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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 04-23-08, 01:05 PM   #1
tjspiel
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Buying a Used Bike - Some Tips:

There's been at least one thread recommending the purchase of a used bike when on a limited budget. There are a lot of good values out there. However, if you don't know much about bikes or how to repair and maintain them, buying used is a more risky proposition.

Here's a few tips and I hope others will add more:

1. Don't buy a bike without riding it unless you really know what you're doing

2. Bring a pump to pump up the tires if necessary

3. Bring a magnet so you can figure out which parts are steel and which are alloy

4. Don't buy a bike with steel rims and rim brakes. You will not stop if they get wet.

5. A bike that fits is probably the most important consideration

6. Spin the wheels by hand. They should spin smooth and not wobble

7. Make sure the pedals spin smoothly

8. Check for bent or loose spokes

9. Shift through all the gears

10. A road bike with stem shifters will often be of lower quality

11. A road bike without quick releases will often be of lower quality

12. An older road bike will likely be made of steel. There is
often a sticker on one of the tubes indicating the type of tubing.
Reynolds, butted, chromoly are words to look for
that indicate higher quality. There are others. "Hi-Ten" is not
high quality.

13. Rear Dropouts are the things that the rear wheel is attached to. They can
often be an indicator of quality. If they look like they were stamped out of a
flat piece of steel then it's probably a lower quality bike than one that has dropouts
which have varying degrees of thickness (stamped vs forged).

14. Squeeze the brake handles while not riding. They should pull and retract smoothly.

15. Bring allen keys and an adjustable wrench. Try to adjust the seat up and down. If it
won't move, it may never move.

A lot of the above is what I look for in road bikes, but I'm sure most applies to
bikes of different styles.

Last edited by tjspiel; 04-23-08 at 02:23 PM.
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Old 04-23-08, 01:15 PM   #2
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T

10. A road bike with stem shifters will often be of lower quality

11. A road bike without quick releases will often be of lower quality
I agree with all of your points, but the above. Stem shifters are most often an indicator of the age of the bike, but age (and how long it has sit collecting dust) is an important factor. A road bike without quick releases does not mean much. It is easy to put a nut on a quick release skewer provided the length is there. And this is often the first thing to do for theft protection.
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Old 04-23-08, 01:19 PM   #3
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Great post. Thank you! I'm looking to buy a used bike and this will really help when I check bikes out in person.
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Old 04-23-08, 01:31 PM   #4
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I agree with all of your points, but the above. Stem shifters are most often an indicator of the age of the bike, but age (and how long it has sit collecting dust) is an important factor. A road bike without quick releases does not mean much. It is easy to put a nut on a quick release skewer provided the length is there. And this is often the first thing to do for theft protection.
I knowingly made a lot of generalizations so I used words like "often" instead of "always".

In my opinion, stem shifters are an indicator of both age and quality. A bike made in 1981 with downtube shifters is typically a higher end bike than a bike from the same year with stem shifters. That's not to say that any bike with stem shifters is worthless, but personally, I'd pass on them. They're not the safest thing in a crash for one thing.

You're right about quick releases. There are people who intentionally replace them for anti-theft reasons, but in general, if an old road bike has bolt on wheels vs quick releases, it's a lower end bike.
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Old 04-23-08, 01:46 PM   #5
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Vintage Trek has a lot of information that helped me when I was in the market.

If I am able to inspect the bike in person, some of the things you listed would bring the price of the bike down, but not rule it out. I would recommend anyone getting into cycling, especially commuting, to learn basic maintenance. Start small and you'll be surprised how easy it is. Bikes are pretty simple machines.
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Old 04-23-08, 02:00 PM   #6
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good info!

but i agree with chiefhoser, stem-shifters are really an indication of age, not quality.
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Old 04-23-08, 02:02 PM   #7
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Vintage Trek has a lot of information that helped me a lot when I was in the market.

If I am able to inspect the bike in person, some of the things you listed would bring the price of the bike down, but not rule it out. I would recommend anyone getting into cycling, especially commuting, to learn basic maintenance. Start small and you'll be surprised how easy it is. Bikes are pretty simple machines.
I would second learning basic maintenance and a cheap old bike is great place to start. A lot of the items on my list are "risk factors" for lack of a better word. If you want to buy a bike with steel rims just to ride around on in fair weather that's fine. I think it's dangerous to commute on one if rain is a possibility.

Stem shifters are something you might get on an otherwise decent bike. The question for me becomes how many compromises am I willing to make on an old bike before something like a Denali from Walmart starts to make more sense. At least you know who your dealing with and if something breaks in the first few months you have some recourse.

For example, there's $150 Schwinn Super Sport on my local craigslist. The tires look like they're shot, and it's got pretty crappy components. Granted, the frame will last forever, and aside from a few scratches, it would probably clean up OK. But I can't really recommend that over a Denali for somebody whose just looking for a bike to ride. Now if it's somebody who's really into old Schwinns or or likes fixing up old bikes, that's a different matter. This is not really an endorsement of a Denali, it's really a matter of what's the lesser of two evils.

