Bicycles are by nature the most environmental friendly mode of transportation other than walking as they require no usage of external material to cruise. They have incredibly low manufacturing costs compared to automobiles, and are easy to upgrade or repair. Bicycles are known to be very sturdy, and with proper care, can often last very long times. If you are low on budget, a second hand bike is the bike for you.
Like buying used cars, buying second hand bikes come with its challenges too. Bring the wrong one home, and you’ll be swamped with problems for the rest of your bike’s lifetime. These problem can be troublesome, and may end up costing you even more than the amount you spent to buy the bike in the first place. Thankfully, bicycles are well-built in general, and so are their repair parts. Once you change something out, it is unlikely to fail again for some time.
In this guide, we will show you where to buy these bikes, as well as a checklist of important things to look for when it comes to shopping for used bikes.
Where Should I Shop?
The best place to look for pre-owned bicycles is definitely your local bicycle shop. The bikes are almost guaranteed to have passed some sort of inspection, and faulty parts replaced. Most local shop owners are also highly experienced in their field, and will be able to answer most, if not all, of your questions. In addition to that, due to convenience, a lot of cycling enthusiasts like to offload their old bicycles at local shops to recoup some cash for their next bicycle upgrades. Their bikes are usually well maintained and excellent in quality.
Occasionally, depending on where you live there will be garage sales, flea markets, or police auctions happening in your local neighborhood. This is also a good place to look for second hand bikes. The problem here is though that it is easy to misjudge a bike by its appearance. Do proper research before buying, or else you will end up with a pile of moving liability.
The Almighty Internet
The Internet has everything. So does Amazon. Or eBay. Or Craigslist. On the Internet, these three platforms are the best places to shop for used bikes. Amazon tends to be the most expensive on their selections, followed by eBay then Craigslist. For stock quantity, Amazon and eBay has the most, with Craigslist trailing by a mile. Sometimes it can take a while on Craigslist to even find a classified selling bicycles. If you find it, chances are it will be the cheapest though.
Comfort Is Important
The single most important thing that should be kept in mind when buying used bikes is that it should be comfortable. An uncomfortable bike is a lonely bike. Even if it feels just a little weird, the pain will get to you eventually, and the bicycle will simply not be worth it.
Purchase Guide Checklist
Frames are the backbone of bicycles. Closely inspect the surface of the frame tubes, especially at the ends for signs of crack or damage. If there are any, take a mental note. The bicycle won’t suddenly collapse on you, but it can become a liability later in the future. If the frame is made out of aluminum though, take special care of it. It can become a breaking point if heavily damaged. Also, make sure connection joints between the tube frames are not cracked. Unless the cracks are big and widespread, they are not immediate dangers.
Bumps, scratches, and paint chips, on the hand, are not uncommon from secondhand bikes. They pose no threat, so don’t worry about them.
If a handlebar is not symmetric, the perception of riding in a straight line can be altered. Although not dangerous in any way, the bicycle could prove to be uncomfortable and harder to maneuver. For the accessories, broken or damaged handlebar grips can be replaced cheaply. The only thing that needs real checking are the brakes. Make sure both front and back brakes are working, especially the back (never brake hard with the front brakes – you will be propelled forward!). Also, the brake levers and wiring must not be bent or cracked. Depending on the quality of the original brakes, replacing brakes could be a costly fix.
The wheel frame must be in great condition and show no signs of structural damage. If a wheel frame is bent, it is a big no-no. Check for signs of oxidation or cracks at the spoke holes on the rim and hub too. Loose or broken spokes can potentially be dangerous. Towards the middle, the brake pads should be aligned parallel to the wheels.
For those that do not know, most bicycle tires consist of two layers: the inner tube and the outer protective tire. The protective tire is what you see attach on the wheels. They do not hold air, but protects the inner tube inside it which does. The main function of the tire is to provide traction and protect the inner tubes from contact puncture and damage.
The drivetrain system is the system that transmits power from the rider to the drive wheels. It is very important, and needs to be paid special attention to.
Grab the cranks and wiggle them. If it moves side to side with eases or exhibits clinking noises, the bearings probably need adjustment or replacement. If the roller chains look rusty, replace them. Contrary to popular belied, DO NOT use traditional WD-40 on the bike chains! If you really want to use them, use the specially-made WD-40 BIKE instead.
Back to the drivetrain system, pull the chains at the tip of the sprocket towards the front. If they pull away with ease, the chains are also worn and should be replaced. Chances are, the sprocket may also be worn and thus should be inspected by a professional. If they are damaged, replacing the sprocket is a very expensive treatment. If the derailleurs are bent or protrude out excessively, they may be damaged too. In this case, you may have to replace the whole drivetrain system which is very expensive too. If that is the case, look for another used bicycle.
Pedals are fragile and in unfortunate cases can break easily too. However, in most cases, a quick repair is all that it takes. To test, spin the pedals as hard as you can. If the pedals can spin another 2 or 3 revolutions without your help, they are in good shape. Also, grab the pedals and try to move it away from the crank arm. If it budges too much, the pedal is too loose and needs to be fixed. Lastly, spin the pedals and observe its motion. If the spin is not right-angles to the crank arm, the pedal axle is bent. It will need to be replaced.
Live in Anywhere of These Cities?
Los Angeles and Santa Monica
Similar to New York, classifieds like Craigslist, eBay, and BikeForums.net are great places to shop. Yelp directories are also sometimes useful if you wish to visit local bicycle shops.
A special mention: in Santa Monica, there are many famous B&M bicycle stops. To list just a few:
- Performance Bicycles (501 Broadway)
- REI (402 Santa Monica Blvd)
- Bike Attach (2400 Main St)
- Helen’s Cycles (2501 Broadway)
- Coco’s Variety Shop (2427 Riverside Dr, Los Angeles)
New York or New Jersey
Great! Second hand bikes are very common here, and at the Big Apple people love to post things online. Craigslist, eBay, and especially MTBR will be your best choices. Since you will be using pictures to base the majority of your purchase on (before you meet them), you should be especially careful with the pointers mentioned above.
In New Jersey, Bike Rehab’s eight locations are great places to look for secondhand bikes. Their rates are often very reasonable, and occasionally when they are throwing out a very old bicycle, you might be able to get it for free too!
In London, there is no Craigslist. However, there are actually many more dedicated bicycle channels:
- Online classifieds like GumTree and PreownedCycles.co.uk.
- Auction sites such as GoingGoingBike.com and eBay.
- Police auctions such as those ran by Frank G Bowen.
- And also good old brick and mortar bicycle shops.
In India, bicycles are very prevalent. That is why they get a special mention too! For used bikes, classifieds are very useful places to start looking. More useful are brick and mortars though. That is because with all the bicycles around, bicycle shops are naturally also very common.
If you are planning on browsing online, the following are the most popular bicycle websites and classified directories:
- Choosemy Bicycle
Second hand bikes are great deals if bought properly. If you followed the guide above, you will most definitely have bought a great bike! We are sure of it! Remember, with proper maintenance, a good bicycle can last many many decades.
If you have any recommended bicycle shops that you have experience with, please give us a notice below! We will add it to our Bicycle Shop Directory when released.