You get what you pay for!
"There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey."
- John Ruskin
"You get what you pay for" rings very true in the world of bicycles. If the price seems too good to be true, it is usually based in fact. When purchasing new bikes that cost less than $400 you might soon find yourself attracted to department store bicycles. Retail stores such as Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target and Costco offer bicycles that appear to be of sound quality and very affordable prices. They offer bikes from manufactures like Schwinn, Huffy and Mongoose, all made in China. However these bikes are sadly of very low-quality and in a short time, needing repairs. You will never find the same model (such as Schwinn's) in a retail bicycle shop because they are not manufactured the same way nor of the same quality. You purchased one of these department store bikes and saved hundreds at the cash register then discover your investment was not a wise decision. Budget produced parts such as shifters and kickstands coupled with bikes assembled by unskilled labor is only part of the formula that make these bicycles stand out as undesirable. Often these low-cost bikes have untrue (crooked or wobbly) wheels, improperly assembled components, derailleur's and even brakes out of adjustment. Even missing nuts and bolts. At SoCalBicycles we have repaired many of these units for customers who were unable to get their new bike fixed by the retailer, because the store has trouble assembling the bikes properly and absolutely no special tools or repair skills whatsoever. Purchase a new bike from online companies like Amazon and matters get much worse. Now you will be trying to assemble the bike and totally on your own for any issues, adjustments and problems the bicycle will surely have. You got what you paid for.
Watch out for these issues in a used bicycle purchase
Photos below came from actual private party bicycle ads. These are not rare examples, you can find many similar listed on the Internet every single day.
Above: This used beach cruiser seems nice... but lets look closer. The front fender has been mounted backwards. The seller snaps his bike photo not showing the "drive" side of the bicycle. However its still easy to note the absence of the chain guard. Finding a replacement chain guard is not easy.
Above: This used bike looks pretty good. Upon closer inspection you'll note the missing chain guard. Don't be fooled, finding a replacement chain guard can be very difficult and sometimes costly. Have you ever experienced your pant leg or shoe string getting snagged in an exposed sprocket? Chain guards are more than ornamental, they have a purpose, to protect the rider from the moving chain.
Above: Look closely, this nice looking beach cruiser has the forks mounted backwards! Care to fix this issue? Start by removing the front wheel and fender. If you don't know how, open your pocket book and take this one to your local bike shop for the correction.
Above: Surely not difficult to recognize this beach cruiser has severely bent forks. The owner freely states: "slight bend in front of frame [actually the forks, not the frame] due to curb collision." No question the forks will need replacement. But one has to wonder what else was damaged in that "curb collision"? If it bent the forks that bad, what about the front wheel and spokes?
Above: Very sad, this photo was posted by a bicycle dealer. Sad because not only have they mounted the forks backwards, but they snapped this photo and posted it on the Internet. I guess this proves some dealers only know now to take your money—obviously clueless when it comes to basic bicycle assembly!
Above: Always amazing to see what people try to sell. Have you noticed anything wrong with the red bike in the above photo? Seems the seller has not realized the front fender is mounted backwards! What else is incorrect? It appears the kickstand (located on the left side of the bike) is missing, hence the bicycle leaned against the wall.
Prior to purchase when asking important questions to the bicycle seller many don't have answers. Wheel size? Frame size? Tire size? How many gears? Unfortunately most just don't know. Do you want to drive across town, waste your gas money and time only to find out the bike you wanted to buy was in a state of disrepair? Or, how about making the purchase, then discovering the problems, that cost you still more money.
Other frequent issues with used bicycles
- Bent or out-of-true wheels. Spin the wheel for a visual check.
- Mismatched wheels and or tire sizes. Look at both to see if they match.
- Missing, bent or damaged spokes. Look closely to make sure none are missing or broken.
- Non-working hand brakes. Try them out. Look at the brake pads.
- Stretched or worn-out chain. Must be checked with a shop tool. You can't other wise be sure. A worn out chain can lead to other problems.
- Damaged or out of adjusted derailleur. Test ride the bike. Make sure all gears function.
- Damaged or bent forks. Sometimes it takes a professional to notice the bend.
- Broken shifters and or cables. Test all when you ride the bike.
- Flat tires leading to the expense of tires and tubes.
- Broken or missing kickstand.
- Crank or bottom bracket problems. If it is loose or causing problems, its going to need work and or parts.