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Buying a used hybrid? What to look for

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Buying a used hybrid? What to look for

Old 04-10-19, 09:44 AM
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Skipjacks
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Buying a used hybrid? What to look for

Buying used is a great way to save money on a bike. Typically you can get more bike for less money by buying used. But you do have to be careful not to buy a piece of junk.

And if there are minor problems that will require a new part, you'll want to know about that before you buy either to help you negotiate the sale price lower or to not be surprised a week later. You also don't want to pass up a great deal because you mistake a super easy to fix minor problem with a major expensive one.

No matter how well you inspect a used bike though something on it is going to wear out faster than it would on a brand new bike. Know that going in. If you save $300 off the cost of a new bike, and you have to spend $100 to fix something in the first few months, you are still $200 ahead.

Here are some tips to help you inspect a used bike. Please add any other tips you have!

Make sure the chain doesn't have any jammed links where it doesn't bend. Just cycle the pedals backwards and look at the rear derailleur. You'll see a jammed link real fast as the chain bends both directions through the small cogs in back. A new chain is cheap if that one is damaged, but if the chain and gears are both worn out a little bit, putting a new chain on the old gears might cause skipping and not be ridable. (See last paragraph on gears) If that happens you'll need an all new cassette or chain rings, which might run $150 or more depending on the quality.

Make sure both shifters work. If they physically move the derailleurs but it just doesn't shift super smoothly or doesn't stay in gear, I probably wouldn't worry about it. It may just need a quick tune up. If it was never tuned up after it was originally purchased (most bikes are NOT) it will probably need one. You can either learn to do it yourself (easy to do with 9000000000 Youtube videos to walk you through) or pay like $20 at any bike shop.

Make sure the brakes work. For hydraulic brakes you should not need more than 1 finger gently pressing the levers to completely lock each wheel, meaning that while you're on the bike with your weight pushing it forward, you should be able to completely stop it from moving with each wheel independently. Conversely you should not hear drag or rubbing of the brake rotor when its spinning through the brake caliper. If you hear 1 rub each rotation it means the rotor is warped and is very fixable. If you hear a constant rubbing it means the pads aren't letting up enough and is PROBABLY very fixable but COULD be a bad caliper that isn't self adjusting properly. Proceed with caution.

For mechanical disc brakes all the above applies about the rotor moving freely through the caliper and not wobbling, but you won't be able to completely lock out the wheels using light pressure from a single finger. You will have to put more effort into engaging a mechanical disc brake. Don't worry about it. You should still be able to totally lock out the wheels so they do not move when with all your weight pushing the bike. Mechanical disc brakes do not self adjust (meaning they don't stay squeeze in more as the pads wear thinner) so light rubbing may just mean the caliper needs and adjustment. It's super easy.

Flip the bike over and spin each wheel and watch it. Make sure it doesn't wobble. If it wobbles back and forth it's out of true. It's PROBABLY easily fixable but you need to know about the issue.

If it has a suspension fork with a lock out, there is probably a knob on the right side. Make sure it works. When engaged the fork shouldn't work at all. It should be totally rigid. When disengaged the form should bounce up and down when you lean weight on it. (When riding on the smooth trails keep the fork locked. It'll sap your power with no obvious gains. But I do feel it has a use. I have a cheap fork on mine and it's great for those times when I need to take cut through over curbs and down root filled trails. Do not mistake it for a true mountain bike fork that can be heavily abused.)

When test riding it make sure nothing makes any clanking or grinding noises. A gentle click click click click is normal when coasting (not peddling) but it shouldn't be making any loud metal on metal sounds. The wheels should spin freely for a long time if you lift the bike up and spin them. It they slow down and stop in 10-15 seconds something is wrong. A decent wheel should spin for like a minute. The list of things that could be wrong include everything from the brakes rubbing (easy fix usually to the wheel bearings being worn out (probably would need new wheels as the entry level hybrid wheels aren't worth fixing as much as replacing).

Also while test riding, just make sure everything feels like it's smooth. If you feel a grinding in your feet it could be anything from pedals about to fail (cheap and easy to fix) to a bottom bracket about to fail (easy to fix but not as cheap).

Also...TEST RIDE THE BIKE!! I can't tress this one enough. Don't buy it because it looks pretty. Ride it. Make sure it fits. Make sure it works properly. I can make an unridable piece of junk look brand new. Tell the seller you'll want to ride it before you bother to meet up. If the seller is hesitant to agree to a test ride by saying 'well there isn't much place to ride it near my house' you should walk away. They are hiding something. You don't need to ride it to the moon and back. A short ride around the block will tell you if it's ridable.

Look for any obvious signs of a cracked frame. Look at the weld joints specifically. If any of them look to be cracked walk away. It's not worth trying to fix it. A hybrid bike isn't worth it at any price.

