Buying a bike doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. These 7 tips will make sure your used wheels ride like new.
Buying a used bike can be, as Forrest Gump would say, like a box of chocolates: You never know what you’re gonna get. Here, seven essential tips for selecting a used bicycle the smart way.
1. Know what type of bike you need, advises Edmund R. Burke, Ph.D., coauthor of Fitness Cycling and director of exercise science for the 1996 U.S. Olympic cycling team. “You should look for the same type of bicycle that you’d want if you were in the market for a new bike,” he says, whether that means racing, touring, mountain or hybrid.
2. Make sure the bike is the right size for you. When you straddle the bike, there should be at least two inches between the top tube of the frame and your groin.
3. If you’re buying from an individual, have the bike checked out by a professional bike shop, suggests Gus Harris, manager at Bicycle Renaissance in New York City. For a small fee (usually $10 to $15), you can have the shop evaluate the bike’s condition, including wheel alignment, brakes and gears, and the integrity of the frame and chain. Be sure to get the evaluation in writing.
4. Take the bike for a test drive at least once. Run through all the gears and try riding on different terrains (uphill, downhill, on pavement and dirt, if appropriate). Pay attention to whether the bike feels comfortable.
5. Ask the owner about the bike’s history. How was the bike used? How many miles has it been ridden? Has it been left outdoors for an extended period of time? Was it ever involved in a serious accident? A 10-year-old bike that was used for only an occasional Sunday ride may be a better choice than a brand new model that has taken a cross-country trip, says Burke.
6. Get a warranty. A bike shop should offer a standard 30- or 60-day warranty. If you’re buying from an individual, write your own warranty (get one from a bike shop and use it as a model) and have the seller sign it.
7. Finally, have the owner show you how to use the bike before you take it home. The bike might have some individual quirks that need explanation. Is there a trick to raising the seat? To switching gears? Find out.