What to Look for When Buying a Used Bike

Buying a used bike can be a good way to save money on a new biking investment, whether you’re looking for a slick brand-name bike that has all the bells and whistles or a used version of a cheaper bike just to get around town. Shopping for a used bike is similar to shopping for a new one, except that there are a few extra things to look for. Here’s what you need to know about buying a used bike:

Fit of the Bike

The absolute most important part of buying a bike – used or new – is the fit of the bike. The frame needs to fit you well, so that you can straddle the bike and have one to two inches to spare, have the seat at a comfortable height and angle, and put the handlebars at a comfortable height.

If you aren’t sure how to pick out a bike that fits you, talk to someone at your local bike shop. Even if you don’t plan to buy from the local bike shop, you can talk to them about how to choose a bike with a proper fit before you go shopping, and you may even find they’re worth considering, especially when you need to tweak your setup or for repairs.

Brand Name

Before you purchase a new bike, get familiar with some of the major brand names that you might be interested in. If you’re on a tight budget and just need a bike to get around town, a well-fitting bike by a cheaper brand name can be fine. These bikes tend to be heavier, have less features, and can still be long lasting.

Brand name bikes from higher quality brands are certainly more expensive, but they also tend to last longer, be made from lighter-weight metals, like carbon, and require less basic maintenance than their cheaper counterparts.

Before you buy a used bike, make sure you know what brand it is, and check out some reviews of the brand and style online to make sure you’re really getting a good value for your money.

Brakes

It’s important to check out not only the shape of the brakes on a used bike but also what type of brakes the bike has. V-brakes are the easiest to adjust and have the best braking power, and centre-pull brakes are the next best option. Side-pull brakes, more common on cheaper bikes, aren’t as high-quality and are harder to adjust, so it’s best to avoid these if possible. You’re more likely to find them on used bikes, too, since they used to be the norm for all bikes.

Reflectors

All new bikes are going to come with basic safety gear, including reflectors on the front and back wheel. Check that your new-used bike has reflectors. If not, you’ll need to install them on your own. You may also want to look for front and rear lights if you’re planning to use your bike at night.

Necessary Work

All bikes require some maintenance as you go along, but a used bike might require serious maintenance from the start. There are several basic maintenance issues to check for right away, including the following:

  • Do the tyres need air? Unless the bike’s previous owner has been riding the bike regularly, you’ll probably need to put air in the tyres.
  • Does the chain need to be oiled? Use a good bike lube from a bike shop to oil the chain when it needs it.
  • Do the brakes need to be adjusted? Make sure the brake pads aren’t rubbing against the wheel rim, which can slow you down. Make sure you know how to adjust the brakes on the bike before you buy it.
  • Do the tyres need to be replaced? If you’re planning to use your bike mainly for riding on the road, be sure it has smooth tyres, which will go faster and require less effort when pedalling.
  • Does it need more serious maintenance? If you’re buying a high-quality bike, it’s probably worth the investment to have it checked out in a bike shop. A tune-up can ensure that your bike has steady wheels that run straight and can also ensure that your bike isn’t about to come apart because of being improperly assembled.

Bike riding is an excellent way to get around town and to enjoy some exercise, and as common as it is around Europe, finding a decent used bike isn’t too difficult. Before you buy your used bike, though, make sure you check for all the points discussed here to ensure that your bike is a good investment.

Payment Options

Often, you’ll need to pay for a used bike with cash, particularly if you’re buying it from an individual seller. Some bike shops, though, will sell used bikes and take credit cards. If you’re searching for a more expensive bike and will need to use credit to purchase it and to make it more affordable, you may want to check out bike shops that offer used selections.

Like many cyclists, I've been riding since I was very young and despite now being less-young, I love it just as much. I've done my time on road bikes, have cycled throughout the UK, including Lands End to John O' Groats (yes, uphill!) and now have fun on a mountain bike, in the hills and doing charity bike rides.