Getting into mountain biking is expensive. In fact, the costs you’re going to incur if you want to get a good bike is comparable to buying a car. Because of this, it makes sense to get the best value for your money. And that’s by getting a used mountain bike.
You can even get a high-end bike for a lower cost if you settle on second-hand options. But doing so means that you need to do a lot of research to get the best deal.
Here, we’re going to discuss what to look for when buying a used mountain bike. This helps you get the best bang-for-your-buck bike while enjoying the outdoors and not putting a hole in your pockets.
Looking for a Used Mountain Bike
What bike do you want and need
Mountain biking is divided into multiple disciplines with each having their own kind of bike.
These disciplines are:
Choose which discipline you’re going to enter so you can get the right bike for you.
Specific bikes like cross-country bikes are focused on climbs and long rides. They usually have a steeper geometry and a shorter travel suspension.
Riders that are more focused on descents and technical terrain use longer travel suspension bikes. There are also enduro and all-mountain bikes that can do both climbs and descents.
Get what fits for you
You can easily find a good deal when browsing through the internet. But take note that you have to get a bike that’s the right size for you. Look for one that perfectly fits you so you won’t have to sell it again later because they’re too big or too small.
Check the manufacturer’s site and see if it’s the correct size for you. This ensures that you won’t regret your purchase because you find it too difficult to ride a bike that’s the wrong size for you.
Understanding your budget
Sticking to your budget is important because this ensures that you can completely build your bike. There are a ton of used bikes out there that are affordable so you don’t have to break the bank. But getting the bike that you really want depends on if you can actually afford it.
Getting a used mountain bike is all about compromising the aesthetics, quality, and weight. Lower your standards a bit if you can’t afford to purchase your “dream bike.”
But take note that you can find good condition mountain bikes that can still perform the same as newer models. Just spend some time researching and canvassing online and in physical bike shops.
Find one that’s in excellent condition
Buy a used bike that’s still in excellent condition so it won’t break easily whenever you’re riding it on gnarly trails. You don’t want to own a bike that’s going to fail you during your ride because this can lead to serious injuries.
Ensuring that it’s in excellent condition means that there aren’t any parts that show signs of deteriorating or damage. Parts like these can break soon!
Also, ask the owner about each part of the bike. Examples of these are if the bike has any issues like chain wear, frame cracks, or if the suspension has been recently serviced.
It’s even much better to see the bike in person to make sure it’s really in good shape.
Finding a Good Deal
You want to buy a used bike because you’re on a budget, right? So, it’s best to do a lot of research before choosing one. There are a lot of ads posted on the internet, which leaves you with a lot of options to find a good deal.
Sellers usually have several reasons why they sell their bikes. A few common ones are them wanting to upgrade to a new one or if they want to shift to a new hobby.
You then need to see if there are any changes or upgrades you need to do once you’ve finally chosen your bike. You should add this to your budget because upgrades are essential to a mountain bike’s performance.
See it in Person and Test it Out
A good tip to know if the bike suits you is to see it in person and give it a quick spin. This lets you know if the size of the frame is right for you and if there are any issues on its internal.
Riding the used mountain bike helps you find out how it feels when riding. It also lets you see if you’re comfortable with it.
You can hop it around the car park to see if the suspension works. You can also give it a few brake checks and shift the gears several times to see if the drivetrain works properly.
Things to Check Out on a Used Bike
Expect to see scratches on a used mountain bike frame. Just make sure that the scratches aren’t very deep as they can later turn into cracks. Avoid frames that have dents as these are signs that the bike received a pretty good beating by its owner.
A mountain bike frame with major issues is likely to weaken later on, which can lead it to break. So you should always get a used one that’s still in excellent condition.
The common issues you’ll see in a used mountain bike frame are dents, deep scratches, and cracks. You also want to check if there are loose or blown-out bearings if you’re getting a full-suspension frame.
See if the fork and rear shock are working properly by compressing the suspension and checking if the adjuster knobs are functioning. This lets you know if they haven’t blown up or have seized.
Ask the owner of the bike when was the last time they were serviced and how often do they ride their bike.
It helps you have a clearer idea of the bike’s current condition. You’ll also know the costs you can expect when servicing the parts and bringing them back to pristine condition.
