TCI Friday

You know the deal. Read the paragraphs below. Express your opinions. It’s like a test with no wrong answers.

There are a lot of ways to buy a bike. The local bike shop is one. Consumer direct is another. Craigslist, eBay, bike swaps, the Pro’s Closet, yard sales, etc., etc. New or used. Certified pre-owned? I love the term pre-owned, as if, you know, I’m just not ready to own something. If someone could go ahead and own it for me first, that would be great. It cuts down on the amount of owning I have to do.

I have purchased bicycles (and sold a few) in most of the ways possible. My great preference is to buy a new bike from a local bike shop. That way I can see, feel, and most importantly, ride the bike before I commit. If I have a problem, I know exactly where to take the bike. And of course, it makes it possible for my town to have a bike shop, which I like.

Sometimes a new bike isn’t in the budget though. Of course, some shops carry used bikes too, but most of these get to us via Craigslist, eBay or the Pro’s Closet, among other online resellers. For a time, I was buying vintage steel bikes, because that was a fun thing to do, and then building them up to ride for a while, before selling them on.

My take on things can be a little skewed though, because I work in the industry, which leads to opportunities for wholesale and/or barter. About those options, which people outside the industry will view as nice advantages, I’ll just say the ‘bro deal’ is usually no deal. There are compromises no matter how ‘in’ you are, and often what looks like a big discount is actually a small one.

Whatever your preferred channel, it seems as though your ‘success,’ which is a function of getting the right bike at the right price (both of those are important), usually comes down to being knowledgeable or trusting someone knowledgeable to get you there. That’s why getting great bikes on Craigslist is usually the remit of serious bike nerds.

So this week’s TCI Friday wonders, do you prefer to get bikes new or used? If new, where is the best place to turn? If used, what has worked best for you?

TCI is sponsored by Shimano, makers of the extra, super dope Dura Ace C50 carbon road wheel.

Join the conversation
  1. mattdwyerva says

    I bought my Cutty mail order during COVID because I would have had to drive 2000 miles to buy one in person. Or ride 2000 mi, which could be fun, but then I need to get a bakfiets first … Anyway, more fun to buy something from locals who are friends. I did bring it to my local Salsa dealer and paid them to check my assembly and adjust a few things. And the best part of that was dealing with my local shop

  2. Wyatt says

    New from the bike shop is the way.

  3. tcfrog says

    New from the LBS is my preferred way, then new consumer direct, then used from anywhere. The problem with used bikes is you can’t always tell what they’ve been through before getting to you, and I’m cynical enough to believe that if somebody needs money, they’ll leave out the numerous crashes a bike may have experienced if it means you giving them some cash for it.

  4. bart says

    Depends on the type of bike.
    An aluminum frame, relatively inexpensive bike that will be used for basic things – Used.
    Carbon fiber or high-end performance of some kind – New LBS.
    I’ve never purchased through the direct-to-consumer channel.

    Earlier this week I bought a used aluminum hard-tail mountain bike off of Craigslist and then brought it to my LBS for a few upgrades. Used bike was $400 and the upgrades were about $300. I had been watching Craigslist for about 2 months looking for a bike like this, so when I saw it, I knew it. This bike is what I’ll use for riding with my family, on camping trips, etc. It’s “good-enough” but not so nice that I’ll worry about it too much.

  5. jmelnarik says

    From the current quiver it’s half secondhand, half consumer direct online. All assembled at my LBS.

  6. rides in be says

    I have bought my last three bikes from the local bike shop. The first was new. The last two were BMC demos. I don’t think the second one had more than 100 miles on it. Both times I’ve been super psyched with the purchase and the ride (price too).

  7. alanm9 says

    I’ve gone every route including mail order (yes that was a thing) and had good and bad experiences in each. My LBS just can’t get new bikes now even if I was in the market, but they do most of my wrenching.

  8. Jeff vdD says

    I’ve mostly purchased new from a shop. I inherited a heavy 29er hardtail from one of my sons. I bought one used bike via an online marketplace … years later, that bike was stolen, but that’s probably no reflection on the marketplace.

    My successful used option, however, is a local university police auction. These are bikes that have been abandoned around campus. You get 30 or so minutes to see what they have scattered around a large gravel lot. Most are junk, but there are a few gems. If you find something you like, you take it up front. When the auction starts, bidding happens one at a time from among those “selected” bikes.

    I picked up my daily singlespeed commuter that way plus a beach cruiser I don’t ride nearly enough. The beach cruiser is the perfect machine for a ride along the river to a nearby seasonal beer garden. That season isn’t far off!

  9. jlaudolff says

    I’m not sure why, but I get a little sad whenever I see a Motobecane. Not only did the owner miss out on the process of buying from a domestic Ti producer, they didn’t even make a connection with an LBS for the sale and assembly. Similar for Canyon, etc. To each their own, and obviously the direct-to-consumer sales are working just fine, just not for me. I have a friend who is getting a Ti bike build in China and sure they are getting a frame for half the cost of a domestically made Ti frame, but it’s not turned out to be faster and I am curious to see if they get the fit they were expecting.

  10. trabri says

    I was really nervous about the used frame I found on Craig’s List but it turned out ok. Acquiring used bikes from my friend (some free!) was easy because he is a master mechanic and alway had the most rad bikes. I bought my DH bike direct mostly because my LBS wants nothing to do with them and found it to be seamless but less satisfying. I think it’s the same guilt I feel when ordering anything from Amazon. My favorite way is to purchase new from my LBS (4 bikes) or direct from a custom builder (2). I really enjoy talking to and getting advice from people with firsthand knowledge.

  11. Balky says

    All but one of my bikes has been from a LBS (one is second hand). I’m usually in between sizes so I like to test and see whether the larger or smaller size feels better for the specific model I’m buying.

    I’ve never bought a bike for myself online but would probably do it if I saw something I particularly liked and it was available nowhere else. LBS is still the preferred source but I figure I’ve bought enough bikes now to be able to take an educated enough guess with sizes if it came to the crunch.

    There is also an ethical dilemma for me with some direct to consumer sellers if they’re purposely trying to squeeze out the LBS that was previously carrying their brand and switching to solely online or dictating too overbearingly how the LBS should be run while carrying their brand. In situations like that, I will walk away from the bike no matter how good it is.

    I bought the second hand bike a short while ago – the first in my adult riding career. A steel ATB. Scrutinized every inch of the frame for cracks, etc, made a mental list of stuff that would need to be fixed up or replaced, made a fair offer and so far it’s been good.

    I’d never buy a second hand carbon anything.

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