Looking to get started in bike touring without exhausting all your savings? A used touring bicycle is your best bet!
The idea of buying a brand new touring bike can be very fascinating until you look at the price tags. They are not always the desirable range for someone trying to get their feet in the bicycle touring life.
You probably just heard about an upcoming bike tour and are going crazy about it. But you don’t think your old bike can make it. At the same time, you want each of your dollars to stretch a little further, so a new bike is not a viable option.
This is where used touring bikes come into play.
You can find a great used bicycle for touring at a very affordable price, allowing you to buy other bicycle touring gear and accessories from panniers to front and rear racks.
But the problem with buying a used bicycle is that you need to know what to look for. You don’t want to end up with a bicycle that will not be any useful for your cycling tours.
There are lots of options out there, but picking the best one that suits your needs perfectly and in decent conditions can be a tricky task.
Also, it can be difficult to find great deals on second-hand touring bicycles, depending on where you live.
So, how do you go about it? Go for a frame project, or it’s possible to find a complete bicycle that will do the job? Is a used bicycle even worth it? Such questions can be confusing, right?
Don’t worry, though. Keep reading since I’ve got you covered in this text.
Here is a detailed guide with effective tips on how to buy a used touring bicycle.
Tips for Buying a Used Bike for Bicycle Touring
Buying a second-hand bicycle can be quite a risky undertaking, especially when you are unsure what to look for.
Lucky for you, I’ve got a few tips to help you find a great used bicycle for your bicycle touring adventures.
Use a Dedicated Service
If you plan to buy a used bicycle online, you need to ensure that you go for a dedicated service that you can trust.
Reputable online services like eBay are definitely a reliable way to buy a second-hand bike as they ask the seller to provide contact details for accountability.
Using a well-known online service will help prevent any scams and ensure ultimate buyer protection. For example, if you buy a used bicycle only to find that it has any damages or fails to arrive, you can still get your money back.
If you are buying a touring bicycle from a site that doesn’t have the regulations to protect both buyer and seller, don’t send your money without seeing the bike. You don’t want to send your limited cash to a scammer.
Try to Get the Bicycle’s History
Getting the bike’s history is vital when buying a used bicycle to end up with something that was just stolen from someone.
The seller should be able to provide the purchase information to ensure that they are the actual owner of the bicycle.
You can easily spot red flags when buying a used bicycle by examining the seller’s urgency to offload the bicycle.
A price that is too good to be true is also a red flag unless you are buying the bicycle from a friend, family member, or someone you know in person.
Whichever model you get, be sure to do thorough online research about it to know how much a new one would cost. Then check photos for any troubling issues and consider going through the user reviews.
This will help you know what to expect and get size information. If any information is missing from the used touring bike, ask the seller to provide more details before buying it.
Assess the Main Parts
Before paying for your pre-owned bicycle, you need to assess its main components to avoid being ripped off. Here are the main parts to assess when buying a used bicycle:
- Frame and Forks
Buying a used bicycle with a damaged frame and fork is a waste of money as this is the heart of the bike. Without it, the bicycle is virtually useless.
The costs of replacing the frame and fork can actually be the same or worse, even more than buying a new touring bicycle.
So, you need to be extra careful when checking the bicycle to see if the bike has any dints, significant scratches, or heavy damage.
You also want to ensure that the bike frame is the right size for you. If you can see the bicycle in person, get on and ride to approve that the size is ideal for your riding needs.
A good frame for bicycle touring bikes should be robust and ensure a good body position while riding.
When inspecting the drivetrain, it’s essential to check the condition of the chain first and ask the seller how many miles the current setup has gone.
If the power train has gone for about three thousand miles, it means you’ll need to replace the chain and cassette.
Sure, this isn’t necessarily the most expensive part of the drivetrain, but it’s worth checking when buying a touring bike. It can help in detecting problems on the other components that need replacement as well.
To inspect the chain, put the bicycle on the big chainring and the largest back cog. Then pull the chain away from the chainring to see whether there is a big gap.
A small gap means that the chain is probably fine, and the lowest gear is easy to ride, but a large gap points towards some worn-out parts of the drivetrain.
If you plan to ride on hills and climbs, you may want to ensure that you choose a bicycle with a big range cassette and cog.
The next parts to check when inspecting the drivetrain are the front and rear derailleurs. Shift the rear cassette up and down and switch from the big chainring in the front to the small.
A smooth shifting means that the drivetrain is okay. But if it’s not smooth, the drivetrain needs new cables.
You also want to consider the drivetrain level as the newer ones have more gears, giving you a wider gear range than you would get with the entry-level or older ones.
But this may not be really a concern, especially if you plan to do a bike tour in the mountains, which require lower gearing for easy ascends.
