Buying a mountain bike but don’t have much cash? Should you buy new? Used? Maybe I can help.
On this page I will share some strategies that might help you get a good deal on a top level bike. But, before I go any further, let me make this statement.
DO NOT BUY YOUR BIKE FROM A DEPARTMENT STORE!!!
Okay, now that we have gotten that out of the way …
Buying a Used “Almost New” Bike.
I will start with what I am going to call my “Buying a Used Mountain Bike” technique, the system I used to buy my first bike and all our automobiles over the years. This method requires quite a bit of research and a lot of patience. First a little background.
I started out riding an old GT Vantana I’d bought for Alissa (my middle daughter) at the swap meet. That bike sat in the garage for a couple of years and was never used, not once. It was kind of a cross between a mountain and road bike, a hybrid. It had skinny wheels, no suspension, and low-grade components.
After a meniscus operation (from throwing batting practice) I began riding that bike for physical therapy. I soon discovered some trails behind our house and had a lot of fun (and a lot of flat tires) on that bike.
Why a Used Mountain Bike?
A year or so later one of my fellow teachers let me try one of his mountain bikes. After that ride I was convinced I wanted to get a real mountain bike. So, I had to start thinking about how to go about buying my mountain bike. I did not run out to the local department store and buy the first one I saw (like my brother did!) but instead decided to do some research. I was starting a new sport and didn’t want to invest too much until I was sure mounting biking was going to be my hobby. I wanted to get a top level bike but didn’t want to pay the top retail price.
The next step in “Buying a Used Mountain Bike” involves looking for a bike 1-3 years old, knowing that (just like with autos) the value of a bike drops sharply right after it is first purchased. (A two-day owner of a bike cannot sell it as “new.”)
Type of Seller?
I have found some people buy some things (bikes, cars, etc.) on impulse and eventually find they are not using them much. When faced with a need for cash they say to themselves, “Why not sell this bike I have seldom used?”
I have also known people who have to have the latest bike, car, phone, etc. Last year’s model is just not good enough! Buy the new, then get rid of the old … especially if they have a small garage.
If I can be the first one to make that person a decent offer, I can sometimes get a good deal. I knew the number of almost-new bikes for sale would be low, so I would probably have to ride my daughter’s GT for a long time while I searched. But I had work to do before I started checking Craig’s List, eBay, and various other ads.
Research is a key to buying a mountain bike. Before I began shopping for a bike I needed to determine which 1-3 year old bikes I would be happy with. I studied the components of the top-level bikes, and then looked to see which bikes in my price range had those components. I read dozens of reviews about many different brands. I went to several bike shops and test rode a range of bikes. I asked workers which brands and models they would buy and to explain why. I rode the most expensive first, and ended with bikes with a price I could actually afford. I figured the 1-3 year old models would feel very similar to the new ones.
Shopping … be patient!
Next I made a list of comparable bikes (of various brands) and started to look for my great deal. I combed Craig’s List, eBay, local ads, and internet searches … looking for a striking deal on any of the bikes on my list.
I checked every day … for weeks! I finally found a 2006 Specialized Stumpjumper Pro on eBay … less than one year old. I saw the exact same bike on Craig’s list and realized the seller lived in San Diego (where I live), so neither of us would pay shipping. I called him and sensed that he really needed the money soon.
Conclusion … I had not set out to spend quite this much on a bike but I could not turn down this deal. I’d paid $2,400 for a bike that sold for around $5,000 eight months before. Some of my friends and relatives could not believe I’d spent so much on buying a mountain bike.
My reply usually was something like, “what is the cost of a motorcycle, wave runner, or dune buggy? I have chosen a bicycle for my recreation.”
I still have that bike. Many years and roughly 5,000 riding miles later, I am soooooooo glad I used this technique and purchased a good bike. I repeat, the most important component of mountain biking … A Good Quality Mountain Bike.
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Buying a New Mountain Bike.
I will start with what I am going to call my “Buying a New Mountain Bike” technique, I used this system to buy the bike I primarily use today, a Specialized Camber Expert Evo 29er. This method requires almost the same kind of research and patience needed to buy a used bike. Here is a little background.
I had been riding my 2006 Stumpjumper for six years and thought I might want a newer bike. Since buying the Stumpjumper I had developed a very strong relationship with a local bike shop owner who allowed me to demo several different new bikes. I had also began to travel and had rented some different brands and models. I read tons of reviews and asked a lot of questions. With this research in mind I decided I wanted to get a carbon fiber bike. The carbon demos had a whole different feel compared to anything I had experienced on an aluminum bike.
Why Buy a New Bike?
- Carbon Fiber – the biggest reason I chose to purchase my second bike new was because I wanted to be riding a carbon fiber bike. I could have bought a used bike (using the strategy described above) but I did not trust myself to know whether the carbon fiber frame was damaged in any way. What does a damaged carbon frame look like? Would I recognize any cracks or stress fractures? With a new carbon fiber I knew I could return the bike had there been any problem with the frame.
- Tune-ups – My new bike came with a guarantee of free tune-ups for the lifetime of the bike. I usually did a lot of my own work but feel better having a trusted expert do the work.
- Committed to mountain biking – After six years of mountain biking, and developing MBD, I know mountain biking is my thing. I am no longer testing to see if I like the sport.
- New, improved components – My new Camber has the 1×11 SRAM gear system which I love. No more front derailleur! I also wanted the internal cable routing and the seat dropper lever mounted where the front derailleur control used to be. Only the newest model had this.
- I know the bike shop owner and can get a good deal – Like I said above, since buying the Stumpjumper I have developed a great relationship with my local bike shop owner who gave me a great deal on my new Camber. I paid $5,500 (out the door) for a bike that retailed for $6,000 plus tax. Now, I really don’t think many beginners should buy a bike that costs as much as mine. I have been mountain biking for 10 years and plan to make trail riding my hobby for the next ten (health permitting).
For more information on buying a mountain bike click: Finding the Best Bike