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Guide to Buying a Second-Hand Bike

By Christopher Ashley

Services like eBay, Facebook Selling, or Cycling Weekly’s Classifieds offer you protection should something go wrong with your purchase. Sellers are required to offer identification, financial details, and an address to ensure these services can offer some recourse to their customers.

But what if you see the perfect deal for the bike of your dreams in your local newspaper? The following advice will be invaluable.

Take a friend

If you’re buying in person, you’d ideally want your mechanic friend to join you, or a member of the local cycle club – their technical know-how and mild cynicism will balance out your desire to throw your money at the first bike you see.

Duchess of Cambridge might just be the friend you need!

Reasonable requests

I’m currently selling 2 bikes and neither of their tyres are completely up to pressure because I’m not riding them on a regular basis. It would be perfectly reasonable for a buyer to ask me to pump them up if I’ve forgotten to do so.

I’d be happy for a buyer to ask me raise or lower the saddle. The more expensive the bike, the more accommodating I should be as a seller to what you, the customer, want to check. If I was selling my beloved full carbon road bike (I’m not), I’d be surprised if the buyer didn’t want to check the steering-stem clamping point.

The drop test

Holding a bike a few inches off the ground and dropping it is the quickest way to reveal if something is seriously wrong.

If you’ve never done this before, try it on a bike you know doesn’t have any problems, such as one of your own bikes, or one that’s been properly set up by your local bike shop. You’ll then recognise if anything sounds wrong when you try it on your potential purchase.

Cosmetic or casualty?

Scratches to frames and a little cosmetic rust are ok on a steel frame. Surface scratches to the lacquer of a carbon frame are fine too, but with carbon frames, any ripples or cracks you see on the frame could be serious.

Even the smallest visible cracks mean the frame has no value and the bike shouldn’t be ridden – even if it’s offered to you for free. Check around the front derailleur as a lot of stress is placed on this part of the frame. Any build up of powder shows the frame is corroding and too risky to ride.

Know when to haggle

Make sure you know the cost of any work that may need to be done. If the only thing wrong with the bike is that the front wheel needs truing, you only need to haggle £10 off the asking price. If the groupset is rusted through, the cost in man hours alone will be significant.

Finally, remember that you’re buying a second-hand bike to save yourself some money. Do your homework and avoid racking up costs further down the line – get it right and you’ll double the fun of riding a new bike.