What to look for when buying a second hand bicycle


Looking for a second hand bike can be difficult, you need to make sure the bike is not damaged or stolen and this is made even harder if you don’t know what you should be looking for. This post is to arm you with the information you need to avoid getting ripped off.

Here are a few useful tips to make your choice that bit easier.


Is the bike damaged?

When looking at any second hand bike there are a few quick and easy ways to make sure you’re not buying a bit of junk that will cost more to repair than to replace. Complete the check list below to evaluate the bike.


Check that the frame is not bent, dented or cracked in anyway. If a frame is damaged it is unlikely that it can be repaired and can be dangerous to ride.

Wheel bearing check:

Grab the wheel with one hand and try to move it side to side, if the wheel moves at all there could be a problem with the wheel bearings which can be costly to put right.

Headset bearing check:

First move the handle bars as if you were steering the bike this shouldn’t feel stiff or rough. Next with one hand pull the front brake lever and place the other hand on the headset cup as seen in picture above, rock the bike back and forward, you are trying to feel for any movement in the headset cups. If there is play or stiffness then there could be a problem with the headset bearings this can be a costly problem to fix.

Bottom bracket bearing/ Chainset check:

Look at the teeth on the chainset, the teeth should be flat at the top not sharp like picture two. Pedal the bike with you hands it should not be stiff or feel like its grinding, whilst pedalling the bike look down at the chainset to make sure the cogs are not bent as they turn (picture 1). Next grab the crank arm and try to pull it side to side (picture 3), if you feel any movement in the shell you could have bearing issues which could be costly to repair.

Tyres/ Wheels:

IMAG1448[1] IMAG1455[1] 20140502_205514[1]

Squeeze the spokes in the wheels to make sure none are broken or really loose whilst doing this check that the tyre is not balding or cracking then spin the wheel to make sure they are not buckled or dented, wheels can be expensive to replace but tyres are relatively cheap.


IMAG1454[1]  IMAG1445[1]
Checking the brake system is fairly easy first pull the brake lever to make sure the cables are moving freely with no rust or splits, then look at the brake pads wear line as pictured above if the pads are worn past this line than they will need replacing, pads and cables are relatively cheap if its just one or two parts to replace.


To check the gear systems on a bike first operate the gear shifters to make sure the cables are moving freely with no rust or splits, then check that the derailleurs are not bent or broken, they should line up with the cogs as pictured above. Cables are relatively cheap but derailleurs can be expensive to replace.


chainring  20140502_205312[1]

Checking a chain can be a difficult without a chain checking tool however if you look at the chain on the biggest front cog and the chain is not sitting on the teeth of the cog properly as in picture one then it is worn, picture two is how it should appear. You should also visually inspect the chain for rust or damaged links. Chains vary in price but a standard chain is relatively cheap to replace however if the chain is badly worn than the chances are the chainset and cog are worn as well.


Is the bike stolen?

500,000 bikes are stolen every year so when you think of buying a second hand bike you need to make sure you’re not buying stolen goods. There are a few simple ways to check a bike to limit the chances of this happening to you.

  • Flip the bike upside down and check the bottom of the frame for a frame number, it will be stamped into the frame itself. If the frame number has been filed off this is a sign the bike has been stolen.
  • When you find the frame number of the bike you can enter it into a bike checker, if the bike has been reported as stolen on the site then it will inform you of it.
  • As above if the bike has been registered on the bike register then you can check to see if the person selling you the bike is the owner of the bike using the frame number.

Follow the links above to use the checker or register a bike.


If it sounds too good to be true than it probably is. If you see someone selling a top of the range racing bike for £50 then the chances are that the bike is either badly damaged or stolen.

Once you have purchased a bike I recommend you do two things.

  1. Getting it serviced to make sure the bike is fully ready to ride.
  2. Get your bike registered on the online bike register and get your bike security marked by the police. Both registering and security marking are free.


I hope this post was of help to you and if you have any questions please get involved and leave a comment.



1 thought on “What to look for when buying a second hand bicycle

  1. If I’d read this 2 years ago it would definitely have been helpful. I bought a second hand bike and within a month was having a problem with the front chain ring which was related to the bottom bracket. The shop although helpful was not committed to fixing it. I didnt go back and bought new chain ring and bracket after A LOT of reading and replaced them along with re adjusting the gears. It felt costly at the time because the repair cost the same as what I paid for the bike. I felt a bit hard done by until I figured that I had also paid for the knew knowledge of repair and maintenance and the cost was offset by saving more than what I paid for on petrol because now I was cycling most places instead of the car.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s