Wheels are other expensive components of a bicycle, so you want to ensure that they are in good condition when buying a used bicycle.
Check them over to see whether they have any cracks or broken spokes, which could mean buying new wheels.
If you are assessing the bicycle in person, try to see if the wheels are true and spin without swaying from side to side for stable riding.
Remember, you’ll be using the bicycle to haul your touring gear and accessories for long distances on dirt roads and different kinds of terrain. Wobbly wheels may not be ideal for such riding adventures.
The next thing you want to consider when purchasing a touring bike that has been pre-owned is the tires.
Compared to other parts mentioned above, tires won’t be expensive to replace, but it’s good to determine their overall condition before walking away with the bicycle.
If the tires have a considerable amount of wear, you should expect to add new ones to your budget.
Slick road tires are generally preferred by competitive cyclists as they offer better performance when riding on gravel roads for long distances.
However, if you plan to use your bike more on rough roads and wet terrains, larger tires are a great option. Fat bikes are excellent for such tours as their wheels, tires, and frame geometry are well suited to handle extreme riding conditions.
- Bottom Bracket and Brakes
Another relatively expensive part of a touring bicycle that you may not want to budget for right after buying the bicycle is the bottom bracket.
To determine if the part needs a replacement, you can grab one of the crank arms and move it side to side to spot any excessive movement. A knocking sound can also indicate a worn-out bottom bracket.
When inspecting the brakes, avoid squeezing the brake levers at the front as the problem could be the brake cables, and they are pretty easy to fix.
The best way to check the brake’s functionality is to use your hand to squeeze the calipers together.
Good brake pads should contact the brake track easily and spring back to their original position with little effort.
Some touring bikes come with disc brakes. If the touring bicycle has disc brakes, be sure to test them and see whether they work correctly.
- Attachment Points
Attachment points like eyelets and braze-ons are a must-have in touring bikes as this is where you mount your front and rear racks, panniers, water bottle cages, and bicycle bags. Otherwise, how will you haul your cycle touring gear?
If you like a bicycle, but it lacks eyelets, no need to worry as you can still use other bike parts like the seat tube, handlebar, and frame. It’s also possible to attach a front or rear rack on a bike without eyelets.
If you need to choose between a round or flat handlebar, I highly recommend the latter as it tends to adopt a more upright position while riding a fully loaded touring bicycle.
Look for Any Signs of Rusts
Rust is an absolute deal-breaker, especially if it affects the bike’s sensitive parts like the chain. A rusted chain will make it hard to ride the bicycle, as it won’t spin smoothly.
If you are buying your bike online and can’t assess it physically, then you need to ask the seller to send clear photos to let you examine the bike efficiently.
Keep in mind that you may not be able to spot any rust on the bicycle if the pictures are not clear. Also, there should be several photos so that you can assess the bike from every angle.
If you can access the touring bike, then it’s wise to assess it in person as you’ll easily detect any problems. You’ll also be able to give it a short ride and see how it feels.
Set Yourself Up for Bargaining
After researching your desired second-hand bicycle model, don’t be afraid to negotiate, as you can make quite some good savings from it.
Set yourself up for bargaining to ensure that you get a good value for your money when dealing with the seller directly.
When it comes to haggling, you need to have a number set in mind, then offer less than that. Starting at a low price means that you’ll eventually work towards the middle ground or your set price if things work out.
You also don’t want to start bargaining too soon to avoid storming in with low prices that will make the seller reluctant to accept any of your bids. Otherwise, you may lose a potentially good deal.
However, you should be ready to walk away if the owner is determined to get the original price they set, but you feel that it’s really not worth it.
If you have done good research, I am sure you’ll find something similar soon enough. So, there is no need to feel like you have to pay through the nose.
Where To Buy a Used Bicycle for a Bike Tour
There are a few places on the internet where you can buy a second-hand bicycle. This includes eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Pinkbike’s BuySell, Bicycle Blue Book, and Pro’s Closet.
You are likely to find a good deal on such online platforms. Other places to buy a used touring bike include local bike shops, pawnshops, and garage sales.
If you decide to buy a used touring bicycle from Craigslist, I’d suggest that you be extra keen as most bike thieves sell them on this platform.
The insanely low price tags can be very enticing, but don’t be sold too quickly without seeing the serial number and more bicycle details to avoid buying a stolen bike.
Should I Buy a Project or Complete Touring Bike?
When buying a used bike, you need to choose between a complete bike or a project that you’ll later build to a full bicycle for touring.
Most riders prefer a ready-to-go touring or mountain bike as no further significant investments are needed.
However, a project bike can be a great deal as you can get the main part, let’s say the frame, at a significantly low cost. Then build it with sturdy components until it becomes a complete, robust bike for the ultimate cycle touring experience.
