’s your money to spend. But if this is going to be your main or only bike, it is worth considering an all-rounder such as a gravel bike or hybrid to deal with most surfaces.

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2. Set a budget

If you are looking at secondhand bikes, it is usually because you are either looking for a second/winter bike. Or because you just don’t want to spend a great deal of money. Whatever your reasons for buying a secondhand bike, set yourself a budget and try not to exceed it. You are less likely to enjoy riding your bike if the the fact you overspent on it is in the back of your mind. On the flip-side, if you can find a bargain under budget – think of the upgrades and accessories you can buy.

3. Shop around

You have decided on the type of bike that you want, you may have even found the exact bike on eBay or Gumtree. It is being sold by someone who bought it new in a sale, didn’t like it and is selling it for more than the purchase price. Make sure you shop around and research prices. You may find that you can buy the same bike brand new for the similar money. The other thing to bear in mind is that new bikes will come with a returns policy and some sort of warranty. It isn’t always the case that a new bike will be cheaper – but it is worth putting in the research time.

4. Check the manufacturer info

If you are planning to buy a bike that is a new or different make to what you are used to – make sure you check the listed information against the manufacturers website. Geometry is a key thing to consider. A 58cm in one brand may come up more like a 56cm in another. Different tube lengths and angles will make for a different overall geometry. Also, if the seller says they are the same height as you or recommends a rider height, you should still check. Where possible, try before you buy. It can be very easy to buy a secondhand bike online because everything fits on paper (on screen) – only to find the geometry doesn’t suit when you receive it.

5. Ask questions

As cyclists, we are a pretty trusting bunch. The fact that we would consider buying a bike online from a complete stranger, the other side of the country proves it. You may find what looks to be the perfect bike for you on an online market place. The listed pictures look good and the description is has been pulled from the manufacturers website. But don’t be afraid to contact the buyer directly and probe for more info. Find out how long they have had the bike. If they have owned it from new. When was it last serviced. Are the wheels running true, etc. As well as trying to learn a bit of history about the bike, what you ultimately want to know is if the bike is going to cost you even more money as soon as you’ve taken ownership. Most sellers are very trustworthy and are keen to keep their reputation or feedback score in tact. So they are less likely to post false information.

6. Take a friend

There is nothing wrong with not knowing what to look for when it comes to judging if a prospective bike. If you go to look at a bike – take a friend, colleague or family member who has more knowledge of bikes, with you. This is often recommended for safety (if you are taking a large amount of cash with you. But you also want to make sure you are not getting ripped off. Your friend (or bike geek) can help you look over the bike and check some of the less obvious areas where the bike may have problems. They may also be able to help you negotiate on the sale price.

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7. Ride it

Now you have found your new, secondhand bike – ride it! You have gone through a whole process of finding the write bike, researching spec and negotiating on the price. It seems a shame to ride it 3 or 4 times, before leaving it to gather dust in the shed/garage.

Buying a secondhand bike should be just as exciting as buying a brand new bike. Just remember to take your time before committing to a purchase. Have a good look round and compare prices. Where possible ‘try before you buy’. Most importantly – enjoy it once you have bought it.

About Author

Lex Spedding

A late lover of cycling and now wishing I'd started much earlier and had the time to ride more. I'm resigned to the fact that you have to ride when you can and you make sure it's all about the ride. Now, learning as I go - I try to inspire and encourage others that no matter how far or fast they choose to go - just enjoy the ride.

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