Avoiding a Two-Wheeled Lemon

Let's face it, bicycles are mysterious devices to most of us. When buying a used bike, it can be difficult to spot a lemon. To buy a used bicycle, you must be careful and pick one that has potential.

Not everyone is a bicycle expert, and it can be easy to mask a nasty problem temporarily, so you won't notice it during the test ride. Be aware, and when you buy a used or second-hand bicycle be cautious and look it over thoroughly.

These tips will help you determine whether or not you've found any cheap used bicycles worth buying. 

Rusty Bits

Buying a Used Bicycle: Avoid Rust

It's easy to disregard rusty parts. There are many areas of a bicycle that can rust, but the most common areas are chains, cables, fenders and spokes. A cheap used bicyle may be peppered with rust. Before you buy a used bicycle, check out the rust situation.

Rust is an indication of weakened metal. Rusty spokes are far more likely to snap or fail. A very rusty frame or cancer-riddled wheels should not be trusted. 

Likewise, rusty components will not function as well as they once did. A rusty chain is almost impossible to bring back to life. Ditto with rusty cables, they will snag and slow down your shifting and braking.

Finally, rust is a good sign of how careful the previous owner was with their ride. A rust covered bicycle was probably left out in the rain, so expect other important maintenance aspects to be neglected too. The more rust, the more likely there are other surprises.

Bent or Warped Components

Buying A Used Bicycle: Watch For Bent Parts

Bent components can be tricky to diagnose. Two common bent items are the wheels and the crankset.

Wheels can warp to different degrees. Sometimes it is a small wobble that can be trued by a bicycle shop (tightening of the spokes). Sometimes the wheel closely resembles a taco. A small wobble can be heard or felt in the brakes. Do the brakes grab only some of the time? When you brake, does it not stop in a smooth, even fashion? Chances are, your wheels are wobbly. Cheap used bicycles often have warped parts, and the owner is trying to offload it for cheap. Replacing a wheel is really expensive, so don't throw your money away.

A bent crank is tough to notice too. Stand over your bike and look down at the pedals. Now, spin the pedals backwards. If you notice the chain ring moving from side to side, you probably have a warped crank. A warped crank is definitely something to look out for when buying a used bicycle.

Ready to Ride?

Remember, the problems noted above do not necessarily mean a bike is no good, they are just worth watching out for. Issues like these can make a good bargaining chip for getting a great deal. Cheap used bicycles won't be perfect, but be sure to be vigilant and look for signs of what I listed above.

Good Luck!

Worn Out Components:

Buy a Used Bike: Watch For Worn Out Bits

Worn out components can be a real drag with a bicycle. Not only are they a safety concern, they will add extra expense to your bike purchase, since you'll have to replace them at a later date. The most common wear items on a bicycle are the tires, the chain, the cables and the brake pads. Cheap used bicycles often have worn out parts. The owners won't replace them, so before you buy a used bicycle be sure to look it over.

Tires are obvious: no tread means they are worn out. Also look out for cracks in the sidewalls, and ancient rubber with could give at any moment. Even if the tires hold air, that doesn't mean they're road worthy. 

Chain wear is harder to diagnose. A worn chain will stretch, resulting in chain noise, skipping and derailment. If you don't have a chain gauge handy, give the bike a spin and listen to how noisy it is.

Cables also stretch and become less effective with use. They will also tend to stick, which will make both braking and gear shifting more difficult. Using your brakes and changing your gears should be effortless, don't be fooled into thinking otherwise. If you're going to buy a used bicycle, buy one that will stop!

Brake pads are fairly obvious. If they look significantly worn down, they should be replaced. Also watch out for old rubber pads; they will be rock hard, and will provide little stopping power. Just feel how hard the rubber is with your thumbnail. Cheap used bicycles often have old, worn out brake pads.