Some old types of touring bikes with a good frame can cost as low as $200. You can invest in such a project, then buy other components and find that the grand total costs are still lower than $1000.
But this may not be appropriate if you want a touring bicycle that you can ride soon after buying it. In such cases, the best option is to find a complete second-hand bike.
Be sure to look out for the frame and fork, wheels, power train, tires, saddle, and attachment points for your racks and panniers.
Q: How Do You Buy a Used Road Bike?
A: To buy a used road bike, you need to examine your specific needs and know what to look for, as there are plenty of choices out there.
For example, you can decide whether you want a complete used road bike or a project bike that you will build over time and determine which size road bike you need.
Doing some online research can bring up everything from classic models to modern used road bikes that have been barely used for two years.
No matter what frame size you are looking for, you can expect to find a second-hand road bike that will suit your needs at a favorable price.
When doing your search, consider specifying your ideal frame size, bike brand name, model, and year of the model.
Once you find a good road bike that suits your needs, try to assess it and see if it has any issues before paying for it.
Besides purchasing a road bike online, you can check your friendly local bike shops as they may also have some fantastic deals. There are bike shops that specialize in buying and selling second-hand touring bikes only.
I love buying my road bikes and other bicycle accessories in local bike shops as it takes away all the risk out of the purchase, given that I can see and test what am paying for.
And that’s not all, a friendly local bicycle shop can also take your bike in trade again when you want to upgrade. Isn’t that cool? Don’t forget to check your local bike retailers!
Q: How Much Should You Buy a Used Bicycle For?
A: The cost of used touring bikes usually ranges from $150 to $1000. Of course, if you want to buy a used touring bike, the chances are that you are working with a limited budget.
But your budget shouldn’t be a major concern since there are hundreds of options out there. The only thing you need to do is research to find a good deal for your money.
Pre-owned touring bikes ranging from $150 to $400 are usually a project that you need to work on to create a functional and sturdy touring bike eventually.
If you want a complete touring bike, then you should expect to spend about $300 to $1000, depending on the brand and model you are after.
Don’t fall for meager prices, though. You may end up with a stolen bike, which could have you arrested for being found in possession of the stolen property.
Remember, if you are caught possessing a stolen bike, the authorities will arrest and fine you, whether you have a receipt or not.
Some of the effective ways to detect a stolen bike include:
- A big brand and popular model touring bicycle like the Surly Long Haul Trucker complete bike being sold at a crazy lower price. Surly LHT prices range from $1350 to $1949. So, beware!
- A seller won’t reveal where or how they acquired the bike.
- A seller who doesn’t have details of their bike, including the frame materials and other accessories.
- Mismatches on the bicycle with no clear explanation, such as a front wheel that doesn’t match the rear wheel.
- A seller who is hiding or messing around with the bike’s identification like the serial numbers that are often located beneath the bottom bracket.
- A seller who lacks confidence and they seem to have the urgency of getting rid of the bicycle.
If you detect any of these signs when buying a used touring bike, stay away from such deals as you might end up in jail or paying huge fines. And besides being arrested and paying the fines, you don’t want to help bicycle thieves to thrive and stay in business.
Q: Are Used Touring Bikes Worth It?
A: Yes, used touring bikes are definitely worth it, provided you get something that suits your needs and is still in good condition.
If buying a new touring bicycle seems unrealistic to you based on your budget, you might benefit from second-hand road bikes.
Investing in a used bicycle also means that you can quickly get something that will stand out among other road bikes in your area.
This is because most of the used road bikes on sale are classic bicycles that were in the market many years ago.
Another reason why you’ll want to buy a second-hand bicycle is that they are more affordable. If you wish to purchase a great touring bike but have a limited budget, a used bicycle will save you some money.
As with other products, used road touring bikes are way cheaper than new ones, and it’s possible to land on a great deal if you know where to look. You can buy your dream bicycle at almost half price.
All you have to do is list your favorite touring bikes down and get on the hunt.
Of course, a second-hand bicycle may not be subject to some temporary fashions found in brand new bicycles in the market today. But most old bikes are well-built and sturdy to last you for years to come.
If you want to get started in bicycle touring but don’t have a ton of money to spend on a new bike, you can get an ultimate bang for your buck by investing in a used touring bike.
While there may be a few risks involved when purchasing a second-hand bike, you can find the right bike for cycle touring if you practice the tips provided above.
If you are not comfortable assessing the bike, you can take it to a local bike and have them do it for you. Evaluating a used bicycle can be quite challenging if you are just a beginner with not much knowledge about touring bikes.
I hope that you succeed in finding a great bike for your bicycle touring adventures. Don’t forget to use a safe payment method when buying a second-hand bike online.