Essential Second Hand Bicycle Buyers Checklist

Read this essential guide to buying a second hand bicycle before you make your purchase.

If you are looking for a second hand bicycle, make sure you read this checklist first!

Looking for a bargain bike or a good quality second hand bicycle involves the same considerations as looking for a new bike, plus the need to ensure the bike is in good working order.

Most second hand bikes won’t be in mint condition but will be perfectly find to ride, and if you are willing to do them a lot of repairs can be quite quick and relatively cheap to do. When you’ve found a bike you want, check it over using our handy guide.

Want more information? Read our Guide to Buying a Second Hand Bicycle, and our How to Avoid Buying a Stolen Bicycle guide.

1. What type of bicycle are you looking for?

Do you need a hybrid bike for commuting to work, a road bike for racing, a mountain bike, or just something for cruising about on? Go for the bike that best fits your needs.

2. Check the size

It may be a bargain, but if the bike doesn’t fit you’re in for a world of discomfort. Don’t buy the wrong size bike, as it will be uncomfortable to ride and may cause injury. Read our How To Find the Bike to Fit You article first.

3. Check the frame for damage

Have a close look at dents and scratches. Scratches are common and usually only cosmetic, particularly on mountain bikes. Avoid buying a bike with a cracked frame; cracks are bad news, and mean that the frame is structurally compromised, particularly with carbon frames. Look extra close if the bike has been recently repainted.

If the rust is just at the surface and can be wiped or scratched off, this is usually okay. If it looks like the frame or parts have rusted through, again avoid the bike.

4. Wheels and Tyres

Make sure the wheels aren’t badly buckled and don’t have missing spokes. A new wheel can cost upwards of £50 if you find you need to replace them. Check the rims of the wheels to make sure there aren’t any dents or cracks in them.

Make sure the tyres are intact, don’t have holes in and that the rubber hasn’t perished. A set of cheap tyres starts around £20.

5. Brakes

These are pretty important! Worn brake pads are easy and cheap to replace, so you don’t need to worry about these too much, but you do want to make sure that the brakes work. Check both the front and back brakes. Have a look at the brake cable to see whether it’s rusty or clean, and if you have caliper or v-brakes which work on the rim of the wheel, make sure it’s working smoothly.

6. Gears

Lift the rear of the bike up (you might need a second person to help you with this one), turn the pedals and click up and down the gears for both the front and back. Make sure you go right to the top and the bottom of each set of gears. The gears should change fairly smoothly and quietly and the chain shouldn’t drop off the gear cassette.

If the chain and cassette is dirty, this will effect how smooth the gears feel but with some cleaning and a spot of oil you’ll be able to improve this.

Make sure the chain and the cogs aren’t rusty, as these can be pricey parts to replace.

7. Loose parts

Have a feel of the pedals, the bottom bracket, and the headset and handlebars – give them a shake, and see if they feel loose, as this could indicated hidden problems. Listen out for noises like rattles, clunks or scraping noises.

8. Take it for a test ride

If you are able to, take it for a quick and careful spin up and down the road. Check the brakes are working, try changing gear while pedaling. Feel for anything that’s loose when pedaling or steering. Look at your front when to check it straight and not buckled.

9. Take it for a safety check

You can take your second hand bicycle to your local bike shop for a check over. They should be able point out any issues, recommend products or parts, and make sure it’s running properly.You might also want to book it in for a service to get it clean, efficient and running smoothly.


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