Purchasing a new bike may not always be possible, especially if you don’t want to shell out a ton of money. And while there a great options for less than $1000, a secondhand bike is still the next best thing. Problem is if you should get one? And if so, what are the criteria for buying a used bike?
Getting a used bike is a good idea if you don’t have enough cash to purchase a new one. The downside is that there are more risks involved. It is important to ensure that you don’t get a deal that’s too good to be true. That said, below are a few factors to consider when purchasing a used bike.
Be sure to inspect the frame in bright light conditions. Start with the surface of the finish, ensuring that it is still intact. The tubes should be intact and void of any cracks, ripples or damage. Take a look at the front derailleur mounting plate to find out if it is bonded or riveted. Make sure there are no bluish white deposits as these are a sign of rusting and will cause breakage of the mounts. Grab the end of the cage on the front mech and tug it. There should be a maximum of 3mm play. Don’t forget to inspect the top and down tube for damage.
The wheels and tires affect overall performance of the bike and as such, it’s important to ensure they are in good condition. Start the inspection by checking for spoke holes on the hub and rim. You should also check for signs of oxidation. The pads shouldn’t be allowed to score the braking surfaces. Spinning the wheels and eyeballing the gap between the braking pads is a good way to find out if the pads score the braking surfaces. If there is a rumbling sensation in the fork leg, the bearings are most likely dry or worn out.
The drivetrain is made up of chain rings (front cogs), cassette (rear cogs), cranks, chain, shifters and derailleurs. While all of these components can be replaced, assessing their condition is important to avoid their high costs. Start by inspecting the chain. You will need a chain checker to detect chain wear. If you don’t have one, start by lifting the chain away from the chain ring. If it stretches too much, you probably need to replace it. Check the inside of the crank arms, ensuring that there aren’t engravings or etches that could lead to cracks.
Every bike needs a working seatpost, hence a crucial aspect of purchasing a used hybrid. Lift the bike up a few inches before letting it drop. Do you hear any rattling or clunking? With aluminum and steel hybrids, the damage may be obvious. But that’s not always the case with carbon fiber frames. Most carbon fiber bikes feature a hole drilled at the end of the slot in the seatpost clamp area. It helps prevent cracks from spreading. If the seatpost is clamped up, loosening the clamp and twisting the saddle will fix the issue.
If the hybrid comes with a suspension system, you’ll want to ensure it’s in good condition. Due to its regular use, suspension systems often require replacing. Push on the suspension, listening for squeaking. Be sure to feel for excessive resistance that may affect performance. Consider asking the seller when they last had the suspension serviced or replaced.
There are a few things you can only check for during a test drive. For instance, does the bike track straight? Are there any crunching or cracking noises when you swing the bike left to right? Is there any wobbling due to an out-of-true wheel or damaged wheel? What about the bars? Do they make cracking noises when twisted? All of these are questions you need to answer during the test ride. You should also ensure that the bike is comfortable.
The Bottom Line
There is nothing wrong with purchasing a used hybrid bike. And while some sellers will attempt to sell you a faulty product, performing the above checks will ensure you don’t buy into their negligence. Keep in mind that while you’ll be saving money in terms of initial investment, buying something that requires a lot of repairs will cost you more.