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Things to Look for When Buying a Used Road Bike

Meghna Wani
Before you buy a used road bike, you have to be sure about the places it has been to, how it was ridden, the brand that it belongs to, and its current market price. This post will throw some light on the things you need to look for when buying a used road bike.
If you are not sure about the things to look for when buying a used road bike, ask a bike-repair mechanic, or any person who has the knowledge of road bikes, to come and inspect the bike for you.
The first thing to look out for before buying a used road bike is its size. If you spot a bike that has the potential to be purchased, and is in riding condition, quickly hop on and take a test ride. Get a general feel of the bike. See if you are comfortable riding it. Check if the size is proper or if you feel cramped.
If the size is not suitable, the bike is not a good option for you. Chuck it and move on to the next one, because in daily life, riding an uncomfortable bike will become a chore for you. Therefore, checking the size is the first step before you proceed.
Although there are some guides and reference tables to help you with the correct size according to your height, a test drive is the best thing to follow. After you find the correct size, check for the following points.

Road Bike Anatomy

Get to know the different parts of a road bike.

The Frame

The frame is the most important part of the bike. We can say that the frame is the skeleton of the bike. Most of the time, it cannot be changed, unlike other parts that can be replaced. Therefore, integrity of the frame is a very important factor.
Observe the welds/joints of the tubing of the frame. Check for any obvious damages, like bends and cracks. Do not worry if you see rust buildup, because it is just a cosmetic concern that can be corrected. But never compromise on a cracked or damaged frame, as it may lead to a major failure that can prove fatal.
Once you are sure that the frame is intact, stand over the top bar of the bike and keep both feet flat on the ground. There should be at least a ½-inch to 2-inch gap between the top bar and your nether region. If the gap is more than 3 inches, then the bike is too small for you.
One more thing to consider is the distance from the seat to the handle bar. Even though some parts of the handle bar are easily adjustable, if you feel that you can't reach the handle comfortably, it may not be the right bike for you.

Gear Mechanism

There are various components that make up the gear mechanism of the bike, like the gear wheel, crankshaft, rear and front derailleurs, chain, and pedals.
You have to do a thorough check of the complete gear mechanism. Start by looking at the chain. At a point where the chain is in contact with the teeth on the gearwheels, pull it out a little. It should not completely lift past the teeth; if it does, then you may have to replace the chain.
Also, observe the teeth of the gearwheels. Check if they are sharp and new. Like I said earlier, test drive the bike to see if the gears change properly and the transition is smooth. If you realize that the gear shift mechanism is cranky, you may have to show it to a local repair shop to get it fixed.
So, if you think that a worn-out part of the bike can be easily replaced, don't lose the deal. Get my drift? Instead use that point and negotiate with the seller to lower the price.

Brake Mechanism

Start with the brake pads. Check for dried-out or broken brake pads. Such brake pads are of no use and have to be replaced.
Next, check the brake cables. Rusty, frayed, or partially broken cables are a sign of wear and tear. Next, squeeze the brakes and release them. Check if they snap back quickly; if they don't, you may need to replace the cables.

Wheels and Tires

Check the spokes of the wheel. Pluck the spokes like that of a guitar string. They should be tight and straight. Inspect the rim to see if it is even.
To do this, you will have to lift up the tire and rotate the wheel slowly. Observe the gap between the rotating wheel and the brake pad. If there is any dent or damage, the distance in the gap will change a little. Also, check for cracks at the spoke holes.
For the tires, observe the tread. At least a few millimeters of tread should be there. A completely bald tire is dangerous to ride, as it slips very badly. Also, check for cracks on tires. If the tire is so badly damaged that the inner ply is visible, you've got a point to haggle with the seller about the price.

All the Other Parts

  •  Apart from the four things mentioned above, all the other things can be easily added, removed, replaced, or customized as per your choice. The main aim is to get a good frame that fits well and has a good engine, i.e., the gear mechanism. 
  • If you find that the seat is torn or the pedals doesn't have clips, or the color of the wrap on the handle bar does not match your personality, don't worry! And most important, don't lose the deal because of these petty things.
  • After all, you have to keep in mind that you are purchasing a used bike so you cannot expect everything to be in top-notch condition.

How Much Should You Pay?

You should be ready to be set back by $200-$400 for a used road bike. Ideally, if you are an amateur biker, and want to get to know the 'used-bike market', it would be better to visit a store that sells used bikes. The reason being, they'll keep the bikes tuned up so that you can test ride them. It is also possible that they will have professional people who can genuinely help you select a correct bike for your set budget.
On the other hand, if you are an experienced person who knows the in and out of bikes, then you can opt for individual sellers. The problem you could face with individual sellers is that you won't have an alternative in case you don't like the bike.
Second, individual sellers may not bother to tune up the bike. So, you may see a good and sturdy bike, but would leave the deal, because it was out at the mercy of the elements that ruined its beauty. But an experienced person, who knows how to find a diamond from the coal, can opt for individual sellers.
Lastly, negotiate the best possible price. Convey your budget to the seller before you start the inspection, and stick to it. List the damages, and mention them all to the seller. Start with a lower price, and then negotiate your way upwards. Make an informed decision, take home your used-bike, and enjoy the ride!