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For the past couple of weeks I have been scoping craigslist for used road bikes. Recently, I came across some bikes that I would like to check out in person. Then, I remembered that I have no idea what I am doing. When I give the bike a look over, what should I be looking for? What are signs that a bike is in bad condition and should be avoided? When I take the bike for a test ride, what should I look/listen for? What tasks should I put the bike through on a test ride? What questions should I ask the seller? Also, some of the bikes I'm looking at have clipless pedals, but I don't yet have compatible shoes. Is this a problem or can clipless pedals still be ridden with regular tennis shoes? If it makes a difference, I am looking at bikes from 2002-2006 or so. All have aluminum or steel frames. Some have a carbon fiber fork. Thanks.
 

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There are a lot of threads here you should read through to answer a lot of your questions.

Fit is the most important thing, so perhaps get a fitting or some general idea of what frame size fits you. You can find a great used bike, but if it is too big, that can be a problem.

Yes test ride the bikes; be sure to shift the gears as much as you can and see if you like the bike. If the shifting makes a lot of noise, it doesn't necessarily mean it is in bad condition, it could just need adjusting.

If the bikes have carbon forks, check for cracks. Aluminum and especial;y steel frames are durable, check for any bends or unsighly marks in the frame.

Clipless pedals could pose a problem. Perhaps purchase some peddles and change them out with your tennis shoes when you test ride, otherwise you will need to have the same brand of cleats for each different bike, Also, if you haven't used clipless pedals, there could be a learning curve involved.

Good luck.
 

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acacciaglia11 said:
For the past couple of weeks I have been scoping craigslist for used road bikes. Recently, I came across some bikes that I would like to check out in person. Then, I remembered that I have no idea what I am doing. When I give the bike a look over, what should I be looking for? What are signs that a bike is in bad condition and should be avoided? When I take the bike for a test ride, what should I look/listen for? What tasks should I put the bike through on a test ride? What questions should I ask the seller? Also, some of the bikes I'm looking at have clipless pedals, but I don't yet have compatible shoes. Is this a problem or can clipless pedals still be ridden with regular tennis shoes? If it makes a difference, I am looking at bikes from 2002-2006 or so. All have aluminum or steel frames. Some have a carbon fiber fork. Thanks.
Some general info when shopping for used bikes:
If the bike has been well maintained, the tires should be in reasonably decent shape, the headset should work smoothly with no binding. To check this, lift the front of the bike up and and turn the bars left to right a few times. To check for play, with the both wheels on the ground put the front brake on and with the other hand on the saddle push forward/ back while listening and feeling for any indication of play in the head tube/ headset area.

Wheels should spin smoothly and run relatively true, with no side to side play (play can be checked with tire between thumb and forefinger and pushing/ pulling left/ right between the fork blades/ seat stays). The drivetrain should run relatively quietly and shift to all gears (except cross chained combos) smoothly and without excessive noise. Brakes should... well... work!

To check the bottom bracket, you should feel no play when holding the pedals and alternating push/ pull (side to side).

But no matter the condition or price of the bike, the two main criteria should be that it will fit a riders intended purposes and fit well (as in, you're relatively comfortable and feel 'in control'), so test ride them out on the roads and go far enough to get a good sense of fit along with mechanical condition. If the bike doesn't meet any of the stated criteria, pass and go on to the next.

Last thoughts. Steel bikes can be prone to rust and climate, methods of storage and age will all contribute (or detract) from this. Internal rust is more of a concern and is more difficult to check for, so asking the seller where and how the bike was stored is helpful, along with a general 'look over' for any external signs of rust.

With bike having CF forks, as Tommy mentioned, check for cracks or any signs of impact. I think for purposes of test rides, wearing running/ tennis shoes with bikes equipped with clipless may warrant a degree of care, but it's certainly doable.
 

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I have bought new and used. I've made bad used purchases and good ones. The main thing is to be careful. Don't get too excited and rush it. You can even get LBS to give you their opinion. That stopped me from making a mistake on a mountain bike. It's a great way to buy though. Just got my wife a really nice bike for about a 1/3 of the price.
 

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There are just too many variables to even identify a road bike from a touring bike. If you have no idea what you are doing, then beware.
Maybe you should find a knowledgeable friend that can go with you and teach you. There is just no telling what you are going to see.
 

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Bike has to fit you

Everything must work properly

It's in your price range

Don't be too keen to part with your hard earned $

If you really have no idea take a friend who does or get a bike from a Bike Shop, most of them are cyclists just like you...
 

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Even with clipless pedals mounted, you can use tennis shoes to test ride the bike...just stay on flatter ground or mild hills.

**
 

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Buying a bike off Craigslist can be an excellent way to get a nice bike for low $$. But if you don't know exactly what you're doing you can get burned. I've seen sellers selling 25 year old bikes that retailed for $300 and their asking price is $300. Go to Bikeapedia.com and you can at least get an idea of what the bike you are looking at cost new. Better yet if you know someone who is truly knowledgeble about bikes help you out.
 

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I have generally acquired my commuters used - one from my Dad, a later one from a shop specializing in used bikes, and the current one from a seller on Craig's List.

I think that if you don't know bikes well, the best way to buy used is from a shop that will give you at least a 30-day warranty on it, which I think is relatively common. A Craig's List seller doesn't necessarily know any more about bikes than you do - witness all the mountain bikes sold as being size 26 - so you could end up travelling to a lot of different people's houses and storage units and seeing a lot of rust-damaged, wrong-sized bikes. A shop will probably be asking more for their bikes, although spastook's point is a good one, but if you don't know your frame size, buying from a shop should let you try several different bikes in a relatively short period of time. If you don't ride one you like, ride some new bikes and find out your "magic number" - effective top tube length. With that piece of information, going through all the different bikes on Craig's List is a little easier - you can just skip the ones that aren't in the right range for size.

PJ352 gives some good advice about checking for wear. I'd also put a steel tape measure or ruler to the chain and check for stretch.

http://www.sheldonbrown.com/chains.html#wear

If you follow Sheldon's guidelines about the amount of stretch, you can avoid buying a bike that needs a whole new drivetrain. Shifting should feel a little sluggish and crappy on such a bike anyway, but you need a frame of reference to feel that. The ruler thing is nice and quantitative.
 

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Unless you know what you're doing, which you admitted you don't, take somebody who knows bikes very well with you.
 
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