Let’s face the facts; Cycling can be expensive and most of us are dictated by a budget of some degree. You’ve decided now is the time to splash some cash and get yourself a road bike, so you start as we all do by looking through websites or brochures. As you’re searching through cycle models your eyes automatically lead off to the best and of course most expensive bicycle models going and it’s about this time your brain begins to think now would be a brilliant time to win the lottery. Don’t get too down heartened though, there are some bargains on the second hand market which can fulfil your road cycling void.

The second hand bike market though it can have its bargains also has more of its fair share of worn out and abused bikes that should be avoided. I myself had an experience when I first started cycling but more about this later on in the blog.

So what to look out for when you have gone to look at a bike? Firstly, don’t get carried away with the joy you’re about to get a new toy; clear your brain and get back to business. You don’t want to waste a lot of money on something not up to scratch. Haemorrhaging hard earned cash on components that need replacing or fixing on a recently purchased cycle is not the best scenario to be in, so here’s a quick list of the obvious things to check when you’re looking at purchasing a used road bike.


Check pads aren’t on the limit line. Have a go and try the brake levers, if they are stiff then the cables are most likely corroded.


You must check all the gears work. Take it up the road, if you can’t get into a gear hold the back of the bike off the ground, and turn the pedals by hand as you run through gears.

Head set

Hold the front brake and rock forward and back, if there’s movement it’s loose or worn, also try moving from side to side, if noisy or stiff again it’s worn (photo below).


The best way to test this is to run your fingers along rim, you're doing this to see if it is flat, if it’s not and it arcs inwards, then sadly it’s been well used and past its best. When riding the bike see if there is movement from side to side or if the wheel is noisy when spinning, if so this could be a sign the bearing could be worn (photo below).


Have a good look at the chain for wear, a good way of doing this is with a chain gauge which can be picked up for around £6. If it drops through the gaps in between the links on the chain, then yup you’ve got it the chain is worn and will need replacing (photo below).

Don’t judge a bike by its frame

One fine example of this are cycle couriers; they tend to tape the frames on their bikes to protect them, yup it makes perfect sense to keep the bike in good condition but this then masks the life it really has had, look closer and the components are most likely worn and well used and most likely one to avoid.

My past experience

It was back in the 80s when cycling got my attention, I was drawn like many into watching the Milk Race (for those unaware and mostly likely too young this was the Tour of Britain in its day) and of course the daddy of them all the Tour de France. A few of us in my group of mates had heard of the London to Brighton bike ride, which at the time was only a few months away. With this challenge in mind the group all agreed it seemed like a great idea, so those of us without a bike had to get hunting to buy or borrow a suitable bicycle for the trip.

Get hunting I did and with the excitement of the bike trip busy in my mind I spotted a bike in the local paper for £120. The bike seemed to be perfect, everything I was after; an aluminium racer looking rather nice and shiny, pleased with the potential bargain I bought the bike there and then. The next day, full of excitement from my new purchase, I had to go boasting to my mates about what a bargain I had got. After ample boasting had been carried out I thought I’d better drop my new purchase into the local bike shop, just to get it checked out. Walking out of the shop leaving the bike to be serviced I fully expected the pads to be replaced but surely not much else, it was such a bargain after all. I returned to the shop after work, expecting to be informed of what a wise purchase I had made, but to my horror the actual list of issues with the bike was a bit longer than that I had expected. Where do I begin, the rear mechanism was damaged, spokes on the wheels needed replacing, bearings and cables needed replacing, the headset worn and oh yes, the one thing I did get right the brake pads needed changing as well. That’s right ladies and gentlemen I had bought a Lemon! The end result of my “bargain” was a repair and service bill almost at the same cost of the bike itself and not forgetting the overwhelming stick I got from my mates.

Being excited can distract you from actually checking the bike properly and thoroughly. As you have just read I learnt the hard way, make sure you don’t.


The views shared are that of the author and are not necessarily that of Lexham Insurance Consultants Ltd.