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    What to look for when buying a used bike?

    Tom Owen
    Tom Owen
    May 14, 2024 11 min
    What to look for when buying a used bike?

    What to look for when buying a used-bike? Feeling a little anxious about your second-hand bike purchase? Not sure if secondhand is the right way for you to go? Well, fear not! In this article, we will explore the benefits of buying a pre-loved bicycle and guide you through what to look for in different types of bikes. We have also compiled a list of questions to ask the seller and pointed out some potential pitfalls. Get ready for an exciting ride through the world of secondhand bike shopping!

    What to look for when buying a used bike?
    Feeling a little anxious about your second-hand bike purchase? Let us help you!

    What are the advantages of buying a secondhand bike?

    There are two massive benefits to buying a secondhand bike.

    Used bikes are great value for money

    The first is cost. Used bikes are nearly always cheaper than brand new ones, so if you’re hoping to get a great deal on a bicycle (or a car, coat or cupboard – really anything) secondhand is a great way to go. There’s also a difference between a used bike and a heavily-used bike. A secondhand bike may not actually have been ridden all that much before its original owner decided to move it on – maybe it was the wrong size, or the owner simply didn’t find enough time to ride it. You could be buying a nearly-new bike for an absolute steal!

    Secondhand bikes are more sustainable

    The second slightly less obvious but still super appealing benefit is sustainability. Like any physical product, bikes are made using materials of which there is a finite supply. The vast majority of new, mass-production bicycles are made in the Far East, which means they have a carbon cost attached when they are shipped to the bike shop, the dealer or the consumer. When you buy a secondhand bike, you eliminate the environmental impact of producing a brand new one in a factory, as well as limit the amount of bikes being shipped around the globe to satisfy consumer demand.

    What is the best way to buy a secondhand bike?

    What to look for when buying a used bike?
    What is the best way to buy a secondhand bike?

    We are dedicated to becoming the top way to buy used bikes online. Naturally, you would expect us to say we’re the best! Do not just take our word for it, though. Here are a couple of the reasons we think you will get the best deal with buycycle.

    We have a huge selection of gravel bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes ready for purchase on our shop.

    Ensuring fairness: our commitment to buyers

    Firstly, we believe you should get the bike you paid for. If the bike you receive is significantly different to the one described in the listing, we will give you a refund and take back the bike. We also have a massive selection of bikes giving us a far, far better chance of finding you your dream machine than a single secondhand bike store ever could. 

    Expansive options, secure transactions: the buycycle advantage

    Payments on buycycle are also super-fast and secure. We protect your money, holding onto it until you receive your bicycle – so you can shop with total confidence.

    What should I check for when buying a used bike?

    What should I check for when buying a used bike?
    What should I check for when buying a used bike?

    Once you have got a bike (or three!) that you are considering purchasing, you are going to want to check the bike over carefully. Using photos, or in person, take a look closely at the bike. Does it show signs of misuse or neglect?

    Checking the frame of a used bike

    A good first point to start is the frame. Does it show signs of having been crashed? If there are dents or cracks in the frame then you should rule out the purchase. Particularly if you’re considering a carbon fiber frame, which can crack more easily  and may even have cracks under the paintwork that can’t be seen. To mitigate this risk, you need to look for areas on the frame that may have received an impact – scraped off paint being a strong indicator. 

    Key Inspection Points

    Signs of Concern

    Frame Condition

    - Dents or cracks

    - Signs of having been crashed

    - Particularly concerning for carbon fiber frames due to increased susceptibility to cracking


    - Scratched or scraped-off paint

    -May indicate areas of impact and potential structural damage, especially on carbon fiber frames

    If you are considering a metal frame, the odd, small dent can be overlooked – as steel and aluminum are more robust materials and less prone to catastrophic failure. That said, with metal you should check out the welds where the different tubes of the bike meet, as these  are areas under high stress. Do you see any cracks there? If so, you may wish to pass on this particular candidate. 

