NARROW THE SEARCH
Whether you want a road, mountain, or commuter bike, identify three or four models that suit your needs. Make sure you know your size, then search cycling forums and sites like eBay and Craigslist. When you find a match, check its price on sites like Bicyclebluebook.com to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.
SCRUTINIZE THE FRAME
Small chips and scrapes in the paint are usually okay, but avoid rusty frames and those with dents or cracks on the tubes, says Nick Martin, owner of The Pro’s Closet, which sells secondhand cycling gear on eBay. Look closely underneath the bottom bracket and around the frame joints, where cracks are more likely to form.
KICK THE TIRES
Replacing wheels, a suspension fork, or a drivetrain can cost thousands, so make sure these critical parts are in top shape, says Barry Luck, director of Changing Gears, a used bicycle nonprofit in Alameda, California. If you’re not sure, take the bike to a shop for inspection or have a friend with a high bike IQ take a look.
If you buy from eBay, make sure the seller has a return policy and a rating that’s at least 95 percent positive, says Martin. Sites like Craigslist are riskier because they don’t provide seller feedback, so it’s a good idea to purchase locally and inspect the bike in person.
ADD FINAL TOUCHES
After purchasing a used bike, get it tuned up at your local shop. While there, pick up new tires and grips or bar tape, which will make it feel like new. If the fit isn’t perfect, consider swapping the handlebar and/or the stem. Going with reasonably priced parts should cost less than $200– and could make the difference between a deal and a dud.
Source: Bicycling (www.bicycling.com)