How to: buy a secondhand bike

Picture credit: Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious

Pick up a bargain and don’t get lumbered with a lemon, with this handy guide to getting a secondhand bicycle.

The two biggest pitfalls with secondhand cycles are stolen bikes and broken bikes. To avoid ending up with a stolen bike, see our separate guide – and please try not to end up with one, you could end up having to hand the bike back to the original owner, and you’re keeping the thieves in business.

To avoid buying something broken, dangerous or low quality, you really need to know what you’re looking for. If you’re not confident checking over a bike, check in with your local group – there’ll probably be someone there who can help.

What to look for when buying secondhand:

-          Frame size - This is impossible to correct once you’ve paid up and a wrong-size frame will at best be uncomfortable and inefficient, and can be dangerous.

-          Frame and forks – If either is bent, dented or cracked (particularly check the joins between tubes) avoid at all costs if in any doubt. And be aware, a fresh coat of paint could be hiding a problem.

-          Wheels - Buckled wheels, missing or broken spokes might be fixable cheaply, but new wheels can cost up to £100.

-          Brakes and gears – Minor defects such as soft brakes, a slightly rust chain or misaligned gears can be cheap to correct, but worn kit can cost to replace. Again, expert help or eyes ideal.

-          Rust on the frame – Scrape away, and if it's more than scratch-deep, walk away.

-          Handlebars and stem – if these are loose, or feel graunchy while turning the handlebars, this could be a jammed or loose headset. And again, this could cost.

-          Pedals – if they crunch as they turn that might mean a new bottom bracket.

-          Tyres – replace bald or cracked ones.

-          Buy from a shop – any reputable bike shop (like the ones that offer our members discounts) will have their mechanic(s) check over a second hand ride before it goes out the door.

-          Buy from the cops – the police dispose of stolen bikes they can’t reunite with owners by auction – Frank G Bowen is a good one to go.

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