With the economy still weak in many parts of the country, secondhand bikes are more popular than ever. Buying one can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars off the cost of a new model. However, as with any secondhand purchase, it pays to exercise a little extra caution when choosing one. Some things to look for include:
- The frameset – Chipped paint and a few tiny oxidation spots are fine, but pass up any bike with dents in the frame, especially if it’s made of aluminum. Look for cracks or bends where the wheel attaches to the frame (known as the “dropout”). The front fork should have no play in it whatsoever.
- Saddle – Torn ones should have been replaced; avoid the “duct tape quick repair.” Make sure there’s no play in the saddle; it should be parallel with a level floor. Sit on it; your leg should slightly bend at the bottom of the down stroke. Check the seal post clamp for cracks or other signs of wear.
- Brakes – Dried-out or worn brake pads are a huge safety risk. The bike might still be a good deal, but be prepared to replace the pads ASAP. Rusty or frayed cables, bent or cracked levers, or “mushy” braking are all signs the bike needs replacement parts.
- Drivetrain – There should be no play in the crankset. If there is, the bike probably has worn bearings. Spin the flywheel; any chattering or knocking is a sign of bad bearings. Shifting should be smooth and crisp in each gear; you’ll need to raise the rear wheel to check for this.
- Wheels – Check for side-to-side play. If you notice any, then the hubs may be worn. Squeeze the spokes; tension should be the same at every spot. Loose or broken spokes are a huge red flag. Tires with worn tread, dry rot, or damage to the sidewalls should be replaced. Check the air pressure in the tires. If they can’t hold the recommended level, then the bike has leakage problems.
- Bike shop check – if possible, have a local bike shop inspect the cycle before you purchase it. Here at Alamo Bike Shop we’re happy to perform that service, but we also stock a number of secondhand bikes that are in excellent shape. Come by and browse our selection soon!