Buying and Selling Bikes During the Pandemic Frenzy
It took less than half an hour for an acquaintance of mine to sell her 2018 Trek Crockett cyclocross frame on Facebook marketplace. Not only did she sell it sight unseen, but she sold the frame for slightly less than the Bicycle Blue Book value for the entire bike.
I was stunned.
A year ago, a sale like that would have been practically unheard of, not just for the asking price, but for the amount of time that passed between the initial posting and sale.
Got a bike to sell? Now is the time.
As more cities close off streets to open outside seating for restaurants, and limited capacity has been imposed on both public transit and ride share programs, bicycles are the transportation du jour for the pandemic era.
What makes this particular moment in time unique is that even lower quality department store brand bikes are being sold for hundreds of dollars.
I’ll share another anecdote: a friend sold a rather seasoned 1985 Sears Roebuck Free Spirit brand bike covered in dust (that he had acquired for free on Next Door) for $250. And… there was an actual bidding war. Gone in less than a day.
You could say that we know something about buying and selling bikes. Between the two of us, we have owned and sometimes sold 27 bikes (road, mountain, gravel, commuters, and a cruiser) in an 8 year-time span.
Having closely watched the coronavirus pandemic- instigated used bike phenomenon unfold, even we couldn’t let this opportunity pass us by. Reid sold his 2018 Surly Karate Monkey mountain bike and 2013 Specialized Roubaix road bike, while I sold my 2016 Trek Lush Carbon mountain bike and a 2017 Surly Pacer road bike.
Over the last 4 months, both of us have been inundated with inquiries from friends on how to sell or purchase used bikes during this unprecedented time. We’re going to drop our knowledge with you.
How to Sell a Used Bike (Kate)
Friends, when I say that it is a bike seller’s market, it is most definitely a bike seller’s market. If you have any bikes in your stable that you are considering getting rid of, do it now.
Here are some things to consider once you’ve hit that submit button on your online and you’re having convos with interested buyers.
Availability. Most bike shops are sold out of “affordable” (i.e. below $2300) bikes and are having difficulty getting more in stock. Due to that shortage, you should be able to command a higher asking price from buyers who are unprepared to pay a much higher price than what was originally budgeted.
Convenience. Many streets are being closed to cars and space is being reallocated for outside dining. Bikes provide more mobility options and you won’t have to worry about a parking space.
Descriptive wording. When describing an older bike, use the words “vintage” or “retro” to enhance the historical value of the bike that will appeal to the buyer.
Beater bikes. Unfortunately, bike theft is rampant in Denver and other urban areas. Sometimes having a beater bike is the way to go. Less attention and less stress.
Newbie buyers. There are people buying bikes now who have never purchased one before. They just want a bike to get around on. Period. My roommate bought the world’s crappiest bike for $100. It would not have gone for $50 a year ago.
Height. Mention your height in the ad. Many people aren’t familiar with road bike and mountain bike sizing; especially if they’re just looking for a beater bike. If you’re above or below average height, mention that as well. Those sizes can be more difficult to come by. My last two mountain bikes sold quickly because my size (14.5) isn’t common. For my 2016 Trek Lush Carbon, I received inquiries from as far away as Santa Fe, New Mexico, and eventually sold it to someone from Glenwood Springs.
Value. If you’re selling a higher-end bike, make sure you are familiar with Bicycle Blue Book so you know how much your bike is worth. Serious buyers will check the year and price, so make sure your asking price aligns with the Bicycle Blue Book listing.
Upgrades. A friend of mine recently sold her 2012 Trek Madone. She had replaced the stock wheels with a set of Mavic racing wheels. Definitely include any enhancements made to the bike. Serious buyers will appreciate the addition of carbon wheels, etc.
History. If there is a story attached to the bike, share it. For example, was this the model used by the pro team in a prior Tour de France? Are there any distinctions (ex- WSD design, higher level carbon, internal cabling, hidden downtube storage, tubeless ready tires, etc.) that the buyer would like to know? If you own more than one bike, mention it. Sometimes buyers will ask why you are selling such a nice bike. If you mention that you prefer another bike over another, it adds to your credibility as a serious cyclist.
Your Buyer. If you’re selling a road bike- state its intended purpose (endurance rides, speed, etc.). If you’re selling a mountain bike, be prepared to get barraged with questions, such as where you rode it, accidents, condition of dropper post, etc. For whatever reason, I’ve found that selling mountain bikes requires a lot of effort. If you’re selling a “Frankenbike”, be prepared to explain why components were removed or added.
Price. If you have a set price in mind, it doesn’t hurt to increase the initial asking price by a couple of hundred dollars. If it sells for the price, it is a pleasant surprise. If you end up negotiating, you’ll get closer to the price you originally had in mind. If you don’t have time to negotiate, state that your price is firm- that eliminates a lot of would-be low ball buyers. Also include a disclaimer there are no refunds.
