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  1. #1
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    What to look for/avoid in a used bike

    I'm interested in getting more serious about biking, which obviously means getting a nicer bike than my Target bike. I'll mostly be riding it around a college campus, but I'd also like to be able to start riding around town more, and riding for recreation and exercise. The problem is that I only have $300 (at the VERY most--$250 or less would be better) to spend on a bike right now. So obviously that means I'll have to go with a very entry-level new bike, or find a used bike.

    At a local bike shop, I found a Trek bike that the guy said was probably made in the mid-1990s and probably cost about $300-$400 new. (Someone brought it in about a year ago for a tube change and never picked it up, so now the shop is selling it.) They said once they fix it up, they would sell it to me for $100-$150. I know that's not a lot to go on, but does that sound like a fair price? (I'll try to get more specific information the next time I go in there.) And are there any problems I should be watching out for that would make the bike not be a good buy?

    Also, for used bikes in general, what are good things to look for or avoid?

  2. #2
    Senior Member SunnyFlorida's Avatar
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    Glad you brought this topic up. I'm also looking for a used bike to add to my small collection. I plan to use the bike to go to the mall, the beach and other public spots that I don't want to take my trike or the new folder I'm getting.

    I think they call it a beater and I'm going to do the New York thing - "buy a $50 bike with a $100 lock on it."

  3. #3
    Allez means go. bengreen79's Avatar
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    $150 or less is a good deal for almost any model of Trek bike in good working condition. Make sure it fits.

  4. #4
    Senior Member pablosnazzy's Avatar
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    if you just need a bike to ride around town with, that trek (even though i know nothing of the bike at all) is perfect, especially for the price. as long as the frame fits you (most important in buying any bike) and the parts are in working order, brakes good, etc, it should be fine. take it for a test ride around the parking lot, if it feels good to you, get it. if you are thinking of getting a used mountain bike for actual mountain biking, you have to make sure the frame isn't cracked or too dented up. but for riding around town, as long as it's comfortable and not a complete wreck, its good.

  5. #5
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bookworm656 View Post
    At a local bike shop, I found a Trek bike that the guy said was probably made in the mid-1990s and probably cost about $300-$400 new. (Someone brought it in about a year ago for a tube change and never picked it up, so now the shop is selling it.) They said once they fix it up, they would sell it to me for $100-$150. I know that's not a lot to go on, but does that sound like a fair price? (I'll try to get more specific information the next time I go in there.) And are there any problems I should be watching out for that would make the bike not be a good buy?

    Also, for used bikes in general, what are good things to look for or avoid?
    It isn't 100% clear what sort of bike that Trek is, but I am picturing one of those Trek multitrack hybrids. Is it a hybrid or is it a hardtail mountain bike like the 800 series? IMO, $100 to $150 for a used Trek from a bike shop is a good deal. If you bought a used bike at a garage sale or CL that needed new tires/tubes and some sort of adjustment, it would cost you around that anyway.


    Those Cro-Moly framed Treks from the 90s were good all round bikes, IMO perhaps better for just riding around town or using a bike path than current Treks with those heavy forks and suspension seatposts, or those flat bar road bikes that cost almost as much as a true road bike. And in general, the quality of components on those 90s Treks is at least comparable to the newer Trek comfort/hybrids selling new today for $400 to $500.

    So if you trust the bike shop, go for it. Will the shop at least give it a short warranty, like 30 days?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by MRT2 View Post
    It isn't 100% clear what sort of bike that Trek is, but I am picturing one of those Trek multitrack hybrids. Is it a hybrid or is it a hardtail mountain bike like the 800 series? IMO, $100 to $150 for a used Trek from a bike shop is a good deal. If you bought a used bike at a garage sale or CL that needed new tires/tubes and some sort of adjustment, it would cost you around that anyway.


    Those Cro-Moly framed Treks from the 90s were good all round bikes, IMO perhaps better for just riding around town or using a bike path than current Treks with those heavy forks and suspension seatposts, or those flat bar road bikes that cost almost as much as a true road bike. And in general, the quality of components on those 90s Treks is at least comparable to the newer Trek comfort/hybrids selling new today for $400 to $500.

