This 10- Point CHECKLIST & guide is offered to assist in the buying procedure for a USED BICYCLE. The primary objective of this guide is to help buyers avoid purchasing a stolen or misdescribed bike. 500,000 bicycles are stolen in the UK every year & bike crime is big business. If you buy a stolen bike you are not the legal owner &, more seriously, you can be prosecuted by the Police for handling stolen goods.
Is the bike to seller relationship a good fit? You need to make a judgment as to whether you can imagine the seller being a legitimate buyer & rider of the advertised bike.
Is the bike sale price in line with other advertised prices of the same or similar bike? The quickest way for a thief to dispose of stolen bike is to offer it for sale at a hugely discounted price over legitimate sales. It’s human nature to be drawn to the lowest price!
Ask questions to the seller about a bike’s history, usage & ownership. It is highly unlikely that anyone selling a used bike for over £100 knows nothing about it’s life to date. Be highly suspicious of anyone ‘selling for a friend’.
How does the seller communicate with you? Text messaging, mobile phone use or communication to portable email addresses (eg. Hotmail or Gmail) might indicate someone who doesn’t want to be traced following a sale. Ask for a landline number & a work email address.
Is the bike finished in it’s original paintwork? Repainting a bike is an easy way to disguise it from it’s former LEGAL keeper & others who might know the bike. Has the frame number been tampered with or removed? If buying a bike remotely, ask the seller to email you a high resolution picture that clearly shows the original unmolested frame number (usually located under the bottom bracket).
Can the seller provide the original paperwork for the bike? It is very unlikely that a stolen bike will be sold with any paperwork such as invoicing, user manual or servicing receipts. The newer the bike the more pertinent this question becomes. Is the bike registered on one of the Police accredited schemes such as Bike Revolution or Immobilise? Check the bike’s frame number on all national databases & on stolen bike registers on forums like BikeRadar & Singletrack.
If buying & collecting a bike in person, meet at a fixed address – home or work. NOT IN A PUBLIC PLACE. Ask the seller to provide documentation that ties him or her to the address eg. photo ID (Driving Licence or Passport) & utility bill.
Complete a formal sales contract by using the simple ‘Bikesoup Sales Invoice’ – DOWNLOAD HERE. The invoice is legally robust & has entries for all the information needed to protect yourself should the sale turn sour in any way.
If you are not collecting the bike in person you may want to consider using a payment method that has layers of buyer protection built in like PayPal & only send money to a ‘Verified’ account. Consider arranging a courier or shipping service yourself & ask for a collection address from the seller.
Having assessed a bike & completed it’s purchase & BEFORE you start to enjoy your new bike – REGISTER IT!! This provides a very effective barrier to your new bike being stolen. This can be done for FREE at
A cheap bike can very quickly lose it’s appeal if you need to spend hundreds of pounds getting it into roadworthy condition.
If you don’t have the time & it is not convenient to take the used bike to a shop for a pre-purchase assessment, here are some simple checks that will help you avoid buying a worn out bike at an inflated price.
TEST RIDE – Jump on the bike & go for a short ride. This is the best way to get an overall feel for the bike and it’s mechanical integrity. Try the brakes – progressive & assured braking? Try the gears – smooth & slick changing? Can you feel any movement in the cranks? Does everything on the bike feel tight & together?
FRAME & FORKS – Run you eye along all the surfaces of the frame & forks and acquaint yourself with any dents or scratches. Abrasions behind the chainwheel are common as bikes suffer from ‘chainsuck’ when the chain comes off the bike and rubs the frame. Inspect closely the joints of the frame for any cracks in the metal – these could be both very dangerous & expensive to rectify. Cracking hotspots are – i. Top of seattube, ii. Rear dropouts, iii. Headtube & iv. Bottom bracket area.
WHEELS & TYRES – You can check out the wheels for being out of true by spinning them round and watching the distance between the wheel rim & frame – is it uniform or wobbly? Realigning a wheel is a relatively simple job for a good mechanic as long as the spokes are not rusted or corroded heavily making their adjustment difficult. Have a look at the tyres – inflated to correct pressure? Any perishing of the side wall rubber? New tyres can easily cost well over £50 a pair! Are the wheels damaged or corroded?
GEARS & CHAIN – Have a look at the gears. Are the chainwheel & rear sprocket/casette teeth worn out? Is the chain well lubricated? If it isn’t then the chain itself and the drive components will wear our quickly. Rock the crank arms in a push & pull action by holding the pedals – is there any movement? Any movement in the crank will indicate either worn arms but, more probably, a worn bottom bracket. Whilst not an expensive component itself, removing a rusted or corroded bottom bracket can, literally, take hours for a skilled mechanic.
LEVERS & CONTROLS – All brake & gear levers should move freely and work their systems without the need for excessive force. Gears should click in operation & be positive in action. Brakes levers should be progressive in operation. If levers for hydraulic brakes are soft then the system will probably need bleeding.
BRAKES – Adjusting the brake cables on a bike, as they stretch with use, is quite simple but when the cables rust it will be easier to replace the cables with new ones. Check that the calipers or v-brakes move freely on their mountings. Most disc brake systems are hydraulic & should be checked over by a qualified cycle mechanic.
SEAT & SEATPOST – Whilst a worn saddle is not a deal breaker, check that the seatpost can move freely in the seattube by loosening the clamp (bolt or lever). Removing a rusty or corroded seatpost can be a nightmare which may involve different heating & lubrication methods.
This guide is not definitive & is offered as a basic help tool to assist in assessing the overall condition of a used bike. A professional pre-purchase inspection can be carried out by your local cycle shop with workshop facilities.
This guide is the property of Bikesoup Limited – no reproduction, full or part, allowed without prior consent or permission.