Meeting buyers. Ask for Venmo or Paypal (instant) for payment, and explain it provides a peace of mind for both of you. If you’re worried about fake checks or fraudulent cash, you can maintain that “Due to the pandemic, you feel safe not handling cash.” Also, make it clear that you are treating the transaction the same way a bike store would. Before they take your bike for a test ride, request to hold their car keys, photo ID and/or credit card. Honest buyers will not have a problem with this. Finally, never meet at your residence. Meet in a easily identifiable public place that likely has security cameras (I’ve met people in front of a police building, a popular Whole Foods, and a bike shop).
Are you in the market to purchase a used bike? Reid shares his best practices below.
How to Buy a Bike- New or Used (Reid)
Buying a new bike is intimidating!
Every cyclist friend of yours is going to give you more advice than you can handle. So many new words and terms (29er vs 27.5, 650B vs 700cc. 1×12 or 2×10 and X01 vs XTR) you’ve never heard of are going to come spewing outta everyone! We’re still talking bikes here, not algebra!
Whether you’re looking for a gravel grinder for all-round riding, or an all-mountain enduro there are so many things to consider. Don’t worry, I’ll shed some light on the differences and provide some tips on how to find something you’ll be stoked with!
Deciding what kind of terrain and frequency you’re going to be riding can be the most important breakdown. As companies are making up new genres of bikes there seems to be a bike for every different surface area available to ride on all over the globe.
Rule of Percentage
I use the Rule of Percentage when looking for a bike.
Most recently I bought a new gravel bike because I found I don’t ride on smooth roads, I’m surrounded by packed gravel forest service roads and I don’t race or do big long roads over flat terrain.
I realized that I was neglecting my carbon endurance road bike due to lack of good roads to ride on. Broken down, I spent 50 percent of the time on rougher roads (chip sealed), 20 percent flat surface roads, and only about 30 percent on smooth asphalt. It makes more sense to have a bike that excels at the roads I have available. Do I want a 2020 Specialized S-WORKS Venge? Oh heck yes! But do I have somewhere to ride it? Not so much.
The same idea can work for mountain biking. I live in the wet and rooty Pacific Northwest where big wheels and full suspension are the only way to go unless ya wanna hate biking.
There are excellent options of “all mountain” or trail bikes that can do just about everything. Finding the Goldilocks bike for you can be easy after you decide what kind of trails you’ll ride.
Before the algebra and acronyms kick in, that’s the most important thing to break down. Are you going to be hitting bike parks via shuttling or lifts? Ya might not need the biggest wheels but you’re going to want some suspension and quality parts that can handle that kinda smooth, but big hits.
Perhaps you’re like me where ya live near many multi use trails that are a bit rough around the edges and ya gotta pedal your way up (the trail bikes with lighter parts and short travel will be your jam). Since the mileage is big and hits are small, you can get away with not breaking the bank.
For a bit more reigned in view for buying bikes, use these focus points:
- Know what you want to ride.
- Research the brand and components just a bit, the rabbit hole is deep! Understand that they’re bikes, not unicorns, one bike can’t do an 80-mile road ride, then hit up the Whistler Mountain Bike Park.
- Expensive isn’t always better. If the bike is meant for crit races, it will be twitchy if you’re just riding it around town.
- Box stores don’t sell real bikes. Support your local bike shop where the staff is knowledgeable and can make recommendations.
Used Bikes Aren’t Used Cars
If you’re buying used, understand that in general, cyclists love bikes and they’ll be real honest about them because they want you to love them also. Bikes aren’t like used cars where people just want them gone.
When I sell a bike it’s like selling a pet, so I wanna make sure you’ll take good care of it.
If you’re a prospective buyer, ask which parts are going to wear out, because parts do wear out and it’s just part of the expense of ownership.
As Kate mentioned earlier, it is expected to ask questions about mileage, terrain ridden, etc. when buying a used bike. There are folks that have trashed their bikes and for some reason think they’re still the same value as they were on a showroom floor but now they’re covered in gold.
Point blank, if a bike is going to need (usually very expensive) replacement parts it’s easier to stomach knowing ahead of time rather than finding out.
There are some businesses such as Boulder-based The Pro’s Closet that sell certified pre-owned high end bikes. Their staff and mechanics are knowledgeable and you’re safe knowing the bike’s history and that you’re not dealing with an unknown person on Craigslist.
Buying a stolen bike sucks! That said, watch for fishy things like mismatched parts, spray painted frames, photos taken in weird places, deals that sound “too good”, and no real information about the bike other than a photo and misspelled name etc.
Pay attention to the narrative being told.
Recently, someone had a 2018 Santa Cruz HighTower she claimed her grandpa didn’t use anymore and was taking up space in a garage that needed to be cleaned (Really? Grandpa dropped several thousand dollars on a mountain bike only 2 years ago and just let it sit in the garage?) Or, another recent post where the person happened to have identical descriptions for two different e-mountain bikes and was only “passing through” and needed to sell in a very small time frame. The latter was probably a phishing scheme to get personal info and eventually access to bank accounts.
In summary, used bikes are great finds if you want the technology, but can’t afford the MSRP. This is a crazy time to be buying or selling a bike. Make sure you are prepared.