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Old 09-19-11, 08:12 PM   #1
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Want to buy a used kids bike on craigslist - what should I look for?

Posted a similar post in the Recreation & Family section but thought I would post here on a related matter.

I saw a listing for a specialized hot rock kids bike on craigslist for $60. I will probably buy it tomorrow but want to know what I should look for. I'm going to check the brakes and the chain but is there anything else I should pay close attention to? I want to make sure my child is safe.

Thanks in advance

Here is my original post with the listing and pics
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Old 09-20-11, 07:44 AM   #2
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One major piece of advice is stick with the same brand name range you would buy for yourself like Trek, Specialized, Fuji, Cannondale, etc. I've had to deal with Huffy and Pacific kid's bikes a couple of times and the low quality is amazingly obvious. There is almost nothing you can do to make them work well. Your choice of a Specialized should be fine if it is well cared for.

Look for dents or bends in the frame. A lot of scratches and rust indicates abuse and try to check the frame alignment. See if the bike rolls straight or want to veer off to one side all the time. Check that the rims are reasonably true and none of the spokes are badly bent. Spin the wheels to be sure the hubs are smooth and be sure there is no side play in the hubs or bottom bracket. Check to be sure the headset is smooth and doesn't "index".

Even assuming the bike passes the above check out, consider a complete overhaul and lubrication after you get it home. Kid's bike are generally considered a short term purchase and almost never maintained by the original buyer. I've disassembled, cleaned and regreased every bearing in the used bikes I've gotten for my grandchildren and consider it time and effort well spent.
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Old 09-20-11, 10:10 AM   #3
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Unless everything is badly loose and rattly $60 sounds like a good deal. If it passes the big tests mentioned by Hillrider just buy it even if the wheels are a bit wobbly as long as the wheels don't look like potatoe chips you can play around with the spokes to get the wheels running fairly true and grease and adjust the hubs. In fact make it a father&son experience and get him doing some or most of the work under your guidance.

When you get it home closely inspect the brake systems. Check for pads with good amount of pad rubber still or replace the pads as needed. Check the cables from the lever to the brake calipers for any signs of fraying. in particular check for broken strands where the ball end is located in the lever and for broken strands where it's pinched under the clamping screw at the caliper. Also look for bad kinks or sponginess at the lever which indicates that the housing was caught on something and got bent or stretched. Replace if any bad kinks or broken strands are evident. Replace sections of the housing if any are found to be badly kinked or if one feels springy at the lever.

Even if the wheels wobble a bit when you push the tire side to side that just means it needs to have the cones adjusted. But in addition to what Hillrider suggested with the wheels look for bad signs of rust stains at the hubs indicating that it was left in the rain for days on end. If you spot such rust stains around the hub there's a good chance that the wheel hubs are shot and you should just look for a different bike. A little rust that just started is recoverable. Heavy rusting for some time means deep pitting in a critical area.
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Old 09-20-11, 11:15 AM   #4
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I'll ditto all the tips above plus add to use a little common sense on sizing up. Most likely you're looking for a bike that will ride well now and for about 2 yrs or so. Get the child to mount the bike with reasonable seat post height for proper extension, and proper tilt on the handlebars. Now simply swing the handlebars side to side and pretend to pedal. Do the knees look like they have room for 2 yrs of growth? Or are we almost slapping the handlebars?

The seat can be moved back an inch or so and raised up maybe 6 inches between min/max. The handlebars can be tilted forward an inch or two. That can give another 3 - 4 inches of extra horizontal room along the top tube for growth. But if these are already extended on the bike and he just fits now, then it's likely the bike is too small to meet his needs in just the next year. A larger bike may be necessary, and with most kids bikes, it means a bigger wheel size.

We have hand-me-down bikes for the kids mostly. The trike is for upto 2yrs old. The 16 inch w/ training wheel option is for 3 - 4 yrs. The 20 inch BMX is for K - 2nd. The 24 inch BMX is for 3rd - 5th. And now my son, in 6th grade, rides an adult (small frame - full size 26 inch wheel) hybrid. All my kids seem to be about 1 yr taller/bigger than the normal. They are 85 - 95 percentile in height for their age according to our pediatrician. So YMMV.
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Old 09-20-11, 01:05 PM   #5
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Most of the above will probably need tightening, and that is all, kids dont generally wreck the bike through riding it, but what i would pay special attention to is the bottom bracket and pedal arms. ( the bottom bracket is the part that the pedal arms revolve around, the spindle that connects the pedal arms), this is usually the area on a kids bike that gets abused because when they are playing they dont consider standing the bike against a wall or something sensible like that, they usually just drop them on the floor, and that hammers the hell out of the bottom bracket.
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