My guess is that if the seller has much sense for the market, you could talk them down to under $100. But it's going to cost you at least another fifty carefully spent dollars to make this a reliable bike.

In this market, if somebody has at least $200 to spend, they're starting to get into the realm of reasonably modern quality road bikes that are ready to ride.

Last edited by tjspiel; 04-23-08 at 02:09 PM.
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Old 04-23-08, 02:13 PM   #8
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DANG! You couldnt have put this out last month????

Seriously, I wish I had this with me when I went to get my new (to me) TREK 750. I lucked into a nice bike at a good price.

Billy
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Old 04-23-08, 02:46 PM   #9
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In this market, if somebody has at least $200 to spend, they're starting to get into the realm of reasonably modern quality road bikes that are ready to ride.
To follow this idea a bit further (or on a tangent ), you can get an older bike with a nice frame and so-so components for cheap, plan to replace components as needed/desired, and end up with a really nice bike overall. All the while you have a bike to ride that will be getting better and better.
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Old 04-23-08, 03:55 PM   #10
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Since "BUDGET" was a consideration for this thread-
There are a lot of used bikes out there that, although they may not be considered "high quality", are totally fine, serviceable bikes.
Bikes that are still much better than xmart type bikes.
The main thing is that it'll function well without having to stick a lot of additional cash into it.
Many of the nicer things like alloy wheels etc. are good to have, but not totally necessary for a casual rider.
Probably one of the best things to do is be patient and ready to "pounce" when you do see that "super deal" on CL.
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Old 04-23-08, 04:00 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
Since "BUDGET" was a consideration for this thread-
There are a lot of used bikes out there that, although they may not be considered "high quality", are totally fine, serviceable bikes.
Bikes that are still much better than xmart type bikes.
The main thing is that it'll function well without having to stick a lot of additional cash into it.
Many of the nicer things like alloy wheels etc. are good to have, but not totally necessary for a casual rider.
Probably one of the best things to do is be patient and ready to "pounce" when you do see that "super deal" on CL.
For a casual rider steel wheels are OK. But since this is a commuter forum I can't in good conscience say that the same applies unless you plan to find another way home if it starts to rain.

For anyone but a fair weather commuter, a x-mart bike with alloy wheels is better than any used bike with steel wheels.
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Old 04-24-08, 08:23 AM   #12
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There's been at least one thread recommending the purchase of a used bike when on a limited budget. There are a lot of good values out there. However, if you don't know much about bikes or how to repair and maintain them, buying used is a more risky proposition.

Here's a few tips and I hope others will add more:

1. Don't buy a bike without riding it unless you really know what you're doing

2. Bring a pump to pump up the tires if necessary

3. Bring a magnet so you can figure out which parts are steel and which are alloy

4. Don't buy a bike with steel rims and rim brakes. You will not stop if they get wet.

5. A bike that fits is probably the most important consideration

6. Spin the wheels by hand. They should spin smooth and not wobble

7. Make sure the pedals spin smoothly

8. Check for bent or loose spokes

9. Shift through all the gears

10. A road bike with stem shifters will often be of lower quality

11. A road bike without quick releases will often be of lower quality

12. An older road bike will likely be made of steel. There is
often a sticker on one of the tubes indicating the type of tubing.
Reynolds, butted, chromoly are words to look for
that indicate higher quality. There are others. "Hi-Ten" is not
high quality.

13. Rear Dropouts are the things that the rear wheel is attached to. They can
often be an indicator of quality. If they look like they were stamped out of a
flat piece of steel then it's probably a lower quality bike than one that has dropouts
which have varying degrees of thickness (stamped vs forged).

14. Squeeze the brake handles while not riding. They should pull and retract smoothly.

15. Bring allen keys and an adjustable wrench. Try to adjust the seat up and down. If it
won't move, it may never move.

A lot of the above is what I look for in road bikes, but I'm sure most applies to
bikes of different styles.
+1 on this.

I once purchased a used bike and it cost far more than I had bargained for to get it up and running. It was no deal after I replaced the bottom bracket, rear wheel, and pedals. Still it was a good bike when I got done. If I had it to do over again, I might have passed on that one. I am far more cautious now. ALWAYS ride em, & check em out carefully. Usually a private owner doesn't want to hear about how you aren't happy with the purchase, and has little incentive to help you out once they have your money.
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Old 04-24-08, 01:25 PM   #13
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16. Find a friend more knowledgeable than you to go with you or at least look at the ad and offer advice. Realize that this advice is not binding, and they will not necessarily do any repairs for you, at least without the involvement of beer.
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Old 04-24-08, 01:34 PM   #14
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Beer will get you EVERYWHERE!
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Old 04-24-08, 01:51 PM   #15
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This should be a sticky.
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Old 04-24-08, 01:57 PM   #16
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This should be a sticky.
I second the motion
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Old 04-24-08, 04:05 PM   #17
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Don't by my stolen bike. I'm still looking for her.
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