Australian Mountain Bike
BUYING BIKES SECOND HAND
In Australia, the value available in the second hard bike market is immense. Whether it is based on the inherent lack of trust we have for each other, or the great value that many new bikes represent, it is not uncommon to be able to pick up a really good deal on a second hand mountain bike. But this option is rife with traps and suits an experienced and savvy buyer.
While it is one thing to buy a bike off your mate when he upgrades, or from a bike shop staff member who is selling their pride and joy, normally buying a bike second hand involves a whole lot of unknowns. And we aren’t talking about reading the ads in the Trading Post here, many buyers look at options across the country thanks to Gumtree, Ebay, Rotorburn and of course the expanding amounts of buy and sell pages on Facebook. There are some important points to consider when looking at second hand bikes.
WHAT CONDITION IS THE BIKE IN?
A can of Mr Sheen and an old t-shirt can do wonders to a pretty tatty looking bike, so even if the photos look great, it’s worth asking for some detailed images. Ask for detailed shots on some specific areas that could give a true indication of wear. Near the drivetrain, around welds, along the main tubes and of course the drive train and suspension items. Replacing some worn brake pads, a chain or tyres isn’t a big deal, but trashed wheels, a damaged frame or abused suspension should set off alarm bells.
There will be some immaculate bikes for sale as well, you just need to use your judgement.
DOES THE SELLER OWN THE BIKE?
Bike theft is a major problem, and while many stolen bikes will never appear again some do surface on buy and sell pages. It shouldn’t be unreasonable to ask to see a proof of purchase and serial number if the seller claims to be the original owner. Could you sleep at night if you knew you bought someone else’s stolen rig?
CAN I T EST R IDE I T?
If you spent hours cleaning and detailing your bike to sell it, would you let someone go take it out for the weekend? No, I didn’t think so. When you buy second hand you can’t expect the services afforded to you by a bike shop. There are no test rides, no demo programs, no service plans and no fit ups. If you are picking a bike up in person, then sure you might be able to do a driveway spin. But don’t be surprised if the owner wants to hold onto your car keys or wallet. Bikes have been stolen this very same way.
HOW DO I KNOW IT SUITS WHAT I NEED?
This is up to your own research. You have the world at your finger tips to search for reviews and input via riders from forums, but read widely. Anyone can post their opinion on a forum or Facebook page. We might be biased, but it does take a little more experience to put a review in a mountain biking magazine or on a trusted mountain bike website. Go to the bike brand’s website and make sure the bike you are looking at is designed for what you want to do with it.
WHAT ABOUT WARRANTY AND RETURNS?
Your chance to get your money back ends once it has landed in the owner’s hands or bank account. The vast majority of warranties on bikes are not transferrable. Interestingly, a handful of components have transferrable warranties, such as Nextie carbon rims. But the safest bet is do your research on the bike, and the seller, beforehand.
USING BUY AND SELL PAGES
So you’re browsing buy and sell pages and you
see a bike that is exactly what you’re after. But it’s in another state. The seller can box and ship the bike if you pay for the courier. What do you do? On a site like Rotorburn there is an option to use the iTrader system where other users can report good and bad sales. But really, this is about going through some of the above tips to verify the condition of the bike. Many people aren’t certain a seller will ship the goods after a bank transfer, and for that reason some people will only use PayPal. The risks involved around item condition, postage and even whether the price is right for buyers and sellers has created a unique opportunity, something that has allowed Rob Williams to find a niche in the market.
Rob has set himself up as a Bike Broker. Got something to sell? Rob will list it as a trusted seller. Looking for something? Give Rob the details and he can hunt it out for you. Rob is a middle man but he has set processes in place to make sure buyers and sellers feel secure.
THE BIKE BROKER
Rob Williams has a long history as a pro BMX racer, roadie and mountain biker. After focusing on martial arts instruction, he later ended up injured and needed to find work. It turns out his passion for bikes was about to help him out.
“Two friends called and asked me to help them buy bikes - something I did often - but being broke I suggested I charge $200 each and I’ll ensure they get a great price and get the right bike. That took just a few hours - and The Bike Broker was born!”
Rob spent a couple of years seeing if being a bike broker would be feasible. And given the amount of good deals he saw on buy and sell groups, he was pretty sure it would work. Of course, it’s not a free service, and his $200 rate still applies.
“Usually I don’t work with bikes under $2500. My $200 just represents a greater proportion of the budget they would be better off using to get a better bike.” Rob deals with stores as well, but has found that selling high end bikes is where most of his work comes from. “I started out sourcing bikes for people and getting deals through shops - but quickly I realised people really wanted help selling their bikes instead - so probably 70% of my business is saving people time, money and hassle by selling their bikes for them.” Rob is the point of contact so if you’re selling you don’t get the low-ballers. If you’re buying, he doesn’t have the emotion attached to letting a bike go. Buyers set the price, Rob assists with getting good photos and he’ll get in contact when he has someone ready to pay for the bike.
Rob is very aware of the pit falls of second hand sales, but has found that everyone he has dealt with has been top notch.
“Traditionally people use PayPal and get stung with fees - through The Bike Broker it’s all above board, there’s more trust and usually they just deposit in each other’s bank accounts and save the PayPal fees. I guess there’s just a degree of professionalism with my process and in five years I’m yet to encounter anyone dodgy.” He does recommend a video of the bike, as it is harder to hide anything that might be a concern.
“You can hide things in photos but it is much harder in a video. Anything to help the buyer and seller both get what they want and to have a great experience is worth doing.”
“I always suggest when buying used bikes to set aside 10% of your budget for immediate repairs - sometimes it might be a new cable, bleeding brakes or you might just dislike the seat or cockpit.” Bike fit is important too, and as an accredited coach Rob has a number of fitters he works with to recommend to riders.
“I never saw this career coming but I love New Bike Day,” says Rob. “I get to live vicariously through all my clients and take as much pleasure in the process of buying or selling as they do. Of course it means that I come across too many great deals - and I’ve personally had 16 bikes in the last 4 years - 4 in the last 12 weeks - but that’s the life of a Bike Broker.