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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was wondering what recommendations people have for what to look for in a used bike. I usually like buying new appliances and cars so I know they don't have a bad history, but since this will be my first road bike, I was considering just going with a newer used bike to get a better quality bike for the money until I really know what I like.

So, if I'm looking to buy a bike for under $1,000 that is only a few years old and originally sold for between $1,000 and $2,000, what should I look for? My biggest fear is that the bike will have previously been in a crash and the structural integrity has been compromised. Is there any way to tell this other than major scratches, as well as other serious problems?
 

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Well things like tires, bartape, saddle, and brakepads are things that wear no matter what so dont pay much attention to those. Also a decent aluminum stem or bars doesnt cost too much and you might prefer a different size anyways. What I would look for is the frame/fork/wheelset. Now this depends on what frame material youre looking for. Carbon is a little more of a risk when buying used because frame damage can be hidden well, even from the origional owner. Just make sure that youre buying the right size and all else can be adjusted.
What will matter is what material / brands are you looking at? theres alot of good buys on ebay or craigslist for your budget. Another thing to keep in mind though is that a great deal of things can be had for cheap.
Neuvation wheels - about $200
Some good tires - about $65
Stem/bars on ebay about $80
Koolstop brakepads $15
Fizik micro bar tape $15
New Chainrings $50
Cassette $50
Thats about $475 for those parts. Which leaves just over $500 for a pretty darn good Cannondale, Trek, Specialized, Scott etc.

Another route is to get an overall more expensive bike used but realize that you'll probably want/need to do some upgrading and refreshing in the coming months.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I went to a LBS over the weekend and test road the specialized tricross, which I really liked. I appreciated their service, but a new 2009 one is a little out of my price range, hence why I want to try a used one. I'm really looking for a well rounded bike for light trail riding (compact dirt and gravel), commuting, and decent on the road for my first triathlon. Any particular recommendations for what to look for on craigslist or ebay in regard to a bike similar to this?

Also, how easy is it to learn how to put a bike together yourself and upgrade various components as needed? I've always been one to fix things myself, but is this completely out of most people's range of knowledge and ability? It just seems so expensive to have a bike shop assemble and install bike components for you, although maybe there is a good reason.
 

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IlliniBiker said:
IAlso, how easy is it to learn how to put a bike together yourself and upgrade various components as needed? I've always been one to fix things myself, but is this completely out of most people's range of knowledge and ability? It just seems so expensive to have a bike shop assemble and install bike components for you, although maybe there is a good reason.
No no, no. If you have any mechanical skills at all, you can learn it no sweat. The problem (not really a problem, but the biggest impediment to the average Joe doing it) is getting the bike-specifric tools you'll need. Invest in the tools and the rest will come. It's also a lot of fun to wrench your own bike.
 

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It can take a bit of practice but you'll be learning to do it yourself.
 

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The qualities you've mentioned, the "well rounded bike" part, are largely a function of tire selection, so look for a frame and fork that have room for tires in the 35mm range (many road bikes won't fit anything bigger than 25 mm or so). They give better cushioning and control on dirt without much downside on pavement. You can easily change tires or keep different tires mounted on a spare set of wheels for other types of riding, but I don't bother.
Bike assembly, maintenance and repair aren't as complicated as some people make them seem. There are tricky aspects, for instance building wheels, but the stuff you have to do often, and the assembly, are pretty straightforward. I built my first bike from an armload of parts using a book by Leonard Zinn--can't remember the exact title, but it's very widely available, something like "Zinn and the Art of Bicycle Repair." You'll need a few specialized tools, nothing particularly expensive, and you can pick them up as you go; you don't have to run out and buy $400 worth of stuff on Day One.
Three of my last four bikes have been bought used. My favorite, a Rivendell Rambouillet, cost me $1000 two years ago, and I haven't found anything I don't like about it. Replacing it with a new one today would run about $3000.
 

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Check this out

There is a bike swap in Arlington Heights this weekend. I don't know how many bikes will be there but at least you can sit on them to see if they fit.

http://www.activetrans.org/event/2009-04-25t000000/arlington-heights-bike-swap

Performance Bicycle has one of their Fuji cross bikes in your price range. You could probably get a new 2008 Cross Comp for around $850. The componants are decent and the 30 cross tires can be swapped out for 25s or 28s for road riding. I bought one last fall and use it mainly as a road bike with the tire swap. If you were serious about racing you would probably have to change the wheels and big chainring if you wanted to be competitive.
 

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IlliniBiker said:
I went to a LBS over the weekend and test road the specialized tricross, which I really liked. I appreciated their service, but a new 2009 one is a little out of my price range, hence why I want to try a used one. I'm really looking for a well rounded bike for light trail riding (compact dirt and gravel), commuting, and decent on the road for my first triathlon. Any particular recommendations for what to look for on craigslist or ebay in regard to a bike similar to this?

Also, how easy is it to learn how to put a bike together yourself and upgrade various components as needed? I've always been one to fix things myself, but is this completely out of most people's range of knowledge and ability? It just seems so expensive to have a bike shop assemble and install bike components for you, although maybe there is a good reason.
If you are mechanically inclined at all, basic bike assembly and adjustment is easy. Just get Zinns Art of Road Bike Maintenance and a set of metric allen wrenches and you will be good to go.

$1,000 can get you a nice used bike. Do not be afraid to go 3-4 years old. I have found that you can get a bike for 1/3rd the original cost or less.

I have purchased 2 used carbon bikes and have done well with each of them. (one way less than your price and my current ride just a bit above it.)

Don't forget to budget for shoes, helmet, shorts, pump and etc.
 
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