The second-hand market has two major attractions: either it can offer a way into the sport at a more affordable price or it can make the more expensive machines available for those ambitious enough to take cycling to the next level.
Either way, caution has to be exercised by any potential purchaser. Not only is it imperative to check the bike is in good condition, to safeguard both your wallet and your safety, but you have to be satisfied that the vendor is legitimate – in short that they are not shifting stolen property into the hands of an unsuspecting customer.
Bike theft has never been bigger news, or a bigger headache, for both the insurance industry and the innocent victims of crime. For example, Halifax Home Insurance released details of a survey it conducted earlier this year which, it claims, shows that a bike is stolen every 71 seconds in England.
It is a fair bet that a large number of those machines are going to find themselves being recycled through the second-hand market. So what precautions can you take in order to insure you’re not giving thieves an easy ride?
Any nagging doubts, walk away
The first step is to ask the vendor some simple questions, such as where did they buy the bike; how long have they owned it; have they encountered any problems with it or had it repaired.
You can gauge a lot from the answers: are they happy to answer as many questions as necessary and chat extensively, or are they evasive in their replies or manner?
Instinct should never be underestimated in these situations: if you have any nagging doubts, walk away. Your mind should be put at rest if the vendor has details of insurance or the bike has security tags.
When inspecting the bike, check the frame for any unusual scratch marks that may indicate a registration scheme or serial number has been deliberately removed.
Inspection is the second key step before making a purchase. For example, check the forks for any signs of collision damage, that the chain is clean and runs perfectly and that the wheels are aligned and spin smoothly and easily.
And don’t forget that old trusty indicator, the test ride. If you are relatively inexperienced, ask a more knowledgeable friend or work colleague to try the bike out for you. The test ride will tell you all you need to know about the functionality of both the gears and the brakes, for example.
Now that you know the basic rules of buying, lets address where to find the right bike for you. Small ads in local newspapers as well as classified ad websites and the bigger auction sites carry plenty of offers on machines.
Obviously, given the fact that you have to check out the machine thoroughly before buying, it makes sense to contact only those people who live within a reasonable distance of yourself.
The local cycling club may be another useful source of second-hand bikes, while specialist shops do sometimes stock them, too.
Wherever you decide to go bargain hunting, err on the side of caution and be mindful of market prices. It’s always better to buy new, so deciding on second-hand really has to be worth it.