When hunting for a new bike, the second-hand market is easy to overlook. It's filled with perfectly good used bikes that are ripe for the picking but it's important to know what to look for to make sure that you're not getting done over and that you're getting the absolute best for your money. Read on for our ten top tips for buying a second-hand bike so that you're well prepared before dropping the cash.
Second-hand bikes can be hundreds or even thousands of pounds cheaper than what they would be brand new and that’s where the main benefit is. They’re also a fantastic place for new riders to start not only because they’re more easily accessible financially but you'll have less value to worry about should you fling it down a hill.
However, buying second-hand comes with its shortfalls as the bikes on offer will be in differing conditions and, sadly some sellers may try to pull the wool over your eyes on some points of a bike or even try to sell you one that's been stolen.
If you're selling a bike, these tips could be equally useful to help you prepare the bike properly before the sale. If you look for the same things as a potential buyer might and get the bike running (and looking) the best it can, a potential buyer will have less ammunition to haggle for a lower price.
1 - Know what you're looking for
Equally important for those just dipping their toes into the vast world of cycling and experienced riders alike, you're going to need to know what kind of bike you're looking for.
That, in itself, is a pretty big task but if you take the time to research what each kind of bike can offer and what style of riding interests you the most, you'll be more likely to find yourself a bike that'll serve you better for longer. Most importantly though, don't go buying any old bike simply because it's an absolute bargain. Make a haphazard move and you could find yourself with a super cheap bike but one that's not suitable for what you want to do with it and back onto a second-hand marketplace to buy another.
2 - Set a budget
As with any kind of purchase, you'll need to think of a budget. Of course, the more the money the more options you'll have but there's always a bargain hidden somewhere within the depths of Pinkbike, or eBay.
This is where your bike hunt starts and all it'll take is a quick search on a second-hand sales site for the kind of bike you're interested in. Take note of how the prices fluctuate from brand to brand and that'll give you a good place to start. It'll also give you a good idea of a bike's value when it comes to the haggle.
Always over budget because any leftover cash is never a bad thing. It's also wise to keep that potential leftover cash to be used towards any repairs or servicing your future new bike might need.
3 - Take notes and prepare questions
Once you've found the bike you're interested in, it's wise to make note of the components that come with the bike just in case the seller decides to make a last-minute change. This way, you can question the change and reflect upon it when haggling.
While you're at it, you might as well think up a list of questions that you want to ask. If you're unsure, it's good to find out when the bike was bought, whether or not the seller has proof of purchase and when the suspension and other parts were last serviced. These can be asked before viewing the bike or during, but asking before will paint a more thorough picture of what to expect before seeing the real deal.
4 - If it looks too good to be true, it probably is
This is an unfortunate truth prevalent in all kinds of sales, but one that's ever true in the cycling world. If you find a high-end bike, or any bike being sold for a ridiculously low price, it's more than likely that there's something seriously wrong with it. It's even more likely that it could be stolen.
As with many things, you get what you pay for, and sometimes, you could get scammed so it's probably safest to ignore the truly ridiculous deals for safety's sake.
5 - Meet in a public place and bring a mate
So you've found the bike you want, you've asked a few questions and the stars are aligning. It's time to arrange a viewing of your potential new pride and joy but it's still not plain sailing from here.
We're not saying that all bike sellers are dodgy folk (most aren't) but it never hurts to be cautious. We recommend that you arrange the viewing to take place in a public area. That could be outside of your local bike shop or a supermarket car park. Essentially, anywhere with CCTV or a populated area, and this is just to keep you safe and deter either party from doing anything dodgy.
There's nothing stopping you from going to a seller's house to view a bike but that leaves you vulnerable. Likewise, for selling, you don't want to be showing off all of your mega spendy bike kit to a new, unknown party. You never know, they might come back for it.
It's also wise to bring a mate to fill a henchman-esque role.
