Acquiring a bicycle - some useful tips for buying adult's and children's bikes

Where do you start looking for a bicycle?

This hub is aimed at anybody thinking of buying a bicycle. It's an increasingly popular mode of transport and relaxation, and authorities throughout the world are gradually making suitable plans for cycles in their street and track accommodations. However, it's easy to choose the cheap option which may provide to be false economy in the long term.

Some bikes details and track racing

Typical reasonable quality MTB by Specialized; their Hardrock series. The frame is reasonably light and there is front suspension for bumpy roads. The tyres are full mud off-road tyres; note the lack of mudgards. It's a very good bike for teenagers w
Typical reasonable quality MTB by Specialized; their Hardrock series. The frame is reasonably light and there is front suspension for bumpy roads. The tyres are full mud off-road tyres; note the lack of mudgards. It's a very good bike for teenagers w
This is an Olmo lightweight racing bike, built for speed. It has a steel frame although weights about 16kg. Note the pedals - the 'Look' system requires special shoes which allow exception grip, yet can be easily released if necessary. Olmo is a Span
This is an Olmo lightweight racing bike, built for speed. It has a steel frame although weights about 16kg. Note the pedals - the 'Look' system requires special shoes which allow exception grip, yet can be easily released if necessary. Olmo is a Span
This is the Manchester Velodrome in the UK during a big international meeting. Track racing is a very specialized aspect of cycling; the bikes don't have a freewheel or brakes, so you must keep turning your pedals while moving!
This is the Manchester Velodrome in the UK during a big international meeting. Track racing is a very specialized aspect of cycling; the bikes don't have a freewheel or brakes, so you must keep turning your pedals while moving!

This is what it's all about! A mass-participation ride in Ireland, the Wicklow 200 covers some wonderful roads.

This picture shows the last rest stop before the finish, no wonder the riders are having a rest having covered about 150 of the 200 kilometers in a day.
This picture shows the last rest stop before the finish, no wonder the riders are having a rest having covered about 150 of the 200 kilometers in a day.

Acquiring a bike: Cycles shops

Unless you live in a very remote area, well away from civilization, the local bike shop should be your first stop in your quest. You should be assisted by people who know a lot about bicycles, and are prepared to help you get the best bike for your needs and budget. Rather than going to the expense of buying a bike, why not hire one from your local cycle shop? You can then see if you like it, as well as establishing a working relationship with the people in the shop (particularly useful if you buy from them). Some shops offer hire-purchase cycles which can be useful if you can't afford the cost of a bike. A cycle shop is advantageous in that they will give you impartial advice on a suitable bike, as well as provide mechanical assistance and adjustment. One of the main problems of a new bike is cable stretch, particularly following a couple of month's use - a good cycle mechanic will adjust this is seconds. Since spare parts tend to be more expensive than the factory-supplied parts, cycle shops are keen to keep their customers who might need such parts. You can exploit this need by returning to the shop for a free checkup.

Just because a bike is sold ready-to-go does not mean that the shop can't change that. One of the most important parts of the bike are its tyres - when a mountain bike (All-terrain) is assembled by a manufacturer, they will typically place off-road tyres on the bike. If you're not intending to hurtle down hills or tear through muddy tracks, then you might ask the shop to change the tyres for slick tyres. These create less drag on tarmac or metalled roads and will make it far easier to cycle.Such tyres will still allow you to use the bike off-road as long as the track is not too greasy or wet. One of the most common reasons why people become tired of their MTB is because it is too heavy and the tyres create too much friction.

Acquiring a bike: Internet

The web is great, so long as you know what you want. The problem with buying a bike without seeing it or, better still, trying it out, is that it may be totally unsuitable for you. Extreme caution is required - it is difficult to return a bike bought on the web because of its size. Similarly, eBay is great so long as you are not committed to buying it once you see it!

