Top Tips on Buying a Second-hand Bike

There has been a massive upsurge in cycling during the Covid- 19 pandemic. During the lockdown period alone, it was reported that there was a 300 percent increase in participation between 16 March and 1 June.  Whilst restrictions are being lifted and the level of traffic may be steadily rising, many will still find themselves furloughed or unemployed, consolidating a sense of isolation. Cycling remains a great way to stay active and keep the endorphins flowing, boosting physical and mental health and stemming the legacy of lockdown’s isolating impact.

This increase has unsurprisingly had a stunning impact on the bike sales. In April alone, 60 percent more bikes were bought. This is in addition to the multitudes of bored households dusting off old bikes not used, in some cases, for decades. Anecdotally, this has meant a long wait for bicycle repair completions on mechanical faults beyond my meagre repair skills! It has also meant that many a bike shop has had their stock completely cleared, leaving the purchase of a good new bike difficult to secure.

This has forced many consumers to look at second hand bikes. Like anything second hand, great value can be found, as well as the potential to purchase yourself a disaster or wildly overspend. Here are some tips to ensure you ensnare yourself the former of these scenarios:

1. A very obvious but important one – look for signs of abuse or neglect. Excessive frame marks may indicate a carefree owner, which may be cause for concern regarding more serious mechanical issues with other components. More careful owners will put pads between the brake and gear cables and the frame, giving you an idea of the owner. Pay particular attention to marks on carbon frames as they may be indicative of a structural issue which would be much more obvious on a steel or aluminium frame bike.

2. On non-carbon frames, pay specific attention to the welding between the tubes and look for hairline fractures.

3. When buying online use a dedicated and credible online platform like eBay or the Bikemart pages. These platforms give the buyer the option to scrutinize the seller’s feedback from other buyers as well as using payment delivery options like Paypal. Paypal uses buyer protection, ensuring that if the product is not as stated in the advert or it gets damaged in transit, you can reclaim your money.

4. You may be forced to look further afield for your dream bike. Going to see the bike in person is a must. Whilst getting the bike delivered may be more convenient, it is almost impossible to tell the general state of bike from a few specifically selected photos which may be hiding serious malfunctions or wear.

5. Remember to ask questions. Asking about how many miles a bike has done and in what terrain builds up an idea of the bikes overall condition. If you are going to haggle, it also builds up a rapport.

6. If the bar tape looks original and non-worn, then the bike probably hasn’t seen much action. On bikes with v brakes, check to see if the pads and then the rims are worn. If the rims are concave from heavy wear from the brake pads, this is clear sign of intense usage.

7. If you are willing to do some detective work, it can be worth researching how much the bike is worth new, especially when spending money on expensive road bikes. Bear in mind the seller’s price may be determined on upgrades that he or she has made which brings the value of the bike over what would be expected for a stock second hand bike. Components such as the wheels and the saddle are commonly upgraded by owners regarding more expensive bikes.

8. Look for jagged and uneven teeth on the cassette and the chain rings. These components do wear out and again, will indicate a fair amount of usage from the owner.

9. Check that the wheels are true. This means whether or not the wheels are straight. To do this, pick up an end of the bike and spin the wheel. It should be evident to see whether the wheel has a slight buckle or not. These are easily fixed but should impact on the price you’re willing to pay.


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