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
This is what it's all about! A mass-participation ride in Ireland, the Wicklow 200 covers some wonderful roads.
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.
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
Useful cycling links
- The Freecycle Network
Nothing to do with bicycles - this super organization connects people through worldwide user groups who want to give things away free. There are few requirements but no money must change hands; you often see bikes been given away free.
- Road bike - How to Determine the Correct Frame Size for a Bike
It does what it says on the tin! It is useful to be forewarned when looking for a bike.
- Marinette, WI, USA's Annual Law Enforcement Cycle Auction takes place in May
Just in case you thought I was making such things up! I did a Google search for "law enforcement cycle auction" but you could mix the combinations for your local area. The information about the auction is towards the bottom of the page.
- Insider's guide to hidden Dublin: Cycling in Dublin
Commuting can be hazardous; this is the cycle section in my Dublin guide "Insiders guide to hidden Dublin"
- Do You Need a Women's Bike?
Women have different requirements than men, not least due to dimensions and weight. This useful article lists some of the options.