What to Look for When Buying a Used Bike

Buying a used bike can feel like pedaling uphill without a chain, but fear not, my fellow cyclists! This beginner’s guide to what to look for when buying a used bike is here to ensure you don’t get taken for a ride. I’m all about getting the most bang for your buck, and with this post, you’ll learn how to find the perfect pre-owned bicycle that’s both a great fit and a great deal.

From inspecting the bike’s frame and fork to testing the brakes, this comprehensive guide will cover all the essentials. You’ll learn how to evaluate wheels and tires, check the brakes and gears, assess the drivetrain components, and make sure the bike fits you like a glove. We’ll also list some online stores where you can find used bikes, so you can ride off into the sunset with confidence.

Thumbnail for a blog post what to look for when buying a used bike
Thumbnail for A Blog Post What to Look for When Buying a Used Bike

Why should you inspect a used bike before purchasing it?

If you are considering buying a used bike, it’s crucial to conduct a thorough inspection before making a purchase. Here are some reasons why:

1. Identify potential defects

A used bike may have underlying defects that may not be immediately visible. An inspection can reveal issues such as worn-out tires, damaged brakes, and leaky fluids, among others.

2. Determine the bike’s condition

An inspection can help you determine the overall condition of the bike. You can assess whether the bike has been well-maintained and cared for. A well-maintained bike is likely to be more reliable and has a longer lifespan.

An inspection can help you determine the true value of the bike. You can compare the bike’s condition to its asking price to see if it’s a fair deal.

3. Assess the bike’s value

An inspection can help you determine the true value of the bike. You can compare the bike’s condition to its asking price to see if it’s a fair deal. If the bike needs repairs, you can negotiate the price down or ask the seller to make the repairs before purchase.

4. Prevent yourself from buying a stolen bike

An inspection can help you verify that the bike you’re considering is not stolen. You can check the bike’s paperwork, including the registration if applicable, as well as the proof of purchase.

My favorite bike (at the moment):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

Best overall fixed gear bike state bicycle co 6061 black label v2
My favorite bike (at the moment):

State Bicycle Co. Black Label 6061

This is my daily ride, my trusty Black Label It’s lightweight and beautifully crafted. It looks like a beast and rides like one too. I upgraded the saddle, but everything else is pretty much as it was out of the box. I highly recommend it.

Which parts of a used bike should you inspect?

It’s important to thoroughly inspect every part of a used bike for you to know if it needs repairs. Here are the parts that you need to pay special attention to:

1. Drivetrain

Check for a buildup of grime and gunk on the chain, sprockets, and derailleur pulleys, which can indicate a heavily worn drivetrain. A well-maintained drivetrain should be relatively clean.

2. Frame

Look for signs of neglect or damage, such as cracks on the frame. Cracks can be rare but may suggest the bike has had a hard life.

3. Wheels

Check the rim braking surface; it shouldn’t be completely flat. Inspect the wheels for trueness and spoke tension.

Image of a bike in front of a garage door. Source: unsplash
Image of a bike in front of a garage door. Source: unsplash

4. Bottom Bracket

Pull it from side to side. If there is a space and it’s loose, it will need to be replaced.

5. Brakes

When checking brakes, don’t only pull them with the cable. Inspect the brake pads for wear and the brake calipers or disc brakes for proper function.

How can you tell if the wheels and tires of a used bike are in good condition?

To determine if the wheels and tires are in good condition, you can perform the following:

1. Look for bulges, blisters, or excessive vibration

Bulges or blisters on the sidewall are signs of potential weak spots that could lead to tire failure. Excessive vibration can also indicate tire problems.

2. Inspect tire tread depth

One method to assess tread depth is by using the “25-cent trick.” Insert a 25-cent piece into the tire’s grooves with the nose of the caribou facing downward. If the caribou’s nose isn’t visible, the depth is greater than 6/32 of an inch. If you can see the nose, the tire is not in good condition.

Image of used bicycle wheels. Source: unsplash
Image of used bicycle wheels. Source: unsplash

3. Look for treadwear indicators

These are bars of hard rubber that appear on worn-down tires. If these indicators appear in two or three places, it’s time to replace your tire.

4. Check for items lodged in the tire

Inspect the tire for nails, small stones, or other debris that might have become embedded in the tire.

