Buying bikes on ebay – the pain, pleasure and a secret weapon

buying a bike on ebay

There has never been a better time to be a potless cyclist. Time was, getting a decent second hand bike was a real challenge. First, you went to your local bike shop to check out the two or three Bob had in that were something like what you were looking for. But pretty soon it would become clear they weren’t what you were looking for after all.

Then it was the classifieds: bad ads, with little information, for a limited range of bikes within reachable distance. And only when you finally got half way across town would you find yourself looking at an ill-fitting, badly maintained piece of crap that you wouldn’t be seen dead on, unless it fell apart and dumped you in the middle of a major intersection. But now it’s all changed. Now we have ebay.

Ebay has transformed the art of buying a second hand bike. All you need now is your frame size and some idea what you’re after, then a working knowledge of how to use ebay, and patience. You need to know how to use ebay because a search on ‘bike’, even within ‘sporting goods’ (so’s to avoid motorbikes), is going to produce around 4,000 hits, which means a fair bit of needle-in-haystackery. No, you need to filter that down to manageable proportions. So try ‘advanced search’.

Ebay advanced search is a handy wee tool – a regular swiss army knife of a search facility. Look at all the options! A few you might find useful are: ‘Min/max price’ – set ‘max’ to £100, eg, and it’ll cut out anything more expensive; ‘Item condition (new/used)’ – select ‘used’ to exclude the new tat flooding in from China; and – and this is one of my favourites – ‘Items near me’, which lets you specify a maximum distance from your postcode, thus enabling pickup, avoiding the typical £20 or £25 delivery charge (assuming delivery’s an option – it isn’t always by any means).

Ok, so what’ve you got? Depending on how confident and knowledgeable you are, you might be able immediately to identify likely candidates. Or you may like the look of something but know nothing about it, in which case try Googling the name and model to see what comes up. Try the name plus the word ‘review’ – quite a few bikes are checked out by magazines and/or websites: you can learn a lot. Not least, the original RRP: as with most things, you generally get what you pay for with bikes, so a high original selling price is at least some indication of quality.

If you still like the look of it having checked it out, you might find it helpful to go back to advanced search and try another option – ‘completed listings only’, to see if any have sold in the past few weeks or months, and what they went for. Though you’d be surprised how much prices can vary for pretty much the same thing on different occasions: if two or three people take a shine to the same thing, the price can easily reach two or three times what essentially the same item went for on another occasion.

Which brings us to the second requirement: patience. With very rare exceptions, never fall in love with anything on ebay, and never ever get into a bidding war. Be prepared to bide your time. Ebay bargains are like buses – you won’t see one for ages, then three will turn up at once. What’s your hurry? You’re going to have this bike for a while. Be prepared to wait, so you get the right one, and at the right price. One last tip: check out Log the maximum you’re prepared to pay, and it’ll automatically bid up to that amount 10 seconds before the close. Maximises your chances of winning, at the best possible price, and prevents you getting carried away and over-bidding in the frenzy. Oh, and it’s free.