Cycling is one of the most eco friendly forms of transport available, second only to walking, but it’s not without its faults. Bikes, just like cars or any other machinery require an extensive manufacturing process which requires large amounts of energy, raw materials, transport and packaging. And many bikes, on reaching the end of their working life, find themselves in landfill sites or simply left to rust away on wasteland or in gardens or sheds across the country.
Reusing and recycling second hand bikes has become a popular alternative to buying new, and is supported by those who want to make cycling the most efficient, sustainable and eco friendly transport that it can possibly be. If you want to green up your daily commute, or take up a new and environmentally friendly form of exercise, consider a good quality, second hand bike. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about buying and maintaining your second hand bike so you can get the most for your money, and prevent environmental damage at the same time.
Why buy second hand?
By buying a second hand bike, you not only offset the emissions generated by manufacturing a new one, you also bring new life to an older one, keeping it from becoming waste and causing environmental damage. Thousands of bikes, many of them in full working order, find themselves thrown on the scrap heap every year, when they could just as easily find themselves new homes, or contribute working parts to other bikes. Choosing to buy second hand keeps one more bike away from a less-than eco friendly fate.
Buying a second hand bike is also an economical choice. A good quality, second hand bike can be bought for just a fraction of the price of a new one, and there’s always a chance of grabbing a real bargain, especially if you ignore small factors such as cosmetic wear and tear. This makes a second hand bike perfect for those wanting to try cycling for the first time.
Best places to buy a second hand bike
Because old, unused bikes are quite literally dotted all over the place, there is no shortage of places to buy a second hand bike. Some good starting points include:
Bike shops- many bike shops selling new bikes will part-exchange old bikes and sell them on. Buying from a reputable bike shop means you should be able to ensure the bike is serviced and you have everything you need before you hit the road, and you should take plenty of advice away with you, perfect if you’re buying your first bike.
Gumtree- or similar classified ad websites. Searching online allows you to be more specific about the bike you are looking for, making it a great place to find second hand performance bikes, often much cheaper than buying new. Online sites are a good way to look at many second hand bikes at once whilst deciding which is right for you, but remember to see the bike in person before parting with any money.
Family and friends- Sometimes, word of mouth is all you need when you’re looking to buy a second hand bike, or anything else second hand for that matter. If someone you know is looking to part with a bike, ask to take a look at it. Knowing the person you are buying from can be great for peace of mind and a good reference point if you need information on the bike further down the line.
Other options include small, classified ads in newspapers, police auctions or if you’re the handy type, assembling your own from gathered bike parts which can be found at local scrap heaps.
What to look for when buying second hand
Whatever your motivation for choosing to buy second hand, grabbing a bargain, making an eco friendly choice or helping out a friend- a bike is a piece of machinery which can be rendered useless or even dangerous if not in full working condition. Because of this, there are some important factors to look out for when buying a second hand bike to ensure it is safe, reliable and fit for purpose. The following points cover the basics for buying any second hand bike- if you are buying a performance bike or one with a specific use in mind, there may be further factors you wish to consider.
Unless specifically looking for a next-to-new bike, the overall condition of your bike’s frame may not be important to you. But it can be a good indicator of how well the previous owner has treated the bike. Scratches and scuffs can be signs of a well-loved bike, but extensive rust on the frame can indicate neglect, and can often be a sign that other mechanisms such as gears, brakes or pedals have also rusted and seized up.
Inspect the forks and check for symmetry. Look for signs of bending or warping, which can be signs of a crash and impact the overall stability of the bike.
Tyres can say a lot about the condition of a bike. Check the tread- is it worn down? Now check the sides of the tyres- are there any significant cracks or bulges? Tyres can be forgiven for being a little soft if the bike hasn’t been ridden in a few weeks, but ask for them to be inflated. When fully inflated, there should be barely any give when squeezed, and maintain their firmness when ridden.
Check for signs of rust on the wheel rims before rolling the bike back and forth to check that it moves freely and in a straight line. Hold the top of the wheel and try to move it from side to side- if there is significant movement, there could be damage to the bearings. Multiple broken or bent spokes can be a sign of a wheel that is reaching the end of its life and will soon need replacing.
A healthy chain is crucial when running a well-performing bike. Hold the chain and pull in the direction of the front of the bike from the chain ring- coming easily away from the cog is an indicator of excessive chain wear. A worn chain can indicate a worn chainwheel and sprockets which can be expensive and sometimes difficult to replace.
Cranks and pedals
Grab the cranks and try to wobble them back and forward- they should stay in place and not move around. When test riding the bike, check that the pedals rotate smoothly. A rattling or grinding sound is a sign that there may be problems with the inner bearings.
Take a look at the brake pads. They should not rub the wheel when the brake leaver is not pressed. Try the brakes whilst riding the bike slowly. They shouldn’t grip the wheel too suddenly but allow a smooth, gradual braking motion. Try front and back brakes separately to highlight if there are problems with either. The bike should remain straight whilst braking and not pull to one side or another. Check the cables for rust or fraying and ensure the mechanism is lubricated sufficiently.
The handlebars should not move independently of the front wheel. Test this by grabbing the front wheel and trying to move them left and right. There should be a high level of resistance. The “minimum” mark on the stem should not be seen, if so, they are set too high for the bike. Look for rust as this can cause handlebars to seize up and become impossible adjust.
Image sourced: lcd
Image sourced: Ed Wtagsbike maintenancerecycled bikessecond hand bikes