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Old 12-01-06, 04:42 AM   #1
Zero_Enigma
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Need tips on buying USED bikes on Craigslist.

Ok, I found a bike I like. I'm sticking with MTB's right now because they are sturdy and seem to hold up longer. I would like to know what to look for when buying a used bike off Craigslist. The bike I'm interested is local. I have no favorite LBS and somehow I have a slight uneasy relationship with many LBS's. I'd like to know can LBS's do the bike checkup to give me a run down say in 30 mins or less the condition of the bike to validate the sellers claims on the condition of the bike? I'd like to know ahead of time how much repair will be needed and I would thing a LBS would be best to give me that info but not sure if they do it for free and how long they take as the seller may not want to idle that long.

So what should I ask? What photos or areas should I be looking for damage? How would I know what's damaged and how to tell that is it damaged? I'm currently in the red so $60 CDN is taking a chunk out of my wallet.

What do they mean by retro-fit on a bike?

This is what I'm looking at. http://toronto.craigslist.org/bik/241570390.html I'm somewhat attached to Peugeot seeing as I own one already and like it. The price really makes me wonder if the bike has high milage, been crashed, or rusting out at critical points (which I don't know what's critical thus my asking the experts here).

I ride about ~30km a day (15km x 2) or the occasional 55km long range (20km/35km) so I would really like reliablity and not get stuck out in the middle of no where with issues. Is this bike a good choice given the price, parts, material build, etc? I know the image on the site is small but I've requested extra images. I know I'll have to drop extra cash for new brakes just so I know the brakes are new and one less worry.


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Old 12-01-06, 06:34 AM   #2
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The more stolen the better.
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Old 12-01-06, 06:52 AM   #3
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Many questions. One recommendation is to take this item in front of the fine folk on the Craigslist Bike Forum. Many are mountain bikers and love ripping apart or praising bikes found on Craigslist. It's also found as the transit forum. You'll know it when you are in the right forum.

You'll have to call your LBS about what they can do for you. Also get the serial number and run it by the authorities.

Just a few red flags I notice, no hint of what model bike it is. No description of wear and tear or age. And as you brought up what is a complete custom retro-fit. You will have to ask the owner and maybe the LBS.
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Old 12-01-06, 07:52 AM   #4
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Learn by doing. Buy the best fit for the best price, and learn about bikes by fixing it up slowly over time as you have the money to do so. Learn to get along with your LBS, or prepare to send a lot of mail order parts back.
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Old 12-01-06, 08:18 AM   #5
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The thing about CL is that you get the best deals when you buy something that needs a little work. a $100 bike on CL that needs $200 of parts and labor is going to be better than the $300 listings (prob. better than the $500 listings).
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Old 12-01-06, 10:51 AM   #6
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Determining the condition of used bikes is really dfficult from photos or quick visual inspection. I've bought some on Graig's List that looked decent in the photograph, but later turned out to be not so good. Alternatively I've also bought some that looked like crap and after a good cleaning, turned out like they were brand new. It seems like you have to spend a few hours cleaning and readjusting just to figure out what you got.

I agree with Artkansas writing about the lack of description of the model as a warning flag. But then alot of owners don't really know that information, especailly the older the bike. My frame of reference is that I was purchasing old bikes to fiddle around with and maybe build a fixie. It seems you are intending to buy one bike that you want to ride as soon as possible. That higher expectation is going to make it more difficult.

I guess one thing you could do is get a chain wear guage and check for chain stretch. If the chain is too elongated, it's been well used and you may have to replace the cranks and rear cassette. Another thing is to check for switched components. You probably don't have a database to check the original equipment of one years model (nobody does), so this too is difficult. But check to see if the front and rear tire rims match. I've had that happen once where there was a 10 speed rear wheel was put on a 12 speed rest of bike frame. Didn't notice it untill after I cleaned it up a bit at home. But it was only $20 and I just wanted it for the frame. If you can determine if the brake pads are original, check to see if they are worn down or not. Well worn indicates more use and wear and tear.

Good luck with the bike. The listing has been taken down.
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Old 12-01-06, 10:53 AM   #7
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Caveat Emptor.
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Old 12-01-06, 11:50 AM   #8
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There's also a price point below which it may not be worth looking at the bike. I picked up a couple of bikes for $15 and they were essentially just useful for parts with rusted in seatposts and stems. I did get my money's worth just from taking the parts but there was no way either could have been made rideable without a lot of work.
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Old 12-01-06, 12:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lurker1999
There's also a price point below which it may not be worth looking at the bike.
For craigslist - yes. But people do occasionally score an immaculate $5 Rockhopper at garage sales.
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Old 12-01-06, 01:23 PM   #10
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Garage sales can be interesting.. And there are those people who just want to get rid of their bike on Craigslist (i.e. moving tomorrow) and will severely underprice a bike. But for everyone of those gems you get a several dozen people who are selling things that will require a lot of work and are marked up far beyond their worth.
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Old 12-01-06, 01:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
The more stolen the better.



