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How to buy a great Used Bike - the ultimate guide for buying a second hand bicycle


The Ultimate Guide to buying a Used bike

It’s 2022 and the pandemic has left bike shops and bike companies with a huge shortage of new bikes, bike parts and equipment. Wait lists are long and new bikes are still selling out before you even see the marketing email.

It’s a tough time to be buying a bike. It’s a sellers market. So, if you’re in the market for a new (to you) bike, you’d be smart to look to the used market. Used bikes are/can be great! Buying a used bike, however, can be daunting. Like walking into the car dealership, or into a mechanic, not knowing what that sound in your car actually is. A few thousand dollars later, you still might be wondering if you got taken for a ride.

Well, Parc is hoping we can help just a little, by giving you our ULTIMATE GUIDE TO BUYING A USED BIKE. These are all our best tips to make the process more rewarding and more successful.

This article covers:

  •    3 areas of caution - super important!
  •    Where to find used bikes for sale - the best sources
  •    How to evaluate a listing - is it a good deal?
  •    After you buy - what to do first?

Obviously, first, what bike am I looking for? What kind of bike do I need, or what kind of bike should I buy? Do I need a mountain bike? Or, should I buy a road bike? What brand? What model? That’s a huge decision! Luckily, we have a blog post on that too! See that postHERE.

If you’re just diving into a new cycling discipline or are new to cycling altogether, don’t worry about the brand, model and year specifically. You really just need to know whether you want a road bike, mountain bike, hybrid, e-bike, gravel bike etc. In the used market, there’s (understandably) less room for pickiness. You can only choose from the bikes folks are selling.


Once you’ve decided what kind of bike you need and want, we’re ready to start scouring the listings. Before you do that though, let us share a few words of caution, or best practices for safe buying. There are threespecific ways to walk away from a sale stuck with the wrong bike. You need to be careful about:


Used bikes will have a normal amount of wear, usually correlated to their age if they’re regularly ridden. Small paint chips and dings are expected. We'd consider this all "wear" that is ok. Real damage is not ok. You will likely come across bikes for sale that have larger dents, small cracks or "repaired" damage. Maybe the seller has a really low price, or they say it’s been fixed, or that it doesn’t affect the ride… yada yada yada. Just avoid it. Don’t look, don’t be tempted. Better to stay away. 


You’d think fit is simple. I’m six feet tall, so I ride a size large bike, right? Not always! Each brand has their own size charts based on height and inseam. And it differs between road bikes (often shown in cm) and non-road bikes (shown in S, M, L size). One brand may label a 58cm top tube as a L, while another calls their 56cm model a L. You can’t just search for “large bike.”


So, how do I tell which bike is the right size? Obviously, test ride if you can. What if I can’t test ride?  First, look at the company’s relevant size chart for the model bike you’re looking at. Just google the make, model and year of the bike, and you’ll likely find the website for that bike with a size chart link. Once you have the size you shouldbe check out forums by googling “How does X BRAND Y MODEL fit?” So, for example, search “How does the Specialized StumpJumper fit?” If you specifically look for forum posts from sites like Reddit, Pinkbike, Weightweenies etc, you might be able to find some first hand knowledge on other people’s height and inseams and their comfort on the bike you’re considering.

It almost goes without saying, but try your best to buy locally specifically so you can test ride the actual bike. In lieu of that, sometimes shops nearby will have the model you’re considering, so you can use the shop to gauge the correct size before buying. Just maybe buy something at the shop too, to thank them for the assist. And lastly, if you’re test riding in person, don’t be afraid to ask to adjust the seat. Be sure of fit before money exchanges hands.


When you can't ride before buying, you won’t know if the bike is working properly. It might look great, but does it shift? Are the brakes working? Are there noises that shouldn’t be there? Does it feel like it’s in good repair? If you’re able to ride a bike yourself and you notice it needs a tune-up or more significant work (i.e. it’s not humming along quietly, clicking through gears nimbly), you can at least talk to the seller about getting that work done, or giving you a lower price. There’s nothing worse than receiving a bike you bought online and figuring out there’s $500 in replacement parts needed because the seller wasn’t completely forthcoming.



Ok, time to shop! But, where are used bikes listed? How do I find all the bikes for sale in the area around me? Below are the sources we’d recommend. Are there other places to find used bikes? Yes. These are just the few we actually use and like and would recommend:

LOCAL SHOPS - most trustworthy

Many local bike shops sell used bikes on consignment or from their past year’s rental/demo fleet. Though you may pay a little more buying from a shop like this versus a private party online, you get extra benefits like discounted or free maintenance in the future, the peace of mind knowing that bike has been professionally inspected and readied for sale, reassurance that the bike is a good fit for you, and a simple, trustworthy transaction (no parking lot meetups or worries about electronic payments being rescinded or canceled). Not to mention, you’re supporting a local bike shop and might meet some cool new bike friends.

