As the only company in the bike industry to sell certified pre-owned bikes, The Pro’s Closet eliminates a lot of the guesswork and fears associated with buying a used bike online.
Variety of brands and styles
Inspection and quality control
Excellent customer service
18-month trade-in program
No customization options
Some assembly required
May be limited inventory at times
Mark-up compared to private seller
On your own for sizing/fit
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Perhaps one of the biggest misconceptions about being a Triathlete editor is that we have a super-stocked warehouse of gear to pull from whenever we feel like swapping out our current bike or wetsuit for something new. Don’t get me wrong, we go through a lot of gear testing here, but after we spend a few weeks putting a bike through the gauntlet, the manufacturers typically want it back ASAP. Who can blame them, when some triathlon bikes cost as much as a car?
But because of that cost, I’ve been putting off buying my own after throwing my last triathlon bike off a bridge post-Ironman five years ago (read my book for the whole story). My road bike has been doing a great job in the interim, but I’m ready for a super-aero steed. I’m also not ready to drop the monetary equivalent of a used Hyundai for a bike, which is why I decided to check out the more affordable used-bike scene. Specifically, The Pro’s Closet.
The Pro’s Closet Review: The Basics
15 years ago, mountain bike racer Nick Martin was struggling to make ends meet. To make some extra cash, he began selling off his old bikes. Soon, he was driving a trailer around the country, buying and selling bikes and gear. This eventually evolved into what is now known as The Pro’s Closet, an online marketplace for certified pre-owned bikes.
The term “certified pre-owned bikes” is an important distinction to the founders of The Pro’s Closet. Used and secondhand bikes have always existed and can be bought (often cheaper) on any number of online retailers from eBay to Facebook Marketplace to online forums. But, that shopping process can be a bit of a gamble. This is especially true if you’re buying a bike completely online, where you have to place an immense amount of trust on a seller you never meet—and, unfortunately, misrepresentation and scams do happen.
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The Pro’s Closet takes away the back-alley element of buying a secondhand bike online with its Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) distinction. What that means is that before they list a bike, it goes through a 141-step inspection process to make sure it meets their standards of quality and safety. If it passes muster, it then goes through a professional tune-up too to ensure the ride is ready for its next life.
The Pro’s Closet Review: What We Liked
The details of each bike listed on the website go above and beyond what most online bike sellers offer. In addition to close-up photos of every component, The Pro’s Closet also shows every scratch, dent, and ding on the bike, so that the customer knows exactly what they’re getting.
This attention to detail extends to the online bike shopping process as well. Customer service reps are available via live chat or telephone (and in my case, video chat so I could read lips and use closed captions, since I’m deaf) to walk customers through the search process—similar to a brick-and-mortar bike shop. On my call, Rachel Blechman, senior manager of sales at The Pro’s Closet, started with the simplest questions (“What’s your budget?” “What bikes have you ridden in the past?” “What bike size do you currently ride?”) and moved toward more detailed questions (“How do you feel about electronic shifters?” “Do you prefer disc brakes or rim brakes?”). From there, the website’s search engine generated a list of options that fit my specific criteria, until I found one that checked all my boxes: a 2020 Felt IA Advanced Triathlon Bike.
What I especially appreciated about this experience with buying a used bike online was that I was 100% in the driver’s seat for the whole shopping experience. Blechman never tried to sell me something I didn’t want, and I never felt talked down to. This is vastly different from most experiences I’ve had at most bike shops, which can collectively be described as “a willy-shaking contest.” Instead of the typical bike-shop ego and condescension about my many (many!) questions, I got straightforward answers.
Because of this, I felt supremely confident in making a purchase. With shipping and taxes, I paid just under $2,500 for a two year-old, but new-to-me bike. Two days later, the bike was on my doorstep, ready to assemble and ride. It was exactly what I saw in the photos, right down to the scuff on the fork. It may sound strange, but being able to confirm the bike’s “fingerprint” was, in a way, comforting.
My bike, understandably, came with some assembly required. This made me nervous, as I’m not much of a gearhead. Going from this:
was not as complicated as I thought it would be, thanks to an included bag of tools for assembly and step-by-step print and video instructions. Full disclosure: I also got an assist from Triathlete’s gear editor when I couldn’t figure out where a small rubber plug was supposed to go. (It turned out to be for covering holes in the seat post, for those interested.)
The Pro’s Closet Review: What We Didn’t Like
If you’re looking for a fully customized bike, buying a used bike online is probably not for you. After a bike goes through the inspection process at The Pro’s Closet, it’s packaged up for shipping. This not only keeps the bike in its documented condition, but it also expedites the shipping process—once a bike is purchased, it’s labeled and sent out for two-day shipping.
Because of this, though, it’s not possible to say you want this bike frame, but with that seat or those gears when shopping at The Pro’s Closet. If you want to mix-and-match, you’ll have to do it yourself. If you’ve got an absolute max budget for your bike, factor in the cost of things like seats and pedals, which you’ll have to pay for. You’ll also want to budget for the services of a professional at your local bike shop—at the very least, to check your assembly work, but hiring them to do an assembly and ultimately proper bike fit is also a solid idea. (As we say in our How to Buy a Bike Online guide, having a pro build your bike can make the difference between a first ride that ends with a smile and one that ends with facial reconstruction surgery. And a good bike fit is the key to a good bike ride.)
Sizing/fit is something to consider when buying a bike online. With more than a decade of riding multiple road, mountain, and triathlon bikes, I have a good sense of what works for me as far as fit and geometry. But a new athlete may not have that information, and though The Pro’s Closet sales reps are certainly helpful, they’re no replacement for a pre-shopping visit to a bike fitter to get individualized recommendations. This will help increase the likelihood of finding the best bike for you.
It’s also important to note that the supply chain issues that are plaguing the new-bike market also apply to pre-owned bikes. The Pro’s Closet can only sell what they’re able to buy, so there is an ebb and flow to their inventory. If you’re looking for a very small or very large frame, a very specific kind of groupset, or even a specific brand of bike, you might need to wait until that comes into stock.
And The Pro’s Closet is still a business. They make their money through mark-up—ie. they buy used bikes pre-inspection for less than the seller could get on their own and sell them for more. This fee covers their inspection and guarantee process. You’re paying for the confidence and ease of knowing what you’re getting when it comes to secondhand bikes. What my bike was listed for was on the upper end of what was recommended by the Bicycle Blue Book, and many of the bikes on the site follow suit. More savings certainly could be achieved by going through a different online used bike platform or directly through friends and triathlon groups, but there is a much larger sense of “buyer beware” when doing so.
A note: I only purchased a bike on The Pro’s Closet platform; I did not sell a bike to them, nor did I take advantage of the Guaranteed Buyback Program, where the site offers 18 months of buyback value of your bike, should you wish to get a different ride year after year. But based on my positive experience as a customer, I would certainly consider those options down the line.
There’s a global bike shortage, so buying a used bike online is something many cyclists and triathletes are considering these days. Doing so comes with an inherent risk, especially when going through sites where the seller and the product cannot be verified. Even when you can meet up with the seller to check out the used bike before purchasing, there’s a risk—unless you go with a bike mechanic, it’s hard to feel 100% confident about what you’re getting. The Pro’s Closet takes away a lot of those fears.
That, coupled with a hassle-free shopping experience, makes The Pro’s Closet a solid option for people who are looking to confidently buy a used bike online worry-free.