Are you thinking of buying a second hand kids bike? It can be a brilliant way to get hold of a good quality kids bike without having to pay the full retail price, and is proving particularly popular at the moment due to low stocks of new kids bikes. However, you do need to know what to look for when you’re buying a used child’s bicycle, to avoid being sold a dud, and we’re here to help with all the advice you need.
Take a moment to GRAB YOUR FREE KIDS BIKE BUYING CHECKLIST which will help you record all the information you need to find the perfect bike for your child.
In this article Cycle Sprog’s technical editor Chris (who has bought more than his fair share of second hand bikes – both kids and adult) takes you through the process of buying a second hand kids bike step by step, so you can be sure you’re getting a bargain, rather than rust bucket.
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Rules of buying a second hand kids bike
Rule Number 1 – I am buying second hand
‘Aaaaahhhhhhh – it has a scratch!!!!!!!!’
It shouldn’t be forgotten that you are buying second hand. You are not buying a gleamer straight out of the showroom, so you must be aware that it is likely to show signs of use.
This can manifest itself as scratches on the frame or wear to components such as grips, tyres and gears. If you are not comfortable with this then you’ll have to dig deep into your pockets and shell out for a new one.
However, probably the most important thing is to make sure you’re buying a reputable brand that is designed to last many riders. That way you stand a really good chance of getting a decent bike for your money.
Here’s our search criteria of brands of second hand bikes we recommend looking for on Ebay – you can tweak the search for your child’s sizing and your location and price requirements.
Torn saddles, bald tyres and worn grips can be identified fairly quickly, but you should also have a good poke around and look at the following:
Handlebars – turn the handlebars through their travel and make sure they rotate smoothly and not roughly. Notchy suggests the headset could be in need of work.
Brakes – pull the levers. Do they work effectively? Wheel the bike forward and pull on the brakes (one at a time) and check how it stops. Look at the brake pads and see how worn they are. Look at the cables – if they’re all rusted up then factor about £10 to replace them yourself (more if you’re taking to a bike shop).
Gears – does it change gears without any problems. Change through all the gears several times and see if it moves through them without jumping, getting stuck or the chain coming off.
Are the gear cables rusty? These may cost you £5-10 to replace.
Crank – is there any play in the crank? With a pedal in each hand, rock from side to side. If there’s any movement then the bottom bracket may need adjusting or replacing. Is the chain rusty? Look at the teeth on the chainrings. If they resemble sharks fins then they’re very worn. The teeth in the picture are in good order.
Wheels – do they spin freely and are there any buckles in the rims. Do they catch on the brake blocks. If so, they’ll need straightening out by a bike mechanic or someone handy with a spoke wrench.
Frame and forks – look for any serious patches of rust or damage such as dents or cracks. The area around the seatpost is worth a look for cracks. If not enough seatpost has been left inside the frame, stress fractures can occur.
I know the above sounds dramatic, but ‘lemons’ do exist! More often than not there’ll be a few issues with a kids bike such as worn brake blocks and tyres which doesn’t represent a problem. If your gut feeling is good when you see the bike then hopefully all will be well.
Rule Number 2 – know what you want
‘It has oval wheels but I’m sure it’ll be fine’
It’s important to know exactly what you are in the market for. Are you looking for a bike to ‘do up’; to spend a bit of time and money on, or one that is ready to jump on and go. Never confuse the two.
Don’t get sucked into the trap of thinking that the really cheap 20″ wheeled bike described as ‘having been raced a few times’ is going to be ‘as new’. It won’t be. In some cases a bike may need the same amount as the purchase price (if not more!) spending on it plus a whole heap of time to get it up to a decent standard.
Rule Number 3 – read the small print
‘Hmm, it didn’t mention the gaping hole in the listing!’
The seller should describe the bike as accurately and honestly as possible to ensure that you, the buyer, are fully aware of exactly what you are considering. So the condition of the bike should match the description in the advert. However, one person’s definition of ‘immaculate’ may vary wildly from another’s!
Ask for more photo’s or close up’s of certain areas. For example, if there are any scratches or damage then ask the seller to provide a close-up so that you can see the extent.
Don’t be shy of asking questions if the listing doesn’t provide all of the information you require For example:
- Can you confirm that the frame is free from dents and cracks and has not had repair work
- The listing states there are areas of scratches and chips in the paintwork. Please can you forward pictures to show all of these areas.
- Has the bike ever been serviced?
- Is there any paperwork to accompany the bike – service details, manuals, purchase receipt.
- How many owners has it had?
