There are bikes everywhere from the lamp post next to the bus stop to your local Wednesday night Worlds. The path that these bikes and every bike in-between took from manufacturing plant in Asia to the local bike shop to the passing of hands via Craigslist or Ebay after a season or two makes up the marketplace that is bikes. Navigating this marketplace to buy the best bike for you at the right price point can be extremely tricky as there are always options to weigh.
You may think you have a good deal at one location but if that place isn’t the ideal medium to buy the bike you are looking for, you are likely leaving money or bike on the table. Matching your needs to the place that sells the bike you’re looking for starts with knowing what all those different places offer. Each has their positives and negatives and each comes with an associated cost. In general, you get what you pay for.
Know What You’re Trying to Buy
Knowing what you are looking to buy before you actually go out and try to buy a bike is pretty important. You can go to your local bike shop and browse which can give you more of an idea of what you actually are looking for. Also talking with other cycling friends can give you good insight. The way you approach buying a bike is going to change whether you’re looking to upgrade with a brand new bike or are trying to save money yet still want something high end.
There are thousands of bike shops across the country for a reason; because they offer good value in what they sell and in what they know. Most bike shops only sell new bikes which can range from lower end entry level bikes to your $10,000 top of the line bike. If you are looking for something brand new whether it’s at the entry level or for an upgrade, this is the place to do it. Unless you are a sponsored rider or have some other hookup, it is difficult to get a brand new bike through any other methods as most of the higher end retailers, Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, etc., will only sell through licensed distributors. Some smaller companies do offer direct shipping but you need to know exactly what you are looking for as there’s no test ride before it comes out of the box.
Used Bike Stores
Many cities and popular cycling areas will have used bike stores or consignment shops where you can get a used bike. At these places the bikes are looked over and generally made sure that they are in good working order otherwise they won’t accept them which is great for peace of mind when buying something used. If you are upgrading, they may even take your old bike and you can just pay the difference on the new one.
Now we’re solidly into the mediums used to buy a used bike. One of the best ways to get a used bike is through a friend or acquaintance who is trying to sell their bike. Bikes aren’t always something frequently bought and sold so it does take some luck in timing to have a friend that’s selling one when you’re looking for one. The big benefit in having a bike previously owned by a friend is that you probably know how the bike was ridden and taken care of as well as if it experienced any major crashes. Also, it’s probably rare that a friend or someone you know would try to take advantage so you know you’re getting a good price for what you’re getting.
Buying a Bike Online
We are now into the online realm which can be tricky to navigate as well but if you know where and how to look, it can be a great resource. Seeing a bike in person before you actually buy it is a huge plus so even though Craigslist is online, you can still see what you’re buying before you complete the purchase. Sellers know this so they don’t try any goofy stuff as it obviously won’t get by you when you see the bike in person. The big thing here is just to be safe about meeting a stranger and making sure the money exchange goes smoothly. Cash is generally best on the spot.
There are a number of online forums that take away a bit of the “random person selling a bike” factor in that there are general requirements to post as well as many people have reputations within the online community because they actively sell bikes and bike parts on a regular basis. If you are looking for something in particular this can be a great resource as you can ask if anyone is selling … And if they’re not, maybe they know someone who does.
Facebook Group – Online Swap Meet
With anything online it can be difficult to establish credibility but Facebook does a good job of it due to the Friend’s Lists basically establishing that the person and their name is real along with if anything does go awry, you can generally contact someone that they know personally. Online Swap Meet is a page where members can post their cycling related gear for other members to view. It’s simple to join to not only buy but to sell also.
Classifieds are a more removed way of buying or selling anything with the advent of the internet but online classifieds do exist. A lot of bikes are sold this way as it is much cheaper and easier to deal with than Ebay, discussed below. There are generally standards which must be met in order to sell and some require fees which generally weed out anyone who isn’t looking to honestly pass along their old bike.
Ebay is one of, if not the largest online exchanges. Simply everything is sold here including bikes. You can find high end bikes as well as the lower end town bike that someone is trying to get rid of and make a buck or two. There are buyer and seller protection policies in place to help ensure the accurate depiction of what is being sold. Even with this however you can’t actually see in person how good the bike is and if it actually works. The policies can protect you from this but it is still a pain if you have to go through the process. Ebay also takes a relatively steep fee so sellers tend to try selling their bikes via the means above and use Ebay as a last resort. That said, you can still find some fantastic deals on good quality bikes. Just make sure you do your homework and know what you’re getting.
Online Gear Exchanges
In every sports industry, used gear is everywhere and getting rid of it and getting cash for its value can be a pain. Online exchanges attempt to ease this process as well as to take away some of the drawbacks to selling used gear online in that they get the product and inspect it to make sure it’s of quality before they actually sell it.
The Pros Closet
A good example of an online gear exchange for cycling is The Pros Closet. They take in your old cycling gear, namely bikes, ensure that it’s of quality, and then post it on their site and Ebay page. They take a cut of the sale but as a buyer you can be sure that the bike is legit and that you are getting what you’re paying for. And for whatever reason if something isn’t right, it’s much easier to deal with a company who specializes in used gear than with an individual who’s just trying to make a buck.
The best place to buy a bike depends on the bike you’re looking for. There is no one “best place” but there is a best place for you. Know the ins and outs of the above retailers and match the one to the bike you’re looking for whether high end used bike or entry level. The cycling industry is pretty large and dynamic and to navigate it efficiently takes some know how. Study up and you’ll have your next bike before you know it.