Things to check when buying a used cycle in India

Thinking of buying a secondhand cycle in India? A used cycle is good value for money, but you need to first check if the bike you are buying is a good deal!


Why Buying A Secondhand Cycle In India Is A Good Idea!

The cycling market is growing at an exponential rate in India. The bicycle market is expected to grow at 11% in the country, with premium cycles (costing more than Rs 20000) growing at twice that rate. More people are buying into the cycling lifestyle and ‘fad’. But the cycling culture in India is still at a nascent stage.

The result of these two put together is that there is a very high turnover of cycles being bought and put up for resale within a year. This is the perfect opportunity for cycling aficionados to buy barely used cycles at a substantially lower cost than the original rate. Are used bikes worth it? In general yes, in the current market of India, even more so. Now go search for the perfect deal for you!

Where to search?

The best online site to find a lot of secondhand cycles is Cyclop. Besides this dedicated Facebook page for cycles, you can check out generic buyer/seller marketplaces like OLX as well. Some community oriented cycling stores in your city might also help their patrons sell their pre-owned bikes. You can go to your Local Bike Store and check with them for showroom and older model test ride bikes as well.

Know what you want!

Don’t go drooling over every good deal you see in the market. Decide in advance what kind of bike you want, road, hybrid or mountain. Fix your budget and stick to it. Check what are the features and specifications on new bikes available in your budget. Ideally, your secondhand cycle should be a step up as compared to a new bike in the same price range.

Once you know what you are looking for, start combing the secondhand cycle market. It will now be easier to narrow your search to relevant bikes.

Preliminary Checks for a Secondhand Cycle

Once your online and ground search has yielded a list of interesting results, it is time to whittle it down further. This is what you should check before buying a used bike:

  • Size: There is no point buying a bike, used or new, if it isn’t the correct size. Check the brand sizing chart to see if you are in the ballpark of the frame size on offer.
  • Distance to bike: If the bike is available in your city, perfect. If not, see how far it is. You can hop down to a neighbouring city if the deal looks good. The further away the bike is, the higher the chance of complications. Also, increased distance, increases shipping/ transportation cost.
  • Photos of the cycle: Check the photos of the bike which the seller has provided. Ask for more photos of specific parts if insufficient pictures have been attached.
  • Seller’s Reputation: If possible, try and find some cycling information about the seller. Ask around in the city clubs etc. A good bike might turn out to be not such a good deal, if the seller’s intentions are bad.
  • Brand, Model and Specs: Check the model year on the cycle manufacturer’s website. See what was company fitted on the bike and if there is any difference with the bike on sale.
  • Upgrades and Changes: A lot of cyclists upgrade components on their bikes regularly. Ask the owner if any such upgrades have been made. Check for any components which have been replaced without an obvious upgrade. It might have been replaced due to a crash.
  • Original Invoice: Ask for a picture of the original invoice. If the seller has it, then you can be sure that it isn’t a stolen bike!

Bike Inspection

Once past the preliminary checks, it is time to inspect the bike in detail. If the bike is in your city, then it is easy enough to do so. If you do not know enough about cycles, take a friend along who does. How to check a secondhand bike’s condition if it is sitting pretty in another city? Use a helpline and ‘Call a Friend’! See if a friend of yours can go and check out the bike in person.

In a worst case scenario, where the bike cannot be physically inspected. Ask for detailed photographs of the below elements of the bike and check closely for damage. These are the things to check before buying a used bike in India:

Sizing

The bike might be perfect for you on paper, but when you go out for a ride, you realise you are overstretched or too cramped. Check if the bike fits you, because if it doesn’t, the list below won’t matter!

Seatpost

Remove the seatpost from the frame and inspect closely for rust, cracks, dents and any other damage. If you are unable to remove the seatpost, that means it is fused inside, most probably due to rust. Turn around and walk away!

Frame

Inspect the frame minutely for damage. A bit of paint chipping or nicks isn’t a big cause for worry. There shouldn’t be any major blow. Be wary if stickers have been applied to the bike, this might be done to hide faults below.

Turn the bike upside down to check the lower half of the frame. If you see rust, gently prod at it with something like a pen and see if it is only on the surface or more serious than that. Ask for permission from the owner before doing this!

If the paint isn’t from the factory, ask why. It could be a repaired crash job which has been painted over. The frame is the heart of the bike and you shouldn’t compromise on the health of this.

Steerer

Check for rust in and around the steerer tube. Move the handlebars around and see if it moves freely or is it sticky at one single point.