- What replacement parts have been fitted?
- What condition are the tyres, brake blocks, gears in? How much wear and do they need replacing?
- Where and how often has the bike been ridden?
Check everything works. If you’re not going to view it before purchase as it’s listed on an auction site check the wording of the listing very carefully. If something’s missing – get in touch and ask. A genuine seller should not have any issues with providing further detail.
This all helps you to get a good feel for the bike and it’s condition and helps you to come to a decision as to whether you wish to pursue this particular one or seek out another.
Rule Number 4 – be vigilant
‘Hey, that’s my bike!’
There’s an old saying ‘if something looks too good to be true, then it probably is’. This sage advice rings true for pretty much anything, especially bikes. Every year, thousands of bikes are stolen, leaving owners heartbroken. If you’re going to see a second hand kids bike then take a look at the serial number (often on the bottom bracket on the underside of the frame) and look for any signs of tampering or in some cases, removal! There is a database called Bike Register that can be used to check if a serial number has been listed as stolen.
Rule Number 5 – stock or modified?
‘But mummy, it’s got the wrong seat!!!!!’
Bikes come out of the factory in clone-like fashion. However, some people like to pimp their rides which can result in significant changes from the way it was originally intended. For example, a seat change here and new wheels there.
Or a different chainset and gearing as the owner lived in a very flat area. Doesn’t sound a problem until you consider that you live and ride in the Highlands of Scotland. Changing the gearing to suit your terrain will cost you extra money that you hadn’t bargained for. So, ask if there have been any modifications or changes to the original specification.
Rule Number 6 – view if you can
‘Yep – that’s the one for me!’
Go and take a look at it in the flesh if possible. The camera never lies may have been true before digital manipulation but it is very easy to conceal areas you don’t want prospective buyers to see. A seller should present the bike clean and tidy and ready for sale. Unless it’s a basket case and you’re buying it for restoration purposes.
Rule Number 7 – buy the correct size
‘Oooh, that smarts a bit!’
You find the bike of your child’s dreams. The specification is a perfect match for the bike you’ve been eagerly trying to locate for your son or daughter. But there’s a problem – its too big.
Don’t be tempted into buying a second hand kids bike that doesn’t fit. You wouldn’t do it for yourself, so why should it be any different for your child? We don’t subscribe to the ‘oh, he/she will grow into it’ philosophy as riding a bike that is clearly the wrong size is the best way to knock a child’s confidence as well as being dangerous.
Find one the right size, use it and then sell on when they’ve out grown it.
Rule Number 8 – check you can buy any spares you need
‘Just don’t change gear, OK’
At the moment there’s a bit of a shortage of all things bike related – blame the pandemic, Brexit or the fact so many people have gained a love of cycling. What it does mean is that certain spare parts are becoming increasingly hard to get hold of, and prices are increasing. If you’re buying a second hand kids bike that you know needs a replacement part, check you can get it first before you buy.
Rule Number 8 – don’t buy if you’re not 100% confident
“Yes officer, that is my new bike”
If you’ve got any doubts in your mind about whether the second hand kids bike you’re thinking of buying is safe to ride, or has been stolen, then it’s best to walk away. You don’t want to risk your child’s safety, big maintenance costs or a visit from the police!
If you’re not happy buying a secondhand kids bike we’d recommend instead looking at The Bike Club to see if they have a reUsed bike available for you to lease for a cheap monthly payment – they put all their bikes through their workshop before adding into their fleet so you know you’re getting a great bike at a competitive price.
A word about buying a used kids bike with suspension
Mountain bikes are designed to take on a variety of terrain and soak up the punishment, but this takes its toll on components and so they need regular attention to stay in good working order.
Now, not everybody is actually going to use a mountain bike for the purpose it was intended for, or in the manner of a downhill racing champion. Even so, suspension components will need attention and depending on what parts need to be replaced, a service or even replacement forks can cost big money. Full suspension bikes have a series of pivot points and bearings that, over time, will wear and need replacing. If you’re thinking about venturing into the second hand market then get the seller to confirm exactly what has been replaced/serviced and whether anything is due.
Just get out and ride!
So that’s it. Our take on what to look out for when buying a second hand kids bike. Do your research and be clear about the type of bicycle you want to buy. Do ask lots of questions if you need more information. Look around the bike carefully and take your time. Don’t be rushed.
Other articles you may find useful include:
- The best places to buy a second hand kids bike
- 12 things you need to know before buying a kids bike
- The best kids 24″ wheel mountain bikes
- Buying a used kids bike – a dad’s story