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New or Old?

Every so often a friend, peer, or family member would ask me “I want to buy a bike, should I buy new or used?” The short answer is whichever is a safer investment but how one determines what is a better investment can depend on various factors. I’ll take the opportunity to discuss to pros and cons as well as some helpful tips on buying your first, third or fifth bike.

Buying New:

Maybe it’s time to retire your old clunker in pursuit of something just a bit more road worthy or you’re just getting into commuting, either way buying a new bike may be a better option over purchasing a used one.

-Quality: The bike you buy at an LBS will usually be brand new (unless otherwise mentioned) and built up and inspected by a qualified mechanic before you roll it out the shop. Having a qualified person make sure your bike is mechanically sound avoids costly repairs in the future and any potential accidents that may occur from mechanical failure.

-Variety: Your LBS will have a large assortment of different bikes in different styles to match your needs. Whether you’re investing money in a road bike for charity rides or if you want a hybrid for commuting chances are they will have something for you. If you aren’t sure on what type of bike is appropriate for you or your needs don’t hesitate to ask.

If you found the right brand/model/style of bike you want you can count on your LBS to have it in an assortment of sizes and colours to suit you. An ill fitted bike can lead to discomfort and an unpleasant ride. Sales folks at your LBS can be helpful in identifying what is the ideal size and fit on your bike so you can feel comfortable in the long haul.

-Extras: LBS not only want you to buy a bike from them but to continue shopping there so it’s natural to get some perks in purchasing a bike from them. Usually buying a bike from a LBS will include free tune ups as well as discounts in accessories such as lights, bells and locks. Always be sure to check with the sales person to see if there are any discounts or whether or not the bike comes with any warranty or tune ups.

Buying Used:

For those on a budget or those wanting to buy an older bike such as a vintage cruiser or a classic steel mountain bike then buying used may be the way to go. Deals are to be had in buying used but there is always the risk of buying a stolen bike or a dud. It’s important to inspect the bike thoroughly and shop with diligence to get the most out of your money.

-Price: Arguably the main point in buying a used bike is the price. Used bikes can easily drop 20% of more of the retail value depending on age and condition, but there are risks that should be taken into consideration. Do some homework on the specific bike you are buying beforehand; check what the retail value is and check to see if any changes were made to it such as replacing of parts for better (or worse) ones. If you think the price is too good to be true, maybe it is. The bike may be stolen or may have a major mechanical problem that may not be evident at first glance so be vigilant and don’t hesitate to trust your gut instincts.

-Quality/Condition: Older bikes are great to use since they are usually cheaper and are less attractive to bike thieves. In addition, a lot of them use simple components that are easy to maintain and cheap to replace making these bikes desirable to commuting. On the flip side, these bikes have been sitting around for ages so they may not work as well as they used to. Ask the seller to test ride the bike and take the time to fully inspect what you can. Perform the ABCs on the bike to make sure you can pedal, shift gears and brake safely. Check to see if the seat post can actually be adjusted and hasn’t seized to the frame. Some sellers are upfront about any issues and some may try to hide it so buy with diligence and ask questions.

Personally, I love used bikes. If you know how to haggle and have a hand for wrenching then you can save some money if you are willing to take sometime to do your own handy work. I’ve had good experiences buying old bikes as some just needed very simple work like inflating tires and oiling the chain and I’ve also had some bad experiences with bikes requiring far more extensive work than they are worth.

I bought this bike last year, with the replacement parts I put about $250 on it. It was in great condition right off the bat and I was able to ride all over Ontario with it on charity rides and some light touring.

I bought this bike last winter, with replacement parts it cost me $180 but it has had a LOT of problems with it. The shifter broke so I’ve run it as a single speed bike, the bearings in the hubs and pedals needed to be overhauled and the seat post it came with was the wrong size for the frame.

If you do decide to buy a used bike be sure to bring it into a bike shop for an inspection/tune up just to be safe. Don’t forget to register it with Toronto Police and most importantly, have fun riding it.



Posted: April 18th, 2010
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