Buying a bike at a garage sale bike can be a great bargain. However, in order for it to be a true bargain, you need to know what to look for. We asked Curt Warner, owner of Bike Fix, Inc., for his expertise. He offered the following tips for purchasing a bicycle off your neighbor.
- Avoid department store bicycles: There are telltale signs even to the untrained eye–look for price stickers on the headtube. Look for 800 telephone service numbers on the lower part of the downtube, right next to the bottom bracket. (Some examples of department store brands are Murray, Magna, Next, Huffy, Motiv, Timberland, Mongoose, Columbia, some Schwinns, Free Spirit, and some Diamondbacks.)
- Avoid any and all bikes with any type of suspension: These are hallmarks of cheap bikes: suspension forks, suspension seat posts, and shock suspensions or coil springs within the frame. According to Curt, “Although many excellent high quality mountain bikes use suspension, on cheap bikes likely to be found in the mass market and at garage sales, they are little more than malfunctioning boat anchors.”
- Take it to a bike shop: Once you’ve purchased a bike, make sure your bike is ready to ride by taking it to a local bike shop for a tune-up. Bike Fix, Inc., located just west of Chicago in Oak Park, offers a basic tune-up specifically designed for garage sale purchases. Look for a bike shop that understands you’re not fine-tuning a speed machine, but that you want to make sure your bike will get you from A to B safely.
- Consider a reputable used bike shop: If you’re stressed about getting a bike at a great price, consider going to a place that offers rebuilt or repurposed bicycles. If you’re in Chicago, you have access to some cool organizations using bicycles to impact communities. Avoid the pressure of purchasing or haggling on the spot and support some organizations that are doing great work. I recommend checking out the following:
- Working Bikes
- Active Transportation Alliance Chicago Bike Swap
- The Recyclery Collective
- Local Police Auctions
- Check out advice from Kozy’s Cyclery on purchasing used bikes.
- Have a bike to get rid of? Donate to Blackstone Bicycle Works!
For those that have gone the garage sale route – what advice would you add?