Buying a used kids bike
Dad of three, Steve, shares with us his years of experience of buying used kids bikes.
Children grow ever-so-quickly. They always seem to be growing out of something or other, especially if you have 3 as I do. Bicycles can be passed-down, especially if you have a couple (or more!) of the same sex. I find a very satisfying glow inside when I manage to convince our younger daughter to accept her elder sister’s hand-me-downs.
My current issue is my eldest daughter needs a new bike. She has grown like topsy this last year and is ready for a small-medium woman’s size bicycle. There’s also a summer gathering coming up in July where all her friends take bikes, and it does prove useful in getting about the large site they camp in.
My normal instincts are to go with a used purchase. What’s not to like about the idea? A used bike is cheaper and it fits ethically in terms of re-using something that otherwise might end up in land-fill.
So I start the search. Last time I bought a used-bike was off eBay about 3 years ago. The bike is still going strong, in the possession of my middle daughter. I'm quite pleased with that purchase looking back at it. Also bought a unisex bike about 7 years ago from a local free-paper, before eBay got a grip on the world. That is also still going strong on its third child. In fact it will do for another family as its steel-framed and as it fits ages 6-9, it doesn't do a lot of miles (though it does get dropped a lot) so could last for years (should I keep it for the grand-kids?!).
Where to buy a second hand kids bike
There are a number of options other than eBay for used bikes. Asking or keeping an eye open at local bike shops sometimes turns up trumps. Both my and my wife’s commuting bikes came via that route, and they are still going strong. Bike shops tend to sell bikes that are in reasonably good nick, as there’s no money in selling a fixer-upper for £30 once they've given a few quid to the original owner who’s bought a new bike from them.
The other option, as mentioned above, is the local papers or even a car-boot sale. The local papers seem to carry these things less and less these days, as everybody seems to be using eBay. Car Boot sales, on the other hand, seem to absorb an inordinately large proportion of your Sunday on the off-chance that there will be a bike there of the gender and size and condition you want.
I have had little luck at the few I have visited.
There's also a few specialised second hand cycle websites, such as preownedcycles.co.uk
What to look out for when buying a used kids bike
If you are mechanically minded then you can put-up with a less than good condition bike, but note that anything truly mechanical (rear mech, brake mechanisms, gear levers, etc.) can cost £10's for replacements, even if you buy cheap non-name brand versions. That adds significantly to what can initially seem to be a bargain. Then you have to fix them yourself, which can be frustrating at best and at worst have you trooping back to the bike shop where you bought the bits, rather sheepishly asking for help to fit them (and that costs too!).
While I am happy to put some new tyres on (though only if existing are truly trashed as tyres are £10+) and adjust brakes and gear mechanisms, I steer away from bikes that look obviously ‘well-worn’. That means I pay more but then as soon as you get it the kids can be out on it instead of them waiting on Daddy ordering the bits and fitting them, which can take a few weeks if your lives are as busy as mine!
The right size is the other area fraught with risk. Too big (hoping they’ll grow into it) and your child may be too unstable and refuse to use it. That refusal can then remain with them even beyond when they are the right size. Too small (unlikely) means it doesn’t last very long and you are reading this column again much sooner than you had hoped. There some bike sizing guides out there on the web. Personally I use the Evans Cycles one, though of course they hope you’ll use it to buy a new bike from them, so thank-you Evans Cycles, I have bought accessories from you so I am not a complete free-loader!
The search for a "new old" bike for my daughter
So, the search continues for my eldest daughter’s bike. I have a search saved in eBay for our specifications, but nothing has come up since Xmas, at this rate I’ll have to change the sizing up a size. I restrict my search to <100miles from our home as bikes are generally collect (or courier for £20+) and again the true cost of mileage adds considerably to any bargain you thought you had.
I will update you on my progress in the next month or so. Happy searching!
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