Whilst buying a second hand bike can potentially save you thousands of pounds off the original retail price, it can also come with significant risks. Not spotting a major mechanical flaw could leave you with hefty repair bills or worse still, a bike that's unsafe to ride.
When purchasing through Cycle Exchange, you can be confident that every used bike is in full working order as each bike goes through extensive checks then is serviced and refurbished as necessary by our team of Cyctech qualified mechanics.
Here's our 5 stage process to run through when buying a second hand bike. Make sure you follow these before handing over the cash.
First thing to do is make sure the bike that was listed or described to you matches what you have in front of you. Sellers often make mistakes with the spec that will affect its price. For example, saying it's a Dura Ace build when in fact only part of the groupset is Dura Ace and the rest is a lower spec.
Even if the seller really seems to know their stuff or is an acquaintance or friend, you need to be thorough in the checks, honest mistakes are often made. If the overall condition of the bike looks poor eg unclean, greasy or even rusty then that is not a good sign and would indicate the bike has not been looked after. Bikes are expensive to fix if not looked after so be wary and walk away if your instinct says so.
It is still important to give the bike a thorough inspection even if the bike appears to be pristine. We all make mistakes and even the most honest seller may have missed small amounts of damage which could impact the bike's value or performance. Check underneath the bike, in wheel arches and the insides of forks. Look really carefully for dents or cracks, particularly important for carbon frames and forks.
When assessing the condition of the bike, don't forget to inspect the condition of the wheels and tyres. If they are in poor shape, this will effect the handling and performance of the bike, as well as potentially causing you great expense further down the line.
The wheel rim should not be concave and still smooth to touch. There should be no inappropriate movement in the hubs or grinding sound when the wheels spin, if there is that means the bearings are worn. Check spoke holes on carbon wheels to ensure there are no splits from spoke movement.
Tyres should have good tread left and no splits, otherwise factor a new set into the price. Quality tyres are around £30-50 each. Also check the brake pads for wear.
A badly worn chain may mean that the sprockets are also worn down - a problem which can be expensive to correct. To check this, take hold of the chain at the front of the chainring, and pull. If the chain can be pulled almost clear of the teeth, it is a sign of heavy wear, and you may want to reconsider your purchase. For a really accurate gauge of wear, take a chain checker and anything less than 50% should be replaced sometime soon, again factor that into the price you are paying.
Check the chain rings aren't sharp. The teeth of the chain rings will sharpen over time and really sharp pointy teeth means they have been worn too far and the chain rings will need to be replaced.
Other moving parts to check; ensure fork and headset connections are sound i.e. no rusting and that there is no inappropriate movement or wobbling in the headset. Tip here is to pull the front brake and try and move the wheel around - it shouldn't rock.
Check the bottom bracket and crankset don't have any inappropriate movement by grabbing both crank arms and feeling for movement. Movement could mean bottom bracket issues or worse - carbon wear on the BB shell.
Be careful if you are buying carbon this can be fatal if there are cracks.
You need to carefully inspect every mm of the carbon structure (same if there are carbon bars and seat post). Look for crushed paint from overtightened contact points. Look for hairline cracks in the paint.
In metal frames you should look for dents as the structure will be weakened and that can't be fixed. Anything you are concerned about will need further inspection by a specialist. Carbon can be repaired but it's not cheap, be over cautious.
Taking a bike for a spin is one of the best ways of telling if it is the one for you. This is also a great way to test the gears, steering, brakes, and ride comfort.
Perhaps the most valuable piece of advice when it comes to buying second hand bikes is this: buy from a trusted seller. Genuine sellers will be happy to provide you with a receipt or documentation from when they purchased the bike, and may even offer a warranty if it's a business.
Find a dependable vendor, do some simple checks, and you could just bag yourself a bargain WITH peace of mind.