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Buying a used bicycle

If you want to buy a used bike, I suggest the local classified ads. Also good are local sellers on eBay.com who are willing to let you inspect and ride before you bid. Personally, I've had terrible results when buying used goods without being able to inspect them first; I don't recommend it.

Here's one possible buying strategy you could use: An old beat-up-looking bike, or a cheap new one, might be a good choice if you are worried about the bike being stolen from you. They're also good if you don't want to bother with maintenance, and plan to get rid of your bike when something goes wrong and just get another one.

The rest of this discussion assumes that you won't go that route, and that you want a quality bike to use for a long time.

Don't buy a bike that needs any repair, except maybe new tires, minor adjustments, or fixes you can do cheaply. You can find plenty of bikes for sale that have mostly sat unused in a garage and are in great condition.

Because you're buying used, hopefully you can find decent quality in your price range. Don't buy a bike that cost less than US$100 when new. Think twice even if it cost US$200. Such bikes often have poor build quality or at least lack desirable features. You can search about a particular model on epinions.com, froogle.com, google.com, etc. and learn its original retail price.

Think twice about a bike that was ridden a lot but never cleaned or lubed. For example, you might see the kind of caked-on greasy dirt shown below.

Chain pulley of bicycle, with caked-on dirt Mud at bearing for cranks - bottom bracket

Don't buy a bike with rust, as shown below, unless it's a new bike that has some surface rust due to being left outside.

Rust on front derailleur Rust on fork

Rusty spokes on bike wheel

Avoid bikes that have obviously seen heavy use or been damaged.

However, there's one case where you may see something on a chain ring that looks like damage, but actually the ring was made that way. If you look in the center of the photo below, you might think that you are looking at a crack.

Chain ring - not damaged

If the same thing appears at several other points around the ring, then it's probably not damage. Also, if you clean that area, it might become more obvious that the chain ring was manufactured that way.

If you find a bike that has none of the problems I just mentioned, continue by checking the things I suggest in the Inspection page of this website.

After you buy a used bike, you could have a bike shop check it for problems and tune it.