Used Road or Triathlon bike.
By Tom Demerly.
There are more resources to buy and sell used
bicycles than ever before. On line auctions such as E-Bay, classified
listing services such as Craig’s list and internet forum
classified sites such as Slowtwitch and Road Bike Review are
all resources for selling and buying used bicycles and equipment.
The used market is frequently perceived as a good
way to buy an entry level bike for new athletes who aren’t
sure if they will stay in the sport of cycling or triathlon
long enough to justify a purchase. Buying a used bike as your
first bike may be a good strategy for saving money on initial
selling price but it may lead to additional costs that could
approach or even exceed the purchase price of a new bike.
The Advantages of Buying Used.
The primary advantage of buying used may be price.
In general, used bikes are sold at a discount or depreciated
price from their original selling price. The amount of discount
or depreciation depends on the amount of use and the size of
the used market.
Another advantage of buying a used bike may be
informational provided you have a relationship with the seller.
If you are buying a used bike from someone you know who has
been in the sport long enough to have experience they may be
able to assist you with advice and insights on whether the bike
is right for you and fits you correctly. If you have known the
person for some time and will likely ride with them once the
sale is made it is like having your bike shop along for the
ride when you train together. This may be an advantage to you,
but a disadvantage to the person selling the bike who may not
want the responsibilities associated with servicing the bike
after the sale. This is something to discuss with the seller
prior to the purchase. Be sure expectations on both parties
parts are clear prior to the purchase.
The Disadvantages of Buying Used.
If you are a triathlete or road rider then you
will be riding your bike in a performance setting. Performance
road and triathlon bikes are built firstly with light weight
and high performance in mind. As a result they need frequent
maintenance and they have a number of wear items. Wear items
on a bike include the tires, chain, cables, chainrings and cogset.
When you buy new you are getting new wear items. A used bike
may be approaching the time when these wear items need to be
replaced. Replacing all the wear items on an entry level road
or triathlon bike usually costs about $300-400 depending on
the specific equipment and what you are paying for qualified
labor. Here is an idea of how that breaks down:
- Tires, (2) $49.99 each.
- Tubes, (2) $5.99 each.
- Chain, Shimano 105, $34.99.
- Cogset (cassette), Shimano 105, $79.99.
- Chainrings, 53/39 tooth, Shimano 105, $29.99 and $45.99
- Total Cost of replacement wear items: $302.92
- Approximate labor to install: $ 60.00
- Total: $362.92
This takes into account replacing all wear items
on a used bike which may not be necessary at first. However,
the cycle of replacing these items runs about one to two years
if the original owner has kept up with routine maintenance.
If you ask the seller if they have replaced the chain, chainrings
and/or cogset and they haven’t in the last 2 years it’s
likely you will inherit this replacement cost.
The primary drawback to buying used is fit and
position. Unlike buying a used car, bicycles (and especially
performance oriented road and triathlon bikes) are fit specifically
to the rider. The single largest opportunity for comfort, safety
and overall performance is with optimizing fit and position.
No other aspect of the purchase is more important that bike
fit and rider position. There are 16 variables used to control
the riders fit and position. They are:
Handlebar width, drop, bend and reach.
Aerobar pad width.
Stem length and angle.
Seatpost fore/aft position.
Chainring size (gearing).
Cassette (cogset) size (gearing).
It would be almost impossible for all 16 fit parameters
to be identical from one rider to the next. Good, comfortable
fit and position is most important to new riders, so it is likely
the fit from one rider to the next will be significantly different.
In the best of circumstances this can lead to discomfort and
compromised performance. In the worst of circumstances this
can lead to injury or unsafe bike handling which could contribute
to a crash.
Most retailers include at least some of the cost
of a fitting I the purchase of a bike. Components that need
to be changed to achieve proper fit are usually exchanged at
no charge for equal value items. That means if a new bike you
are considering comes with a 110 mm stem length but you need
a 100 mm stem there is no cost to make the change- same goes
for swapping equal value saddles, cranks, etc. These can be
significant value in having these costs included in the purchase
Another factor that has influenced that has changed
the way we buy used bikes is the internet resources. These have
made selling used bikes much easier for the seller and driven
up resale values for the buyer especially on competitive sites
such as E-Bay were buyers compete to see how much they
will pay. It is almost “backwards retail” where
the bargaining moves the price upward instead of downward.
Combined with the vagaries surrounding exactly what you are
getting and its condition along with the costs and logistics
of shipping the secondary internet bike market clearly favors
As you consider the economic realities of buying
used it becomes less and less appealing.
New vs. Used.
When you consider total costs involved in a bike
purchase combined with what it will cost to own it and maintain
it during the first year we get a clear picture of the advantages
and drawbacks of each:
|New Bike Purchase
||Used Bike Purchase
|Initial buying price higher
||Initial buying price lower.
|Most costs associated with assembly
included in price
||If bike is not assembled (i.e.
shipped via an internet purchase) there may be costs associated
with qualified assembly and tuning.
|Many retailers may include some maintenance/labor
with purchase of bike during first year.
||Labor will be an additional cost as purchased
normally at a local bike shop.
| Most costs for fitting are included in price
||Qualified fitting will be an additional cost.
|Most retailers will swap same priced components
at time of purchase for precise and comfortable fitting
||Components to facilitate accurate, comfortable,
individual fit will need to be purchased at additional cost.
|Reduced or no labor charges for costs of
changing size specific components at time of purchase.
||Buyer likely to incur costs of labor for
installation of size specific components.
|Original warranty intact to original owner.
||Most bicycle warranties do not transfer to
|Condition of bicycle is known:
All components are new and have maximum lifespan and are
under applicable warranties.
Condition of components may not be known.
Bike may require replacement of basic wear items resulting
in additional cost.
It is the specialty nature of buying a performance
oriented road or triathlon bicycle that makes each sale unique.
No two bikes are configured exactly the same for two riders.
Especially for a new athlete just entering the sport the right
set up is critical and can save time and frustration when getting
used to new equipment.
While used bikes can be a viable buying option
it is important to consider the real costs of buying and operating
a used bike versus a new bike. While the initial purchase price
of a new bike may be as much as 40% higher than a comparable
used bike it may quickly become the less expensive alternative
if fitting and maintenance costs on the used bike begin to add
up. Additionally each rider has to place some value on their
time and tolerance for the logistics associated with buying
a used bike (and a new bike).