Wheel and Tires
The wheels are the first part of your bike that takes a lot of direct hits from the ground. Check for dents or cracks on the rims. You can also ride them for a bit and see if there’s any wobble on them.
Check if the tires need replacing. Most sellers usually sell their used mountain bikes with tires that have already gone through a lot of rides. This means they’re usually worn out.
The drivetrain includes the cranks, chain ring, cassette, and derailleur. Although you won’t usually notice it, regularly riding your bike will eventually lead to these parts to wear out. It even wears out faster through bad gear shifting and if it isn’t properly maintained.
The chain of your drivetrain can be easily replaced so you won’t have to worry about it to wear out.
You can instead focus on the teeth of the cassette and chain ring as they’re going to cost you a lot to replace them. You should also check the pedal threads of the cranks if they aren’t damaged.
Test the brakes if they’re working properly by giving them a good brake test. Check if there’s any brake fluid leaking out of it or if they need bleeding. You should also see if the brake pads need replacing because you surely don’t want your brakes to fail during your ride.
See if the rotors are properly aligned and if they aren’t worn out. Having dented rotors means you need to replace or align them. This allows you to properly set the calipers and prevent them from rubbing each other.
Dropper seat post
Having a dropper seat post is a tremendous bonus when getting a mountain bike. You have the luxury of making your seat go up and down with just a press of a button. Make sure it runs smoothly so you won’t have to pay for the extra costs of repairs.
Dropper seat posts have a tendency to breakdown over time so ask the owner if it’s still running smoothly. Bargain for the price of the bike if the dropper has issues. Anyway, you’re still going to spend on it for repairs!
What to Ask from the Previous Owner
How long the bike has been with them
It’s important to know how long the bike has been with the owner and how often they ride it. Asking this lets you know the current condition of the bike. It also helps you see if there might be worn-out parts that need replacing.
You also need to know if the bikes have been recently used or if it’s been sitting at their garage for a while. The bike will wear out and might need servicing if it has had none for a while.
The last time the bike had been serviced
Ask the owner if they serviced the bike. It helps you know if you need to give the bike a full overhaul or if you need to replace its bearings.
Also, ask what type of service they did and on which parts. This lets you know if there were any damages that happened which lead to the bike being serviced.
Any problems with the components
Ask the owner if there are any issues with the mountain bike’s components and if any of them need replacing. This lets you know how much to spend on your budget to improve your bike’s riding condition.
It also lets you know if the price of the bike is worth buying because there’s a chance you might spend more on replacements.
Ask for the receipt
Ask for the receipt of the bike to see if it’s really theirs. This ensures that you’re not buying a stolen bike. It also lets you know if the seller is legitimate if you’re buying online.
But take note that sometimes the owner doesn’t have the receipt. They might have already lost it because of how long they had the bike. There are also some shops just like boutique stores that don’t provide any receipt.
You can instead ask for other types of documentation that prove the bike is theirs. Photos of them riding the bike will do.
Don’t opt for stolen bikes
There are some used bikes that have prices that are too good to be true. There are some cases when they’re really sold cheap because the owner might want to sell it at once for funding. But there’s also a huge chance that these bikes might be stolen.
Stolen bikes are sold at lower prices as the seller wants to get rid of it as soon as possible to evade the authorities.
Do some research on the seller’s background. You can check on their social media profiles or ask people who might know them. Also, look for photos of them riding the bike. You want to look for evidence that the bike is actually theirs so you won’t get scammed.
Make sure that the price of the used mountain bike is worth it. No doubt you’ll find the perfect one for you because there are already so many bikes up for sale in buy and sell websites such as Pink Bike.
Just make sure that the bike is still in excellent condition and there’s little-to-no-cost in giving the bike a proper service. Buying a bike with too many issues only gives you a lot of problems, and it’ll waste you a lot of time and money to fix it and make it ready to ride.
It’s all about making the most out of your resources and doing your best to research and analyze the best bargains for you.
When you do, then no doubt you’ll be getting your dream bike in no time — for a very low price.
A writer by day, a tech enthusiast by night, and a mountain biker at the weekends.
After four years in business school and working for multinational clients, Jomar believes he can improve the world through his writings.
Jomar has six years of experience as a writer and has a degree in entrepreneurial marketing. Some of his works have been published on Blokt, Clutch Points, and iTech.