On a separate note, a seller may ask for cash. In that case, keep it well hidden and only unveil it when you're handing it over. Though, alternative payment methods such a Paypal or Monzo offer fast and safe bank transfers online, saving you from carrying wads of cash around.
6 - Have a good look around
Although you've probably studied the advert's pictures as hard as you can a picture can only tell you so much. While the bike is in front of you have a serious look around the frame and all of the components.
Scratches, paint chips, and some dings won't hurt a bike's performance but if you find a crack on any frame, regardless of its material, stay away. No matter how long the seller has said they've ridden the bike with that crack, that's not to say it won't give up and collapse on your first ride. The best-case scenario here is that your bike is broken but it's more likely that you'll end up very hurt.
This is the time to run through all of the bike's components to make sure they're running as they should. It's best to see if you can pedal the bike around a bit and while you do, shift through all of the gears to check they're working correctly, give the suspension a squish and have a pull on the brakes. With the suspension, you're listening for any weird squishing or sucking noises and when you pull the brakes, they should be sharp and powerful.
Take a quick look at the brake pads and take note of how much life left in them and run through all of the suspension's settings to make sure that they work.
Then, give everything a good wiggle, especially if it's a full-suspension bike. So wiggle the wheels laterally, shake around the pivot points while feeling around the bearing and check the headset by holding the front brake and moving the bike to and fro. Any play at any of these points means that the bearings are on their last legs and will need replacing very soon. For some bikes, a pivot bearing replacement isn't too pricey but on more complicated ones, that will leave quite the hole in your wallet.
While we're on the subject of wiggling the bike, it's worth checking out the fork bushings. You can do this by holding the front brake as you would when you check the headset but you'll be feeling around the fork's wiper seal. If there is play, the fork will need new bushings and it's likely the fork will need a full service when the bushings are at this point.
Lastly, have a look at the tyres and rims for any damage. Here, you're looking for any repaired punctures and the condition of the tyre in general. A damaged tyre isn't the end of the world as you may look to replace them anyway, and you can get away with a ding on an alloy rim. Though a bend in a wheel isn't always repairable and that's the same with a crack in a rim.
7 - Check if it's stolen
If you're happy with the way the bike looks, and its condition, it doesn't hurt to throw the bike's serial number into a service like BikeRegister. It's a free service that checks both its own and the police's stolen bike databases. This can also be done before viewing the bike if you ask for the bike's serial number beforehand.
Of course, unknowingly buying a stolen bike only adds to the bike theft issue but if the police find out that your new second-hand bike has been stolen, they'll quickly relieve you of it and you won't be getting your money back.
8 - Don’t be afraid to negotiate
It's time for the thrill of the sale or the negotiations. After all, the best deals often come from a bit of haggling but when you do, it's important to respect the seller otherwise, they could take the deal straight off of the table and you're left without a new bike.
Even before you turn up at your arranged location have a highest and lowest figure in your pre-thought-out, along with a plan of attack. As you check over the bike, make adjustments to those figures if you need to. Of course, if the bike isn't in as good a nick as the ad led you to believe, lower your offer.
But, there's no golden rule saying that you have to haggle. If you're happy with the asking price, and you're happy with the bike, the jobs a good'un. Along with that, don't feel as if you have to buy the bike because you're viewing it. There shouldn't be any pressure to buy something you're not happy with.
9 - Take your new bike to a bike shop
This point is totally optional, especially if you're already mechanically savvy but once you've got your new bike take it to your local bike shop or mechanic to check over. This is the best way of ensuring that your new-to-you bike is 100% ready to hit the trails. Yes, it'll cost you a little more money but hopefully, you'll have kept a portion of your budget just for this.
10 - Ride the thing!
We all know how good it feels to take our new bikes out for their maiden voyage. Now, be careful during your first couple of rides as every bike is different and it'll likely take some time before you're at one with the bike, but most importantly, enjoy!
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