Lately people have been coming into the LBS getting a quote for a small repair, saying it's too high, walking out and leaving the bike in the bushes a block away. The bike path starts in the city, passes 20 feet from the bike shop, and goes out into the suburbs. At first I thought people were just throwing bikes away. But yesterday it was a really nice bike, left leaning against a phone pole barely a block away. It's got to be stolen, I think many of them are. I wish there was some way to find out. ?????
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Old 12-01-06, 02:57 PM   #12
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Oh I forgot to mention in my post...Only buy from your local CL where you can go actually see/ ride the bike. If you can't do that I wouldn't use CL unless it was like a Vanilla frame for $1.89 or something too hard to pass up.
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Old 12-01-06, 04:23 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lurker1999
Garage sales can be interesting..
But very time-consuming. You can roam for years and not find a worthwhile bike. Or you may go to one and just stumble upon a diamond in the rough.

Quote:
And there are those people who just want to get rid of their bike on Craigslist (i.e. moving tomorrow) and will severely underprice a bike.
Such bikes get snapped up in a matter of minutes, I would think. Lots of people read craigslist.

Quote:
But for everyone of those gems you get a several dozen people who are selling things that will require a lot of work and are marked up far beyond their worth.
Yep.

I got my current commuter on craigslist and I couldn't be happier about it. It was through a WANTED posting actually. I just specified my requirements and got an e-mail from a lady selling her errand-running bike because she was moving. She was a serious cyclists (competed in national-level competitions) and the bike was taken great care of. There was no work at all required on it; I just replaced seat and tires to customize it for my uses. And tinkered just a bit with a slightly maladjusted front brake. About a year later bearings needed adjustment and a rear brake cable had to be replaced. Nothing beyond normal maintenance any bike requires.
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Old 12-01-06, 04:35 PM   #14
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i once bought a made in italy columbus slx miele with full DA (85-87 vintage) in MINT condition for $80 at a garage sale. it was a guy's wife selling the bike. i felt so guilty i was trying to talk the price up. man that bike didnt fit me at all (60cm) but i ended up selling it to a friend for several times that price.
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Old 12-01-06, 05:37 PM   #15
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Bent forks and down tubes are the most common and obvious areas of crash damage. Usually down tubes will buckle a bit near the head tube with a hard front impact. If you don't notice any visible damage, see if the bike tracks straight by riding no-handed or just seeing if it takes constant correction to keep it traveling in a straight line.

Expect to spend some money getting a craigslist bike into shape and factor that into your budget. The last bike I bought on craigslist was a KHS track bike. The owner admitted he had JB Weld-ed the track cog on meaning that the hub would need to be replaced one the cog wore out. I knew that going into the deal, but I also got a nicely outfitted track bike at a fair price. It just gave me an excuse to get some new (and better) wheels built up.

Older mountain bikes are tricky because shifter and suspension fork styles have changed a lot, and parts can be tough to find.
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Old 12-01-06, 06:46 PM   #16
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Craigslist occasionally has good deals if you look long and hard, but in my opinion most of it is vastly overpriced. I particularly like the posts which are trying to sell a used bike for more than the lbs is selling it new.
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Old 12-01-06, 06:58 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thekorn
Craigslist occasionally has good deals if you look long and hard, but in my opinion most of it is vastly overpriced. I particularly like the posts which are trying to sell a used bike for more than the lbs is selling it new.
I look long and hard. It's worth it. The deals are there. Unlike ebay where the market determines the value of items, on craigslist the seller does, and the first person to show up with cash in hand gets the deal.