FACEBOOK MARKETPLACE - best for local bikes

It feels like Facebook Marketplace is taking over the space that used to be occupied by Craigslist. The interface is easy to use, you can easily message sellers and you can adjust the distance window you’re searching within.  If you don’t mind purchasing a bike from someone further away, there is the option for sellers to offer shipping, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds - you can see what’s nearby for pickup/in person testing, and then what’s further away but available for shipping. The quality of available bikes is also generally pretty good. 

FACEBOOK GROUPS - best for niche bikes & local bikes

FB Groups can be created exclusively as buy/sell groups (e.g. “Austin Bike Sell & Trade”, “Texas Bicycle Exchange”, “MTB Swap Meet”), allowing buyers and sellers to congregate in groups easily based on geography and/or preferred riding type. Search for these groups and join a few. Active ones might have 5-10 great options posted daily. The members/sellers are typically folks just like yourself, as opposed to shops or online businesses.
Also, FB Groups let you create a post telling other cyclists exactly what you're looking for. Someone may have the bike or part you need, and is willing to sell! You can't do this effectively on many other platforms.

Pro tip for these groups though - if you’re responding to posts, read the whole listing. We’ve sold plenty of bike gear on FB and it’s quite annoying how many people don’t read all the details and send unnecessary questions.

EBAY - best options/inventory

The biggest available inventory is probably on Ebay. Facebook Marketplace tends to have complete bikes that people either have ridden and are upgrading from, or that they didn’t ride enough to justify having. Ebay though, has every frame and part and bike from every year you might want. Want a 2018 Cervelo? It’s probably on Ebay. Want a rare paint job you saw? It’s on Ebay. It’s not uncommon for owners to post their bike on Facebook Marketplace, gauge interest, then post on Ebay, or just post on both platforms to increase the chance of a full price sale.

When shopping on Ebay for bikes, please remember a couple things.

  • First, reviews and history of the Seller matter. The more positive reviews, the better. Look at their other listings. Do they look legit? The more cycling gear they’re selling, the more trustworthy they probably are.
  • Also, watch out for damaged bikes. Read all the details. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Ebay has a ton of counterfeits. To avoid most counterfeit bike stuff on Ebay, use the “Item Location: USA” filter to weed out most of the generic, counterfeit, suspect and generally questionable equipment.

CRAIGSLIST - good local option

Still going strong, but also still the same as always. Lacks the easy communication of FB Marketplace. Craigslist always has lots of bikes listed, but it still feels a bit less safe, since accounts aren’t as personal as a FB account. Also, if you’re open to shipping a bike, it’s much easier to see your options on FB than it is on Craigslist. As always, be careful.


First, if you’re into MTB and not on PinkBike regularly, you’re missing out. Like mountain bike videos? This is where they all debut. Second, PinkBike Buy/Sell section is easy to miss. Don’t think I’ve ever heard or seen anyone say anything about it since a buddy exposed me to it in college. This is the place to go for mountain bikes and mtb parts. It’s like a FB group for mountain bikers worldwide. You can set geography filters and choose exactly what type of bike you’re looking for. Most likely the bikes won’t be in your area and you will have to ship, but worth a look due to the high quality.



Facebook Marketplace is our first go-to source because of the volume and local buying options.


Ok, now that you’ve done your research and have identified some good looking listings, let’s evaluate them to find the best fit for you!



Here's how we evaluate a used bike listing:


What condition is the bike in? We talked earlier about damage and function, but just looking at the bike or reading the listing, can you tell how well the bike is treated? Is it shiny and new looking? Or is it carrying a thick coat of dust and dirt? Hopefully, there are closeup photos. Are the logos/stickers on the bike in good shape? That’s a good indicator of what shape the bike is generally in. Any rust or corrosion visible? The materials on the seat, the grips or handlebar tape, the non-metal bits - do they look fresh and clean?

The more dirt, grime, cracking, peeling etc you can see, the less the bike is worth and likely the more work (read: $) it will need immediately and in the future, through maintenance and replacement parts. Always good to ask what parts are stock and what's been replaced, and when.


What year is the bike? If the listing doesn’t say, ask. This has a huge effect on the real value and pricing. And before we really get into it, remember, a bike that is 5 or 10 years old, though it might seem ancient, is a bike with technology that was considered state of the art at one point. My road bike is pretty nice, but it’s from 2013. When I start thinking about upgrading, I remind myself, “this bike was good enough for the top, top pros in the world at one point, pretty sure it’s not limiting me in any way.” So, keep that in mind when you start seeing newer, shinier things.


