Buying a used bike can save you tons of dough, but only if you do it right. With a little bit of legwork—and some caution—you can reduce a lot of the risk involved in going the pre-owned route. Heed this advice, and you’ll be pedaling fancy-free in no time.
Know Your Fit
The fit of a bicycle is paramount, whether you are making the purchase new or used. But when buying used, you won’t necessarily have the assistance of the friendly staff at your local neighborhood bicycle shop to point you in the right direction. The best course of action is to ask a quality bike fitter what they’d recommend for your body and let them help guide your selection. While many fitters are found housed within bike shops, there are also many studio-style fitters who operate on their own. The added benefit of these fitters is they generally have no affiliation with particular brands—and they’ve worked with all of them, so they know which ones are best for, say, someone with a shorter torso and longer legs.
Two of the most popular places to buy used bikes are eBay and Craigslist. One benefit of browsing local listings on Craigslist is that many times the seller will be willing to meet with you to let you see a bike you might be interested in prior to purchasing. The downside to Craigslist, especially when browsing local listings, is that often times you will limit the number and variety of options you will be able to choose from. You’ll also want to look out for red flags that the bike could be stolen. If the listing contains typos, the price seems too good to be true, and/or the photo is obviously stock then it’s best to move on.
When shopping for used bikes on eBay, make sure to review the ratings and selling history of the seller. And make sure to pay attention to the return policy, as this can vary from seller to seller.
One way to bridge this divide between making purchases from an online seller versus buying in-person is to purchase from a seller such as The Pro’s Closet, an online company that specializes in selling used cycling equipment. You can find great deals on quality equipment with all of the typical benefits associated with purchasing used via the internet, with the added benefit of expert advice and service should you need it.
Another great way to purchase used is to check in with triathlon and cycling clubs in your area to see if any members are selling used equipment. Some club websites even have a used gear section. Sometimes clubs or other groups hold annual bike swaps. One of the larges is Denver’s VeloSwap, held toward the end of the year.
Focus on the Frame
Don’t discount the idea of purchasing a bike without wheels. While high-end race wheels are very fun, they are also expensive and are subject to quite a bit of wear and tear. While most bikes look quite a bit cooler when you’re browsing eBay if they are rolling on deep-dish carbon hoops, you might find that an otherwise sweet purchase can be soured upon arrival because the high-end wheels need of new tires, new bearings, truing, or other expensive servicing. If you do choose to purchase a bike complete with wheels, ask the seller plenty of questions so you are aware of the condition the wheels are in.
Once You Buy: Get the Bike Serviced ASAP
Include enough money in your budget to take your new (used) bike in for a service appointment at your local bike shop. While many triathletes take great care of their rides, some don’t. Get off to a good start by letting an expert tune the drivetrain and braking systems, including replacing used cables and housing, and bearings, as needed.
Also, if you’ve been working with a fit studio, now is the time to take your new ride in and get dialed in. While their recommendations likely put you close to where you need to be on your ride, there are many small adjustments that can be tweaked for optimal fit.