I could probably make a (fairly pathetic) living flipping craigslist bikes on ebay.
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Old 12-01-06, 09:02 PM   #18
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this other day, i saw a Rudy Project Ekynox SX Set Brand New with everything for $40CDN on craigslist, except someone got there before i did, really disappointed
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Old 12-01-06, 09:18 PM   #19
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I've gotten two bikes from craigslist Chicago. The first one, a 1999 Specialized Hardrock A1 Comp FS was not a particularly good deal but I have now ridden it for a year of commuting after adding a rack, fenders and road tires. I figure I paid for the bike in gasoline saved. The second bike, a 1989 Trek 950 cost me $75 and still has the original tires on it in good condition! The guy threw in a bike rack! I'm happy with the experience both times but I had to be patient. Beats the heck out of eBay IMHO.
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Old 12-01-06, 09:57 PM   #20
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I bought my commuter bike (An '88 Raleigh Technium) on craigslist for $50. Then I turned around and sold my '72 Schwinn Super Sport for $60 (I didn't put a price... asked for offers). I checked the other day, and there were 8 bikes on our local craigslist for less than $200 that all looked like great deals. Too bad I don't have any money to spend right now.
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Old 12-02-06, 12:54 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by bmclaughlin807
I bought my commuter bike (An '88 Raleigh Technium) on craigslist for $50. Then I turned around and sold my '72 Schwinn Super Sport for $60 (I didn't put a price... asked for offers). I checked the other day, and there were 8 bikes on our local craigslist for less than $200 that all looked like great deals. Too bad I don't have any money to spend right now.

I don't know about your area, but craigslist in DC and in NYC tend to sport bikes that are:

1) Way overpriced for their condition and age - but someone still buys them anyway! Doh!
2) Sellers all think their bike is "4 or 5 years old", when it's often 10+ years old.
3) Lots of bikes have very sparse descriptions and "willing to meet at subway/metro stop" - most of these are probably stolen.
4) Many people don't list the frame size. Many don't even know how to measure it if you ask for this information. Truly frustrating.
5) If they paid $400 for the bike 10 years ago, but "they hardly used it", they somehow still think it must be worth $350.

My experience is that you will spend a LOT of time trying to find a good deal. Good bikes at fair prices go very quickly. You'll need to check daily (obsessively) and be quick to contact sellers. When you go to see the bike, RIDE IT if possible. Check for expensive repairs!

Some things to look out for:
- Wheels are expensive to replace. The "great deal" you got on a $100 bike will look pretty terrible after you blow another $140 because the wheels are too far gone to use.
- Loose headsets are a bad sign. It may be too late to tighten it - the damage is probably done.
- Stretched chains indicate a worn out drivetrain.
- Spin everything (cranks, wheels). Make sure they don't sound or feel "crunchy".
- For steel frames, check for rust that is more than just superficial. Check for cracks and dents.
- Make sure the frame fits you. The bike is useless if it's too large or too small.

I'm sure I've missed things, but that's a start. Good luck! The bike market on Craigslist is crazy in major cities. You can often find better deals by stopping at garage sales on the weekend.

If an entry-level MTB is what you are after, you may get a better "deal" by buying a NEW mountain bike for $300. You could easily spend $150 fixing up a used bike that you bought for $150. In the Wash DC area, you see 30 year old high-tensile road bikes fetching $100+ and anything less than 8-10 years old typically sells for 60 to 70% of the brand new price! Might as well buy new in that case!


** I think the best buys on craigslist are for the bikes that "average joe" doesn't want. This means bikes that don't have the big name brands on them (Trek, Giant, Cannondale), and old-school road bikes from the 1970s t0 1980s.

Last edited by TrackSmart; 12-02-06 at 01:07 AM.
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Old 12-02-06, 03:50 AM   #22
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dump bikes

Best bike I have was picked up from the local "transfer station" or dump. I was moving house and chucking life's debri and here was this Chromoly Frame Apollo racer with all alloy and Shimano bits, good seat, triathlon bars, computer and nice pedals. It had seen some weather, but mostly a scattering of surface rust. I have replaced all bearings and she is going strong and I knock up 30km a day on it.

Now I have taken to regular dump trips and I pick up kids bikes, throw new bearings in them and give them away (usually for a bottle of coffee). I don't mind the spannering and there are plenty of poor kids out there with no bikes (kids of single mums etc). Many people just throw bikes away as the kids grow. What a waste. Anyway, this is not the place to get a top frame but you never know.
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Old 12-02-06, 11:19 AM   #23
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I pulled my bad weather bike out of a dumpster. I patched the front tube and rode it for a couple days, then noticed that there's a split in the front tire. So... I replaced the tire and have put a couple hundred miles on the bike so far. Yeah, people are insane about what they throw away... this one had sat out in the weather, but there's hardly any actual wear on the bike, and no rust. Just faded cables and such.

I have a friend of mine that makes a pretty good living trolling alleys and such and pulling stuff out of dumpsters and selling it.
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