    So if you trust the bike shop, go for it. Will the shop at least give it a short warranty, like 30 days?
    Thanks to everyone for the advice! I don't know a whole lot about bikes, but from what I've read online I'm thinking it's more of a hybrid or road type bike than a mountain bike (although if I remember right the tires were more mountain bike style). I know it doesn't have one of the front suspension forks like mountain bikes have, and it has a steel frame. So the guy at the bike shop said that even though it has a steel frame, the fact that it doesn't have a mountain bike-style suspension fork will make the weight not too bad. I'll try to go back to the shop today after work and get a picture of it to post here, and maybe try to get a few more specifics about what kind of parts it has on it.

    I actually have never been to this bike shop before, although it seemed to get good reviews online. A warranty would be a good thing to ask about, but the problem is, I'm in Colorado right now, but I'll be going back to Oklahoma (where I usually live and where the bike will be used) at the end of next week. So even if they would give me a warranty, it would be pretty hard to get the bike back up to Colorado if anything went wrong! (Once I get back to Oklahoma, there's a good shop that I've had work on my bad Target bike before, so if anything goes wrong I will have someone to go to, it just won't be free.)

  7. #7
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    The bike is a Trek 800 Trail-something. (I wrote down exactly what it was in a note on my iPod Touch, but somehow it's gone away now.) They said it would actually be closer to $100, because it's a little older and in not the greatest condition. But it should work fine once they tune it up and replace the brakes.

    The shop also got in another used bike this morning, a Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike, which they said originally cost around $550, and I could get it for around $150. It's newer than the Trek and in better condition, partly because they just fixed it up.

    I tried both bikes out, and they're both slightly big for me, although not too bad. The more leaned forward riding position will also take some getting used to. I think the guy said I was leaned over at about 60 degrees, which apparently isn't all tha leaned over, but it's more than what I'm used to.

  8. #8
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bookworm656 View Post
    The bike is a Trek 800 Trail-something. (I wrote down exactly what it was in a note on my iPod Touch, but somehow it's gone away now.) They said it would actually be closer to $100, because it's a little older and in not the greatest condition. But it should work fine once they tune it up and replace the brakes.

    The shop also got in another used bike this morning, a Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike, which they said originally cost around $550, and I could get it for around $150. It's newer than the Trek and in better condition, partly because they just fixed it up.

    I tried both bikes out, and they're both slightly big for me, although not too bad. The more leaned forward riding position will also take some getting used to. I think the guy said I was leaned over at about 60 degrees, which apparently isn't all tha leaned over, but it's more than what I'm used to.
    Does the Trek look like this one? http://www.bikepedia.com/QuickBike/B...=800&Type=bike

    A hard tailed mountain bike is not a bad choice for riding around town, but do yourself a favor and use smooth tires rather than knobbies.
    Last edited by MRT2; 07-22-10 at 04:16 PM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member pablosnazzy's Avatar
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    if they are slightly big for you, you might not want them. fit and comfort is the main thing. as far as leaning too far forward, that can be fixed with a different headset, or even taking a link out of the chain and putting your rear wheel a bit closer to the inside of the dropouts. if you are too far forward, it puts pressure on your arms and palms and your lower back hurts and hands go numb etc etc. not fun, and if you are uncomfortable, you will hate to ride your bike, and it will be a bad situation all over.

    other than that....both bikes are great for around town riding. and like MRT2 said, put slicks on it, you don't need mountain bike tires for the road.

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    I refurbish and sell a lot of older bikes. My pricing scheme is pretty simple...I take the MSRP and cut it in half. Then I adjust up or down depending on age, condition, etc. That figure sounds about right for the bike you're talking about.
    Provided the thing fits you, you'll want to check and make sure everything works. Shifters, brakes, etc. Make sure there are no obvious dents, dings, or cracks in the frame, and that it goes straight...
    Wheels should be true and the tires should be at least in decent shape.
    It's very difficult to check things like wheel bearings and such without pulling the wheels off. A wheel that spins easily on the bike might feel like someone poured sand in the bearings when you move the axle by hand.
    See if the shop is willing to stand by the bike for at least some period of time.

  11. #11
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    $100, $150, even $200 for a professionally tuned up Trek or Specialized doesn't seem like much of a risk to me. If you go on the classic and vintage forums, you will see that lots of folks continue to ride and restore bikes that are 25, 30, even 35 years old. Hence, a 15 year old bike is fairly new by comparison.

    And if you ride it for a season or two and decide you don't like it or want something better, you can sell it and get at least half, or even most of your money back. Or you can just keep it around as an extra "beater" bike.

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    Thats a good buy. Ask him to put on smooth tires, fenders and a rack with dog legged stays (to stop panniers swinging into spokes). You will also need pump, spare tubes and patch kit for the flats you will have when you are far away from help. Bar ends may be nice to give a choice of hand position. Buy several good locks which you can keep at the places where you regularly leave the bike.