What should you look for in braking and shifting systems?

When evaluating the braking and shifting systems, consider the following:

For the braking system

  1. Check the components: Inspect the brake pads, calipers, brake shoes, and drums to ensure they are in good condition and functioning properly.
  2. Examine the hydraulics: The hydraulic system plays a crucial role in the braking system, so make sure there are no leaks or damage to the brake lines and master cylinder.
  3. Test the brakes: Apply the brakes to see if they function correctly and provide adequate stopping power. The brakes should be applied hard without locking the wheels.

For the shifting system

  1. Learn how the gears shift: Understand how to effectively shift gears, which is a basic skill that continues to improve even for experienced riders.
  2. Consider electronic vs. mechanical shifting: Electronic shifting offers benefits such as faster and more precise gear changes, while mechanical shifting is often less expensive and easier to maintain. The choice between the two systems depends on your preferences and budget.
  3. Test the shifting system: While riding the bike, try shifting through all gears to ensure smooth and accurate gear changes without any issues.

Where can you find used bikes?

There are various online sources where you can buy secondhand bikes. Here are some of them:

Bicycle Blue Book

This website offers a large selection of used bikes from premium brands at competitive prices. Their inventory is updated daily with high-quality used bikes sourced from the nation’s largest trade-in network, and all purchases come with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

The Pro’s Closet

They provide a wide range of new and used certified pre-owned bikes, frames, and wheels. All their used items undergo a 141-point inspection, and they also offer a Guaranteed Buy Back Program.


This platform allows you to browse through various new and used bikes, including road, mountain, and electric bikes. You can filter your search by factors such as price, size, and location to find the perfect bike for your needs.

When buying from online sources, make sure not to send money without seeing the bike in person, as this is an important aspect of ensuring you’re getting what you pay for.

If you want even more tips and insights, watch this video called “How to Buy a Used Bike – What to Look for When Buying a Second Hand Road Bike” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube channel.

A video called “How to Buy a Used Bike – What to Look for When Buying a Second Hand Road Bike” from the Global Cycling Network YouTube channel.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Do you still have questions about what to look for when buying a used bike? Below are some of the most commonly asked questions.

How can I tell if the used bike’s frame is damaged or compromised?

Look for any signs of dents, cracks, or rust on the frame and fork. Pay special attention to the joints and areas near the bottom bracket, head tube, and chainstays. If you spot any suspicious damage or irregularities, it’s best to walk away from that bike.

What’s a reasonable price to pay for a used bike?

The fair price for a used bike varies depending on factors such as the make, model, age, and condition. Research the market value of the specific bike you’re interested in, and compare it with the asking price. Don’t be afraid to negotiate if you think the price is too high.

How important is it to test-ride a used bike before purchasing?

Test riding a used bike is crucial, as it helps you assess the bike’s performance, fit, and overall feel. Pay attention to the braking, shifting, and handling during the ride. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts and consider other options.


Well, folks, there you have it – the spokes and gears of buying a used bike, broken down for you. So, are you ready to roll into the wonderful world of pre-owned bicycles? And did I cover everything you wanted to know? Let me know in the comments section below – I read and reply to every comment.

If you found this article helpful, share it with a friend, and check out my full blog for more tips and tricks on bike buying and maintenance. Thanks for reading, and may the tailwinds always be in your favor as you pedal your way to the perfect bike!

Key takeaways

This article covered what to look for when buying a used bike. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Conducting an inspection of a used bike is crucial before purchasing it to check for damages, assess its value, and avoid buying a stolen bike.
  • Check the drivetrain for buildup and the frame for signs of neglect or damage.
  • Inspect the wheels for trueness and spoke tension.
  • Test the brakes to see if they are functioning correctly.
  • There are various online sources where you can buy used bikes.

Helpful resources

Bradley Knight Image
Written by Bradley Knight, Staff Writer

Hey there! My name is Bradley, and I've been riding fixed for years. I love all the joy and pain that comes with this unique style of cycling and the passionate community that drives it. If you love fixed-gear bikes, this is the place for you.

Yerain Abreu
Edited by Yerain Abreu, Staff Editor

Yerain is our staff editor and co-founder. He has a passion for writing, editing, and website development. His expertise lies in shaping content with precision and managing digital spaces with a keen eye for detail.

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