    How to spot a badly maintained used bike for sale

    It’s also worth looking at the wear out parts of a used bike to look for signs of neglect by the current owner. We are talking here about the tires, cassette and chain, mostly.

    Wear Out Parts

    Signs of Neglect


    Bald tires, Excessive wear, Signs of damage


    Covered in grease & grime, Rust or corrosion, Worn teeth


    Excessive wear, Rust or corrosion, Stiff links

    General Maintenance

    Overall cleanliness, Lubrication, Proper storage, Regular maintenance


    Fresh cassette and chain may restore functionality, Difficulty in assessing if other issues exist

    Is the bike your size?

    There is quite a lot of ambiguity in bike sizing. Some brands size their bikes like clothing – small, medium, large and so on. Others do it by a measurement of length, typically given in either centimeters for road bikes or inches for most MTBs. Confused yet? Check this chart:

    Bike Sizing Ambiguity

    Key Considerations

    Sizing methods

    - Some brands use clothing sizes (small, medium, large), while others use measurements (centimeters for road bikes, inches for MTBs)


    - Different brands may assign different sizes to the same measurements

    Example: Your height might correspond to a 54cm frame size, which could be labeled as size S by some brands and size M by others

    Checking the size

    - Look for a size sticker on the frame

    - Consult the manufacturer's online size guide to determine if the indicated size is suitable for your height

    - If no size sticker is visible, inquire with the seller or ask them to measure the frame from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube, as this is a crucial measurement for determining bike size

    Have a look at our wheel bike sizing charts guide to help you find your perfect size.

    What to look for in the various type of second-hand bikes?

    Buying a used mountain bike – what to check for

    What to look for when buying a used bike?
    What to look for in a pre-owned mountain bike?

    Considerations for Used Mountain Bikes

    Key Points

    General considerations

    - Apply all considerations mentioned previously

    Suspension maintenance

    - Pay special attention to the suspension system

    - Determine if the bike has both rear and front suspension

    - Inquire about when the suspension system was last serviced

    Servicing information

    - Ask the seller for proof of servicing via a service receipt or confirmation email from their mechanic

    - If no proof is available or if the suspension has never been serviced, factor in the cost of servicing into the price you’re willing to pay for the bike

    When looking at used mountain bikes, all of the above considerations apply, but you should also pay special attention to the suspension. The bike may have both rear and front suspension, and it’s important to know when the system was last serviced. You may not be able to see any indication of this from simply looking at the bike, so ask the seller when it was last serviced, and whether they can provide proof of this via a service receipt or confirmation email from their mechanic. If they ca not provide you with this, or tell you that the suspension has never been serviced, you should factor the cost of having it done yourself into the price you’re willing to pay for the bike. For more tips, check our guide on how to choose a mountain bike.

    What to look for when buying a used road bike

    What to look for when buying a used road bike?
    What to look for when buying a used road bike?

    Recommendations for Secondhand Road Bikes

    Key Advice

    Frame Inspection

    - Check the condition of the carbon fiber frame

    - Consider using an ultrasound device for frame inspection

    - Option to add frame inspection when purchasing a road bike on our website

    Our big recommendation when you are considering whether to buy a secondhand road bike is checking the carbon fiber of the frame is in good condition. When we refurbish bikes, we check the frames using an ultrasound device – and you can also add this option when purchasing a road bike on our website.

    Key things to look for on a secondhand gravel bike

    What to look for when buying a used gravel bike?
    What to look for when buying a used gravel bike?

    Key Considerations for Secondhand Gravel Bikes

    Key Areas to Inspect

    Disc Brakes

    - Examine the condition of the rotors

    - Check for signs of wear or damage


    - Inspect the underside of the frame

    - Look for any signs of damage from rough treatment


    - Assess the condition of the tires

    - Look for wear and tear, including punctures or cuts

    - Check for adequate tread depth, especially considering gravel bikes encounter various terrains and may experience higher speeds than mountain bikes

    Because gravel bike are subjected to more bumps and bangs than road bikes, while also generally being able to achieve higher speeds than mountain bikes, it’s a good idea to pay particular attention to the rotors on the disc brakes, the underside of the frame and the condition of the tires. These are all areas exposed to rough treatment, and will show signs of wear or damage sooner than other bit of the bike. If you are considering a gravel bike purchase, we encourage you to explore our our guide on how to choose a gravel bike.

