Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tips On Buying A Quality Used Bicycle (Or how to put a bike through its paces)

     This guide doesn't attempt to discuss bicycle fit. Hours of discussion can easily be spent on the subject. This guide is to ensure you find a bicycle of good craftsmanship that is repairable and I believe if you follow this guide you'll find a decent bicycle.

    The used bicycle market is full of wonderful bikes(Classic road bikes, mtn bikes, Cruiser bikes and tandems). How do you know if the bicycle you want is good or not? Three elements make a great bicycle: Craftsmanship, Brand, components. If you can find a brand that was once sold in a bike shop you are on track, most of the bikes you'll find in bike shops are well-made and I'd argue are worth repairing. They won't let you down.

     Visual Inspection of the Frame: Check the frame for any cracks, scratches or rust. Rust and paint damage like to hide in the most conspicuous places. Check the bike under the frame where the pedals are and all along the down tube(see below).

  A bicycle built for heavier loads will have lugged welds like those below(Or TIG welding on Aluminum Frames). Double-butted and triple-butted steel may be found on touring bikes for added strength and durability, this is important when considering the extra weight loaded touring bicycles can handle.

-=scorch=- Flickr.
     Check the rear of the frame where the rear wheel bolts on to the frame. (This is called the rear drop outs, quite appropriately, because it's on the back of the bicycle where the wheel drops out). Bikes of very low quality will have crimped on rear dropouts like those below. (Caveat Empor)

No Welds  =(

     Here's a short and incomplete list of brands I trust. Like your Azuki, Peugeot, Raleigh, Bianchi, Giant, Trek, Gary fisher, Nishiki, Araya, Haro, Specialized, Puch, Miyata and that's all that come to mind. Brand can often be a sign of quality and craftsmanship but it's not de facto. It's all about craftsmanship and the components. Learn what the quality bicycle components are (Shimano, Araya, etc) and look for those parts. Beware of bicycles with parts that aren't branded or labeled, virtually all bicycles from a sporting good's store or bicycle shop will have components that are labeled. Not all branded parts are quality but it will give you something to Google. If your search returns no results, that's a red flag. Unsure about a part's quality? Check consumer reports, consult your local bike shop or other bicycle professional. Feel free to e-mail me, however, if it doesn't return a Google result normally it's unknown. Whether the part is quality or not can only be made by a competent mechanic or other bicycle professional and that's outside the scope of this article.

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