Now, usually the question is how old is too old for a used bike? That’s the wrong question. The right questions are “does this bike do what I want it to do?” and “will it still work for as long as I want it to”? If you want a bike that will last a long time, you’ll likely need replacement parts at some point. Certain brands and models will have proprietary parts that may have ceased production. Googling the make, model, year and “issues?” will point you to forums with bike owners talking about parts and function issues they’ve run into. Also, consider your own progression. You don’t need to go crazy - you’re likely not going to be a pro. But if you’re buying your first mountain bike, think about how your skills might evolve. With time and practice, you could outgrow a truly entry level bike quickly. You’ll find yourself wanting better gearing, more suspension and maybe something lighter.



So, now you're definitely wondering about price. How does condition and age affect price? How do I know if a bike is a good deal?

Let's talk price. Before that, a quick reminder that we’re in a seller’s market in 2022 still, so prices may be a little inflated. That said, these are the three best ways to price check a used bike:

    Bicycle Blue Book Value guide

    This website is THE go-to source for bike valuation. You enter the brand, model, year and condition and you can see the estimated value ranges. A savvy seller will be using this guide to price their bike also, but using this tool will quickly tell you if the bike is a good deal or not, and what a more realistic price may be. Try changing the condition variable to see how it changes the ranges. This is good to know since it’s so hard to assess the condition of a bike you haven’t seen in person.

      Ebay SOLD items

      Perhaps the least used, but most helpful feature of Ebay is the Sold Items filter in the left hand column of filters. No matter where the bike is actually for sale, Ebay can be very helpful. On Ebay, search for the bike you’re considering buying (brand, model, year) and then when the search results come up, scroll down the filter list on the left and check the box for “Sold Items.” Find items in similar condition to what you're considering to see what that bike is actually selling for. Obviously, there may be bikes with different upgrades and varying parts, but still a great resource. Remember, the real value is what the market will pay!

        Ask cycling friends/group

        If you’re lucky enough to have cycling-obsessed friends, or be a member of an online or in person cycling group, send the listing around and ask for feedback. You probably know someone who has the same brand bike, or a similar model who can give you their feedback. Also, just getting the guy feeling on price from a bigger sample of people will give you more confidence about the price you’re willing to pay.

          The toughest variable to account for in the price of a used bike is upgrades. Let’s say a seller bought a bike five years ago and has added some nicer wheels, carbon handlebars and stem, and nice pedals, but all other parts are stock. Those parts are upgrades, yes, but they’re also used and of varying ages. Sellers usually assume their upgrades are worth more in the total bike price than they really are. For you to see the real value of these, head to Ebay and use the Sold Items filter like we discussed earlier. Search for the upgraded part, then filter to see only the sold items. You’ll get a great idea of what that part, used, is worth in a private party sale. You can kind of mesh that with the value ranges you got on Bicycle Blue Book for an updated total estimate.

          We’ve now gone through what to look for, where to look, how to check the price. As for the actual buying, please be careful. Buying on the internet always has some risk. Use a payment method you trust. Inspect the bike in person before paying if possible, and if not possible, try to get the option to return the bike for a refund. Many Ebay sellers allow this.

          If you’re going to see the bike in person, ride it around, shift the gears, pull the brakes. Ask to adjust the seat to judge the fit. Remember, stems can be shortened, handlebars narrowed or widened. Ask about when the last tuneup was, how old the tires are. Listen for noises, inspect bolts for rust, tubes for cracks and dents, check the serial number (make sure it’s there and not removed). Ask lots of questions about how they liked the bike, how much they rode it, where they ride typically, where they got the bike, what they are replacing it with.

          Serious cyclists and the best bike owners keep documentation of the bike’s purchase and maintenance. Ask to see anything they have. They may even tell you the bike still qualifies for free or discounted maintenance if they bought it from a local shop. Satisfactory answers to these questions help give the buyer credit. If they are dodging questions, or don’t seem to know much about cycling and don’t have a good reason for being uneducated, buyer beware. Don’t feel pressured to buy just because you’re there in person. Totally ok to still walk away!

          We’re not going to go over negotiating here - that’s pretty universal and not our particular expertise. Be polite though, don’t low-ball people. Do your research to determine a fair price and keep conversations respectful. We’re all cyclists after all!

          Once you have your NEW-to-you USED bike, time to celebrate! Let’s fit it and ride it! We’re also not bike fit experts, so find a local shop that can do a good bike fit for you. Bike fits can be pricey but are 100% worth it. Your comfort and enjoyment of your new ride will be maximized. Expect to swap out a few parts that are body-size dependent. This is how you get a custom bike feel at a fraction of the price of a fully custom, new bike.

          Only thing left to do is ride! Enjoy your new, smart purchase to the fullest. Put in the miles for years and years and when you’re ready, pass it on to another used bike shopper. 


          Check out the Parc gear bag HERE! All your kit, tools, shoes, snacks, lights, parts etc, in one Bag, at home and on the road.