Acquiring a bike: Catalogue shops and supermarkets

While you can see the bike in a supermarket, avoid catalogue shop bikes like the plague! You can't see the bike before you buy and such shops tend to buy 'cheap and cheerful' bikes in bulk. Expect to get a heavy bike with parts that don't last very long. While it might look cheaper than paying extra at a bike shop for a better specification, it will be money foolishly spent if you have to walk up every hill you encounter, or if the parts expire rather quickly. Far better to try and save a little extra and get the bike from a proper bike shop.

Acquiring a bike: Newspaper advertisements

At least you don't have to commit yourself to the bike - you can express interest and ask to see the bike before you buy. Since the bike is second hand, your main objective is to find out why it is being sold. There may be a good reason, such as the owner needing to move, or change city or simply needing the cash. Is the bike faulty? Examine the frame carefully for cracks, corrosion, warping or fresh paint jobs (which may conceal defects). Check the powertrain (the chain, sprockets, etc) for rust or neglect. Most sellers won't mind you trying the bike, but might expect you to leave a guarantee that you won't speed off into the distance!

Acquiring a bike: Law enforcement/police sales

Bike theft is big business in some cities and towns, and the police are often quite successful at regaining stolen property. It is very difficult for them to track the original owners since so many bikes get stolen, even if their serial numbers have survived. The police often have an auction where they sell off bikes which have not been claimed and it is possible to get an absolute bargain (depending on interest and the amount of people bidding). Make sure you have an idea of the market value of the bike, even if you roughly know the technical specification and manufacturer's prices when new.

Why not phone your local police/law enforcement office but don't use their emergency number - their local numbers will be listed in a phone book or on the web.

Free bicycles!

You read that correctly - I'm a member of the worldwide Freecycle group (see first of my links below) and have seen several bikes been given away. There are few conditions of membership - no money must change hands and you can't ask/give large value items away. In my three months as a member of my local group, I have seen mountain (ladies and mens), racing and touring bikes been offered - for free!

Free bicycles 2!


Many cities offer city bikes where, having provided credit card or debit card infomation following registration, you can happily use bikes from various docking stations. This is very useful if you have not cycled for a long time and want to try it without risking a purchase. Remember that these bikes tend to be a lot heavier than one you would choose to buy, but they are very convenient and popular. It is worth buying a helmet (compulsory in a few cities and countries).

The Art of Cycling

Downhill with a cycle-helmet cam

Comments 7 comments

pjdscott profile image

pjdscott 6 years ago from Durham, UK Author

Thank you Sports bikes.


pjdscott profile image

pjdscott 7 years ago from Durham, UK Author

Thanks a lot, robie2, Joe and The H2H. What local authorities have to sort out is safety - providing safe and convenient routes for cyclists and educating other road users (and cyclists) in good, safe, practices.


The How To Hub profile image

The How To Hub 8 years ago from Australia

Wonderful stuff, I agree with robie2 that the information is timely and very relevant to the here and now. thumbs up :)

Shaye


Joe Conway 8 years ago

Great article - and the video at the end is great - now where did I leave my bike .. I know its around here somewhere!


robie2 profile image

robie2 8 years ago from Central New Jersey

Good job! This information is more and more relevant. Bikes aren't just for kids anymmore. I especially like your innovative suggestions for buying a bike at a police auction and the thought that a local bike shop is an important resource. Good linx too!


pjdscott profile image

pjdscott 8 years ago from Durham, UK Author

Many thanks for your comment Karen - you can buy cycles in all shapes, sizes and materials now. Carbon fibre is the preferred lightweight choice now but aluminium and steel are also common.


Karen Ellis profile image

Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon

Thanks for the info. With the rising cost of gas, I thought someone should invent some kind of fiberglass bodied bicycle that one or two people could peddle (kind of like those paddle boats) and still have a body that would hold grocery bags and the such. Then, I was watching a TV program set in New York and saw someone was ahead of me. Apparently they have bicycle taxies similar to what I was thinking.

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