  13. #13
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    I got the Specialized! With a new stem (shorter, and tilted up instead of going straight out), a kickstand, and tax, it came to around $193. I'm probably going to get fenders (and possibly new tires) for it when I get back to Oklahoma, but I'm about out of money right now, or at least out of money that's available to spend on bike stuff. I've attached pictures of the bike, and I can upload higher-resolution versions or different close-ups somewhere else if anyone's interested.

    What kind of difference would it make to have smooth (or at least smoother) tires instead of mountain bike tires? Also, what kind and price of lock should I get for this bike on a college campus?
    Attached Images Attached Images

  14. #14
    Senior Member SunnyFlorida's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikewer View Post
    I refurbish and sell a lot of older bikes. My pricing scheme is pretty simple...I take the MSRP and cut it in half. Then I adjust up or down depending on age, condition, etc. That figure sounds about right for the bike you're talking about.
    Provided the thing fits you, you'll want to check and make sure everything works. Shifters, brakes, etc. Make sure there are no obvious dents, dings, or cracks in the frame, and that it goes straight...
    Wheels should be true and the tires should be at least in decent shape.
    It's very difficult to check things like wheel bearings and such without pulling the wheels off. A wheel that spins easily on the bike might feel like someone poured sand in the bearings when you move the axle by hand.
    See if the shop is willing to stand by the bike for at least some period of time.
    Thanks for answering my question about what to look for in a used bike. I work for a charitable organization and they get donated bikes for the Thrift to sell sometimes.

    That is probably where I'll get the bike. Therefore, I'm going to have to be extra careful when I look them over and purchase one. Right now when I do spot one, I do check the tires, brakes, see how much rust I'm dealing with. I must confess I glance over the frame. I better pay more attention to that part in the future.

    Bookworm - Nice bike. Enjoy!!!!

  15. #15
    Senior Member MRT2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bookworm656 View Post
    I got the Specialized! With a new stem (shorter, and tilted up instead of going straight out), a kickstand, and tax, it came to around $193. I'm probably going to get fenders (and possibly new tires) for it when I get back to Oklahoma, but I'm about out of money right now, or at least out of money that's available to spend on bike stuff. I've attached pictures of the bike, and I can upload higher-resolution versions or different close-ups somewhere else if anyone's interested.

    What kind of difference would it make to have smooth (or at least smoother) tires instead of mountain bike tires? Also, what kind and price of lock should I get for this bike on a college campus?
    Looks like a nice bike. As I said earlier, for city riding, you should lose the knobbies and get some slicks. It will be much safer and easier to ride.

  16. #16
    Allez means go. bengreen79's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bookworm656 View Post
    What kind of difference would it make to have smooth (or at least smoother) tires instead of mountain bike tires?
    A huge difference. Those look especially aggressive. Slicks will perform better on wet pavement as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bookworm656 View Post
    I tried both bikes out, and they're both slightly big for me, although not too bad. The more leaned forward riding position will also take some getting used to. I think the guy said I was leaned over at about 60 degrees, which apparently isn't all that leaned over, but it's more than what I'm used to.
    Well, it looks like you bought the bike already.

    However, this is the biggest mistake people make when buying a new or used bike - buying the wrong size. If the big is to big for you, you can never get totally comfortable on it for any sort of longer rides. You might be able to make it work for a short jaunt to school, but it's just never going to be comfortable for longer rides.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
    Well, it looks like you bought the bike already.

    However, this is the biggest mistake people make when buying a new or used bike - buying the wrong size. If the big is to big for you, you can never get totally comfortable on it for any sort of longer rides. You might be able to make it work for a short jaunt to school, but it's just never going to be comfortable for longer rides.
    That's a good point, and I'll definitely remember that if I end up getting more into biking (which I want to do) and buying a nicer bike sometime. I did get the original stem (which was angled straight forward and about 6"-8" long) replaced with the one in the picture (shorter and angled more like / ), so hopefully that'll help at least some. The main thing I was concerned about when buying a bike this time was that it was under $300 and reasonably good quality, so I was excited when I found mine for $150, even if it was slightly big to begin with. Maybe that wasn't the best way to make a decision, but I guess time will tell. And if this bike doesn't work out for me, I have a friend who's definitely the right size for it and would be very happy to buy it from me, and then I could start looking again.

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