You don't want a bike that has been kept outside in the elements. (Ridden outside, sure. Stored outside, no.) To do this look at the bolts and screws. Especially any unpainted ones you can find. Look for the bolts holing the brakes on, the ones under the seat holding it on. Stuff like that. The adjustment screws on the front derailleur are often a dead giveaway. A rusty screw isn't a big deal, but if it means the bike has been stored outside, there may be other rust hidden on the bike that will cause larger problems. Rust inside the frame is bad. Even though an aluminum frame won't rust, if there are rusty parts attached to the frame they can cause big problems. A rusted bottom bracket will fail sooner rather than later. Don't hesitate to take the seat post out (they pop right off, google how to do it) and look into the down tube with a light to make sure the inside is corrosion free.

If the bike's drive train looks TOO clean, that might be of concern. It may have a dry lubrication on them which is good. Or it may not have any lubrication on them which is bad. It's also possible the seller just cleaned the chain and gears to sell it and hasn't been ridden without lubrication but would need to be lubed before you rode it. See the next paragraph for why.

Make sure the chain and cassette and chain rings don't look beat to hell. They should be scratched up a little bit because there is metal rubbing on metal. But there should not be gouges out of the chain or gear teeth. Google 'worn out chain ring' and look at photos like these....see how the paint is worn off? That's okay. See how the teeth are much shorter and roundedr on the right? That's not okay. An unlubricated drive train will make that happen much faster than it normally would. But this will eventually happen to all gears, even the lubricated ones. It's fixable, but that costs money.

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Old 04-11-19, 11:48 AM
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Angry

Ive been riding with a friend that just purchased a used Trek steel multi track from one of our local bike shops.

Ride 1) The kickstand is falling off.
Ride 2) The hangar on the rear d. comes apart.
Ride 3) The saddle comes loose.
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Old 04-11-19, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by boozergut View Post
Ive been riding with a friend that just purchased a used Trek steel multi track from one of our local bike shops.

Ride 1) The kickstand is falling off.
Ride 2) The hangar on the rear d. comes apart.
Ride 3) The saddle comes loose.
The brings up a good addition to my list...

MAKE SURE ALL THE BOLTS ARE TIGHT

Items 1 and 3 on that list are just pathetic. There is no excuse for a bike to leave a bike shop with loose bolts. Especially the saddle. It's a bike shop...even for a used bike they should adjust the saddle for a good fit for you and tighten it. But that being said...the buyer should check to make sure that all accessories are properly attached when buying from Craigslist.

I bought my daughter's bike on Craigslist. Practically new. The little girl who had it previously hated riding it because she was scared. I took one look at it and knew why. Her parents put it together and not a single bolt on it was tight. It wobbled and rattled like crazy. I bough tit for a good price, tightened all the bolts up and it ran like new.

Buying a used bike from a bike shop has the same risks because the used bikes are typically trade ins, not big money makers for the show so they aren't given super TLC. So you should do all the same checks BUT also know the return/repair/warranty policy. On Craigslist the return policy is "You walked out the door with it, it's yours. Bye." At a bike shop they should have a decent warranty policy to repair anything that was damaged or broke within 30 days. They have professionals there who should be checking over every bike they sell, even used ones. Most shops will give a brand new bike a thorough inspection before even little you test ride one. They should certainly be doing it for a used bike you want to buy! If they don't warranty used bikes for a few weeks, I'd seriously reconsider buying a used bike from that shop.

Things do happen, like the derailleur falling apart that you may not notice on a once over or a test ride, where the part is just about to fail when they sold you the bike but looked to be in good working order. That can happen on a Craigslist bike too. But typically in a bike shop you'll pay more for a used bike than on Craigslist. The added price at the bike shop should be buying you a little warranty protection. On Craigslist the possibility of a broken part you missed is the risk you take in exchange for a lower price.
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Old 05-21-19, 09:38 AM
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Churchill
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Great post! I was looking to buy used initially, but was scared off because I didn't know what to look for.

I ended up buying new, but this is a good guide for me for future purchases.
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Old 05-21-19, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Churchill View Post
Great post! I was looking to buy used initially, but was scared off because I didn't know what to look for.

I ended up buying new, but this is a good guide for me for future purchases.
Obviously the cheaper the bike, the lower the risk. If you buy a $200 used bike that's a piece of junk...you're out $200 at the most. Buying a used bike for $1500 is more risky.

This guild should be used for the $200 used bike, not so much the $1500 used bike. For the $1500 bike you'll want to do a lot more checking on the overall quality of the components to verify that they warrant a $1500 price tag (meaning you want to make sure the crank set isn't the machine stamped generic brand and so on and so forth)

This guild is more of a "Is the bike about to fall apart on you or not" guide.

Price is still highly dependent on the overall quality of the bike and it's components.
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