Smart Buyer's Guide: Bikes

In the market for a new bike? Consider buying a gently used bike instead! It's a great way to find a quality bike at an amazing deal. Bikes don't depreciate at the same rate cars do. A pro road bike that cost $1000 ten years ago, can be purchased at a couple hundred dollars today and be returned to like-new condition with little work. All you need is some knowledge about what to look for and a bit of bike maintenance know-how.

Know your ride
If you’re riding in the city, you’ll want comfort over performance. For a commuter bike, 32mm tires are comfortable and more resistant to pinch flats than thinner tires, which run at a higher pressure. Also look for flat bars as opposed to drop bars. If you’re climbing the hills, you’ll probably want a road bike. Steel, aluminum, or carbon fiber frame construction won’t make a huge difference in weight, but will make a difference in ride comfort. I prefer a double chainring over a triple, but your individual needs will determine that.

Know your size
If you have experience with bikes or have been professionally fitted for a bike in the past, you should be set! If this is your first bike, you can measure your inseam length to estimate your bike size. This will get you close enough, but seat height and torso length play an important role. Visit your local bike shop for a professional fitting – They deal with this stuff every day and have valuable insights.

Know what to look for in the listing
Look out for an overly worn chainring or cassette – If the teeth have a swept-back look or seem very thin, then these parts don’t have much useful life left, and would need replacing. I usually like to look for a bike stand used in the listing. When I see these kinds of listings, I know the owner does a lot of cycling and has taken care of this bike.

Test drive it!
Never buy a bike without checking it out in-person first. When I meet up to check out a bike, I always make sure the wheels spin freely and that all the gears index correctly. A little scraping sound is okay, as that can be adjusted.

Maintenance
Once you have the bike home, you’ll want to check the chain for elongation. The lifespan of your drivetrain is determined by how well you maintain your chain! Twelve chain links will be exactly 12 inches from pin to pin. 1/16th of an inch of elongation is a good indicator to replace the chain. And you can always find a trusted bike mechanic to make minor repairs for you.

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