    The most common pitfalls to look for when buying a used bike

    What to look for when buying a used bike?

    It’s understandable to be concerned about pitfalls when buying a used bike. After all, a new bike comes guaranteed from the manufacturer but a secondhand one does not. 


    Scams and stolen bikes are two of the biggest concerns customers have when considering a secondhand purchase. Will you receive the bike you paid for, or will something entirely different show up at your door – or no bike at all? It is a cause for stress for sure. At buycycle we have tried to eliminate that stress by verifying all our sellers – no shady made up profiles with no previous information like you might find on eBay, Facebook or CraigsList. We also offer no-hassle returns on bikes that do not meet the description that you saw online. Just let us know within 48 hours of receipt. 

    How to spot a stolen bike

    Indicators of Potentially Stolen Bikes

    Key Actions

    Frame Number

    - Check the frame number located on the bottom bracket

    - Verify online if the frame number has been reported stolen

    - Scratched-off frame numbers are suspicious and indicate potential theft

    Description and Seller Behavior

    - Be wary of inaccurate descriptions or sellers unable to answer basic questions

    - Unrealistically low prices may indicate a scam or an illicitly acquired bike

    Original Purchase Receipt

    - Request the original purchase receipt from the seller for verification purposes

    - Receipts can help identify fake bikes and ensure the bike has undergone necessary safety testing

    If you are concerned that the used bike you want to buy has been stolen from someone else, the first thing you need to do is check the frame number. This is usually found on the bottom of the bottom bracket (underneath where the pedals attach to the bike frame). You can check online to see if a frame number has been reported stolen… if the frame number has been intentionally scratched off the bike, that would be a very shady sign and probably not a bike you want to purchase. 

    Another indicator that a bike might be stolen is if the description of the used bike for sale is inaccurate, or the seller is unable to answer basic questions about the item. While we pride ourselves on providing you with a great bike for a great price, there are some prices that are simply too good to be true… and that is typically a sign of either a scam or a bike that has been illicitly acquired.  

    You can always ask the seller for their original purchase receipt if you have any concerns about the bike’s provenance. This can also help you identify fake bikes – cheaper copies of well-known brands’ frames – with none of the necessary safety testing done on them.

    Can you negotiate? How to get a great deal on a used bike

    What to look for when buying a used gravel bike?
    Can you negociate? On buycycle, YES!

    Sealing the deal: navigating price negotiations

    If you have found a bike you love and are satisfied that it is in good condition and has not been stolen from some other poor cyclist, the last thing to agree is the price. At buycycle we make it easy for buyers to contact the seller, to ask questions and maybe even negotiate a little bit. We have a feature to suggest a new price. After all, the freedom to haggle is all part of the appeal of a marketplace. You can also read our article on How much does a bike cost.

    Guiding your transaction: tips for savvy buyers

    We encourage you to be respectful, and only send serious offers. Nobody likes to have their time wasted. Take a look at similar bicycles and what they have sold for to get a sense of the market. 

    Time to buy safely your pre-owned bike!

    So there you go, team, you should now have all the info you need to confidently shop for a used bike. Check the bike you are considering buying carefully, ask plenty of questions of the seller if you are unsure, and be aware of the potential pitfalls that come with secondhand shopping

    When purchasing your pre-owned bike on buycycle, you can rest assured knowing that your transaction is protected from scams or unexpected disappointments. With our guarantee, your purchase is safeguarded, offering you a stress-free shopping experience for your pre-owned bike. Why wait any longer? Start shopping now!