How to buy a used mountain bike

Buying a second hand bike is usually a great option if you cannot afford to buy a brand new one. But before you buy a used bike, you need to know what to look for in order to be able to judge if the price is right for the condition of the bike.

1) The frame: Visually inspect the frame and look for dents and cracks. Look closely at the weld points where the tubes are joined together and see if there is any visible damage or signs of repair. Take the bike for a short test ride and check if the frame creaks or rattles. A cracked frame is a sign that the bike has probably been abused, and that your money is better spent elsewhere.

2) The suspension:

  • If it is a fully rigid bike then inspect the front forkfor crash damage or bent legs.
  • Front/full suspension: Check if the fork legs are bent or dented. inspect the drop-outs (where the wheel axel fits at the bottom of the fork legs) for damage. Check the oil seals and the damper controls (look for oil leakage at the bottom rebound damper seals and the top adjustment seals). Compress the fork several times and test the rebound and responsiveness of the fork. Do the same for the rear shock.

3) The wheels:

  • Check if the wheels are out of true (lift the wheels and spin them)
  • Check the rims for dents or cracks
  • Look for broken spokes

4) The drivetrain:

  • Check the gears for worn out teeth.
  • Accelerate hard from a standstill and see if the chain skips (chains links stretch over time).
  • Check the shifting mechanism for smooth shifting across the gear range.

5) The steering:

  • Turn the handlebar side to side several times. Is the headset movement smooth?
  • Apply the front brake and rock the bike back and forth. See if there is any rattling or loud creaking.

6) Other components:

  • Visually inspect the saddle rails and seatpost for bends or damage.
  • Check the brake cables and pads/calipers/disks
  • Check for excessively worn tires
  • Check the rotation of the pedals and inspect the crank arms.