I finally had some time to write this article and I think this is one of the most important ones yet. So please read it carefully. It will save you a lot of money and prevent tremendous headaches down the road. This concerns everybody that is looking for a second-hand bike and has a budget up to 100 Euros.
The first tip – Do not get blinded by how nice the frame looks!
Having a budget of 50 or even 100 Euros for a bike is not much. So either way you are getting an older bike. What you should be looking at is not how the bike looks, but the technical aspect of it. What good is it when it’s beautiful but brakes down every week and costs you another 100 in repairs within weeks or months. Or even worse, it brakes down on the middle of the road and puts you in danger.
Do not concern yourself with the frame, but do pay special attention to both wheels and tires. Let me repeat this. Do not look at how pretty the frame of the bike looks or the nice colors it has or how sturdy it looks. This is deceptive. I have seen hundreds of people just focusing on how nice the frame looks, while the tires are so old that they are about to burst or that the wheels are in such a bad shape that they will not last for 2 months before they just snap in two, putting the rider (and people/vehicles around him/her) in danger.
A frame is nothing more than a piece of metal welded together. All frames are sturdy and last a lifetime. They never really break unless a truck drives over it. The real magic is in the axles, wheels, spokes and tires.
Second tip – Check the spokes
Check the spokes in the back wheel to make sure they are not sloppy. Most bicycle sellers do not have the knowledge or craftmanship to fix spokes of an older bike. We see this a lot – someone bought a nice looking bike for just 40 Euros, but they have to spend another 40 just to fix the sloppy spokes in the back. If the spokes are not repaired, the bike is dangerous and the wheel can snap in two, which will cost at least 60 Euros to replace.
Just grab a few spokes and see if you can move them sideways whitout much efford. If even a few are loose that means the bike has not had proper maintenance in a long time and guess who is going to do the maintenance? That’s right, you! You are as the new owner of the bike.
Third tip – Check the axles
Again, grab the rim of both wheels and try to move them sideways. If you feel the wheels have even a small amount of movement in them, that means that the bike is either not propaly fixed/maintained or the axle might even be broken.
Also do this with the crank. Hold the pedal of the bike and try to move it sideways. Same thing here, if you feel movement in the axle it might be dead or dying. Cost of fixing the axle is around 70 Euros.
Fourth tip – drive the bike
Just driving a bike should give you insight in how well the technical aspect of the bike is. In corners or on bumps you will feel if the bike is sturdy or wobbly. If it is wobbly leave it! Also listen for squeeks and rattles. Every sound that a bike makes except the normal tires’ noise is a dead giveaway that something is off. The brakes can squeak on a lot of old bikes. The brakes have to work properly, and gears can be heavy on older bikes but they have to work.
So next time buying a bike, forget how it looks, don’t get fooled by one rusty bolt or even a lot of rust on the steering or frame. All of that does not really matter. All you should be looking at are tires, wheels, spokes, axles and the whole functioning of the bike in general when driving.
Trust me, almost everyone makes this mistake.