Buying a secondhand bike

Second hand frames can be restored to make some of the most striking bikes around

You can pick up some great bargains buying secondhand, but there are two major pitfalls:

  1. Buying a poor quality bike
  2. Buying a stolen bike

You need some expertise in bikes, or a knowledgeable advisor, to avoid the first problem.

However, anyone can avoid buying stolen, and you should: theft is a major problem in London, and if you feed the market, you only make it more likely that you'll lose one in the future, as well as dealing with potentially dangerous individuals, and running the real risk of losing your bike if it's spotted by its original owner.

Read our tips for avoiding the stolen market here.

Finding buying advice

If you're an LCC member, our staff can give you some advice, or you can ask questions on our forum, or you could make contact with your local group and find someone willing to give you some time there.

Buying from shops

Bike shops often sell secondhand bikes too, and it’s a great way to get a decent model for a bargain price, though some are less scrupulous about buying from dodgy traders than others.

You can get secondhand bikes from many different places in London including:

  • Our web forum, where sellers are expected to list the frame number on site
  • Specialised secondhand bike shops buy from auction houses and rebuild the bikes
  • Regular bike shops sell secondhand, often taken in part exchange from customers buying new.
  • Auction houses sell catalogue returns or end-of-line bikes and re-sell bikes found by the police. Frank G Bowen is auctioneer for bikes recovered by the police in London.
  • Bike hire shops often sell their bikes on after a certain time - about 18 months. These can be good deals, as they'll have been regularly serviced.
  • Newspapers and cycle magazines can be good sources, though you need to exercise caution.

What to look out for

When buying a secondhand bike, check the bike very carefully:

  • Is the frame the right size? Impossible to correct, a wrong-size frame can be uncomfortable, inefficient and dangerous.
  • Bent, dented or cracked frame or forks. Check the joins especially closely, and avoid at all costs if in any doubt. Resprays can hide problems.
  • Buckled wheels/missing or broken spokes. Might be fixable cheaply, but new wheels can cost up to £100.
  • Soft brakes or worn/misaligned gears. Can be cheap and easy to correct, but not always. This is where expert advice comes in most handy.
  • Rust on the frame. If it's more than scratch-deep, walk away.
  • Loose handlebars or stem. This could be a jammed or loose headset, which could require major surgery.
  • Pedals that crunch as they turn might indicate a damaged bottom bracket, which requires a bike shop or specialist tools/knowledge to fix.
  • Tyres. If they're bald or cracked, they'll need replacing, but this is usually reasonably cheap and easy.


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