How to Buy a Second Hand Road Bike | All You Need To Know

by | May 30, 2023 | Buyer's Guide, Bike, Sports

Thinking of buying a second hand road bike?

Well, with new bike prices skyrocketing, you might just be re-thinking that new bike day, but that doesn’t mean you should be avoiding the day altogether. Before buying a new bike, we’d highly recommend looking at a new ‘used’ bike, you might just find yourself a killer deal! 

When going the second hand route, there are a couple of things you should take note of to ensure that you make a safe purchase, here are our top tips

5 Tips For When You Buy A Second Hand Road Bike:

1. Search High and Low

The cycling industry has experienced rapid growth in the last decade, with more bike shops opening, more brands entering the market, and said brands expanding their offering between lightweight, aero and endurance. Now that ‘cycling is the new golf’, bike sales have taken off resulting in a big pool of second hand bikes as consumers look to upgrade or replace their current bike. 

Online marketplaces and forums aren’t the only place to browse for a second hand bike, you can also chat to your local bike shop, many of whom often accept trade-ins. The second hand bikes won’t always be front of house or on the shop floor at all, so it doesn’t hurt to just ask, your LBS might also know of someone selling or thinking about it. Hey, you might just help said store close a new sale/trade-in.

Expert Advice On How To Buy A Second Hand Road Bike Or Bicycle
Your local bike shop is a great resource to lean on in searching for a good second hand deal!

When looking for a deal, patience is your friend, so search high and low, give it some time and a good deal should come your way. Also keep in mind, if the deal is too good to be true, it more than likely is and could be either a stolen bike or a scam.

Online marketplace suggestions: BikeHub | Gumtree | Bike Market

2. Research your second hand bike purchase

Before your search process starts, you should take some time to think about exactly what you’re looking for, this should prevent you from getting side tracked and making any impulse buys. Once you’ve found something you like, see if you can find another option to compare to, both price and spec, factoring in the age of the bike to the best of your ability. 

We’d definitely recommend leaning towards bikes that are clean with minimal scratches, this generally means the owner has taken care of it. If browsing online, some crisp and clear images in nice lighting are the ads you want to look at, you don’t want to get catfished when going to pick up your new ride (can we use that term in this context??). 

Expert Advice On How To Buy A Second Hand Road Bike Or Bicycle
Going second hand can land you on a much nicer bike than you’d be able to get for the price new, but you need to be smart and patient.

Ensure you know what size and style of bike you’re after, most bike brands will be pretty similar in size, generally measured in CM and refers to the frame/tubing lengths (48cm through to 63cm), however some brands will go for the straight forward XS to XL or use numbers. If you have had a professional bike fit done (10/10 would recommend this), definitely compare those measurements to the manufacturer’s numbers to ensure that the bike is sized right for you. So once you have a good option in mind, hop back on that search engine one more time to see what other people have said about the bike, reviews and first impressions are a great source of information for how the bike will ride. 

3. The Meet Up

If you’re shopping online, pop the seller a message to see if the bike is still available before going in guns blazing with an offer. If you can, try to meet up with the seller and avoid shipping from across the country unless you know the seller is reputable. If you’re still on the fence about buying the bike, make sure that is clear to the seller when meeting up, no-one enjoys a time waster so just ensure you are both on the same page.

Also try and link up in a public place for your own safety, the internet is a wild place so rather be safe than sorry. Your LBS is a great place to meet, it never hurts having more bike minded people around should you need any advice. Now it is time to inspect that bike like a detective, here are some things to check:

  1. Carbon Frame and Fork – use your phone flash to look for any cracks, seek professional advice if needed.
  2. Alloy/Steel Frame and Fork – Check the welds for any cracks, defects or holes, as well as look out for any dents and dings. 
  3. Drivetrain – A clean and grease free drivetrain should spin and shift with ease. You don’t want to spend a huge chunk of change only to spend another R5k two weeks later replacing the chain and cassette.
    1. Check brake pad wear – Although an inexpensive fix, good to know should you make the purchase.
    2. Jockey wheels on the derailleur are not sharp and pointy, the derailleur and hanger are straight (not flaring inwards, outwards or twisted). 
    3. No gaps between chain and chain ring, you can also roll the chain on the ring laterally, large side to side roll usually means it is pretty worn.
    4. Brakes and Shifters – The STI’s should shift, brake and release smoothly. A gear or brake cable is cheap, a new STI is not.
Expert Advice On How To Buy A Second Hand Road Bike Or Bicycle
Not all bikes live the same life. Your second hand bike should ideally come from a gentle and caring home!

3. Wheels – Repeat step one and check that they spin freely (if they don’t you definitely have an issue) and true. 

If you’re happy with the above and don’t foresee having to spend much on the bike anytime soon, then make an offer. If you are still unsure, seek advice from your LBS, an avid cyclist or just have some more patience. 

4. Don’t get scammed

Doing sufficient research on the product you’re buying is the first step to avoiding this, making sure it is genuine and actually available. I’d recommend always meeting up with the seller to inspect or send a friend to do so. If the bike you’re purchasing is not too costly, cash is definitely still an option when transacting in person. For larger sums of money, look into making use of a 3rd party platform that withholds the funds until both parties are happy, there is usually a fee associated with this, however it’s much better than losing all of your money to a scammer. 

It also doesn’t hurt to haggle the seller a bit for a better deal, we’re not saying low ball like crazy, but the seller might be willing to drop the price a bit or even throw in some extra bits and pieces as a value add. 

Expert Advice On How To Buy A Second Hand Road Bike Or Bicycle
Time to get out and enjoy your new wheels!

5. Getting settled on your new second hand bike

Once you have your new ride, take lots of photos and show it off online and at your local group ride, even though it is second hand, it is still new to you. First thing is first, insure the bike should you have the luxury to do so for some peace of mind on that first outing.

But before you throw your leg over the new ride, ensure it is set up correctly for you, whether you’re replicating your existing setup or getting that professional bike setup done, this is key to avoiding injury and maximising both comfort and performance.

This is also a great opportunity to double check that all of the bolts and important bits are tight and thus safe to ride. You wouldn’t want your front axle coming loose whilst chasing that Strava descent segment. 
Now that you’re ready to ride, you can start thinking about what to upgrade next, we’ll give you our top ‘Road Bike Upgrades’ in due course! Find more cycling buying advice here.

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