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June 15, 2024 3 min read

You can save big by buying used–this cheat sheet will help make sure you get the best value

We all love our mountain bikes, but here’s a fact: High-end mountain bikes can depreciate faster than a Maserati. Just like with that used supercar, it can make a lot of sense to buy your mountain bike used and let someone else swallow the depreciation.

But not all used mountain bikes are the same—knowing what you want and what are the most critical features can help smooth the used bike-buying process and ensure you get a bike that keeps a smile on your face for years to come.

What to do before you buy a used mountain bike

Before shopping for a bike, decide what kind you want.

  • Rigid: Old-skool bikes with no suspension
  • Cross country (XC): Light, favor pedaling performance for uphills or long days
  • Trail: Do-it-all bikes, quick to climb, and capable on the descent
  • All-mountain/enduro: Can climb, but best-suited for ripping descents
  • Downhill/freeride: Burly, heavy bikes designed for steep, gnarly downhills

Also pay attention to wheel sizes:

  • 26-inch: Former standard, the most maneuverable
  • 27.5 (650b): Blends maneuverability with quick acceleration
  • 29-inch (29er): Fast speed, great for rolling over terrain

What to look for when buying a used mountain bike

  1. Frame condition: Inspect the frame for any signs of damage, such as cracks, dents, or bends. Check the welds for signs of stress or corrosion. Minor scratches or cosmetic blemishes are common but shouldn't affect the structural integrity of the frame.

  1. Suspension system: If the mountain bike has suspension, check the condition of the fork and rear shock. Look for any leaks, scratches on the stanchions, or excessive play in the suspension components. Test the suspension by compressing it several times to ensure it operates smoothly and rebounds properly.

  1. Drivetrain: Examine the drivetrain components, including the chain, cassette, chainrings, and derailleurs. Look for signs of wear, such as stretched chains, worn teeth on the cassette and chainrings, or bent derailleur hangers. Shift through all the gears to ensure smooth and precise shifting.

  1. Brakes: Check the brake pads for wear and assess the condition of the braking surfaces on the rims or rotors. Squeeze the brake levers to check for responsiveness and any unusual noises or resistance. Inspect the brake cables or hydraulic lines for signs of damage or leaks.

  1. Wheels and tires: Inspect the wheels for any dents, cracks, or loose spokes. Spin the wheels to check for wobbles or uneven rotation. Examine the tire tread for wear and ensure there are no cuts or punctures that could affect performance.

  1. Bearings: Check the headset, bottom bracket, and wheel hub bearings for smoothness and play. Excessive play or roughness in the bearings may indicate the need for replacement or servicing.

  1. Frame size and fit: Ensure that the mountain bike's frame size fits your height and riding preferences. Stand over the top tube to check for adequate clearance, and sit on the saddle to assess the reach and comfort. Adjustments can be made with saddle height, stem length, and handlebar position, but the frame size should provide a good starting point.

  1. Test ride: Take the bike for a test ride to evaluate its handling, comfort, and overall performance. Ride on different terrain if possible to assess how the bike performs in various conditions.

  1. Price and value: Research the market value of similar mountain bikes to ensure you're getting a fair price. Consider factors such as the bike's age, condition, brand, and included accessories when negotiating the price.

By thoroughly inspecting the bike and considering these factors, you can make an informed decision when buying a used mountain bike and enjoy many adventures on the trails ahead.

Buying a used bike in Durango

Durango Outdoor Exchange is your used MTB headquarters. From spring through fall, we’ve got used bikes ready to lead you to mountain tops, desert overlooks, and farmers markets, with everything from steel stallions to carbon fiber rocket ships. Questions about what sort of bike is right for you? Not sure what to look for? The pros at Durango’s best used bike store are on hand to help.

Chase LaCroix
Chase LaCroix

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