Rivets

Check the bottle cage rivets and bolts for rust. It would be quite inconvenient if it is rusted beyond repair. On the other hand, if it can be removed easily with WD40, ask the owner why it hadn’t been done so!

Forks

Forks can be replaced. If the frame is in good condition, but the front suspension is spoilt, it can still be a good buy. You need to factor in the cost of a new fork into the price of the bike. Check braze-ons for breakage on a touring specific rig.

Wheels

Are the wheels factory fitted? If only one has been replaced it might have been because of a crash. Check! See if the wheels are running true or are they badly out of whack. Look for broken spokes. Lift the bike in the air and spin the wheel and see if it is touching the brake pads.

Replacing wheels can turn out to be a costly proposition.

Chain and Cassette

We now move onto the cheaper consumables. Relatively cheaper that is! Check if the chain is worn out and needs replacement. You need to factor in this cost. Ideally you should have a chain wear indicator tool. If not, pull the chain near the big chainring, and see how far does it go. It shouldn’t stretch beyond 2/3rd distance of the sprocket teeth.

Check the cogs on the cassette. The sharper and narrower the teeth of the sprockets, the more worn out it is and the sooner it will need to be replaced.

Cables

Brake and gear cables are easy enough to replace and should not be a deal breaker. Check the smoothness of shifts in gears through the range. If the gears aren’t shifting from the smallest to the biggest cogs easily, then repair will be required. It could be cables, derailleur adjustment, worn cassette, or worst case a bent derailleur cage. The last can cost a pretty penny!

Brakes

See the movement of the brakes. Are the brakes jamming even after being released. Check if the pads are worn and require replacement. Check the disc/ rim for scouring marks. This indicates the owner didn’t replace the pads at requisite intervals. Which implies the bike has not been serviced or maintained with a lot of care.

Test Ride

Once you are satisfied with the bike and all the negatives are visible, it is time to ride the bike. Test ride the bike hard, accelerate hard, brake hard, see if there are any odd sounds. Ride extremely slow, keenly listening for any rattles and bangs. See if you feel natural on the bike.

If the bike ticks all the relevant boxes, then you maybe have something good going on!

Final Considerations

A few more things to keep in mind before signing on the dotted line!

Q&A Session

Prepare a list of questions in advance about the bike’s purchase and service history, the usage of it and generally about cycles. By this point of time, it would be quite apparent whether the seller is a cycling enthusiast who looked after the bike or abused it without care!

Too good to be true

If it is too good to be true, then maybe it is! Few would want to sell their well maintained bike for cheap. Ensure you aren’t being sold a stolen bike. This would come back to haunt you if it turns out to be true.

Don’t be desperate to close the deal

A bike might appear so perfect for your needs, that you are willing to give an arm and a leg. Don’t! Play it cool and if the seller is trying to take advantage of your desperation, turn around and walk away. There will always be another bike to be bought!

Take a friend who knows cycles or visit a reputed LBS

Take a friend along who knows more than you do about cycles. If such friend is unavailable, then ask the seller if he is willing to bring the bike to a reputed LBS. The shop can check out the bike and give you an opinion for a small fee. It will be well worth it. Especially if you get your bike serviced there!

Stay within budget

It is tempting to spend that little extra for a bit more bike. This is not the best tactic for secondhand bikes. Keep around 10% of your budget for unseen repairs, service and parts replacement.

Add Ons

In India you will find a number of cyclists who sell their entire kit along with the bike. These are the people who give up cycling 6 months after they bought the bike. Ask if you can get these ‘extras’ like headlights, tail lights, bags, tubes etc.

Save all correspondence with the seller for future reference

Keep all the correspondence you have had with the seller safe. You never know what you might require in the future, if it turns out you were duped. Take a signed bill of sale from the seller with date and place mentioned on it along with the model name and frame number.

How much should I pay for a used bike?

This is the final question you will ask once you decide on the bike. And it is difficult to answer. There are far too many factors influencing the price. As a thumb rule, you should pay the asking price less the number of squeaks and clangs you heard!

The seller’s posted price is a little more than he expected to get. Negotiations are expected and therefore see how low the seller is willing to go. Of course there could be a time when you get a fantastic price, without an iota of bargaining.

With a little bit of luck buying a secondhand cycle will give you excellent value for money and a rewarding ownership experience.


Once you get your new (slightly old!) bike, you can go ahead and buy your first 10 accessories for new cyclists, learn basic on the road repairs and prevent yourself from common cycling injuries.

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2 thoughts on “Things to check when buying a used cycle in India

  1. Informative. It would help if the height of the rider is factored into the size of the cycle. There could be a thumb rule.

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