When is second-hand too old?

Crank and rear section of an old bicycle

Pre-loved: check the condition of the frame and running gear carefully if you're looking to buy a new bike. Anything less than a 10-speed cassette suggests it's a fairly old bike (like this 8-speed cassette).

Thinking of starting off in cycling or updating your bike from the old faithful that has serviced you so well or has been parked in the dark corner of the shed and has lost its appeal? Caught between the thinking do I want to spend a lot of money or will I really enjoy this new phase so much that it warrants a new bike?  Thinking a second-hand bikes that meets your budget? Brand names of frames and group sets ensembles, steel frame, aluminium, carbon or mixture? What are the better seats, wheels sets, number of gearing and age of the bike where does it all start and end? How do I make the right decision?

Like all moving components there will be fair wear and tear and more so if not well maintained with cleaning and lubrication. Knowing the maintenance nature of the previous owner may well help you appreciate the wellbeing of the bike. There is a real risk in making a purchase of something with age on it that you have not seen visually and made some sound judgments in your purchasing process.

So we have not deterred you and neither did we mean to but to prompt your mind to be aware “think before you buy!”

A good guide can well be how many gears does the group set have? A 10-speed rear cluster gives some indication that the bike’s groupset is reasonably current. Brand names such as Campagnolo, Shimano and Sram in groupset ensembles have a series of names which indicate the model and quality of the components. If you’re getting back into 7-, 8- and 9-speed groupset ensembles then you can be sure that there is quite a bit of age on the components.

Frame sizes are becoming far more important than possibly given credit previously for in recreational riding, as comfort and fit-ability is essential to gain the better experience.  To get a reasonably accurate measurement of what frame size will suit you undertake the following checks. Dress in cycling knicks and stand straight against a well in a thin pair of socks.  Place a book between your legs firmly into your crutch and measure from the top of the book to the floor in centimetres.  Multiply this measurement by 0.65 to give you what is called your inseam measurement.

To get the frame size, measure from the centre of the centre bracket along the seat tube to the centre of the top tube. If the top tube slopes , measure to where it would sit if it were horizontal.

To check the seat height of the bike which obviously has many ranges of adjustment take the same inseam measurement and multiply by 1.09. This measurement is taken from the centre of the pedal axle at the bottom of the pedal stroke and again along the seat post to the centre of the seat (level across the top of the seat).

If you just want a rule of thumb, stand flat footed over the top bar. If you have a couple of fingers width clearance over the top bar, the frame is probably the right size. If we get this measurement wrong there is a fair chance the top bar length from seat to handle bars will be a stretch to reach and will not be comfortable.

Wheels are can be changed and bearings maintained or replaced. Gear and changers are not so easily maintained and generally when worn and tired of working properly are discarded. The older the group set, the less chance of replacing these components. Look for tell tale signs of scraps and abrasions on rear derailer and brake hood and handles indicating the bike has been put down on the bitumen at sometime in its life.

Check frames for defects making sure that there are not dents in the metal.  Look for fading paint which may well indicate that the frame has been in sunlight for an extended period. (Comparing with other frames you have seen of that age will give you a clearer picture.) Any blistering of paint work especially around where there are butt joints is worth closer inspection as there may well be cracking beneath the paint which is indicating the metal has been moving. Avoid delaminated carbon components as the outer covering has been affected by at some time.

While there is rarely a purchase that won’t need some adjustments, having an idea of value for money may well make the experience that much more memorable and the time on the road free of stressful breakdowns.

Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing


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